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Mind-Reading Systems Could Change Air Security

The AP via YellowBrix

January 08, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) – A would-be terrorist tries to board a plane, bent on mass murder. As he walks through a security checkpoint, fidgeting and glancing around, a network of high-tech machines analyzes his body language and reads his mind.

Screeners pull him aside.

Tragedy is averted.

As far-fetched as that sounds, systems that aim to get inside an evildoer’s head are among the proposals floated by security experts thinking beyond the X-ray machines and metal detectors used on millions of passengers and bags each year.

On Thursday, in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt over Detroit, President Barack Obama called on Homeland Security and the Energy Department to develop better screening technology, warning: “In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary.”

The ideas that have been offered by security experts for staying one step ahead include highly sophisticated sensors, more intensive interrogations of travelers by screeners trained in human behavior, and a lifting of the U.S. prohibitions against profiling.

Some of the more unusual ideas are already being tested. Some aren’t being given any serious consideration. Many raise troubling questions about civil liberties. All are costly.

“Regulators need to accept that the current approach is outdated,” said Philip Baum, editor of the London-based magazine Aviation Security International. “It may have responded to the threats of the 1960s, but it doesn’t respond to the threats of the 21st century.”

Here’s a look at some of the ideas that could shape the future of airline security:


The aim of one company that blends high technology and behavioral psychology is hinted at in its name, WeCU _ as in “We See You.”

The system that Israeli-based WeCU Technologies has devised and is testing in Israel projects images onto airport screens, such as symbols associated with a certain terrorist group or some other image only a would-be terrorist would recognize, said company CEO Ehud Givon.

The logic is that people can’t help reacting, even if only subtly, to familiar images that suddenly appear in unfamiliar places. If you strolled through an airport and saw a picture of your mother, Givon explained, you couldn’t help but respond.

The reaction could be a darting of the eyes, an increased heartbeat, a nervous twitch or faster breathing, he said.

The WeCU system would use humans to do some of the observing but would rely mostly on hidden cameras or sensors that can detect a slight rise in body temperature and heart rate. Far more sensitive devices under development that can take such measurements from a distance would be incorporated later.

If the sensors picked up a suspicious reaction, the traveler could be pulled out of line for further screening.

“One by one, you can screen out from the flow of people those with specific malicious intent,” Givon said.

Some critics have expressed horror at the approach, calling it Orwellian and akin to “brain fingerprinting.”

For civil libertarians, attempting to read a person’s thoughts comes uncomfortably close to the future world depicted in the movie “Minority Report,” where a policeman played by Tom Cruise targets people for “pre-crimes,” or merely thinking about breaking the law.

  • Car6_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I agree that we need more and better security, it's sad we are not better rated in our airport security. I would like to know more about these new prototypes.

  • Crumb_passin_thru_02_1__max50


    over 4 years ago


    It would be nice to see a more technical write-up, but since according to the website it's still in "Alpha", they're still probably concerned about competitors stealing their intellectual property before it's fully baked. I suspect the biggest problem here is how AP reported the story. Why report on a tech that has major components still in Alpha stage and label it "mind reading"? For all we know, there's some legitimate science to this tech, but because AP bungled the story on this particular tech we can't tell. If they couldn't get the information, they should've just cut it from the article.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Yeah right... I did check the

    They claim the "system" is able to "eliminate false results out of detecting individuals who are stressed or behaving suspiciously resulting personal, unrelated reasons..."

    How in the world is a mechanical-electonic system to be able to diferentiate the reasons behind a biometric response...? Because after all... Any potential mesure detected by the "system" (or the "machine", whichever you may wish to call it) must be based on bio-metrics...
    So... I must conclude: It TRULY reads your mind...?
    I had too many Physics courses under my belt to believe any of it................!

  • Crumb_passin_thru_02_1__max50


    over 4 years ago


    I managed to dredge up their home page. It's a little sparse on information, but does shed a bit more light on the idea, the stake holders, and who has taken them seriously enough to give them money for research:

    "Funding. The development of the "Investigative System" is funded by a 3M$ investment raised recently from a private investor ("Angel") and by a grant awarded by the Israeli government "Chief Scientist". The first efforts of the development were in part funded by the Israeli Chief Scientist, and by two USA\DHS\TSA grants. In addition, the Company' shareholders invested a more than $850,000."

  • Meangreen01_max50


    over 4 years ago


    This has nothing to do with "mind reading" as this POS article would suggest. WeCU is one step further in what LEOs do EVERY DAY. We do our best to observe people, detect deception, and elicit responses. This system helps do just that. The system observes, detects, and elicits responses that are viable articuable facts when deciding to further question a suspicious person.

  • The_pic_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Better to rely on good old-fashioned kick a**.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Yeah Right!!!

    Let's tatget people because a machine say's he/she could be "considering" doing something wrong!

    Hey what about that "first time" flyer who is nervous and scared? Wouldn't that person also be fidgeting and have a change of body temprature.

  • Strafzettel_max50


    over 4 years ago


    4th amendment anyone??

  • Ba_old_glory_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Scotty, beam me up! LMAO!

  • Badge__hat_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Utter nonsense.

  • Policememorial---a_max50


    over 4 years ago


    So what we are up to "Minority Report" type policing efforts now? Let's try spending time and money on real efforts instead of wild assed fantasy stuff.

  • Gods_team_max50


    over 4 years ago


    So for being a law abiding citizen, it will be an all day event just getting through airport security after being strip searched, polygraphed and whatever tests they put me through but for terrorists, it only takes minutes? That's ok, I'll never get on a plane again. EVER!!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Yea, like this will work.

  • Justice-400_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Bad idea. Fplasencia said it all.

  • Crumb_passin_thru_02_1__max50


    over 4 years ago


    Frank--that's the other mystery here. How do they get a baseline? I only have the article to go and haven't seen more about the tech. Without a baseline, your chances of getting meaningful information drop precipitously.

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