Friday, October 12, 2007

Dragonfly Spies, Brain Prints, and DCCC Priorities

I'm so frustrated! I just got this fundraising notice masquerading as a questionnaire from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). I had to stop after the third question and come here because the answers I want are not even options on the form!

Here's what I'm going to send back.

Question #1 (paraphrased). If the election were held now, who would you vote for?
  • Joe Biden

  • Hillary Clinton

  • Christopher Dodd

  • John Edwards

  • Dennis Kucinich

  • Barack Obama

  • Bill Richardson

  • Other
Naturally, I chose "Other," and wrote in, duh,


He's got more experience than any of them. He's been more of a leader on the world's second most important issue (I'll get to the first most important issue, in my opinion, in another couple of questions). He's smart. My gosh, just imagine what it would be like to have a President who could form complete sentences! He has great name recognition, especially today, having just won the Nobel Prize (thank you, Nobel committee! Good call!)

I turned to the next page and was distressed by the next set of options in answer to this question: which of the following strategies is key to electing Democrats in 2008:
  • Door to door canvassing/get out the vote drives
  • Devoting more resources to radio and television ads
  • "Keep working hard to secure more legislative successes in Congress." (Er, what successes? What successes have they had that haven't been killed in the Senate or vetoed?)
  • "Democrats need to invest in all smart and strategic plans in order to win in 2008.

Wrong. Every single one of them wrong, wrong, wrong. Because until we can guarantee our VOTES are COUNTED AS CAST, my gosh, spending money on these other efforts is equivalent to pouring all your cash into the ocean. You have no idea where it's going to go, who will use it, and to what ends. I can't BELIEVE they still REALLY DON'T GET IT!!!

Now, if we knew for certain (and we can't, currently) that our votes DID count, my next choice is still not on the list: invest in creating a left-wing media infrastructure, to counter the right-wing's media strategy. Rupert Murdoch single-handedly set up a wholly one-sided news channel. Keith Olbermann set up a left-wing news show. Not channel. One show. Okay, so we have a couple of good shows on the Comedy Channel as well.

I had the same problem with the third question. "Please rank the following Democratic Priorities in order of importance."

Here are the choices. They're good. But they don't include the first and third most important issues, in my opinion of course, of our time:

  • Achieving energy independence
  • Expanding access to affordable health care
  • Setting a new course in Iraq
  • Guaranteeing retirement security for America's seniors
  • Enacting middle-class tax relief
  • Improving educational opportunities
  • Raising wages and protecting jobs for working Americans
  • Taking swift action to stop global warming
  • Restoring fiscal responsibility in government
  • Strengthening congressional ethics rules
  • Funding promising stem-cell research

  • Protecting our nation from the threat of terrorism.

That's quite a list. But again, the number one issue on the planet is missing: REFORMING OUR VOTE. The reason it's of global importance is that electronic voting might have started in America, but it's spread quickly, like a virus, around the planet. I've read, in recent months, stories about electronic voting being implemented all around the globe. It's so depressing. This is the easiest way to take over the world I've ever seen. Only a handful of programmers on the planet control the way all our votes are counted. I'm not saying our votes are being deliberately stolen. But we'd be fools to think some of them aren't, since there's no accountability, no audits of any paper records of our vote. That alone should frighten all people who value the freedoms they still have.

I put reforming our vote above global warming because who cares if we save the planet only to end up living in BigBrotherLand? I've just been rereading George Orwell's 1984, and it's scary how close we are to that scenario.

Consider this, from the Washington Post of 10/9/07:

Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs.

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 9, 2007; Page A03

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.

"I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those,' " the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects."

Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.

"I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' "


The CIA was among the earliest to tackle the problem. The "insectothopter," developed by the agency's Office of Research and Development 30 years ago, looked just like a dragonfly and contained a tiny gasoline engine to make the four wings flap. It flew but was ultimately declared a failure because it could not handle crosswinds.

Agency spokesman George Little said he could not talk about what the CIA may have done since then. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service also declined to discuss the topic.

Only the FBI offered a declarative denial. "We don't have anything like that," said a spokesman.

We're being watched by satellite. Our every voice message, text message, email and fax can be read by the NSA. There are surveillance cameras and microphones everywhere. And now we are apparently being "bugged" at rallies too? We have this great illusion of freedom, but the reality is, we're not as free as we think, and can lose the freedoms we have rapidly, under such a system.

And in related news, new scanners that can pretty much see your entire anatomy are going up in airports. This gives strip search a whole new meaning! We're assured faces will be blurred out. Not so, private parts. And when a celebrity walks through, will their private parts be all over the Internet and television in no time flat? (Yes.)

When I read about these new scanners, I felt a chill. I remembered a story from right after 9/11, about how NASA had a plan to screen for terrorist thoughts at airports:

Airport security screeners may soon try to read the minds of travelers to identify terrorists.

Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have told Northwest Airlines security specialists that the agency is developing brain-monitoring devices in cooperation with a commercial firm, which it did not identify.

Space technology would be adapted to receive and analyze brain-wave and heartbeat patterns, then feed that data into computerized programs "to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat," according to briefing documents obtained by The Washington Times.

NASA wants to use "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors," imbedded in gates, to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts transmit. Computers would apply statistical algorithms to correlate physiologic patterns with computerized data on travel routines, criminal background and credit information from "hundreds to thousands of data sources," NASA documents say. ...

"We're getting closer to reading minds than you might suppose," says Robert Park, a physics professor at the University of Maryland and spokesman for the American Physical Society. "It does make me uncomfortable. That's the limit of privacy invasion. You can't go further than that."
Just how close is the government getting to reading our thoughts? Ever hear the term "Brain Prints"?
Mapping human brain functions is now routine. By viewing a brain scan recorded by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, scientists can tell what the person was doing at the time of the recording - say, reading or writing. Emotions from love to hate can be recognized from the brain's electrical activity.

Thought police. So could the murderous thoughts of a terrorist, asserts [John] Norseen, who wrote his thesis at the Naval War College on applying neuroscience research to antiterrorism. He has submitted a research-and-development plan to the Pentagon, at its request, to identify a terrorist’s mental profile. A miniaturized brain-mapping device inside an airport metal detector would screen passengers’ brain patterns against a dictionary of brain prints. Norseen predicts profiling by brain print will be in place by 2005.
By the way - in the same piece, Noreen states clearly the implications of this research, however (and distressingly) nonchalantly:
“If this research pans out”, says Norseen, “you can begin to manipulate what someone is thinking even before they know it.” But Norseen says he is “agnostic” on the moral ramifications, that he's not a “mad” scientist - just a dedicated one. “The ethics don’t concern me,” he says, “but they should concern someone else.”
Don't you feel all warm and cozy inside knowing someone is figuring out a way to manipulate your brain without you knowing, who doesn't care about the ethical considerations? Is this really a planet worth saving, if such a plan becomes reality?

Hilariously (if I stop laughing I'll scream), the ever-sharp brand-aware people at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have a mind-reading program they call Project Hostile Intent:
Deception Detection

Sensors tested for Project Hostile Intent aim to identify signs of deception right on the spot With 400 million people entering the country every year, authorities are always on the lookout for individuals who may harbor hostile intent toward the United States and its citizens. But while measures such as biometrics—including fingerprints, iris, and facial scans—are in place to detect known terrorists, how do we detect those without a past? What about those with no known ties to terrorist organizations? Or those who do not appear in any government database?

Now, with a program called Project Hostile Intent, the Human Factors Division of the DHS S&T Directorate aims to answer these questions. Through Directorate-sponsored research, capabilities are being sought to identify deception and hostile intent in real time, on the spot, using non-invasive sensors. The goal is a prototype technology that can equal or exceed the abilities of today’s screening methods—without ever impeding the flow of travelers.

Project Hostile Intent comprises two components. First, hostile intent and deception models are needed, focusing on behavioral and speech cues. These cues are determined from experiments derived from operationally based scenarios that reflect the screening and interviewing objectives of DHS. Second, an automated suite of non-invasive sensors and algorithms is needed. Integrated, these sensors automatically detect and track the input cues to the models.

“The early test results have us cautiously optimistic,” said Larry Willis, the program manager for the project. “This technology has the potential to revolutionize the screening and interviewing process supporting access control for borders and critical infrastructure.”

For more information about this story, click here.

The hostile intent I see is not that they are going to pick this up from terrorists. The hostile intent is that they feel they have the right to literally get inside our heads. Who hasn't had a nasty thought of doing something one would never ACTUALLY do. Are we to be arrested for ThoughtCrime now?

Let me pull these stories together the way I see it:

1. TSA has just put new scanners in the airport that use radio waves.
2. NASA wants to scan at the airport for terrorist thoughts and has had a private contractor working on this for several years.
2. John Noreen says a brain printing device could be placed inside a metal scanner at the airport, and that the technology for brainprinting could be ready in 2005.

Is it possible the new scanners have a brainreading device in them? In the CNN story linked above, this item leapt out at me:
A TSA officer will escort a passenger to the machine for the test, but the person looking at the actual body scans will be at a different location and will not see the passenger, the TSA said.
Is this to protect the passenger, or to protect the output of the technology from scrutiny?

At the end of the DHS article above, the final link brings up the email address of a contact at DHS. So I emailed him and asked him this:
If DHS put such a system in place, would they tell the public, or not? I ask because I saw that TSA just got a new radio detection system to use in airport screening where the results would be sent to a person in another room. I wondered if this tied into your program.
I have yet to hear an answer.

The third most important issue is too long to discuss tonight, but will be the subject of a future post. I think we can all agree that the rapidly increasing redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich is crushing not just folks at home here in the Good Ol' USA, but in third world countries around the globe. The solution must begin with banking reform. I've been reading quite a bit on this subject and will have much to say re this soon.

To close the loop on this post, I decided not to return the DCCC questionnaire. My party really doesn't get it, and my measly little ballot isn't going to change any of their minds. But if you who care and read and learn help spread the word, there may be hope for us all yet. As H. G. Wells said, history is a race between education and disaster.

Keep pumping.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Within an hour after reading your post I was looking at a German 9/11 site with a news topic loop ansd happened to glance at a Germsan article posted just after midnight our time today about the dragonfly spies. Although the author was of the opinion that we shouldn't worry yet, there was quite a lot of information in it. The article is here

for the moment I'm guessing the source 'Heise' is a newspaper or magazine. Anyway one interesting tidbit is that there was a conference in Switzerland in August on 'Flying Insects and Robots.' Conference site is:

Maybe I'll post later again if I find the time to read the article well enough to give you more info. Anyways happy to be a part of your blog on the very first time I found you!

Natasha Millikan

I guess I am anonymous for now since I don't have a 'Google-Blogger identity'-- sounds a little scary, actually. Anyways I can be emailed at

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The goal of this symposium is to advance the understanding of the biology, technology, and intelligence of small flying animals and robots by promoting an open discussion at the intersection of neurophysiology, ethology, zoology, micro-engineering, low-Reynolds aerodynamics, and artificial intelligence. Flying insects are marvelous micro-machines that provide source of inspiration for the realization of intelligent micro-robots capable of autonomous flight." from the symposium website (Natasha)

11:17 PM  

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