Friday, June 4, 2010

Precrime at the airport

You may have a piece of dust in your eye. Or you may be playing a video game. You may just be doing nothing at all. That's what al Qaeda looks like. Except there's one problem: most airline terrorist events are orchestrated by the government. Whoops.

    Los Angeles Times -

    If Bob Burns is correct, terrorists may betray themselves someday by jiggling on a Nintendo Wii balance board, blinking too fast, curling a lip like Elvis — or doing nothing at all.

    Burns and his team of scientists are researching whether video game boards, biometric sensors and other high-tech devices can be used to detect distinct nonverbal cues from people who harbor “mal-intent,” or malicious intent.

    “We’re looking pre-event,” said Burns, the No. 2 at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency, a counterpart of the fabled Pentagon agency that developed Stealth aircraft and the Internet.

    "We're trying to detect a crime before it has occurred."

    OK, roll the sci-fi thriller "Minority Report," in which Tom Cruise and other "pre-crime" cops use psychic visions to arrest murderers before they kill. Or maybe "The Men Who Stare at Goats," a George Clooney comedy inspired by real military experiments with supposedly psychic soldiers.

    The work on mal-intent, which has cost $20 million so far, represents the future in screening: trying to find the bomber, not just the bomb.

    "Sometimes people look at our projects and say, 'This is crazy,' " conceded Burns, a former submarine weapons officer.

    If Burns' group is delving into the mind of terrorists, another Homeland Security agency is studying its face.

Read all of it.