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Monday, August 14th 2006


Pee into this cup

At airport security checkpoints in Knoxville, Tenn. this summer, scores of departing passengers were chosen to step behind a curtain, sit in a metallic oval booth and don headphones.

With one hand inserted into a sensor that monitors physical responses, the travelers used the other hand to answer questions on a touch screen about their plans. A machine measured biometric responses — blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels — that then were analyzed by software. The idea was to ferret out U.S. officials who were carrying out carefully constructed but make-believe terrorist missions.

The trial of the Israeli-developed system represents an effort by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to determine whether technology can spot passengers who have “hostile intent.” In effect, the screening system attempts to mechanize Israel’s vaunted airport-security process by using algorithms, artificial-intelligence software and polygraph principles.

I don’t know about you, but unless I prepared myself I might get pretty nervous just taking a lie detector test. If I was randomly pulled out of line and inserted into this booth I’d probably fail just from natural anxiety.

It is taboo to question where exactly we’re going with airport security in light of the recent UK plot, but still…

Obviously most people think this question has been answered (resoundingly), and this is nothing but a thought experiment. What is government’s role in preventitive actions? This is a dangerous topic we’re talking about, when the government starts being able to be invasive seeking to prevent something that might happen, it opens up all sorts of possibilities.

Wonkette provides its typical dry, witty review of the undertaking. Seriously though, Knoxville, TN? With its sprawling fanatical Islamist population it was the obvious choice to implement this new security measure.