Cogito can solve ALL of our aviation security problems

 - 
01/06/2010
Well 95 percent, anyway. That's the claim being made in a press release sent out today over the PRnewswire: Suspect Detection Systems Proven to Prevent Terror and Smuggling Onboard Commercial Airliners Cogito Over 95% Effective in Exposing the Hostile Agenda of Potential Terrorists; System Already Used by Federal Agents Abroad at National Border Crossings; Cogito Successfully Tested by Dept. of Homeland Security at Knoxville, TN Airport Pretty strong claims, yes? The essential claim being made is that the little booth that SDS makes, called Cogito, in which a person sits and answers question on a computer screen, can identify terrorists based on their behavior.
NEW YORK, January 6/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Suspect Detection Systems Inc., (SDSS.OB), a leading developer of counter terror and crime prevention technology, deploys technology proven to prevent terror and criminal activity onboard commercial airliners and other sensitive targets. Cogito rapid interrogation technology detects the hidden intent of terrorists and criminals to commit harmful acts. The proprietary system is able to expose the guilty knowledge of a potential suspect during a short automated interrogation that lasts approximately five minutes. The system is proven to be over 95 percent effective.
They can "expose the guilty knowledge." Can they suck it right out of their brains? No, I'm guessing that a red flag goes up that says, "this guy is sketchy."
Cogito is already being utilized by federal and regional agencies in several countries around the world to prevent terror incidents and solve crimes that have already occurred. Cogito is being used extensively in India and Mexico, two countries with dynamic crime and terror threats. The system was recently purchased by a federal homeland security agency for deployment along a major national border in Southeast Asia.
Are there any federal governments in Southeast Asia? Maybe there are. I'm going to have to do some googling to satisfy my curiosity on that point. Hold on a sec... Okay, looks like Malaysia at least has a federal government, at least. Who knew? Anyway...
Cogito was developed with funding from the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The system was extensively and successfully tested by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the Knoxville Tennessee Airport, where the system exposed numerous undercover agents attempting to smuggle explosive materials onboard domestic aircrafts.
I'm guessing undercover agents don't have quite the real-life conviction in their attempts as actual terrorists. I think the use of the word "proven" in this release is over-reaching at best, fraudulent at worst. And what's the false-positive rate? Take a look at what these booths look and sound like: Isn't that going to wig all kinds of people out? Maybe not. Although I do know the interrogation techniques of the Israelis have plenty of false positives. They don't care if they take my cousin and browbeat him in a room for three hours only to find out he's a dumb American who made a bad decision about where to cross the border into Israel before taking a flight home. But will everyone applying for visa be similarly okay with being taken into the backroom because he was sweating some of these answers a little too much? Maybe it doesn't matter in the interest of overall safety. I think it's likely true that the underwear bomber (or whatever we're calling him now) would have failed the Cogito screening pretty obviously. The guy seems like a weirdo sketchball, really, and that's probably red flag number one.
"The Cogito rapid interrogation system was designed following the 9/11 attacks," said Shabtai Shoval, CEO of Suspect Detection Systems Ltd. "Those attacks proved that the most harmful weapon a terrorist possesses is their intent to commit a destructive act. Cogito is able to expose the hostile intent of a potential terrorist with a 95 percent degree of accuracy." "A simple five minute automated interrogation during the Visa application process, or at the airport security checkpoint would have most assuredly exposed the evil intention of Christmas terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before he ever boarded," added Shoval.
And then, of course, there is the expense. I imagine these Cogitos don't come cheap. Do we buy one for every international airport? Would that make a difference? Or do we just train all of our people to look for these same visual cues?

Comments

What irresponsible journalism, Sam! For shame! You'd think that the editor of the security industry's paper of record would think it newsworthy to tell his readers that the main reason these booths work is because it's Jack Bauer sitting inside, asking the questions.

He's very cranky, because he never gets any sleep, and also there's no bathroom facilities in the booth. That's why he has to have the little computer screen with the prompts, in case he forgets. Plus, in the unlikely event that you need more than one booth manned at the same time and Chuck Norris isn't available for some reason (because being awesome is a full time job on it's own), you can draft people directly from McDonalds, give em a different funny hat, swear them in, and sit them down in the booth. The booth operates on the same prinicple as does McDonalds cash registers.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Security Feeds - RA, Ari Erenthal. Ari Erenthal said: @Sam_Pfeifle Craziest comment ever left on your blog: http://j.mp/5wX5hg Silly story deserves silly commentary. [...]

Sam,

Coming back from Frankfurt into the US a few weeks ago I noticed American (in Frankfurt) (and whoever else there is responsible for security) did a pretty good job of applying several layers of screening on us--with a particularly long session by AA personnel right at the check-in counter.  It didn't cause any measurable delay, but one got the sense it was going to take a particularly adept con man with a well hidden explosive in his shorts to get one past them.

This article from a few days ago reminded me of the crucial element I saw in Frankfurt -- the technique of "looking into your eyes."
http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/744199---israelification-high-...

Is this technique riddled with flaws (not the least of which are false positives)?  Certainly. But the knee jerk reaction to apply more technology to the problem is generating a lot of backlash from weary citizens.  It's not the answer.

I completely agree with you, Steve, and it's why I'm so surprised the shorts-bomber came in through Amsterdam. I've flown in from Amsterdam a number of times and the G4S guys who do the gate screening are all business. They ask good questions, look you in the eye, and generally make you feel uncomfortable even when you're telling the truth. How they didn't catch this guy with a bomb in his shorts is beyond me. Even so, there's no way you can convince me that making everyone sit in a booth and talk to a robot is a better solution.

Americans, like most people who live in the First World, have a faith in tehcnology as the answer to all life's problems that is touching in its naivete. That's why people think that you can stop crime if only you install enough cameras. That's why people think you can stop terrorism in the air if only you install enough millimeter wave scanners. Security officers using their instincts and bomb sniffing dogs are just too low tech to be considered a credible solution, which is a shame because it's also the most effective solution.