back to article Project Hostile Intent plans 'non-invasive' DHS brainscan

The great problem besetting the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is, of course, how on Earth to spend its mountains of federal pork on vaguely security-related stuff. One approach is to build gear which is only tangentially about security, but which might work - for example cryogenic superconductor power lines for New …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So you've spent nine hours crammed into a high-speed veal cart collecting an exciting range of circulatory and respitory diseases; your high-sodium polystyrene meal 'served' by borderline psychopathic cabin crew; trying to fill out the minuscule immigration card all to the soundtrack of seventeen wailing children; only to find your baggage is taking a private tour of some of Eastern Europe's finest airports - and you're *NOT* meant to be feeling hostile towards the people keeping you queuing for another hour?

  2. Chris

    This is perfect for DHS

    While others may be skeptical about this, I think it's actually the perfect device for DHS. Think about it... They install these detectors at various locations and the pull out and arrest those people that the device "detects" to have "hostile intent". Here's the beautiful part -- no confirmation is ever necessary. It can be assumed that the device has a 100% success rate with no false positives. Why? Because it is impossible to tell what a person is really thinking. And those that really do have a hostile intent will obviously deny it if pulled out of the crowd, so all suspects will deny having hostile intent. And since there's no way to prove that they don't have hostile intent, they cannot prove their innocence. And since we've become a guilty-until-proven-innocent country, it's the perfect solution for DHS. Even better, they can send all the suspects to Gitmo and torture them to reveal their true hostile intent. Everyone wins!

    Yes, the above was said with great sarcasm. The sad part is, it's also true.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    missing the point, again

    It seemingly hasn't occurred to these people that "drug dealers ... money launderers, and a double murderer" are the sort of people who will be nervous, but fanatical terrorist would-be martyrs who are about to blow themselves up with you are more likely to be happy, or at least calm & resigned, knowing they're on their way to paradise. Even if their chapatis blow up while they're standing for two hours in Heathrow security, they'll still have done their bit for the cause

    I would suggest checking out all the overly-happy holidaymakers, except that would just leave them with a large bunch of 6-year-olds all excited about the aeroplanes. No-one else is happy in an airport these days.

    Someday, perhaps, it will dawn on these tax-sucking wastes of space that there aren't enough terrorists in the world to cause even a fraction of the inconvenience and disruption inflicted on us by so-called "airport-security". Terrorists don't achieve their aims by violence, but by using the threat of violence to frighten ordinary people into achieving those aims for them. Airport security today is a perfect example of how Al Quaeda etc. are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams, aided and abetted by the DHS.

    And for some vaguely related light relief, may I propose the following Poetry Corner (don't even ask why I was visiting the web site...). It's perfectly SFW, in case you're worried.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sponsored by The pharmaceutical industry

    Good old Democracy,

    A quick trip to the examination room should finally convince you of the need to take Valium if you are going anywhere near a government run building.

  5. Karl Lattimer

    Two words

    Thought police!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Homer Simpson in the DHS

    Reading this, I remembered that Simpsons episode where Homer helps Mel Gibson in writing the script of his next movie. Homer wants an evil dog appearing in the movie, and suggest Mel the way to show the dog is evil: "Center the camera on its eyes and make the dog look left and right..."

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "We see his point: though just to quibble a little, the Minority Report mind-probes were directed at bald mutant precogs in a swimming pool rather than airline passengers.."

    To quibble a little myself the Minority Report mind-probes were directed BY (not AT) bald mutant precogs in a swimming pool (of sorts) and in any case were not mind probes at all but visualisations of possible futures.

    That said, the DHS's plan is still only marginally more silly than the movie's premise.

    Taking a bundle of discredited techniques and shoving them together does not make them any less discredited.

    In any case humans are just plain weird and it's a lost cause trying to develop a system to interpret just what type of weird a specific person is.

  8. David Harper

    More James Bond tech

    Has anyone else noticed the guy who's about to enter the middle chamber of the mind-probe device?

    He seems a little wary of the row of red laser beams. Let's hope they are set on "stun" rather than "slice".

  9. Dillon Pyron

    Hostile intent

    "Sir, please step over here, you're thinking hostile thoughts about President Bush"

    "Okay sir, proceed. You're thinking hostile thoughts about Senator Clinton"

    It's pretty much agreed that liars frequently look up and to their left while speaking. It's a quick glance, but usually works. Except for the pathological liar. And the true believer.

    Got to walk through a puffer machine at Indy this summer going home after the Gran Prix. What a waste of time. And barefoot. Can you say bromodosis? (See Frank Zappa or any medical dictionary).

  10. Sean Thompson

    Actually it is not that far fetched.

    We already have facial recognition technology that can differentiate between people. It should not be difficult to use the same technology to differentiate between moods, wellbeing, stress and/or if they are trying to disguise their appearance. The important part would be the formulas used to flag someone who’s overall profile is within a specific window of relevance. e.g. certainty of: 60% a disguise, 82% determined purposeful walk, 75% repeated watching key security, etc. In such a case, a transvestite on their way to an important business meeting who is interested in a sexual encounter with a specific security guard might get flagged otherwise if enough variables are used, false positives would be nearly unheard of.

    There are some negative moral issues that could come up though:

    Racial and sex based profiling could be universally used, allowing for a white man to be given a 5% race based airline terrorist level, a middle eastern man a 25% and other races somewhere in between. This ability would more easily be used by those with both good and bad intent. On one hand it would be less invasive (at least directly) on the other hand it would be much more powerful and could easily be used for more invasive uses.

    From one perspective such a tool could be used to increase security and decrease hassle at the airport. From another perspective such a tool could be used to subjugate one portion of a populace in relative slavery and class to another or better yet enslave the entire human race to a dictatorship government. But when has that ever happened. Besides Lenin, Mao, Hitler, etc.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Israel is looking into this technology, too.

    For a serious, balanced look at this program and its technology, see the Wall Street Journal article, "Which Travelers Have 'Hostile Intent'? Biometric Device May Have the Answer," at . As that article notes, the Israeli government will be testing the technology "at the country's main international airport and at checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank, where the goal will be to catch genuine security threats while testing the logistics of using the system more broadly." Last time I checked, the Israelis understood the terrorist threat, and how to counter it, better than most of us.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why Communists failed, not creative enough...

    Other enlightened uses are certainly possible, for instance: brain washing always lacked a workable quality assurance component, this project - if it successful - could provide one.

    The good news: due to export restrictions people in North Korea will continue to enjoy freedom of thought...

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    We already have facial recognition technology

    Well, technically, yeah, and its reliability is nowhere near what is needed to prevent massive queues or scores of false positives. It's not because it has been trialled somewhere that it is good. Actually, everywhere it has been trialled it has also been taken away due to much too many false positives.

    If the government was really intent on airline security, they would make a list of what Israel's El Al does and compare to a list of what we are doing. The day they do that and promise to make the required changes is the day they will actually be serious about security. The rest is just salad dressing.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A 100% system..

    If America is really that worried I have an infallable system! Just close their borders. No terrorists, no illegal immigrants or any 'unwanted elements'.

    As a byline: Canadian customs Toronto, clearence time 3 minutes including queueing. Boston Logan: 55 mins, boy did I look hostile afterwards, as did my american girlfriend waiting for me!

  15. Chris Goodchild


    Since when did the Israelis understand the terrorist threat? They have a great deal of experience of terror and terrorism, having experienced the terror at the hands of Mr Hitler and Mr Stalin and having caused a fair amount of terrorism themselves such as the Star of David Hotel killing a number of people who were trying to help them create their own state. Plus of course they have been extensively bombed by Palestinian terrorists but as far as counter terrorism is concerned they haven't learnt a thing. Rocketing the general area where they believe a Palestinian terrorist or two to be whether it contains civilians, hospital patients or anyone else is not going to win hearts and minds and is not going to defeat terrorism. It is just going to create more martyrs. Similarly, spending vast amounts of money researching ways to piss off airline passengers as some one else has already commented is not going to defeat terrorists it just helps to underline the fact that they have already to some degree won by making the US et al throw money around pointlessly in knee jerk reaction to each and every new and perceived threat that comes along..

  16. Dave

    Re: Wall Street Journal

    "For a serious, balanced look at this program and its technology, see the Wall Street Journal article..."

    Using terms "serious" and "balanced" referring to any content within the Wall Street Journal provides evidence of credulous simplicity...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Being Picky

    "Since when did the Israelis understand the terrorist threat? They have a great deal of experience of terror and terrorism, having experienced the terror at the hands of Mr Hitler and Mr Stalin "

    Actually no Israelis suffered under Hitler, as he was dead before Israel existed....

    Agree with the rest of it though...

  18. Demian Phillips


    "Even if their chapatis blow up"

    I was unaware of the threat of exploding flat bread. Can you share some information on this? There are a number of Indian resturants in the local high tech/upper class area and we need to keep an eye out for any binary explosive combinations. Beer and Vindaloo are already on the list, so lets keep those food based terrorists under watch before the French get any ideas. Oh damn, they have had Crêpe Suzette technology for over a century.

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