Schneier interviews head of TSA

Security expert Bruce Schneier interviewed Kip Hawley, chief of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The interview reveals interesting insights about the methods required to deter terrorism.

This is a fun excerpt:

Schneier asks, “Can you please convince me there’s not an Office for Annoying Air Travelers making this sort of stuff up?”

Kip Hawley replies, “Screening ideas are indeed thought up by the Office for Annoying Air Travelers and vetted through the Directorate for Confusion and Complexity, and then we review them to insure that there are sufficient unintended irritating consequences so that the blogosphere is constantly fueled.”

Backscatter body scanning x-rayThough the TSA has made stupendous mistakes, it faces a difficult task to develop effective methods that will intervene threats and also preserve our liberty and privacy. For example, body scanning machines use “high energy x-rays that scatter rather than penetrate materials as compared to lower-energy x-rays used in medical applications. Said to be harmless, it can move through materials such as clothing.”

Hawley reassuringly says that images through clothing from backscatter x-ray must be and will be adequately quarantined. See SmartCheck.

Behavior Detection Officers, a new profession starts now.
People with hostile intent can be detected by their behavior, heart rate, respiration, body temperature, verbal responses, facial micro-expressions and the involuntary movement of their muscles.

They’re called Behavior Detection Officers, and they’re part of several recent security upgrades, Transportation Security Administrator Kip Hawley told an aviation industry group in Washington last month. He described them as “a wonderful tool to be able to identify and do risk management prior to somebody coming into the airport or approaching the crowded checkpoint.” [link]

Hawley mentions several times to Bruce Schneier that the TSA is moving toward behavior detection, and is actively seeking employees. I searched Google August 12 for “Behavior Detection Officer” and found only 15 listings and again August 15 to find just 26 results.

In “Airport security now reads minds”, Scientific American pointed to this snippet:

Jay M. Cohen, undersecretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology, said in May that he wants to automate passenger screening by using videocams and computers to measure and analyze heart rate, respiration, body temperature and verbal responses as well as facial micro-expressions.

Kaitlin Dirrig at McClatchy Newspapers reported that there is ‘danger in facial expressions’ and that Behavior Detection Systems will be also added to port security, special-event screening and other security screening tasks.

At the heart of the new screening system is a theory that when people try to conceal their emotions, they reveal their feelings in flashes…. Fear and disgust are the key because they’re associated with deception.

Behavior detection officers work in pairs. Typically, one officer sizes up passengers openly while the other seems to be performing a routine security duty. A passenger who arouses suspicion, whether by micro-expressions, social interaction or body language gets subtle but more serious scrutiny.

Frankly, until these surveillance methods become part of our landscape and are installed in our grocery stores, I doubt we’ll know how these officers work, whether in pairs or at remote terminals using technology and software that is increasingly automating threat detection and criminal justice.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled passengers give up all rights to be free of warrantless searches once a “passenger places hand luggage on a conveyor belt for inspection” or “passes though a magnetometer.” [link]

War has a price.
Let’s hope annoying and caustic security methods may one day become unnecessary. Let’s insist that mistakes are quickly corrected, that the thousands of folks named John Smith are quickly removed from mistaken lists, that we can wear our shoes, …

Total Information Awareness > Terrorism Information Awareness
TIA captures the “information signature” of people. Darpa began funding research and development of a tracking system called the Total Information Awareness (TIA) Program in 2002, now renamed the Terrorism Information Awareness Program. [wiki]

There’s a lucrative market in knowledge discovery tools that will sort through the massive amounts of information to find patterns and associations.

At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets in Shenzhen in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity. [link]