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Reading Terrorists' Minds About Imminent Attack 206

Posted by timothy
from the that-sounds-rather-pat dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Imagine technology that allows you to get inside the mind of a terrorist to know how, when, and where the next attack will occur. In the Northwestern study, when researchers knew in advance specifics of the planned attacks by the make-believe 'terrorists,' they were able to correlate P300 brain waves to guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy in the lab, said J. Peter Rosenfeld, professor of psychology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences."
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Reading Terrorists' Minds About Imminent Attack

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  • by Bodhammer (559311) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:02PM (#33099128)
    "The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed--would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper--the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you." - George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 1
    • by Bodhammer (559311) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:05PM (#33099136)
      "It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself--anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face...; was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime..." - George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 5
      • by beh (4759) * on Sunday August 01, 2010 @02:27AM (#33099744)

        I just wonder, how they classify guilty knowledge?

        Is it really guilty knowledge of a criminally relevant nature?

        Picture this:

        Interrogator A: Do you know about an upcoming terrorist attack?

        Suspect: No!

        Machine indicates guilty knowledge!

        What the machine doesn't get, the guilty knowledge is actually the suspect having an illicit affair with the interrogator's wife...

        You think the machine can handle the difference?

        Even if the suspect shows a guilty knowledge during the whole test, even on completely irrelevant questions - will the investigator really think it could be guilty knowledge about anything that isn't criminally relevant? ...or maybe, it is about a crime, but not about terrorism? Would the suspect now need to confess to everything (maybe a break-in somewhere), just to prove he/she has a 'good' reason for 'guilty knowledge' that doesn't have anything to do with an impending terrorist attack?

        And - if that were to cover it - what in the case of two crimes - a break-in I committed, and knowledge of an impending terrorist attack. If I can 'show' I was the perpetrator behind a break-in (or even show that I know who was behind the break-in); will the machine still be able to say that there is guilty knowledge about two completely separate things?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by andreicio (1209692)

          Just to make it easy on those that refuse to RTFA, here's a key quote from it, that should answer your question and clear up things a bit:

          with electrodes attached to their scalps, they looked at a computer display monitor that presented names of stimuli. The names of Boston, Houston, New York, Chicago and Phoenix, for example, were shuffled and presented at random. The city that study participants chose for the major terrorist attack evoked the largest P300 brainwave responses.

          Yes, it's still not a perfect tool, but better than a polygraph test, and that's what they're going for. One little step at a time :)

          • by foobsr (693224)
            that presented names of stimuli

            So the breakthrough here is that names instead of the stimuli themselves were presented?

            CC.
          • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @04:53AM (#33100072)
            In what way was it better than a polygraph test? Anybody with half a brain or more by now has accepted that polygraphs are fundamentally flawed; yet they are still used, mainly because they serve useful functions other than simply detecting truth. And the agencies using them are aware of this. They use the tests to wring confessions out of people, even when those confessions were made under false pretenses. The list of cases where exactly that has been done, by government agencies, is staggering.

            As others have implied, the incidence of true positives has absolutely no relationship to false positives. This test might in fact -- STILL -- turn out to be completely useless.
            • by thej1nx (763573) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @10:10AM (#33100936)
              In what way was it better than a polygraph test?



              If you had actually bothered to read the article(I know that is not the normal practice for the idiot crowd here), you would have understood the difference.

              Polygraph measures emotional response by measuring heart rate, blood pressure, sweating etc. It is near useless since if you are not guilty but are still nervous in presence of police/authority. And a skilled criminal may even control his heart rate etc while lying. Hence it is almost always inadmissible in any decent court, as evidence. At very best, it can be used as mere corroborating evidence.

              P300 measures the brainwave activity related to "recognition" of an stimuli. It measures the brain waves in the areas related to categorization and recognition of events/objects. Nothing whatsoever to do with emotions and more or less impossible to control. Either you recognize object x or you don't.

              See the difference? This is why courts usually brain mapping as evidence while rejecting polygraph tests. And regardless, in this case the article doesn't says they are trying to prove guilt. The aim is to FIND OUT information. The assumption is that there is already sufficient evidence to prove the subject being a terrorist. They are not trying to prove that you are a terrorist. They are trying to find out where you plan to attack and how.

              That being said, the result will completely depend on whether the correct stimuli was chosen. Like the article said, it would have to be something only a terrorist would know. If they show you a aerial photo of a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, that only they have a copy of, or a terrorist trainer in the said camp who you have no business knowing, and you recognize them, they know you were linked to that camp. On the other hand, if they used a photo that was also floating around on internet, you might have seen it on the net earlier anyways.

              As such, it is indeed still slightly flawed(since it depends on the tester's choice of untainted stimuli) but is still much much better than the polygraph test, when it comes to finding out concealed information.

              • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @07:32PM (#33105084)
                I was not asking how it is "different". I asked how it's "better".

                I suppose that the fact that (today) it appears to be more accurate for a narrow range of stimuli, might be considered better. But it appears to have its drawbacks as well. The experiments seem to reasonably show the effect that they are describing, but it is still very possible that outside the lab, the correlations no longer hold. That is what happened with the polygraph, which seemed so promising at first. But expert polygraph operators have stated that in practice, anybody who knows you well can tell if you are lying just by watching you, better than any polygraph operator ever could. [antipolygraph.org]

                The article states "... when researchers knew in advance specifics of the planned attacks by the make-believe "terrorists," they were able to correlate P300 brain waves to guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy in the lab..."

                BUT... in the actual experiment in which they did not have that foreknowledge, they were only able to determine 10 out of 12 "terrorists", and only 20 out of 30 of the plan details. That's not such a good hit rate. Not bad, but not great. You would think that with them crowing about their "100% correlation", they would have at least gotten 12 of the 12 terrorists. The other details would seem to be naturally more difficult, so I am not so surprised there. But in any case, in a simulated real-world scenario, their success was less than stellar. And that's in the lab.

                I believe that in the real world, the success rate would be even lower. Perhaps much lower. Many variables are added to the mix.

                Further, I strongly suspect that it is possible to generate false positives in this equipment, if one knows what they are doing. I do not know that for a fact of course. But I think it would be fun to give it a try.

                Presumably, the students being tested were volunteers who knew little if anything about the nature of what was being studied during the experiment. That is common procedure. But -- as was made clear with the polygraph -- someone who does know what's up might be able to manipulate the results. I would like to see the same kind of test, using people who do know what's going on and who deliberately try to manipulate the results. That would be a much more realistic experiment and I suspect the success rate would be much lower. The only way to know is to try it.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Reziac (43301) *

              Occurs to me that the method is fundamentally flawed, in that once you've been shown the various stimuli, now you know the stimuli exist, and you will recognise them in the future, whether they are relevant (to you or to the investigation) or not.

              I also wonder how they plan to get the terrorists to troupe down to the shrink lab and get themselves electroded to see if they recognise any of their presumed targets. Like anyone who's been in the U.S. for five minutes wouldn't recognise New York?

            • In what way was it better than a polygraph test?

              It's better because it works at a lower level of consciousness. The p300 seems to be the result of some part of the brain saying "hey, check this!", it detects anything that seems unusual in some way. Then other parts of the brain check why it's unusual.

              If it's found to be dangerous in some form the body prepares to flee or fight, by injecting hormones in the blood stream that prepare the muscles for action. It's only at this later point that traditional polyg

              • The p300 test could be misused, it should be used only for finding data for further investigation, not as a confession of guilt.

                And there's the rub. Exactly the same could be said about the polygraph, if it is to be used at all. But in fact it is frequently used to falsely indicate lying (see references at that link above... lots of good reading there) and to coerce confessions out of people. This is improper use, to say the least, and if the polygraph is used that way, we have every reason to believe that a system like this would be similarly abused.

                But at least it's better than traditional polygraph truth detection in that it seems to be intrinsically more difficult to defeat.

                Actually, we don't know that at all. Some of the tests done gave impressive resul

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ultranova (717540)

            Yes, it's still not a perfect tool, but better than a polygraph test, and that's what they're going for.

            Is it? A polygraph is based on the assumption that someone who lies feels guilty about it, and thus nervous; this seems to be based on the assumption that a terrorist who's killing people in the name of Allah feels guilty about it.

            One little step at a time :)

            Straight to Hell. Or do you really think that this will be limited to terrorists?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by gutnor (872759)
              Of course that will be limited to terrorists...

              Like in the UK, when they used anti-terrorism law to fine people that were putting their rubbish in the wrong bin [dailymail.co.uk] or people with noisy children. [telegraph.co.uk].
              (OK not the best source in the world but worrying regardless)

            • Entropy at work (Score:3, Informative)

              by mangu (126918)

              A polygraph is based on the assumption that someone who lies feels guilty about it, and thus nervous; this seems to be based on the assumption that a terrorist who's killing people in the name of Allah feels guilty about it.

              No, this method is based on the fact that the human brain is a remarkable information processing device.

              In information theory [wikipedia.org] there's one fundamental parameter called entropy [wikipedia.org], which can be loosely described as the "degree of surprise" in the information.

              This P300 brain wave seems to indi

              • Re:Entropy at work (Score:4, Insightful)

                by retchdog (1319261) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:50PM (#33101678) Journal

                Information theory is a mathematical science which has been very well tested in its basic principles. It was only by applying principles derived from information theory that our modern communication devices could be developed.

                Yeah, but saying that the p300 "measures" entropy in the brain is pseudoscience of the highest order. It may be true (in some sense, the formulation of which would be highly nontrivial) and it's probably false.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by mangu (126918)

                  saying that the p300 "measures" entropy in the brain is pseudoscience of the highest order

                  I'm no expert in electroencephalography, but a Google search [google.com] seems to return a number of papers from reputable universities.

                  I didn't say the p300 measures entropy in the brain, I said the p300 seems to be a result of the brain measuring entropy in the information it receives from outside. The human brain has to have some mechanism to measure entropy in information, otherwise we wouldn't behave as we do.

                  Measuring inform

        • What the machine doesn't get, the guilty knowledge is actually the suspect having an illicit affair with the interrogator's wife...

          You think the machine can handle the difference?

          Plausible deniability has never been so much fun.

        • Clearly you have never been interrogated by a professional interrogator, I have, it's uncanny what they can get you to remember in exquisite detail and how quickly they can zero in on a subject that interests them. Give them a tool like a polygraph and their interrogation abilities increase by a factor of ten. FBI polygraphers are required to re-qualify periodically, if you get a chance to be a test subject take it and you'll be impressed.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:06PM (#33099140)

    so PRE crime starts now and how do they hope to use this in a jury trial?

    • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:09PM (#33099148) Homepage

      Relax, citizen!

      You only need a jury if you have something to hide.

    • by ZDRuX (1010435)
      Why would there be a trial if the machine has proven your guilt?
    • by stephanruby (542433) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:16AM (#33099390)

      It's simple. In a jury trial, the jurors would have to pass that test themselves before they get selected as jurors.

      It's just like they use the polygraph test in the CIA and in the FBI. The employees that say the test is idiotic [antipolygraph.org] publicly end up automatically failing the next polygraph test they take, and lose their security clearance and all credibility. The process is very circular and self-selective that way. It ensures that only the people that believe in the lie detector, or the people that claim to believe in the lie detector throughout their career, end up accepted and re-accepted within the inner sanctum. Such a device is used to create unquestioning yes-men in those agencies.

      It's a lot like the Church of Scientology, in fact the Church of Scientology has been using devices that work very similarly to lie detector tests. Their device is also used for both intimidation and punishment for not toeing the official line.

    • by mysidia (191772) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:31AM (#33099432)

      It's not a problem. A jury trial is only required to prosecute you of a crime you actually have committed.

      Holding you imprisoned based on a crime you thought about committing, doesn't require you to be guilty.

      Also, your inability to gain access to a lawyer, see visitors, or have anyone be informed of where you are (or that you are held), due to restrictions imposed on people thinking about terrorism, will prevent you from challenging the authorities' decision to hold you.

    • by hol (89786) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:49AM (#33099496) Homepage Journal

      Never mind those silly details like due process and unreasonable search & seizure . We're talking terrorism here, so it's straight off to room 101 with you.

    • They already have. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by neoshroom (324937) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:21AM (#33099562)
      This technique has already been used in jury trials, both to convict one gentleman and to clear another man who was charged with a crime he did not commit. The technique is not related to Minority-Report-type pre-crime and from what I've read it actually seems more scientific than the polygraph.

      The basic idea behind the technique is there is a certain detectable pattern in the brain when exposed to information that triggers when the information is novel verses if the information is familiar. The basic experimental setup involved being exposed to pictures and other information that the individual is certain not to have been previously exposed to in the case and which he or she could only be aware of if he or she was the one who committed the crime. For example, known details of the crime scene which the accused was not made aware of in the trial could be shown. The technique would then register whether this information was already in the brain or whether it was novel information.

      As I said, it does seem much more scientific a process than the polygraph, however, it is still susceptible to faulty experimental setup. For example, if the accused was unknowingly exposed to details of the crime through gossip or rumour that the experimenter was aware the accused already knew, it could result in a false positive. Additionally, the classical danger in many forensic "science" techniques is that they often are not double-blind or truly scientific in many senses and that prosecutors are and frequently do interact with forensic "scientists" to try to influence results. There is also the constant problem of juries rarely being fully qualified to understand these techniques. For example, a forensic scientist may say a fingerprint was a "partial match" and juries will find the fact the technician used the word "match" significant enough to convict, even though such a measure is more of an art than a science.

      The P300 technique is definitely a step beyond such crude tools as the polygraph, but until we fix the many, many significant problems of our criminal justice system it may still only be a more accurate tool in a biased and broken toolbox.

      P.S. The article stub did not even mention the common name of the technique, which is called Brain Fingerprinting [wikipedia.org].
      • "that the experimenter was aware the accused already knew" should be "that the experimenter was unaware the accused already knew"
      • Can't see how this will be of ANY use in court.
        I mean, you could prove that almost anyone is Jack the fucking Ripper. [youtube.com]

        And anyone with History Channel is probably Hitler Himself by now. [hijinksensue.com]

      • As I said, it does seem much more scientific a process than the polygraph, however, it is still susceptible to faulty experimental setup.

        Since a polygraph has no scientific basis [antipolygraph.org] for detecting lies, this is a useless comparison.

        As for "brain fingerprinting," this sounds like a catchy phrase to imply accuracy. What about someone who thinks "hey this is just like that John Grisham novel!" and boom her brain shows a positive hit? Conclusion: don't ready crime books. What about someone quick witted, who when presented with crime scene facts thinks "oh yeah that sure fits the rest of the scenario I read in the paper, I'd kind of wondered about th

    • A common pPre-crime activity is known as sedition. Go look it up.
    • From what I am aware, PRE crime is already illegal. Since the P300 test is looking for a response to already encoded information, it means that it is looking for details of a planned crime -which is called "conspiracy" and already carries legal repercussions.

      However, what does concern me is the CSI effect. You know, the one where juries acquit obviously guilty people because of a lack of DNA or other high-tech evidence. If this becomes a standard and legally admissible practice, juries might start requir

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      It is simply incredible the number of people here who assume that things are going to be radically different now that we are successfully researching into this kind of technology. You know, like suddenly we'll start juryless prosecutions, based on nothing more than guilty knowledge. That we'll suddenly start equating guilty feelings with guilt. Oh noes! It's the end of freedom!

      I swear, it's worse than when the RIAA found out about the internet!

  • by Da Cheez (1069822) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:09PM (#33099144)
    "they were able to correlate P300 brain waves to guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy in the lab"

    Bet the accuracy wouldn't be so good in a non-controlled, non-laboratory environment. Of course, that wouldn't necessarily stop such a technology from being used, now would it?
    • by camperdave (969942) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:15PM (#33099178) Journal
      "Without any prior knowledge of the planned crime in our mock terrorism scenarios, we were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and, among them, 20 out of 30 crime- related details,"

      Yeah, 10 out of 12 is 100%. We need to give these guys more money so they can upgrade from their first generation pentiums.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IgnitusBoyone (840214)

        I'm instantly skeptical of any study that claims 100%. I need to reread the article again, but they latter talk about 80% in trials so I am not even sure why they boast about a theoretical 100 percent.

      • by retchdog (1319261) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:56PM (#33099328) Journal

        The 10/12 is a new study "without advanced knowledge of the `terrorist' plans," whereas the 100% was with this knowledge. The presence of this distinction should further set the stage for skepticism about their experimental design.

        Further, they have achieved only 100% (resp. 83%) sensitivity (=true positives) with an unknown (or unreported) specificity (=true negatives) since they had no controls. What if I'm having an affair or high-stakes slightly-shady business deal in New York?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by quixote9 (999874)
          It sure seems that if they knew the specifics in advance, they could eschew the whole mindreading thing and just get on with stopping the attack. But maybe that's just me.
          • by zacronos (937891)

            It sure seems that if they knew the specifics in advance, they could eschew the whole mindreading thing and just get on with stopping the attack. But maybe that's just me.

            In cases where they know the specifics in advance, they mean in advance of the questioning, not in advance of the crime. (This isn't the Minority Report sort of situation so many are making it out to be.) In such a case, it would be about confirming that a suspect knows something the public doesn't -- not confirming the info. Consider this scenario:

            A terrorist attack is carried out, and one of those responsible is caught (we'll call this person "John Doe"). John's name and picture are withheld from t

            • by retchdog (1319261)

              they'll at least have reason

              The "reason" here may amount simply to the fact that the `suspect' had the city involved in the attack on his mind for whatever reason.

              There's no sense in thinking that the p300 signal won't trigger for spurious reasons such as expert knowledge in bioweapons domain. I'm thinking for example of the late Dr. Ivins [wikipedia.org] here...

              Once a witch-hunt is under way, we can't expect evidence to be evaluated rationally.

              • by zacronos (937891)

                The "reason" here may amount simply to the fact that the `suspect' had the city involved in the attack on his mind for whatever reason.

                Are you responding to the scenario I gave? How would saying "The man in this picture helped commit a terrorist act." while showing a picture of the one apprehended man be vulnerable to anything like what you are describing?

                Once a witch-hunt is under way, we can't expect evidence to be evaluated rationally.

                Sure -- I was talking about how it could be used (clarifying what was meant by "knew in advance", since so many people seem to be misinterpreting that phrase), while you're talking about how you expect it would be (ab)used. They are two totally different beasts.

        • by slashqwerty (1099091) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:41AM (#33099474)
          It is really easy to achieve a 100% true positive rate. Just accuse everyone.

          The article didn't mention false positives. It would not surprise me at all if this technology would have at least two orders of magnitude more false positives than true positives in the real world. You can't get away from the fact that terrorists are rare so they will be lost in the noise of all the people who are not terrorists.

          Let's say the police go through 50 suspects, none of whom are terrorists. With an 83% accuracy rate the odds of all suspects correctly identifying no targets is 0.83^50 = 8.99 x 10^-5 = 0.00899%. In other words, with just 50 suspects there is better than a 99.99% chance law enforcement would be acting on bogus information. It takes only four suspects before there is better than a 50% chance of acting on bogus information.

          Real world use would likely see results worse than the 83% achieved in the lab.
          • by retchdog (1319261)

            With an 83% accuracy rate the odds of all suspects correctly identifying no targets is 0.83^50 = 8.99 x 10^-5 = 0.00899%.

            There is no information whatsoever about specificity (rate of recognizing negatives as negatives), so your extrapolation is not valid. The false positive rate may be anywhere from 0% through 100%.

            This is why "accuracy" is often a worse-than-useless statistic.

        • So at best they have 100% confirmation of FAKE plans. If you get a positive result they are therefore either a terrorist or play Counterstrike. Wonderful

    • by vxice (1690200)
      "know how, when, and where the next attack will occur. In the Northwestern study, when researchers knew in advance specifics of the planned attacks ... 100% accuracy." Hindsight is always 20/20. Bring me something that PREDICTS then I will pay attention.
  • by line-bundle (235965) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:10PM (#33099150) Homepage Journal

    Why is everything legitimized by putting the word terrorist in it? What does this have to do with terrorism?

    As someone said here on /., terrorism is one of the magic keys, the other being child porn.

  • Even if this machine can distinguish guilt at 100% accuracy, that's useless. A fake terrorist may feel guilty about what they're doing. A cartoon antagonist is aware of his evilness, because he's from the same mind as the protagonist. In good fiction, the villain shouldn't know they're the villain. In real life, the jihadist doesn't see their tasks as being bad, they feel no guilt about breaking our ethos, because it's not his ethos. He feels adamant that his actions are the true path to righteousness

    • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:26PM (#33099214) Homepage

      It's not clear to me that guilt is what's being detected, though. They use the phrase "guilty knowledge", but could mean something that would make them legally guilty or just information that they want hidden. After all, the researcher subjects surely didn't feel guilt for imagining terrorist attacks that they weren't really going to carry out.

      Now, granted, this technique doesn't point to terrorist motives or even anything legally culpable. (It sounds like I might trigger a positive be having any sort of hidden information in mind, including the fact that I'm traveling to Argentina to see my mistress there.) But it might still be quite useful as a way to focus in on some people over others. After all, the major problem of security in a lot of venues is volume of people to be screened. If you can cut that down by a factor of 10 or 100, that helps.

      On the third hand, it's not clear how useful this is, since it involves skin contact right now. Or how many false positives it'll yield in a real setting. If more than half of people have some "guilty knowledge" at any time, yeah, it's useless.

    • by PapayaSF (721268) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:42PM (#33099268) Journal

      Did you read the article? (Or did the people modding you up?) The whole point of the technology is that it's reading knowledge, not emotions.

      I think the predictable references to Orwell and precrime are also off-target. This is not about mass surveillance: it requires electrodes and detailed preparation. This is not about convicting people of a crime: it's not admissible. This is a potentially useful (and legal, painless, and humane) interrogation tool, for use when when you have some possible knowledge about a pending attack, and a person in custody who may know about it.

      Of course, like anything else, it has the potential for misuse, but I don't see anything inherently evil in it.

    • What this machine will do is catch the idiots! You know the ones who could not even do things right if they were given all of the steps... Sure its nice to catch the idiots, but I feel evolution will take care of them quite nicely just as well.

      What gets me in all of this (including the reading the future article where Google and the CIA want to predict the future) is that if it was so easy I would be a freaken trillionaire because all I would need to do is bet on a single stock in the stock market.

      The prob

    • by mpe (36238)
      Even if this machine can distinguish guilt at 100% accuracy, that's useless. A fake terrorist may feel guilty about what they're doing. A cartoon antagonist is aware of his evilness, because he's from the same mind as the protagonist.

      A "fake terrorist" is an actor. All this machine may be doing is working out how well actors follow "scripts".

      In good fiction, the villain shouldn't know they're the villain.

      Because that's the way things work in real life.
  • How to defeat this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zymurgy_cat (627260) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:13PM (#33099166) Homepage
    1) Train terrorists.
    2) Put them in sleeper cells.
    3) Set up weapons/equipment/etc. without their knowledge.
    4) Run "activation" drills often so they don't know if it's the real thing or not. This will condition them. It can also test detection methods.
    5) Activate them for the "real thing", but do not give details until right before they are to execute the attack. Emails, text messages, phone calls, coded written instructions left with equipment or plans can be used.
    6) Those caught before receiving last minute instructions provide useless intelligence and can be used as decoys or sacrificial losses to tie up law enforcement and misdirect them. Consider using decoys (unknown to themselves) with false information to delay and confuse law enforcement.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Interesting post.

      That's kinda the point, though. The poseurs and morons (like the hotdog stand owners and other angry rubes who are deliberately set up by American intelligence for the sake of budget justification and media fluff) are the only ones who will justify the use of this technology and all associated make-work programs.

      The real ones who exercise more care (possibly as per your rules) never get caught until its too late.

      p.s. Congratulations, your post just earned you a one-way ticket to
      • by retchdog (1319261)

        The poseurs and morons (like the hotdog stand owners and other angry rubes who are deliberately set up by American intelligence for the sake of budget justification and media fluff)

        Wait, what? I pass by a lot of hotdog stands; what proportion are on the FBI/DHS dole?

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Have a training exercise too, gives cover, as any suspect for 24h must be an actor :)
      Also tell any on ground people that its all for the gov, then swap out the package :)
      So many options to get clean minds :)
    • Exactly so. To the extent that this technology actually works, it will be circumventable. Exactly like people can beat a lie detector test with training, and exactly like malware writers love to wring their creations though virustotal until they report clean.
      • by 32771 (906153)

        >Exactly so. To the extent that this technology actually works, it will be circumventable.

        But the need to circumvent it will make whatever action more costly. This can certainly prevent lousy amateurs like the guy with the shoe or the guy with the hot pants.

    • * Make sure they feel no guilt as they fulfill the purpose of theirn one true god (Allah, Jehovah, Christ whatever). Brainwash them that they do the RIGHT things.
      * there is no step 2. Detection method defeated
      * and this is ALSO what happens today


      I see a bright future for such detector whenever you want to kick somebody out, pass them under the detector. Everybody above the age of 10 will feel guilty for "something".
    • You don't even need weapons any more. If the point of terrorism is to create fear and panic, this makes it easy. Train a bunch of people. Don't tell them there are no explosives - even better, train them badly. Send them out to look suspicious. 'Leak' information about an impending attack. Watch your operatives get caught and spill the beans, and sit back and enjoy the chaos. Which city shall we close this week?
  • "Without any prior knowledge of the planned crime in our mock terrorism scenarios, we were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and, among them, 20 out of 30 crime- related details," Rosenfeld said. "The test was 83 percent accurate in predicting concealed knowledge, suggesting that our complex protocol could identify future terrorist activity."

    (Emphasis mine)

    In fairness to Timothy, the linked story does have the "100 percent accuracy" soundbyte in it. I'm guessing the journalist took something the rese

  • by euyis (1521257) <euyis@in[ ]ity-game.com ['fin' in gap]> on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:18PM (#33099192)
    ...terrorists don't have telepathic links with each other, so catching a terrorist and constantly monitoring his mind won't work.
    And I don't think that there're terrorists who don't change their plans, run away, or go into hiding after realizing that one of their teammates was caught. If they're really that dumb and don't flee, they're not going to bomb anything successfully anyway.
    • by ZDRuX (1010435)
      These scanners would be placed at entrances to any major buildings. Airports, sports stadium, schools, police stations, etc.. Scanning hundreds of people every hour.
      • by dcollins (135727)

        FTA: "Rosenfeld is a leading scholar in the study of P300 testing to reveal concealed information. Basically, electrodes are attached to the scalp to record P300 brain activity -- or brief electrical patterns in the cortex -- that occur, according to the research, when meaningful information is presented to a person with 'guilty knowledge.'"

    • by jamesh (87723)

      ...terrorists don't have telepathic links with each other

      You seem to know an awful lot about terrorists. Are you sure you aren't one? Better go submit yourself for a brain scan just to be sure.

  • You know, feeling of guilt, the remorse, knowing and regretting what you've done or are planning on doing. I don't think a terrorist would feel guilt.

    And, given how Grant from Mythbusters was able to slip by a fMRI [mythbustersresults.com] by keeping his brain busy, I wonder if a similar tactic could be used. Since it sounds like they're recording specific brain waves and/or from a specific area, wouldn't the only thing you have to do to send the bomb squad to the wrong place is to think of something you re

    • Doh. The link should be this: http://mythbustersresults.com/episode93 [mythbustersresults.com]

      That's what I get for copying my post.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rary (566291) *

      The method doesn't look for guilt, it looks for knowledge. They use the phrase "guilty knowledge", but what they really mean is "knowledge that indicates that you're guilty". A better term would be "target knowledge".

      Basically, as I understand it, it works like this: I suspect that you have been to a particular location, so I show you a bunch of pictures of various locations. One of the locations I show you is the location I suspect you have been to, and the rest are locations that I have reason to believe

      • Re:Define 'guilty' (Score:5, Insightful)

        by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @07:26AM (#33100404) Journal

        and if the device lights up to say that you recognize Bob, then I know you just lied to me.

        No. You have an indication that he lied. Maybe his brother knows Bob, and he has seen him once with his brother but didn't know who he was. Then he was 100% right when he said that he didn't know Bob, but he nevertheless recognized the person on the picture, although he didn't recognize him as Bob, but as the person his brother was talking to. Or maybe he was earlier shown a photo of Bob by another policeman who forgot to tell you about that detail, and he recognized the photo as the same one the policeman had showed him a week ago. Or maybe Bob looks quite similar to John, and he momentarily mis-identified the man on the picture as John, maybe not even long enough for this recognition to get into his consciousness, but long enough for his brain to cause the characteristic pattern of recognizing.

  • The good old days (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reginald2 (1859758) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:49PM (#33099292)
    Where you just racial profiled and tortured... oh wait this wouldn't replace that just be added on top of it.
  • ... they don't haul me in and question me about my plans for total world domination using this.
  • "... were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and, among them, 20 out of 30 crime- related details..."
    " ...The test was 83 percent accurate in predicting concealed knowledge..."

    Last time I checked, 10 out of 12, 20 out of 30, and 83% accurate prediction never adds up to 100% accuracy.

    Also, those things never seem to work in the real world (as opposed to lab testing), especially since the terrorists and suspects you haven't arrested aren't usually hooked up to an electroencephalograph so you can conveni
    • From TFA:

      In the Northwestern study, when researchers knew in advance specifics of the planned attacks by the make-believe "terrorists," they were able to correlate P300 brain waves to guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy in the lab

      "Without any prior knowledge of the planned crime in our mock terrorism scenarios, we were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and, among them, 20 out of 30 crime- related details," Rosenfeld said. "The test was 83 percent accurate in predicting concealed knowledge, suggesting that our complex protocol could identify future terrorist activity.

      Two different tests.

  • by Voulnet (1630793)
    Stop this make-believe bullshit. The terrorists aren't out to get you every frakking second.
    If you don't want terrorists to attack you, force your government to stop doing whatever you're doing that's provocating their minds everywhere around the world.
    Perhaps start by stopping your video-game and rap music generation kids from wielding deadly weapons against people they don't understand in lands they don't belong to?

  • This is really interesting as Rosenfeld himself has previously railed against other neuroscientists for commercializing P300 based lie detectors with claims of 100% accuracy:
    Simple, effective countermeasures to P300-based tests of detection of concealed information - J. PETER ROSENFELD,a MATTHEW SOSKINS,a GREGORY BOSH,a and ANDREW RYAN [northwestern.edu]

    "It seemed timely to investigate countermeasures to ERP-based tests also because although there have been many laboratory studies claiming 85-95% accuracy, only one field study has been published, but it reported approximately chance accuracy (Miyake, Mizutani, & Yamahura, 1993). Nevertheless, one user of these methods claims 100% accuracy and is presently attempting to commercialize them (see http://www.brainwavescience.com/ [brainwavescience.com]). Finally, the ERP approach has now surfaced in popular novels, for example, Coonts (2003), as a foolproof method."

    ...

    "It is noted that the subjects used by Farwell and Donchin were paid volunteers, including associates of the experimenters. Our presently reported study uses introductory psychology students as subjects, more like the subjects one might find in the field in the sense of relative lack of motivation to cooperate with operators, and perhaps lower intelligence."

    The above is the original peer-reviewed paper, this review (also by Rosenfeld) below is more recent and concise:
    http://www.srmhp.org/0401/brain-fingerprinting.html [srmhp.org]

  • All we have to do is convince the terrorists to wear electrodes on their heads at all times, and we're golden.

    • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @03:47AM (#33099918)
      Hello citizen! We have a new, improved headset for your iPod! It comes with this tiny scalp electrode. Make sure you wear it for best audio quality! And keep the WiFi connection active. It's almost like the new, improved cell phone we just issued, Make sure you always use that too. Good citizens always listen!
  • by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @03:34AM (#33099886) Journal

    Our complex, chaotic modern society is already a great environment for psychopaths. Now we're giving them another advantage, with these scanners, which psychopaths will always, under all circumstances, pass with flying colors.

    (An interesting note from Wikipedia: Findings indicate psychopathic convicts have a 2.5 time higher probability of being released from jail than undiagnosed convicts, even though they are more likely to recidivate. [wikipedia.org]

  • I'm very skeptical (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 01, 2010 @04:13AM (#33099980)

    Some people in my research team are working on P300 detection - here's how it works.

    Basically, a P300 is a peak of cortical activity recorded approximately 300ms after perceiving something you expect to perceive - it has nothing to do with emotion, as the paper says. It's about attention and expectation. A simple example is the P300 speller: letters are blinking on a screen, and you focus on the letter you want. when your letter blinks, your brain generates a P300.

    When detecting P300 with external electrode, there are several problems:

    - some people are not able to generate P300 peaks (approx 5-10% if I remember correctly)
    - the 300ms delay can vary from one person to another, even for the same person depending on the situation
    - the P300 is drowned in noise, so you have to reproduce the experiment several times to cancel out the noise
    - if you blink your eyes or contract your jaws muscles, you generate artifacts in the signal that are several orders of magnitude stronger than a P300
    - to make it work properly you have to be relaxed, in a quiet environment - that's why we generally use visual stimuli. i'm not sure where the state of the art is with auditive stimuli
    - if you drug the guy so he is calm and doesn't move, you are very likely to also affect his brainwaves, thus defeating the purpose.

    Long story short: from what I know of the subject, P300 detection on a non-willing subject sounds unrealistic to me. It's all about researchers getting fundings by putting the word "terrorist" in their research proposal, which is very sad.

  • by mrjb (547783) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @06:38AM (#33100322)

    "Imagine technology that allows you to get inside the mind of a terrorist to know how, when, and where the next attack will occur."

    Done. Now imagine spending that money on something that will save more lives more effectively, for example on making the roads safer, rather than on trying to get into people's minds without their consent (or did you really expect terrorists to cooperate)?

  • Useful ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @06:59AM (#33100364) Journal
    Would such a tech has been useful in a single real-world terrorism case ? Fanatics are usually not shy about their guilt, and the hardest part in preventing a terrorist act does not seem to be to make a person admit it will happen but to transmit the information through the chain of commands (Condi Rice had warnings against the 9/11 attacks but decided to let go)

    Of course not. "Terrorism", like always, is just an excuse. You know that this tech will not be used there.
  • A device claimed to "smell" human fear is being marketed as identifying terrorists by detecting "snake oil pheromones" [newstechnica.com] in sweat.

    "The challenge lies in the characterisation and identification of the specific chemical that gives away the signature of human fear," said project leader Professor Tong Sun of City University, "especially the fear of losing funding for security theatre. If we can reliably detect this fear, we should be able to land some eyewateringly lucrative contracts in the very near future."

    The research is funded by the Home Office. "The project relies on a government with a firm commitment to policy-based science, but the Tories look as craven over David Nutt's firing as Labour, so we should be coining it in for a good while yet."

    The technology will assist airport security officers in picking out suitable subjects. Sensors can reliably detect if someone is a bit brown, or a bit foreign-looking, or has a non-Anglo-Saxon name, or if they might be thinking of giving cheek to security officers. It will work in conjunction with the millimetre-wave "naked" radar, currently used to identify terrorist subjects with large breasts.

    The false positive rate will be only 5% on a terrorist detection rate of 1 in 100,000, meaning only 99.95% of subjects flagged will be a complete waste of time to finger up the arse with a latex glove. "But we're sure the government will agree that mere statistical evidence is meaningless in the face of the vital necessity to send the right message," said Prof Sun, "that if you make trouble the government will quite literally forcibly fuck you in the arse until you bleed. So just shut the fuck up and keep giving us money."

  • it's possible that in a lab setting terrorists behave & think differently than out in the wild. the process of being observed may make them nervous.

  • by alexsoko (1868614) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @10:39AM (#33101060)
    Hello, As both a) someone who works in this lab and b) someone who reads this site pretty religiously, I think I can address some of your guys concerns. 1) Specificity of questions - unlike a standard polygraph test, in a P300 CIT (concealed information test) subjects aren't asked questions as muscle movements or auditory stimuli may disrupt the electrodes ability to record P300. Instead, stimuli are presented silently on the screen and thus, if the subject 'recognizes' the stimulus he will generate a P300 whenever that stimulus is presented. However, in doing so, the list must initially be vetted with the subject who says if any of the items have specific relevance to him. (This would be like in an investigation if a police detective showed someone a list of people and asked if a POI knew any of them). 2. This isn't a 1 recognition stimulus identifies everything sort of thing. The same stimuli are shown to people literally hundreds of times and it takes a pattern of recognition to correctly identify someone as guilty. Also, there are levels of recognition. All of the responses are compared to one another to get a standard base, per each participant, of brain activity. Then each recognition pattern is compared to the pattern as a whole to determine guilty knowledge. 3. For critical information a more strict test can be performed which compares the strongest P300 to the second strongest P300. If that patters is statistically bigger then you can be certain that they have guilty knowledge of that item. 4. Several of the studies we have conducted have actually incentivized (given money) to people for trying any strategy possible to BEAT the test. 5. There ARE countermeasures for this test that you can do to try to hide your P300 responses - however this specific protocol is a COUNTERMEASURE RESISTANT TEST. Believe me, if you've thought of it - we've thought of it. 6. Yes, when using just a pure P300 analysis we don't get people with 100% accuracy. But after we adjust for countermeasure use, and analyze other behavioral and EEG data that is collected concurrently with the P300 we can get 100% accurate identification. 7. We do so without getting false positives. Like any tool in law enforcement (the polygraph, fingerprinting, etc...) it's not necessarily as important that any individual thing works as it is that of the array of tools used ONE of them catches the person. And you don't want to wrongly accuse anyone. Why our P300 research is special is because we get an extremely high detection rate with no false positives. 8. If you have more questions please respond to this comment and I will try to respond. --Alex Soko

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