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Could eventually be deployed at airports, border crossings, and other public gatherings

Security personnel working for the Department of Homeland Security may soon be able to remotely monitor crowds for the behavioral signals of a terrorist, using a computer system that scans their pulses, body language, breathing rates, and facial temperatures.

The program, called “Future Attribute Screening Technology,” or FAST, works as a combination of custom software and crowd-monitoring body sensors, strategically placed at airports, U.S. border crossings, and other public, high-security areas.

In simulated scenarios, the DHS says FAST is accurate in detecting suspicious behavior in almost four out of five cases. One such trial, run recently at an equestrian ranch in Maryland, paid more than 140 participants $150 to walk through FAST’s sensor array; a handful of the participants were given instructions to act shifty, evasive, deceptive, or even hostile. FAST had an effective accuracy rate of “about [78 percent] on mal-intent detection, and [80 percent] on deception,” according to spokesman John Verrico.

“We're still very early on in this research, but it is looking very promising,” he said.

Individuals detected as suspicious by FAST will be pulled aside for light questioning by security staff. Information processed by the system will never be matched with names, said Verrico, and it will only be used to help security screeners decide whom to question. After that, data from FAST is discarded.

Beyond simply discarding data, Verrico points out that the system is subject to intense privacy controls (PDF).

DHS researchers are designing FAST with mobility in mind, and over the long term would like to roll out portable vehicles for use in concerts, sporting events, and other public gatherings: once the technology is perfected, writes New Scientist’s Short Sharp Science blog, FAST trucks could be as common a sighting at public gatherings as “mobile toilets and catering trucks.”

The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s John Verdi said FAST is “substantially more invasive than screening in airports,” calling it a “medical exam” that the government has no right to conduct. Critics are concerned that the program could reveal physical conditions like heart murmurs, breathing problems, and high stress levels – a blatant privacy invasion – as well as set off false alarms.

“What determines your heart rate is a whole bunch ofreasons besides hostile intent,” said Michigan State University’s Timothy Levine, an expert on deceptive behavior.

FAST appears to be yet another aspect of the U.S. – as well as the rest of the world’s – governments’ growing fascination with biometric data on citizens: the FBI’s “Next Generation Identification” system, currently still in development, seeks to catalogue almost every major identifying characteristic about the U.S. criminal population, including fingerprints, retinal prints, and tattoo/scar markings.

Like the NGI, FAST is still under development and has several years left before it is ready for widespread, public usage – if it even makes it that far. The program is in its second year in development, and has three left to go. USA Today notes that the Transportation Security Administration already has more than 2,000 human screeners doing the same thing – essentially paving the way for their replacement and more widespread deployment by FAST.

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RE: Uhh..
By FITCamaro on 9/24/2008 9:09:22 AM , Rating: 2
While I see some value in this kind of thing, I agree that it just seems to be something that would be highly inaccurate. How do you weed out someone who's just pissed off at their spouse for doing something stupid and someone who's got a bomb in their suitcase?

RE: Uhh..
By mdogs444 on 9/24/2008 9:21:00 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. Next thing we'll have legislation passed in congress making it against the law to be anything but a happy person wearing a shirt with a rainbow iron-on.

RE: Uhh..
By FITCamaro on 9/24/2008 10:17:44 AM , Rating: 2
Well the big thing is any professional terrorist isn't going to give any clue of what he's planning. It's not like they walk around wearing a trench coat with an evil or sadistic look on their face. They try to blend in and not be noticed. Smile and laugh.

I'm sure if deployed, these things might catch a few people. But its probably gonna be by chance.

RE: Uhh..
By mdogs444 on 9/24/2008 10:18:52 AM , Rating: 2
It's not like they walk around wearing a trench coat with an evil or sadistic look on their face.

Unless you're as dumb as that MIT person who got caught up in that mess a few months back.

RE: Uhh..
By ebakke on 9/24/2008 10:27:18 AM , Rating: 2
Well the big thing is any professional terrorist isn't going to give any clue of what he's planning. It's not like they walk around wearing a trench coat with an evil or sadistic look on their face.
Unless you're as dumb as that MIT person who got caught up in that mess a few months back.

....who wasn't a terrorist.

RE: Uhh..
By mdogs444 on 9/24/2008 10:59:47 AM , Rating: 3
No she wasnt, but she was dumb none the less.

RE: Uhh..
By Tanclearas on 9/24/2008 9:40:07 PM , Rating: 2
I love Big Brother.

RE: Uhh..
By FITCamaro on 9/25/2008 10:18:47 AM , Rating: 2
I've met them. Some of them are quite big. Bout 6'2". Prolly 230 lbs of muscle. Gun. Black clothes. Boots. Handcuffs.

RE: Uhh..
By bhieb on 9/24/2008 10:20:38 AM , Rating: 2
Not too mention that a true Jihad believer is probably less worried than us normal folks. It is only in our non-believer minds that we assume he is all sweaty and nervous. If he truly believes his cause it is no different than a psychopath defeating a lie detector. In his mind there is nothing to be panicked about, therefore there will be little to no physical changes either.

RE: Uhh..
By Oregonian2 on 9/24/2008 12:14:56 PM , Rating: 1

Article says:
...were given instructions to act shifty, evasive, deceptive, or even hostile

Do they want to "catch" people who are acting that way, or people who ARE those things who are acting calm and likely took a xanax before heading to the airport (actually I do that before longer flights anyway to battle claustrophobia).

RE: Uhh..
By imperator3733 on 9/24/2008 10:26:05 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah. An 80% success rate is just not good enough. Add to that the fact that most terrorists with bombs in their suitcase are most likely going to be calm, this just isn't going to work. I would definitely be more irritated if I had to go through this than I already am when I fly (which I hate doing). We really need a national network of super high-speed trains.

RE: Uhh..
By FITCamaro on 9/24/2008 10:39:02 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think you'll be "going through" it like a metal detector. I think it's supposed to sit out of the way like a surveillance camera.

RE: Uhh..
By Suntan on 9/24/2008 10:55:05 AM , Rating: 2
Have you never watched the Chuck Norris movies where he has to save the plane from the terrorists? They all act shifty, panicky and sweat a lot. As we don’t have the technology to clone enough Chucks to put one at each airport, this will have to do.


RE: Uhh..
By PhoenixKnight on 9/25/2008 9:00:01 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think the problem is that we don't have the technology, it's that the result of cloning Chuck Norris could be cataclysmic.

Think about this for a second: "Every month, Chuck Norris secretly has sex with every woman in the world. They bleed for a week as a result." Would you really want you're girlfriend/wife to have multiple periods every month from multiple Chuck Norii? I don't think so.

And if two Chuck Norii ever got into a fight with each other, the resulting melee would almost certainly destroy the world, if not the entire universe!

There are some laws of nature that must never be tampered with!

RE: Uhh..
By Xavitar on 9/28/2008 5:55:31 PM , Rating: 2
This is why the Large Norrii Collider cannot be allowed to go online.

RE: Uhh..
By derwin on 9/24/2008 7:11:42 PM , Rating: 2
The problem I see here is not the fact that people might get pulled aside for extra questiong because they are pissed off... entering an airport entails that risk anyway.

What really freightens me is the false sense of security the airport staffers could fall into if this FAST program doesnt detect someone. Perhaps they train terrorists like we train CIA peeps to beat a lie-detector - condition your bodily responses. It could just make things that much easier for someone who knows what they are doing to slip past security. With "FAST" at our back, our security personal would have little to nothing to do with selection of screening.

P.S. I think from a computer programing perspective this thing is awsome.

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