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Reading Terrorists' Minds About Imminent Attack 206

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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:02PM (#33099126)

    They already know whats happening on the internet with Narus (formerly carnivore)... But thats good at least for the non techy terrorists.

  • 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.
  • by ushering05401 ( 1086795 ) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:15PM (#33099176) Journal

    Or you are Walter Mitty [].

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Saturday July 31, 2010 @11:18PM (#33099194) Journal,_INDECT_Work_Package_4,_2009 []
    Also gives them friends, friends of friends.
    Use the wrong phrase, words, have a friend of a friend who did ...
    If your a freedom fighter, the effort to compartmentalise may not save you.
    Best to just have a bland online life of mainstream sport, music and safe news.
    Face to face for the rest :)
  • 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.

  • 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 [] 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 quenda ( 644621 ) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @12:57AM (#33099516)

    Why is everything legitimized by putting the word terrorist in it?

    Because "communist" just doesn't have the same impact any more. Didn't you get the memo? Its a choice between terrorist and paedophile now. And we already have mind-reading for the latter menace. []

  • 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 [].
  • 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.
  • Poker-brain (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 01, 2010 @07:45AM (#33100458)
    No. It's based on the fact one sees some piece of data as exceptional and thus feels the tiniest little mental "jolt" when confronted with it. To defeat these machines you have to train your brain to not do any unusual kind of processing on the input and instead answer by rote. It's not that hard for a dedicated person of rank mind and inclined personality structure, i.e. it can be done if you're willing to turn yourself into a detached automaton.
  • 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 Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Sunday August 01, 2010 @01:56PM (#33102104) Homepage Journal

    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?

  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Sunday August 01, 2010 @05:18PM (#33103756)

    The human being administering the lie detector test is a major variable. The system sets up a parent-child relationship between the person administering the test and the person being tested, whether the person administering the test is any good or not. And like I've said before, the profession (like most professions) is very self-serving and self-perpetuating, only here unlike most other professions, it's actually been given the complete power to perpetuate itself.

    Sadly, even one of my favorite Hollywood show 'Lie to Me' is a total work of wishful fantasy. The hero, Dr. Liteman, is an awesome character, but imagine for every Dr. Liteman and each of his smart staff, how many total idiots are being given the similar power to administer lie detector tests?

    Part of the problem is that getting certified as a lie detector test expert requires no screening of the students, no existing psychology degree, no review of the process, just cash, and for the one school that has supposedly the longest training program for creating those experts -- that program is only 14 weeks long. Can you really teach someone to be a "shrewd psychologist" in just 14 weeks?

    The second problem is also that many people actually believe that they're actually shrewd psychologists themselves, or want to become a "shrewd psychologist" (just like on TV), so these schools are flooded with these kinds of guys, guys that think that they're super smart, or guys that get an erection every time they're given the chance to interrogate someone and have complete power over that person.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?