July 12, 2012
You might have heard that police are deploying scanners – not only in airports – but also on trains, buses, ferries, sporting events and on the streets. And see this.
You probably know that the National Security Agency is building a $2 billion dollar facility in Utah which will use the world’s most powerful supercomputer to monitor virtually all phone calls, emails, internet usage, purchases and rentals, break all encryption, and then store everyone’s data permanently.
And that the CIA is trying to tap your communications as well.
You may have heard that drones will soon be flown all over America to spy on us. For example, ABC News reported:
Drones can carry facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors.
And they can be armed.
Without privacy and transparency rules — these powerful surveillance tools … have strong potential for misuse.
AP notes that the American public is wary of drones:
Public worries about drones began mostly on the political margins, but there are signs that they’re going mainstream.
An ACLU lobbyist, Chris Calabrese, said that when he speaks to audiences about privacy issues, drones are what “everybody just perks up over.”
Government Will Be Able to Tell What You Ate for Breakfast – Or How Much Adrenaline You’ve Got – from 164 Feet Away
Gizmodo reports today:
Within the next year or two, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will instantly know everything about your body, clothes, and luggage with a new laser-based molecular scanner fired from 164 feet (50 meters) away. From traces of drugs or gun powder on your clothes to what you had for breakfast to the adrenaline level in your body—agents will be able to get any information they want without even touching you. And without you knowing it.
The technology is so incredibly effective that, in November 2011, its inventors were subcontracted by In-Q-Tel to work with the US Department of Homeland Security. In-Q-Tel is a company founded “in February 1999 by a group of private citizens at the request of the Director of the CIA and with the support of the U.S. Congress.” According to In-Q-Tel, they are the bridge between the Agency and new technology companies.
Their plan is to install this molecular-level scanning in airports and border crossings all across the United States.
The machine is ten million times faster—and one million times more sensitive—than any currently available system. That means that it can be used systematically on everyone passing through airport security, not just suspect or randomly sampled people.
Above: The Genia Photonics’ Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner is capable of detecting every tiny trace of any substance on your body, from specks of gunpowder to your adrenaline levels to a sugar-sized grain of cannabis to what you had for breakfast.
Meanwhile, In-Q-Tel states that “an important benefit of Genia Photonics’ implementation as compared to existing solutions is that the entire synchronized laser system is comprised in a single, robust and alignment-free unit that may be easily transported for use in many environments… This compact and robust laser has the ability to rapidly sweep wavelengths in any pattern and sequence.” [PDF]
So not only can they scan everyone. They would be able to do it everywhere: the subway, a traffic light, sports events… everywhere.
The small, inconspicuous machine is attached to a computer running a program that will show the information in real time, from trace amounts of cocaine on your dollar bills to gunpowder residue on your shoes. Forget trying to sneak a bottle of water past security—they will be able to tell what you had for breakfast in an instant while you’re walking down the hallway.
The technology is not new, it’s just millions times faster and more convenient than ever before.
And the Russians also have a similar technology: announced last April, their “laser sensor can pick up on a single molecule in a million from up to 50 meters away.”
There has so far been no discussion about the personal rights and privacy issues involved. Which “molecular tags” will they be scanning for? Who determines them? What are the threshold levels of this scanning? If you unknowingly stepped on the butt of someone’s joint and are carrying a sugar-sized grain of cannabis like that unfortunate traveler currently in jail in Dubai, will you be arrested?
And, since it’s extremely portable, will this technology extend beyone the airport or border crossings and into police cars, with officers looking for people on the street with increased levels of adrenaline in their system to detain in order to prevent potential violent outbursts? And will your car be scanned at stoplights for any trace amounts of suspicious substances? Would all this information be recorded anywhere?
According to the undersecretary for science and technology of the Department of Homeland Security, this scanning technology will be ready within one to two years, which means you might start seeing them in airports as soon as 2013.
In other words, these portable, incredibly precise molecular-level scanning devices will be cascading lasers across your body as you walk from the bathroom to the soda machine at the airport and instantly reporting and storing a detailed breakdown of your person, in search of certain “molecular tags”.
(Researchers at Cornel university are working on ways to scan which are even cheaper … leading to the possibility that these type of scanners could one day be ubiquitous.)
I Heard That …
Moreover, as Newsweek, Telegraph, the Daily Record and many other mainstream sources have reported on experiments showing that mind-reading machines have gone from the realm of science fiction to engineering fact.
Newsweek points out:
Nothing in physics rules out remote detection of brain activity. In fact, says law professor Hank Greely of Stanford, an infrared device under development might read thoughts using little more than a headband. He can imagine a despot scanning citizens’ brains while they look at photos of him, to see who’s an opponent.
As with all technology, some uses will bring unalloyed benefits (translating a quadriplegic’s thoughts to move a prosthetic limb). Other uses … well, as Greely says, “we really don’t know where this will end.” That mind reading has begun, however, there is now no doubt.
We posted numerous videos in December showing mind-reading machines in action:
There are now prototypes of machines which can read your mind for a wide variety of purposes. [They include driving, computers, music, and other uses with higher potentials for abuse:]
For Good or For Ill?
Technology can be used to make us healthier, more prosperous and more interconnected … or it can be used to impose tyranny.
In a time age when yawning, having goose bumps, liking liberty and doing just about anything that average, normal people do can get you labelled as a potential terrorist, the risk of the technology being used for repressive purposes has to be taken seriously.
The government monitoring efforts will not focus on spying on potential terrorists – or even criminal activity – but in recording every phone call, email, internet search or other communication in the country.
Indeed, the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe … but to crush dissent … and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses (and here).
As influential senator Frank Church warned in 1975:
“Th[e National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.“
The former head of the above-described NSA spying program held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said:
We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.
On the other hand, the ability to fly our own drones for $300 (and remember, the parts for this one are just over $1,000) may mean that technology will be available for the people to keep an eye on our government, just as the web is being used to “be the media” and hold our leaders to account.
Whether technology imprisons us or frees us remains to be seen. And the result is largely up to us: scientists, engineers and we the people as a whole.