Guest Post: Precrime In America

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Azizonomics

Precrime In America

The U.S. Department of Homeland security is working on a project called FAST, the Future Attribute Screening Technology. FAST will remotely monitor physiological and behavioural signals like elevated heart rate, eye movement, body temperature, facial patterns, and body language, and analyse these signals algorithmically for statistical aberrance in an attempt to identify people with criminal or terroristic intentions.

It’s useful to briefly talk about  a few of the practical problems that such a system would face.

Firstly, the level of accuracy in remote monitoring. Is it possible to engineer a system that can remotely tell you the heart-rate of a hundred passengers  passing through a TSA checkpoint? Yes. Is it possible to do so accurately? That is much, much harder. The obvious conclusion is that such a system, were it to be deployed in the wilds of airports (and presumably, other locations where our ever-benevolent technocratic overlords determine “terrorists” or “criminals” may be operating) would — given a large enough number of scans — produce a lot of false positives stemming from erroneous data.

But let’s assume that such a system can be calibrated to produce a relatively accurate data set. Now we are faced with the problem of defining “suspicious” behaviour. Surely a passenger with the flu or a cold — who might have an elevated body temperature and a faster heart rate — would set alarm bells ringing. So too would someone suffering from pre-flight anxiety, people taking certain medications, the elderly and so on. Given that TSA screening protocols have prevented precisely zero terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11 (even in spite of the fact that 630 million passengers fly each year ) this merely suggests that vulnerable people will end up getting hassled by the TSA to an even greater extent than they already would be today. This is no laughing matter — a nervous but otherwise perfectly innocent passenger might end up getting tasered and die — something which of course has  happened multiple times already. Or —  under the NDAA (2011) — false-positives might end up being indefinitely detained on totally erroneous grounds.

Of course, the next problem is distinguishing the guilty from the innocent. Simply, this system would seem to produce nothing other than circumstantial evidence. Given that no crime would have yet been committed, how would it be possible to prove nefarious intent? Perhaps one day a terrorist or drug smuggler (got to keep fighting the war on drugs…) will be foolish enough to try to carry a gun or a knife through a TSA checkpoint and onto an aeroplane, but given that a metal detector could have detected that anyway, what is the point of this new technology? Surely it is to pinpoint potential terrorists who would otherwise not be picked out by the body scanners? In that case, would the end result just be that people — with no real evidence against other than a fast heart rate and some perspiration — end up being thrown off their flight? Would people who are subject to a false positive and as a result miss a flight try to sue the TSA for wasting their time and money?

Next, just as a committed and composed liar can fool a polygraph, surely terrorists and drug smugglers out in the wild would adapt their behaviour to avoid detection. There are of course prescription drugs that can be taken to reduce the physiological symptoms of anxiety, and thus fool the detector.

Then there are the problems in testing. Subjects in the laboratory trials (taxpayer-funded, of course) have been told to go through the system with the intent to cause a disruptive act. The system has been fine-tuned to detect subjects in a controlled laboratory environment. Simply, there is no data on the effectiveness of this system against terrorists in the wild. The wild is a totally different environment, and the mindset and physiological cues of a real terrorist may well be entirely different to those of a laboratory subject who is pretending (we just don’t know until we try it on a large enough sample of real terrorists). The notion that it can catch terrorist seems wholly pseudo-scientific, and based on the false premise that terrorism has an identifiable set of physiological cues.  The entire operation is based on the (possibly flawed) premise that a terrorist will be nervous, and that therefore we should cast an extremely wide dragnet to further interrogate and intimidate nervous people. That is guesswork, not science.

As Alexander Furnas writing in the Atlantic states:

We should ask, in a world where we are already pass through full-body scanners, take off our shoes, belts, coats and only carry 3.5 oz containers of liquid, is more stringent screening really what we need and will it make us any safer? Or will it merely brand hundreds of innocent people as potential terrorists and provide the justification of pseudo-scientific algorithmic behavioral screening to greater invasions of their privacy?

It is ridiculous — and totally contrary to the Fourth Amendment — that the courts have franked the notion that air travellers can be subject to invasive pat-downs and body scans without probably cause. But they did. In U.S. vs Davis, 482 F.2d 893, 908 the judge ruled that ”airport screenings are considered to be administrative searches because they are conducted as part of a general regulatory scheme, where the essential administrative purpose is to prevent the carrying of weapons or explosives aboard aircraft” and thatan administrative search is allowed if no more intrusive or intensive than necessary, in light of current technology, to detect weapons or explosives, confined in good faith to that purpose, and passengers may avoid the search by electing not to fly.”

But to effectively conduct a medical scan on passengers? Surely this goes well beyond being “no more intrusive or intensive than necessary“? How many successful terrorist attacks occurred after 9/11, even before the more invasive pat-downs and body scans were brought in? None. So why would deepening the security regime be necessary?

And now that the TSA has expanded its regime beyond airports and out onto the roads of America we must ask ourselves what the endgame of all of this is? Could it be to deploy these technologies on a widespread basis throughout American cities, malls, sports stadiums and using it to scout out potential troublemakers? Would that be deemed an “administrative search” too (and thus not subject to the Fourth Amendment)?

This logic — of giving incontrovertible and unchallengeable power to our benevolent administrative overlords and then hoping for the best — takes us to a dark and nasty place. It requires us to assume they have our bests interests at heart, and it requires us to assume that they will not abuse their power. The power to monitor these kinds of cues is a power that could easily be abused. A corrupt TSA agent might call a person they find attractive — even a child — out of the queue for a secondary search so that he or she can molest them with an enhanced pat-down. These new tools just enhance that power, providing a cloak of pseudo-scientific justification to the reality of citizens bowing down at the feet of their government and kissing the ring of power. Unquestioning obedience to power is a recipe for social catastrophe.

As Jefferson put it:

When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.

Would I be picked out of the queue at the airport? Sure. I already am for my Arabic name. But I am nervous. And the things that make me nervous? Encroaching Orwellianism. The potential for the abuse of power. The potential for tyranny. The demand of unquestioning obedience. The money spent and debt accrued to develop these technologies. The fact that our governments are obsessed with terrorism to the extent that they will put tighter and tighter controls in place at airports, even though more people are crushed to death by furniture or televisions every year than are killed in terrorist attacks, while ignoring real threats to our society like excessive systemic risk in the global financial system.

That all scares the shit out of me.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
battle axe's picture


Ruffcut's picture

They would of had this sooner but used DC and Wall Street test subjects and blew the fucking machine up several times.

GetZeeGold's picture



The machine was kept spitting out portraits of Jon Corzine.


MillionDollarBonus_'s picture

This definitely a move in the right direction. Crimes against the state, and threats thereof, are on the rise in America; especially from extreme libertarian groups like the so-called "sovereign citizens" and "the alternative market project". It's all very well to claim that you're a "peaceful" group, but what happens when one of these nuts plans a domestic terror attack or encourages people to stop paying their taxes? These groups are a threat to our way of life in America and to traditional American values. It is the duty of all patriotic Americans to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and to report ANY data they think might help the government to develop this technology. This is the only way we can ensure the safety of our children in America.  

francis_sawyer's picture

 "traditional American values"


I'd prefer to keep my 'tradition' close at hand... It even goes on canoe trips with me... Don't leave home without it!

Ag Tex's picture

One more control mechanism in their quiver.

Hard1's picture

They already have precrime.  I know of people put on OFACs list first and investigate later.  They basically destroy your life as all your bank accounts an are frozen and you cannot do business for years until they realize that it was an "adminsitrative error"

AldousHuxley's picture

precrime in America is that 99.9% of you don't have enough money to prove your innocence, merit, existence.




CPL's picture

Agreed, we should sell porn to Minors MillionDollarBonus and legalise herion then tax it.


First time we've ever agreed on anything.

GetZeeGold's picture



.....and to think we use to just count on the SEC and CFTC to do their jobs.


Oh regional Indian's picture

Stale MDB. Your schtick is broken.

Because, It IZ AZIZ, see?

Here, everyone saw minority report and said...ohhhh, yeahhhhhhhh, awesommmmeeee.....

And all it was, was a pre-view to life in A Techno-fascist state. really difficult when you realize you are seen as an enemy in your own homw.

My heart-felt sympathies to all of us (me included).

Rise? Together? Perhaps?

Or is it everyman for himself?



mtomato2's picture

That's why I don't even junk him any more.  Because his schtick is broken.  Ignore it and it will go away.

spiral_eyes's picture

There's a very fine line between funny and broken shtick, and yeah I think MDB is the wrong side of that line today.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

When will Tyler and co revoke MDB's account? He is obviously a shill for Wall St.

theMAXILOPEZpsycho's picture

I thought it was funny...

Don't ever leave MDB!

Its the Vatican Stupid's picture

You guys obviously got sucked in to the MDB vortex.

Be careful you don't end up in a "schtick-coma".

lincolnsteffens's picture

Either you are making lots of money with this technology, just trying to screw with our heads or you are  a clueless product of the public school system.

squilmi's picture

The age old (paraphrased) quote, "Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither" seems to apply directly to that kind of attitude.  It won't be long before you see TSA agents goose-stepping through your neighborhood.

CH1's picture

Ya know what, MDB, I understand uber-sarcasm, but this is fucking slavery we're talking about now. There are certain lines you should not cross.

theMAXILOPEZpsycho's picture

"Sarcasm crosses all boundaries"


crawldaddy's picture

to our way of life in America



what exactly is our way of life?  as if being loaded up to our neck in debt with a government up our ass is something special.

ejmoosa's picture

You mean the children that will be born so far in debt that the state owns them?


Ruffcut's picture

That's what your birth certificate is. Certificate of ownership, moving towards the "soul" harvests.

I wish I was kidding.

Bansters-in-my- feces's picture


"These  groups are a threat to our way of life in America and the traditional American values".

Too fucking funny.

Which "way of life in America" are you refering to,your slavery...?

Fuck Off and die MDB.

imbrbing's picture

These groups are a threat to our NEW way of life in America


There, fixed it for ya

Decolat's picture

Well then, since ZH is full of 'suspicious activity', you'd better start turning us all in. It's the only way to be sure.


Turn yourself in while you're at it. Everyone (including you) is a potential pre-criminal.

zerozulu's picture

If we were attacked because "they" did not like our freedom. Guess who are the winner.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Anyone could become a domestic terrorist, especially someone who already has a badge. Clearly there's only one solution - lock everyone up and have robots deliver every item to every person to ensure no personal contact is possible and furthermore have the robots only guess at any communication that may be needed, not allow direct means of any sort - no letters, internet, phone, line of sight, tin cans on a string, nothing. When in doubt, further the lock-down and induce sleep with drugs to entire city blocks.

Seriously, this is for our future.

Please, won't someone think of the children?

ihedgemyhedges's picture

You think Tom Cruise will clear Senate confirmation hearings to run the department????????

CPL's picture

A hero is only a sandwich.

Democracy is only an idea.

Freedom is being allowed to do what you are told.

Oh regional Indian's picture

CPL, you think Freedom and Freedumb are homonyms by acccident?


Dr. Richard Head's picture

I often enjoy circle logic arguments with the baby boomer generation (I am 33) where I ask about the war on terror and what the military is fighting for.  The answer inevitably is "for our freedom".  With the follow up question on loss of the 4th amendment, those same boomers reply "for our safety". Those boomers that I talk to don't see the disconnect between these pervasive acts of violence and aggression on other countries and its own people.  They apparently are calling war and serfdom freedom. 

No worries though.  Those same boomers, who bought into the SS lie, will be needed to stock grocery shelves at 9 pm on a Tuesday.  They will be FREE to do that as well...actually, looks like they have to.

Son-of-a-bitch, pour me another drink.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

DRH, we are seeing the Boomers behave as they always have, in a narcissistic authoritarian manner. Other peoples ideas are good as long as I agree with them. You are oppressing me, but it is OK to oppress you though. Double standard to the core. Where is Cognitive Dissonance at?

Ruffcut's picture

CD has been detained for questioning.

MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

Where is Cognitive Dissonance at?

MADGE says: "You're soaking in it!"

WillyGroper's picture

Time to discern the difference between ur gubbmint & a generation. If ur asking boomers about this & getting these answers, they're about as educated as you are. There's just as many that know what is happening which is nothing but a resource grab & I'd say creeping fascism, but fascism is already here. Have another drink. 

à votre santé

bluebare's picture

I'm a baby boomer who can't argue with anything you said except the condescending asshole I spilled a perfectly good drink on part.

Dr. No's picture

There was once a dream that was Rome, you could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish. It was so fragile and I fear that it will not survive the winter.

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture


Raymond K Hessel's picture

CPL, you are 100% correct that freedom is being allowed to do what you are told.

Freedom is permission.  Liberty is innate to every human being.

zerozulu's picture

Historically, every empire has done the same thing before turning in to dust.

carguym14's picture

I kneel before no man........

Peter K's picture

Does skin color factor into these calculations? :)

Just sayin.....

CPL's picture

Yes, If you look arab in anyway, you get a free ass grabbing and colon exam.

sessinpo's picture

CPL                   2354270

Yes, If you look arab in anyway, you get a free ass grabbing and colon exam.



It seems to me you have it a little backwards. If you look arab, then you get to grab ass and give colon exams. I expect arabs to be running TSA shortly.


SheepDog-One's picture

No actualy if youre Muslim you get a free pass thru TSA.