Which Travelers Have 'Hostile Intent'? A Biometric Device May Have the Answer

At airport security checkpoints in Knoxville, TN, this summer, scores of departing passengers were chosen to step behind a curtain, sit in a metallic oval booth and don headphones, the Wall Street Journal reports. 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. The test alone signals a push for new ways to combat terrorists using technology. Authorities are convinced that beyond hunting for weapons and dangerous liquids brought on board airliners, the battle for security lies in identifying dangerous passengers. Security specialists say such technology can enhance, but not replace, existing detection machines and procedures.

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