The road to hell is paved on MALINTENT
Our good friends from the Department for Homeland Security are developing a system that will monitor various responses from travelers and determine whether or not they may be suspicious or have criminal intent. The TSA already employs methods of psychological and behavioral screening, which they claim to be quite successful… but it’s done by actual trained human beings. The MALINTENT device has the ability to detect subtle facial movements as well as body temperature, heart rate and respiration. While a human being may overlook slight changes in a persons physiology, the device will always detect it. The makers of the device also claim that it can differentiate between a stressed passenger and a malicious terrorist.
Project leader Bob Burns said:
“If you focus on looking at the person, you don’t have to worry about detecting the device itself… It analyses you against baseline stats when you walk in the door, it measures reactions and variations when you approach and go through the portal.”
Personally, I find the implications of that statement rather unsettling. Rather than looking for harmful devices and dangerous situations, we would be relying on the device to find people who are untrustworthy and up to no good… potentially arresting the nervous hoodlum teenager and missing the deranged sociopath who’s able to walk through without displaying any sign of “malintent”. Perhaps that conclusion is a bit extreme, but isn’t the point of all of our aviation abuse to take zero risks and avoid every possible negative situation?
The goal of MALINTENT is to avoid long lines and abolish the dreaded liquid bans. But there are less invasive means of dealing with the issue of liquids and bombs, such as using devices that test liquids for explosives. Even the TSA is attempting to test different methods of detecting bombs hidden in shoes.
The intentions of the developers of this technology seem to be based on good notions, but can we afford to continue to let the government push the envelope on exploitative technology in order to keep us safe? Especially when it becomes a replacement for training and common sense and the people doing the screening are exempt from their own rules? I’m reminded of a phrase that I think the creators of MALINTENT may have missed…
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”