Anxiety-detecting machines could spot terrorists

“A scene from the airport of the future: A man’s pulse races as he walks through a checkpoint. His quickened heart rate and heavier breathing set off an alarm. A machine senses his skin temperature jumping. Screeners move in to question him.Signs of a terrorist? Or simply a passenger nervous about a cross-country flight?

It may seem Orwellian, but on Thursday, the Homeland Security Department showed off an early version of physiological screeners that could spot terrorists. The department’s research division is years from using the machines in an airport or an office building – if they even work at all. But officials believe the idea could transform security by doing a bio scan to spot dangerous people.

Critics doubt such a system can work. The idea, they say, subjects innocent travelers to the intrusion of a medical exam. The futuristic machinery works on the same theory as a polygraph, looking for sharp swings in body temperature, pulse and breathing that signal the kind of anxiety exuded by a would-be terrorist or criminal. Unlike a lie-detector test that wires subjects to sensors as they answer questions, the “Future Attribute Screening Technology” (FAST) scans people as they walk by a set of cameras.”

(via USA Today)


  1. There seems to be some evidence that polygraph machines don’t work at all as lie detectors.

    presumably that argument would apply here too.

  2. I wonder if I’ll be called out for using blow, or just accused of being a terrorist. I’m so much more then that, why can’t their machine “SEE” that.


  3. That’s awful. What about people with anxiety and panic disorders? Lots of people have panic attacks in airports. My own anxiety disorder is for the most part under control, but the crowds of people, being subjected to airport security, confusing directions, trying to hurry to the right place and noise can easily cause me to show those symptoms of high anxiety mentioned, even if I know I have nothing to hide.

  4. Shadowfirebird- The government knows that this as well as polygraphs aren’t reliable, Yet according to this article, they’re determined to tweak this as much as they can and go ahead with this anyway; which is very disturbing.

    Antikhristos – Yeah, you’ll be called out for anything “abnormal” that shows up on their screen. I’m in fear of them combining this with a demand for a brain scan and a blood test in order to be able to fly. Be sure to take the reefer out of your ass, because the x-ray machine will see it, and be sure to get to the airport 6 hours ahead of takeoff. Think of the lines!

    Alice- A lot of people suffer from anxiety and panic disorders. I know more people who are afraid to fly than people who aren’t. This is just one of the many reasons why implementing this would be a major disaster.

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