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Lie Detectors to be Used for Airline Security 504

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the obviously-a-machine-knows dept.
swimgeek writes "A new walk-through airport lie detector being made in Israel may prove to be the toughest challenge yet for potential hijackers or drugs smugglers. The product has been tested in Russia and should be commercialized soon. The software in the detector picks up uncontrollable tremors in the voice that give away liars or those with something to hide, say its designers. Passengers that fail the test are then required to undergo further questioning or even search."
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Lie Detectors to be Used for Airline Security

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  • Oh goodie (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @08:50PM (#14058519) Journal
    I can't wait until I have to take a lie detector test before boarding a plane. I'm really getting sick of all these invasive security measures. I'm damn glad I won't have to hop on planes for my job.

    If only taking a ship was a valid alternative for travelling overseas.
  • toughest challenge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by augustz (18082) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @08:50PM (#14058521) Homepage
    for innocent passengers as well, who, when faced with M-16 toting guys can't avoid an "uncontrollable tremor" in their voice.

    No mention of the false positive rate on this. If just 1 in a million passenger is a terrorist, and given the number of passenger flights per year without bombings on US planes it has got to be way up there, the false positive rate it going to need to be way WAY down there.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @08:53PM (#14058551) Journal
    A "Lie Detector" is a fantasy. Machines can detect physiological clues to nervousness, and that's it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldrich_Ames [wikipedia.org]> Aldrich Ames passed his polygraph exams for years, while he was getting every US agent in Russia killed.

    Depending on fantasies like "lie detectors" distracts law enforcement from practicing solid investigation.

    -jcr
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday November 17, 2005 @08:53PM (#14058553)

    The software in the detector picks up uncontrollable tremors in the voice that give away liars or those with something to hide, say its designers. Passengers that fail the test are then required to undergo further questioning or even search.

    Sounds like sufferers of spasmodic dysphonia [wikipedia.org], such as NPR's Diane Rehm [washingtonpost.com] are going to have a hell of a time at airports in the near future...
  • by keraneuology (760918) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @08:59PM (#14058603) Journal
    From TFA this gizmo detects those with something to hide.

    What about the poor schmuck just excited about going off to visit his mistress? Or his girlfriend, knowing he's about to get his first action in 9 months? Or any member of Congress?

    I am pretty sick and tired of these jerkwads coming out with all of this technology that is supposed to protect us from somebody who has nothing better to do all day long than figure out ways to hurt us. And stick me with billions of dollars in expenses for a technology that may or may not catch somebody other than the occasional innocent git or two-bit martyr wanna be. Does it work? "Sorry, for national security reasons we can't tell you how many bad guys we caught or how many innocent guys to whom we gave a cavity probe".

    Money isn't the root of all evil anybody who votes for any incumbent is.

  • It's a fraud! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:02PM (#14058637)
    Voice analyzers and polygraphs (the so-called "lie detector") are frauds. They have both been scientifically proven again and again to be unreliable, with lots of false positives and false negatives, which is why they aren't admissible in court.

    The only value to either technology is to scare and threaten. If the person being questioned believes that they work, they are less likely to lie or more likely to admit a lie.

    Aldrich Ames, a mole in the CIA, passed a polygraph many, many times, as did lots of others.

    Since voice analyzers and polygraph examiners make a shitload of money, and they compete with each other, they are great for pointing out the flaws in each other's devices since the other technology threatens their gravy train.

    It's fraud, plain and simple. Flip a coin instead. It's more likely to be accurate than a voice analyzer or polygraph.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:02PM (#14058638)
    I may be way off base with this, but that link states that he failed every lie detector test he took. He just convinced the tester to ignore the results. Not exactly the best example, there.

    On a completely unrelated note, this is my third attempt to prove myself human to the AC Captcha test. WTF is up with these? They're unreadable.
  • by crimethinker (721591) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:02PM (#14058641)
    Of course I'm sure that this device will never fall into the hands of the "bad guys." Thinking from the bad guy perspective, if I were sending people to hijack planes, and they were failing at this device, I'd get my hands on one of them, somehow, through a sympathetic government, bribery, outright theft, whatever.

    Then whomever gets the "glory" of murdering innocent civilians has one additional step in the training camp: learning how to calmly lie into the microphone. We don't pack the explosives in his bag until he can pass 10 times out of 10.

    I'd much prefer returning to pre-1972 rules where the airlines could decide if you could bring a loaded firearm onto the plane. Those airlines that allowed it would get my business, and the free market would take care of the problem.

    -paul

  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:1, Insightful)

    by thesandtiger (819476) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:06PM (#14058672)
    Don't you mean, "I'm aware of the risks of terrorism, and I don't give a fuck if 20 guys with box cutters hijack this flight and smash it into a building, killing thousands of people, just so long as I'm not inconvenienced" instead?

    Because that's what you're saying, even if you don't realize it.

    I'm willing to trade 10-15 minutes of my time every time I fly (and that's pretty damn often) if it means that thousands of people might not die needlessly.
  • Your Rights Online (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:07PM (#14058683)
    I'm so glad that this new airline security will protect my rights as I surf the 'Net.

  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Karma Farmer (595141) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:10PM (#14058705)
    "I'm aware of the risks of terrorism, and I don't give a fuck if 20 guys with box cutters hijack this flight and smash it into a building, killing thousands of people, just so long as I'm not inconvenienced"

    You do know that it's basically impossible for that to every happen again, right?

    No-one will ever again allow hijackers to take control of a plane. And, no-one will ever again allow hijackers to take control of a plane armed with tools no more dangerous than a ballpoint pen.
  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alien Being (18488) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:15PM (#14058743)
    Or, they could simply secure the cockpit. You can't bring down buildings with boxcutters unless your enemy is willing to cooperate by giving you easy access to a guided missile.
  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kythe (4779) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:22PM (#14058808)
    Well, there's absolutely nothing about "lie detectors" that will prevent this. This is truly idiotic, and will:
    1) serve to falsely finger innocent people
    2) instill a false sense of confidence that those flagged as "telling the truth" are not a problem.

    This is a really, really dumb idea. Lie detectors don't work, period.
  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RandomJoe (814420) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:30PM (#14058873)
    Do you *really* think all the crap going on in airports is doing any good?!

    Little if any of it is really making a plane flight any safer than it was before. There are still people getting on planes with things they aren't supposed to. And so what if someone gets on with a box cutter? Now that the pilots are required to stay locked in the cockpit, all that person could do is injure/kill some passengers. And I doubt he'd get far at that, once other passengers figured out what was up.

    And then we have some really bullshit rules. Grandma can't take her knitting needles along, but I can carry all the pens and pencils I want. Yeah, this really makes sense...

    I wouldn't complain if I was just "inconvenienced". But when I have to show up HOURS ahead of my scheduled flight just to get to the terminal, when - after I've made it to the terminal early to insure an early seat selection (yeah, I usually fly Southwest) - I stand a chance of being dragged out of line for some TSA goon to paw through my carryons, when it's actually just about as fast for me to drive 500 miles as it is to fly to the same destination?!?

    That is FAR from "inconvenienced". I don't know how you manage to get through in only 10-15 minutes more. I've never had that sort of experience.

    I'm tired of the way we - the citizens and paying customers - are both treated as helpless waifs that can't fend for ourselves and simultaneously presumed guilty of some heinous act. That's why last summer when I headed off to visit relatives halfway across the country and on into Canada I drove the whole way. I didn't have to speak to a single "person of authority" the whole way, except for 30 seconds at the border crossing. (Not to mention, I would have paid MORE - about double! - for the priviledge of being abused by the TSA goons!)
  • by dakirw (831754) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:31PM (#14058888)

    If there's a hot female security guard on duty, I'm gonna SO lie so I'll get searched by her.

    Of course, while she might be asking the questions, you might get lucky and run into her huge Neanderthal compatriot that is manning the strip search station.
  • by commodoresloat (172735) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:35PM (#14058918)
    So how many people will get searched as terrorists because their voice is shaky because they're cheating on their wife, didn't tell their parents they were going to costa rica with their friends, or told their employer they were going to a family reunion? Not everyone with "something to hide" is a lawbreaker.
  • by msbsod (574856) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:44PM (#14058993)
    Lie detectors are also used in Kansas [typepad.com]. I am surprized they don't use the good old medieval torture techniques to find witches.
  • by Surt (22457) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:45PM (#14059004) Homepage Journal
    I hardly care how high the false positive rate is, as long as the false negative rate is sufficiently low.

    Let them falsely pull out 10 people on a hundred person flight for an extensive search. Great. Just as long as they don't miss the one guy on one flight in ten thousand with the bomb in his backpack.
  • by afaik_ianal (918433) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:48PM (#14059015)
    Not everyone with something to hide is a law breaker, however they're not talking about using this to convict people of crimes (nor to question people about their extramarital affairs) - they only want to use it to help determine who they should check more closely.

    I am sure I would set such a machine off every time I walk through a security gate - I'm just a generally nervous person. Do I care? Of course not - It's for a good cause! It improves security, reduces the cost effectiveness of security, and makes it quicker for the average person to get where they're going.

    I'd also expect that this would be introduced as one of many methods for deciding who to check. I'd be more worried if they were planning on putting all their faith in this system, and waving "confident-looking" people with complicated one-way itineraries paid with cash straight through.
  • by Shamashmuddamiq (588220) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:51PM (#14059048)
    The system should be tuned on the side of caution.

    TFA: "...12 percent of passengers tend to show stress even when they have nothing to hide."

    This means that, if one in every 1 million passengers is a real terrorist, then there will be 120,000 false positives for every single terrorist. This makes for a useless system. If you're an airport worker and you've just seen your 100,000th false positive, what's the likelihood that you're going to trust the system anymore? Answer: You're not. Long before that point, you will have started waving everyone through. Even if only 0.1 percent of people fail the test, that's still 1000 false positives per terrorist, and it's too much.

    This system is a waste of money and passenger time.

  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:2, Insightful)

    by utnow (808790) <utnow@yahoo.com> on Thursday November 17, 2005 @09:58PM (#14059095) Homepage
    hahahahaha

    "yeah that was horrible... but that's the PAST!! It'll never happen again! It can't happen again! We're smarter now!!"

    You're just begging your karma to grab a plane from the sky and smash it into your home.
  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bnenning (58349) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @10:19PM (#14059230)
    "yeah that was horrible... but that's the PAST!! It'll never happen again! It can't happen again! We're smarter now!!"

    Um, yeah, pretty much. Sure, you can come up with some Clancy-esque plot where the terrorists sneak nerve gas aboard and kill or incapacitate everyone on board, but knives, boxcutters, and even handguns won't do it now that passengers and crew know they have to fight to the death.
  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aleatory_story (862072) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @10:33PM (#14059348)
    Socially today in America, it's true that people would likely rise against an attempted airplane hijacking. However, culture and ideology changes rather quickly; how people might react to that situation today could be totally different than, say, 20 years from now. So to say that it would *NEVER* happen again is quite a stretch. Once the fervor dies down, the chances of people on-board reacting in force will be probably about the same as it was on 9/11.
  • by craznar (710808) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @10:46PM (#14059440) Homepage
    Even for friggin' nervous.

    So - lets pick on the people that find flying stressful and ... MAKE THEM WET THEIR PANTS.

    Is this an adaptation of the let's only give loans to the wealthy, or health insurance to the rich ideas ?

    As me types in 'whimper' as the security word for this post - I wonder.
  • by Sarisar (842030) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @10:57PM (#14059520) Journal
    OK so about 18 months ago I lost my job outsourced to India and I went travelling. Had a ticked UK -> Oz stopping off in the US. I had a flight in to the east coast of US, flight out from west coast and I was making my own way across by planes trains and automobiles. I got stopped EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT for extra security checks, and I got talking to various TSA guys and one of them said basically because I was a single guy flying one way it was causing the extra checks. It seems stupid, if you want to cause problems just buy a return ticket and travel together and you will probably be OK through security.

    I was also talking to an American on one of these flights, and he was saying that, for a bit of a laugh he decided to start muttering in Arabic loudly, to no-one in particular. No-one said anything at all. He asked one of the TSA guys if he could get a job here as he spoke fluent Arabic (was stationed there during the war or something) and the TSA guy replied that he thought this guy would be profiling which is illegal.

    Of course picking on single guys travelling one way could be construed as profiling?

    And yes I always get nervous going through security - am I going to the right gate - is my plane going to be on time (connections suck), will people be there when I get there. In fact I have a couple of flights next week so that could be fun (yes going to the US again). Rules have changed again apparently, I must provide the address of where I will be on the first night in the UK so the US security have time to check it out before I land so they can reject me instantly if they don't like it (the GF will be pissed if they do - she's the one I'm going to see!)
  • by Speare (84249) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @10:58PM (#14059529) Homepage Journal
    Do I care? Of course not - It's for a good cause! It improves security

    I've heard way too much of this attitude. The USA founders defended personal liberty, but the average USA sheeple just assumes that if someone tells them "it's for a good cause: security," they feel all warm inside and let everyone get herded. Stand up for your rights, tell your congressfolk that the government doesn't need more powers, or just fuck off, please.

  • Not happening (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:01PM (#14059545) Homepage
    I'm willing to trade 10-15 minutes of my time every time I fly (and that's pretty damn often) if it means that thousands of people might not die needlessly.

    It's not ever going to happen again in any of our lifetimes. The terrorists burned that plan from ever working again because the pilots and people on the plane know that they're dead either way, so there's no reason not to resist. If they have a bomb, no difference. Dead when the bomb goes off or when the airliner hits whatever they're aiming at. No one on the plane has anything to lose. You can't control people with nothing to lose.

    The 10-15 minutes multiplied by the millions of people who fly each day, the money for all the extra security...it's all meaningless. We're wasting millions of man-hours and millions of dollars to try and stop something that's not ever going to happen until a new generation comes along with "don't resist" drilled into their heads so a hundred of them just sit there like sheep and let five guys drive them into a wall.

    But you can bet the terrorists know the things we're missing. That's where the next one will come from. Somewhere we're not expecting. And Condi Rice will be on TV going, "Who could have guessed they would use..." whatever it was. A little success for them goes a long way. We'll tie ourselves in knots and exhaust our treasury fighting phantoms. We'll over-react, like usual, and end up making more enemies than we started with while expending billions to little or no effect in the process.

    All because of people like you.

  • by susano_otter (123650) on Thursday November 17, 2005 @11:53PM (#14059845) Homepage
    So... security isn't a good cause? And... we should just blindly assume that no sacrifice of personal convenience or liberty for securit would ever be necessary or wise?
  • Re:Oh goodie (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brushfireb (635997) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:35AM (#14060076)
    My god. People like you really exist? Thats interesting, I thought it was just a myth that people who were willing to let the government run their life existed. I guess not.

    The whole point of this discussion is that trading personal liberty for the proposed security is a red herring. You just lose liberty, and dont gain any real security, other than the fairytale type. So really, you end up trading personal liberty for something a little bit more clever than Little Red Riding hood. If someone wants to take down a plane, they will. Life is dangerous. Losing freedom is more dangerous.
  • by arodland (127775) on Friday November 18, 2005 @12:41AM (#14060100)
    Whether it's justifiable to curtail freedom for the purpose of safety isn't even the right argument, though, because that's not what they're doing. They're curtailing freedom for the appearance of safety, dedicating their time and money (or rather, your money if you live or work here) towards measures that are highly visible, highly intrusive -- and fundamentally useless.
  • by bziman (223162) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:30AM (#14060336) Homepage Journal
    Although I would really hate to see what would happen if the US tried to institute a *real* airport security system like the Israelis have, rather than the "security theatre" that we have, I found it very impressive.

    The only worse thing I can imagine than the farse that is American airport security, is the possibility that some day they might actually successfully implement true security. I thought society was taking a step forward since you no longer need papers to travel inside Russia, or passports to go between France and Germany. I dread travelling now, because it offends me to have to take off my shoes and belt at the airport to maintain the illusion of security. But how much worse would it be when they confiscate my laptop because I could make an explosive from the battery in about three seconds? Or when I'm detained indefinitely because I'm a 20-something travelling alone, and I happen to be carrying a Quoran for some leisure reading.

    In my life, terror doesn't come from desperate fundamentalists. Terror is the government trying to control every aspect of the way I live and the way I think. I can only hope that it's not too late to undo the damage. Vote while you still can! And pray, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • by japa (28571) on Friday November 18, 2005 @01:38AM (#14060379)
    Do I care? Of course not - It's for a good cause! It improves security

    There's always a chance that terrorists smuggle tweapons in their rectums. That's why people should be randomly taken to rectal search. I'm sure you wouldn't care, it's for good cause and you have nothing to hide in your ass.
  • There are so many things that you could use as a weapon that NOBODY would ever think to check...
    Ever wonder why we don't see any of these?
    1. Glasses frames with sharpened ends
    2. Suitcase handles with sharpened ends (pull them all the way out of the suitcase and you have a gigantic shank)
    3. A sharp plastic credit-card size object
    4. Some kind of chemical disguised as a useful medication (e.g. Tylenol) that ignites when it reacts with beer or soda or laptop batteries or something
    5. A car bomb in the pickup/dropoff area
    And the list goes on.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Friday November 18, 2005 @02:43AM (#14060618) Homepage Journal
    The net tightens ...

    I hope people keep in mind that terrorism kills fewer people than traffic accidents, lifestyle diseases, or regular crime (one of these alone suffices).

    The way I see it, many of the prevention measures that have been taken only increase the effect that terrorism has on American society.
  • by t_allardyce (48447) on Friday November 18, 2005 @04:46AM (#14060984) Journal
    How dare you insinuate that terrorism is not such a big problem! what about all the people who have been killed so far? terrorism is the greatest threat to humanity since communism and we must give up all our rights until there is absolutely no more terrorism in the world!

    Seriously though, all these new security measures on planes - it can only mean that back in August 2001, getting anything on a plane must have been a piece of cake, bombs, drugs, illegal immigrants, you name it, it was probably somewhere in the sky. And yet with all this new security do we feel any safer? whenever I fly now I feel less scared that my plane will be hi-jacked and more scared that I will be mistaken for a terrorist and dragged away with no chance to ever clear myself, im not Middle-Eastern, the police never even look at me twice, but im still scared, I can only imagine what its like for some people. This new system is going to make an already stressful mode of transport twice as bad.

    I guess that's one way to fix the growing air traffic congestion problem and reduce terrorism, immigration and the spread of bird flu all at once.
  • by mpe (36238) on Friday November 18, 2005 @05:37AM (#14061133)
    So how many people will get searched as terrorists because their voice is shaky because they're cheating on their wife, didn't tell their parents they were going to costa rica with their friends, or told their employer they were going to a family reunion?

    Or who are doing nothing wrong but have a phobia about flying...
  • by mpe (36238) on Friday November 18, 2005 @05:55AM (#14061184)
    Whether it's justifiable to curtail freedom for the purpose of safety isn't even the right argument, though, because that's not what they're doing.

    It's also mistaken to assume that there is a simple relationship between "freedom" and "safety".

    They're curtailing freedom for the appearance of safety,

    Which can quite easily reduce actual safety.

    dedicating their time and money (or rather, your money if you live or work here)

    Since time and money are finite resources this means that they are not available for other things.

    towards measures that are highly visible, highly intrusive -- and fundamentally useless.

    Against criminals and terrorists highly visible systems tend to be the easiest to subvert. i.e. test their own members with same techniques and find the operative most able to give a false negative.
  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Friday November 18, 2005 @06:10AM (#14061221) Journal
    I want to see the airplane problem solved by taking away the entire motive.

    Great idea. Unfortunately that's not so easy ...

    Rip out the ENTIRE cockpit and have the plane flown on autopilot from takeoff to landing.

    Great. Them the terrorists don't actually have to enter the plain, they just have to hack into it. However, I guess it's a great way to reduce cost for the airlines, and security would be a great excuse to make the passengers accept it :-)

    Work on the technology needed to make it work and put the computers needed to do it somewhere that can not be accessed in flight by any means. No remote access either.

    But the computers must be accessible somehow. After all, it's not uncommon that there are problems either on the plain or on the destination airport, and the plane must be redirected to another airport. And as long as there's an interface for that, there's a possibility that terrorists will be able to use it, some way or another.

    You program the plane to take off, flight to the destination and land.

    And in case of an emergency (or just bad weather), you cannot redirect it to another airport, or even just tell it to wait until the runway is clear. Well, bad luck for the passengers ...

    At that point you won't have terrorist attacks anymore since there is no way to negotiate.

    At that point you won't have any terrorist attack anymore because no sane person would fly in such a plane. Ok, that would probably be good for the environment :-)

    The worse they can do is just blow up the plane.

    Which means that you would still need security checks anyway. Unless you think blowing up a plane is not much of a problem.

    They can't ram it into a building,

    Unless they manage to change the programming before the plane even starts (in which case, after the plane took off, your scenario means there's no way to stop that program, except by shooting the plane).

    they can't take it somewhere to get hostages released

    See above. And as I already said, this also means you can't get it somewhere to safely land when there's a problem.

    and they can't threaten the pilots in any way.

    Of course. Which means, they'll just instead threaten to blow up the plane if they don't get what they want. Or maybe just kill all passengers (shooting a hole into one window after sabotaging the oxygen mask system should be enough for that, or they just use some poison gas; OTOH killing the passengers one-by-one might be more effective from the terrorist's view).

    But again, even if that would make the airplanes completely terror-safe, I wouldn't get onto such a plane. The probability of a plane having problems is much higher than the probability of a plane being highjacked. Therefore I'd prefer a plane where I have a good chance to survive simple problems than a plane where I'm completely safe from terror attacks, but every unforseen problem will cause a likely desaster.

    Unless you manage to build an AI which is at least as reliable as a normal pilot even in unexpected situations, I'm not going to fly on a plane which cannot be controlled by humans in any way. And even if you manage to build such an AI, it will have to rely on outside information for even such simple things as avoiding a thunderstorm or waiting for the runway to be clear.
  • How stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jandersen (462034) on Friday November 18, 2005 @06:11AM (#14061222)
    What a stupid concept, for a number of reasons.

    Firstly, this kind of thing is based on the assumption that even a 'bad guy' will somehow feel bad about what their are about to do, and there will feel under emotional stress. Two of the most dangerous kinds of persons, psychopaths and suicide terrorists, are not likely to to fall into this category. Psychopaths don't care, simply, they will lie or contemplate atrocities like normal people would think about buying a bottle of milk. And a person who has decided to die has overcome the fear; it is a wellknown phenomenon that a person who wants to commit suicide often enters a phase of perfect calm and contentment when the decision has been made.

    Secondly, as others point out, a lot of people feel very bad about small transgressions. I remember one lady who felt very nervous because she had bought 1 small bottle of alcohol over the limit and was afraid to get caught. So are we now going to catch all those who are under a bit of strain, but let through the really dangerous ones?

    Thridly, wouldn't it perfectly possible to subvert the equipment - perhaps simply by eating Valium or similar?
  • Re:It's a fraud! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Detritus (11846) on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:11AM (#14061748) Homepage
    You are assuming that there are infinite resources. Suppose there is a screening test that is 95% accurate, but it costs $1000. The cheap screening test is only 70% accurate, but it costs $10. If we have a limited budget for testing, using both tests is more efficient. It costs an average of $310 per person instead of $1000 per person. The number of false positives could be reduced by screening for risk factors before doing any testing.
  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:51AM (#14061926) Homepage Journal

    Very interesting post, thank you.

    Just a few comments:

    I said in my post, I would not want the US to try to implement a security process similar to that used in Israel. I have a few reasons for that, which I didn't get into in my (already long) post.

    First, as you said, there's no way it could be done without someone screaming "abuse" and filing a lawsuit claiming their civil rights were violated. As irritating as such things often are (and they are often crap), I think that is one of the best things the US has going for it, and I wouldn't want there to be any incentive to stop citizens from screaming about their rights and suing the government. Too much has already been taken away in the name of the Wars on Drugs and Terror.

    Second, it's not necessary. There is a lot of anger at the US, but nothing like the scale of the anger at Israel, and most of the anger directed our way is actually earned. We can defuse it with time and rational foreign policy. IMO, Israel could defuse some of its troubles, also, but certainly not all, not without just handing over the Holy Land. The scale of the attacks directed against Israel dwarfs the scale of the attacks against the US, even on an absolute basis (though the 9/11 attackers managed to find a huge force multiplier, making that attack much more effective). When compared against the sizes of the countries/populations/economies, the only reasonable conclusion is that the US is equipped to absorb vastly more damage than Israel is. It would take a terrorist effort 1000 times more powerful to match the effect of anti-Israeli terrorism. Therefore, measures which make sense for Israel don't make sense for us.

    Another reason it's unnecessary (I know lots of people won't like my first, "we can take it" reason) is because airports are no longer a good target. The post-9/11 security measures that *mattered* were: barring the cockpit door and increasing the number of air marshals. And the effect of those pales almost to insignificance next to another anti-hijacking development: Passengers now know that they should not be passive, because being passive will get them killed. That knowledge on the part of the passengers changes everything. Prior to 9/11, the nature of hijackings was different, and the smartest thing the passengers could do was sit still and obey orders. Now, the best thing to do is to rush the hijackers en masse. The 9/11 hijackers (or the planners, anyway) knew that the same attack would probably not work again, which was one reason they tried to make their four-plane attack simultaneous. Flight 93 was in the air long enough for the information about the new reality of hijacking to get to the passengers, and that's why those hijackers did not succeed. The passengers on Flight 93 couldn't save themselves, but they could make sure no one else was killed, and they did. Had they been a little luckier, they might have saved themselves, too.

    Your points about the scale issues in the US are good, and ones I hadn't considered as clearly as you spelled them out.

    Regarding the motivations of terrorists, I think you overplay the role of sex. There are plenty of perfectly normal western boys and girls who don't fool around as teenagers, and many even who don't have sex before marriage. Some because they're just too shy and awkward, but many because they believe it's better to wait, for religious or other reasons. This isn't to say that it doesn't have a role, but the point it that it's completely inadequate to motivate suicide bombers.

    I think it's important to put that into proper perspective because I think it's too convenient a motivation, especially from people who would like to belittle the bombers and their motives. It's a motivation that both the religious westerners and the anti-religious westerners can grab onto, for different reasons, to look down on the bombers, considering them to be inferior people. Religious people can look down on them for being too weak to control their own urges, wh

A sheet of paper is an ink-lined plane. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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