The current surveillance state has reached a place where it is beginning to resemble the 2002 film Minority Report. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now attempting to predict crime by doing behavioral analysis of crowds at airports via video surveillance. The program is in the experimental stages and is being conducted using “trained actors posing as passengers, as well as members of the traveling public” according to the 14-page report published online by DHS earlier this month.
The report, which The New American has studied in its entirety, is startling not just in its audacity, but also in its premise. In the beginning of the “war on terror,” which was launched in the wake of 9/11, few would have believed that in a decade and a half the American public would have become so desensitized to blanket surveillance that such a program could ever happen in the open.
The experiment, which the DHS plans to conduct at an unspecified time at the Theodore Francis Green Memorial State Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, centers around the “Behavioral Detection Officers (BDOs)” already employed at airports around the country. These BDOs observe passengers and “are trained to identify passengers exemplifying a discrete subset of behavioral indicators” of “malicious intent” in an attempt to prevent acts of terrorism and other crimes at our nation’s airports. How effective these BDOs are is a matter of debate. How proper they are is another matter altogether. Any program that relies on spying on the behavior of all travelers to detect “malicious intent” by a few is rightly considered by many to be a breach of the proper province of government.
This new development raises exponentially the stakes in the battle for balancing the needs of security with those of liberty and privacy. The purpose of introducing video surveillance technology into this program is to expand it without expanding personnel. The BDOs will be able to conduct their surveillance from a remote location via video monitors and assess more travelers at a faster rate. Of course, this increases the privacy concerns already present by casting an even broader net and allowing the video images to be archived.