~e; brain security detector

From human being <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Sat, 17 Aug 2002 00:53:13 -0500

  / have a feeling there may be more stories like this in the
  / coming years, about advances that seem beyond our current
  / knowledge, yet may be developed in the experimental back-
  / ground of government r&d labs. 'the physics' under question
  / seem similar to those under question in other realms. and
  / the comparison of reading-minds to a lie-detector is of
  / interest in more ways than one: as there is a great debate
  / about the validity (and false-positives/negatives) of lie-
  / detector tests - even by the people who administer the tests.
  / questions about the infallibility of technological models of
  / human subjectivity are also interesting to consider, if such
  / machines are given the same unquestioned legitimacy as a cash-
  / register or a computer call-center screen, whereby if it says
  / 'it is so', then, it must be so, because the computer says so...

NASA plans to read terrorist's minds at airports
By Frank J. Murray


     Airport security screeners may soon try to read the minds of 
travelers to identify terrorists. Top Stories

     Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
have told Northwest Airlines security specialists that the agency is 
developing brain-monitoring devices in cooperation with a commercial 
firm, which it did not identify.
     Space technology would be adapted to receive and analyze 
brain-wave and heartbeat patterns, then feed that data into 
computerized programs "to detect passengers who potentially might 
pose a threat," according to briefing documents obtained by The 
Washington Times.
     NASA wants to use "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors," imbedded 
in gates, to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts 
transmit. Computers would apply statistical algorithms to correlate 
physiologic patterns with computerized data on travel routines, 
criminal background and credit information from "hundreds to 
thousands of data sources," NASA documents say.
     The notion has raised privacy concerns. Mihir Kshirsagar of the 
Electronic Privacy Information Center says such technology would only 
add to airport-security chaos. "A lot of people's fear of flying 
would send those meters off the chart. Are they going to pull all 
those people aside?"
     The organization obtained documents July 31, the product of a 
Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Transportation 
Security Administration, and offered the documents to this newspaper.
     Mr. Kshirsagar's organization is concerned about enhancements 
already being added to the Computer-Aided Passenger Pre-Screening 
(CAPPS) system. Data from sensing machines are intended to be added 
to that mix.
     NASA aerospace research manager Herb Schlickenmaier told The 
Times the test proposal to Northwest Airlines is one of four 
airline-security projects the agency is developing. It's too soon to 
know whether any of it is working, he says.
     "There are baby steps for us to walk through before we can make 
any pronouncements," says Mr. Schlickenmaier, the Washington official 
overseeing scientists who briefed Northwest Airlines on the plan. He 
likened the proposal to a super lie detector that would also measure 
pulse rate, body temperature, eye-flicker rate and other biometric 
aspects sensed remotely.
     Though adding mind reading to screening remains theoretical, Mr. 
Schlickenmaier says, he confirms that NASA has a goal of measuring 
brain waves and heartbeat rates of airline passengers as they pass 
screening machines.
     This has raised concerns that using noninvasive procedures is 
merely a first step. Private researchers say reliable EEG brain waves 
are usually measurable only by machines whose sensors touch the head, 
sometimes in a "thinking cap" device. "To say I can take that cap off 
and put sensors in a doorjamb, and as the passenger starts walking 
through [to allow me to say] that they are a threat or not, is at 
this point a future application," Mr. Schlickenmaier said in an 
     "Can I build a sensor that can move off of the head and still 
detect the EEG?" asks Mr. Schlickenmaier, who led NASA's development 
of airborne wind-shear detectors 20 years ago. "If I can do that, and 
I don't know that right now, can I package it and [then] say we can 
do this, or no we can't? We are going to look at this question. Can 
this be done? Is the physics possible?"
     Two physics professors familiar with brain-wave research, but 
not associated with NASA, questioned how such testing could be 
feasible or reliable for mass screening. "What they're saying they 
would do has not been done, even wired in," says a national authority 
on neuro-electric sensing, who asked not to be identified. He called 
NASA's goal "pretty far out."
     Both professors also raised privacy concerns.
     "Screening systems must address privacy and 'Big Brother' issues 
to the extent possible," a NASA briefing paper, presented at a 
two-day meeting at Northwest Airlines headquarters in St. Paul, 
Minn., acknowledges. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled 
unconstitutional police efforts to use noninvasive "sense-enhancing 
technology" that is not in general public use in order to collect 
data otherwise unobtainable without a warrant. However, the high 
court consistently exempts airports and border posts from most Fourth 
Amendment restrictions on searches.
     "We're getting closer to reading minds than you might suppose," 
says Robert Park, a physics professor at the University of Maryland 
and spokesman for the American Physical Society. "It does make me 
uncomfortable. That's the limit of privacy invasion. You can't go 
further than that."
     "We're close to the point where they can tell to an extent what 
you're thinking about by which part of the brain is activated, which 
is close to reading your mind. It would be terribly complicated to 
try to build a device that would read your mind as you walk by." The 
idea is plausible, he says, but frightening.
     At the Northwest Airlines session conducted Dec. 10-11, nine 
scientists and managers from NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett 
Field, Calif., proposed a "pilot test" of the Aviation Security 
Reporting System.
     NASA also requested that the airline turn over all of its 
computerized passenger data for July, August and September 2001 to 
incorporate in NASA's "passenger-screening testbed" that uses 
"threat-assessment software" to analyze such data, biometric facial 
recognition and "neuro-electric sensing."
     Northwest officials would not comment.
     Published scientific reports show NASA researcher Alan Pope, at 
NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., produced a system to 
alert pilots or astronauts who daydream or "zone out" for as few as 
five seconds.
     The September 11 hijackers helped highlight one weakness of the 
CAPPS system. They did dry runs that show whether a specific 
terrorist is likely to be identified as a threat. Those pulled out 
for special checking could be replaced by others who do not raise 
suspicions. The September 11 hijackers cleared security under their 
own names, even though nine of them were pulled aside for extra 

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