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New Airport Security: Mind Reading

Besides x-ray machines, metal detectors and old-fashionedpat-downs, airport security will soon be able to read ourminds. NASA has told Northwest Airlines they're developingbrain-monitoring devices which can receive and analyzebrain-wave and heartbeat patterns, then feed that data intocomputerized programs "to detect passengers who potentiallymight pose a threat."

"A lot of people's fear of flying would send those metersoff the chart. Are they going to pull all those peopleaside?" says Mihir Kshirsagar of the Electronic PrivacyInformation Center. NASA will use "noninvasiveneuro-electric sensors," imbedded in gates, to collect tinyelectric signals that all brains and hearts transmit, sortof like an instant lie-detector. Computers will thencorrelate this data with your travel routines, criminalbackground and credit information from "hundreds tothousands of data sources." We have to hope that all of thiswill happen quickly enough so that our plane won?t be delayed.

NASA research manager Herb Schlickenmaier says themind-reading machines aren?t yet ready for widespread use,they just want Northwest Airlines to test them. "There arebaby steps for us to walk through before we can make anypronouncements," he says. Right now, reliable measurementsof EEG brain waves can only be measured by machines withsensors that are attached to the head, in a kind of?thinking cap.? "To say I can take that cap off and putsensors in a doorjamb, and as the passenger starts walkingthrough [decide if] they are a threat or not, is at thispoint a future application," he says.

"We're getting closer to reading minds than you mightsuppose," says Robert Park, a physics professor at theUniversity of. "It does make me uncomfortable. That's thelimit of privacy invasion. You can't go further than that."

For years we relied on the FBI to read terrorists? minds,but they failed us on 911. Will they do a better job in thefuture? Read ?The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI? byRonaldKessler,clickhere.

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