August 15, 2007

Security State's Brave New Tech

The U.S. and Britain have been developing elaborate new tools to identify and subdue would-be terrorists at home and abroad.

The Department of Homeland Security is developing a non-lethal weapon that emits a dazzling beam of light to incapacitate any suspect for a period of time. According to USA Today, the device has been dubbed the “puke-ray” for its tendency to induce nausea and vomiting. Rights groups worry it will be used not on terrorists but on Mexican immigrants crossing the border at night.

Others worry that the instruments could enter the black market, forcing law enforcement to defend themselves against the weapon they developed.

The DHS is also hard at work on Project Hostile Intent, a mood-sensing device that will scan crowds using video cameras, infrared, audio recordings and “eye tracking technology” to pick someone suspicious out of a crowd.

The system would scan for expressions, heart rates and perspiration that might tip law enforcement off to someone’s panicked or guilty conscience.

Authorities also hope to develop a lie detector that can be deployed remotely, according to the Guardian.

One counter-terrorism expert said the government should look past technology to understand what lies at the root of terrorism, and pointed out that anyone can look guilty when surrounded by heightened security.

Another expert dismissed the program, suggesting officials had been “watching too many Tom Cruise movies.”

In the United Kingdom, such concerns didn’t stop authorities from implementing a new policy that will screen everyone who leaves or enters the nation with a new, rigorous form of electronic scanning that will reveal their criminal records, travel history and other details.

In the hopes of preventing a terrorist suspect from crossing borders, the information gleaned will be shared with Interpol and other foreign security services, reports The Times of London.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also proposed extending the period during which terrorist suspects can be detained from 28 to 56 days, and allocated millions of pounds toward helping local councils and communities fight extremism.

Sources:

“Security firms working on devices to spot would-be terrorists in crowd”
Guardian (U.K.) August 9, 2007

“Feds testing ‘puke-ray’ to subdue suspects”
USA Today, August 8, 2007

“New border police force will check all travelers”
Times Online (U.K.), July 26, 2007

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