The Foreign Policy blog describes a new “terrorist detector” that the TSA is considering adding at airports. Basically, you sit in the machine and answer questions while hooked up to sensors of some kind. It uses answers and measurements to determine whether you’re “afraid of being caught.”
What’s interesting to me is that they claim an 85% success rate. That sounds atrocious to me. You can read that a number of ways, but let’s say they’re speaking plainly and the machine returns the correct result (“terrorist” or “not terrorist”). For starters, that means that the machine says that 1 in 6 or 1 in 7 people who sit in the machine will be flagged as a terrorist when they’re not.
There haven’t been any terrorist attacks on US domestic flights since 9/11 and there haven’t been any terrorist attacks on US bound flights since Richard Reid’s shoe bombing attempt. Is a machine that says that 1 in 6 travelers are probably terrorists really useful?
This, of course, is one of the many problems with racial profiling as well. Profile any race, age group, religion, or astrological sign and you still find that very few members of the group are terrorists, because the number of actual terrorists is miniscule.