Privacy SOS

Among the programs being developed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Human Factors division is a “Malintent system” which screens people to seek out “non-verbal cues” which can reveal whether they intend to harm fellow passengers. It is “designed to distinguish between a rushed, stressed and sweaty passenger, and a terrorist” (Press Association, September 24, 2008). 

The DHS is collaborating with Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, MA to develop a “next generation system for detecting suspects in public settings,” according to the September 18, 2009 Boston Globe. Future Attribute Screening Technology would detect “potential terrorists with cameras and noninvasive sensors that monitor eye blinks, heart rate, and even fidgeting.” The device is due to be field tested in 2011.

The Israeli company WeCU Technologies (as in “we see you”) succeeded in interesting then DHS head Michael Chertoff in its “mind-reading” technology and in obtaining two DHS research grants. According to its CEO, the system projects images onto screens that would-be terrorists would recognize. They give themselves away by a “darting of the eyes, an increased heartbeat, a nervous twitch or faster breathing” that is detected by human watchers and hidden cameras and sensors (Associated Press, January 28, 2010).  It claims a 95 percent success rate.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.