16 October 2001

Identifying Terrorists by Brain "Fingerprinting"

No, not by planting a computer chip inside your head ...

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Kirsch is advocating that this new computer-based technology be used to identify terrorists and disallow entry into the U.S., expel foreign nationals, and restrict the mobility of U.S. citizens who are "branded" terrorists, based on test results. In a nutshell, brain fingerprinting identifies the perpetrator of a crime accurately and scientifically by measuring brain-wave responses to crime-relevant words or pictures presented on a computer screen. Prior to boarding an airliner a passenger would look into an iris scanner and a fully automated system would retrieve the associated brain fingerprint and decide whether the individual would be allowed to board ... a record of a person's brain wave activity when shown images with which a terrorist would have a strong personal connection (such as the inside of a terrorist training camp or the contents of a terrorist code book), and correlating these to iris scans.

No, I'm not making this up. Kirsch, founder of Infoseek, is dead serious about this idea - he says its "proven 100% accurate in over 100 tests, including tests on FBI agents and tests for a US intelligence agency and for the US Navy". Naturally, this would require the existence of a federal database of these "brain fingerprints" ...

"Mr. Watson, would you step up, attach the sensor headband, and and view into the scanner."

"Mr. Watson, will you come with us, please ..."

10 October 2001

ACLU Breakdown on Anti-Terrorism Legislation to Increase Police Powers

The ACLU has posted an excellent writeup comparing and commenting on the various proposed legislative acts to thwart terrorism by increasing and expanding prosecutorial powers - the Anti-Terrorism Act plugged by the Bush administration, the House PATRIOT bill and the Senate USA Act. Basically, the ACLU is opposed to the legislation because it (1) reduces and/or eliminates the role of judges ensuring law enforcement wiretapping is conducted legally and with proper justification, (2) dangerously erodes the distinction between domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence collection, (3) the definition of "terrorism" is too broad - even acts of civil disobedience could lead to "terrorist" prosecutions, and (4) it is believed that the U.S. government is moving unnecessarily and irresponsibly quickly on these measures.

Security and civil liberties do not have to be at odds. Law enforcement authorities already have great leeway under current law to investigate suspects in terrorist attacks - including broad authority to monitor telephone and Internet communications. In fact, under current law, judges have rejected only three federal or state criminal wiretap requests in the last decade.

Yes, if you haven't already figured it out, I am opposed to these proposed acts ...