According to this report, the Transportation Security Administration is adding another layer of scrutiny beyond the metal detector, X-ray belt and the cursory glance.
New specially trained "Behavior Detection Officers" are reportedly on duty now throughout several airports--they are sprinkled everywhere from curbside check-in to the closing plane door. They'll be making sure that someone isn't handling their laptop awkwardly (as if there are two liquids inside that shouldn't be mixed...yet) or a possible perp stroking his mustache to sinister a manner.
Essentially, these guys read minds, I guess. Or rather, they monitor a person's movements, body language and "microexpressions" such as disgust and fear, which may indicate someone is up to no good. If you arouse their suspicion, they look at you more intently (this would be where X-ray vision would come in handy) or they may accost you in a manner that makes it seem like they are helping you out--but, you're really on double, secret probation.
From the linked story:
Jay M. Cohen, undersecretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology, said in May that he wants to automate passenger screening by using videocams and computers to measure and analyze heart rate, respiration, body temperature and verbal responses as well as facial micro-expressions.
Homeland Security is seeking proposals from scientists to develop such technology. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 31.
(I think you can submit your passenger screening innovations here.)
So, these Behavior Detection Officers just started and we're already trying to replace them with machines? Remember when the airport personnel just "profiled" passengers?
(I do. Between 2001 and 2003, I rarely got onto a plane without a last-minute emptying of my bag at the gate. It was even worse for my dad, who, despite his federal government ID, got some extra love from the security peeps, owing to his heavy facial hair. We always felt sorry for the little, old ladies they would pull off to the side with us, so it didn't seem as though our natural tans hadn't set off any mental alarm bells.)
Thanks to the kind folks at Radar for pointing this out.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.