Baggage searches are SOOOOOO early-21st century. Homeland Security is now testing the next generation of security screening - a body scanner that can read your mind.
Most preventive screening looks for explosives or metals that pose a threat. But a new system called MALINTENT turns the old school approach on its head. This Orwellian-sounding machine detects the person - not the device - set to wreak havoc and terror. MALINTENT, the brainchild of the cutting-edge Human Factors division in Homeland Security's directorate for Science and Technology, searches your body for non-verbal cues that predict whether you mean harm to your fellow passengers.
It has a series of sensors and imagers that read your body temperature, heart rate and respiration for unconscious tells invisible to the naked eye - signals terrorists and criminals may display in advance of an attack. But this is no polygraph test. Subjects do not get hooked up or strapped down for a careful reading; those sensors do all the work without any actual physical contact. It's like an X-ray for bad intentions.
Currently, all the sensors and equipment are packaged inside a mobile screening laboratory about the size of a trailer or large truck bed, and just last week, Homeland Security put it to a field test in Maryland, scanning 144 mostly unwitting human subjects. While the 144 test subjects thought they were merely passing through an entrance way, they actually passed through a series of sensors that screened them for bad intentions.
So here's how it works. When the sensors identify that something is off, they transmit warning data to analysts, who decide whether to flag passengers for further questioning. The next step involves micro-facial scanning, which involves measuring minute muscle movements in the face for clues to mood and intention.
DHS is now planning an even wider array of screening technology, including an eye scanner next year and pheromone-reading technology by 2010.