An Anti-ACLU Rant for 6/29/06
If it is a tool we use in the fight against terror one can bet that the ACLU will be against it. When the NY Times revealed classified information that we are trying to track international phone calls of suspected terrorists, the ACLU took that ball and are still running with it. When the NY Times leaked classified information that we are trying to track international bank transactions in order to catch terrorists the ACLU jumped on board with that too. If the NY Times doesn't leak it to everyone, the ACLU will do its best by filing freedom of Information Act requests.
In the face of suspicions that the government is using cutting-edge brain-scanning technologies on suspected terrorists being held overseas or at home, the American Civil Liberties Union today announced that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with all the primary American security agencies.
"There are certain things that have such powerful implications for our society -- and for humanity at large -- that we have a right to know how they are being used so that we can grapple with them as a democratic society," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project. "These brain-scanning technologies are far from ready for forensic uses and if deployed will inevitably be misused and misunderstood."
I know that the ACLU claim to be the experts on rights, but I'm not sure where they found this "right to know" every secret government program used in a time of war. This must be one of those rights the ACLU made up out of thin air. Furthermore the ACLU's leap that it would be inevitable that the program would be misused and misunderstood is pure biased opinion on their part.
Here is a brief description of the program.
FMRI is a technique for determining which parts of the brain are activated by different types of physical sensation or activity, such as sight, sound or the movement of a subject's fingers. This "brain mapping" is achieved by setting up an advanced MRI scanner in a special way so that the increased blood flow to the activated areas of the brain shows up on Functional MRI scans. (See here for a description of the physiology of the BOLD response.) The whole FMRI process will now be briefly described.
The subject in a typical experiment will lie in the magnet and a particular form of stimulation will be set up. For example, the subject may wear special glasses so that pictures can be shown during the experiment. Then, MRI images of the subject's brain are taken. Firstly, a high resolution single scan is taken. This is used later as a background for highlighting the brain areas which were activated by the stimulus. Next, a series of low resolution scans are taken over time, for example, 150 scans, one every 5 seconds. For some of these scans, the stimulus (in this case the moving picture) will be presented, and for some of the scans, the stimulus will be absent. The low resolution brain images in the two cases can be compared, to see which parts of the brain were activated by the stimulus.
After the experiment has finished, the set of images is analyzed. Firstly, the raw input images from the MRI scanner require mathematical transformation (Fourier transformation, a kind of spatial "inversion") to reconstruct the images into "real space", so that the images look like brains. The rest of the analysis is done using a series of tools which correct for distortions in the images, remove the effect of the subject moving their head during the experiment, and compare the low resolution images taken when the stimulus was off with those taken when it was on. The final statistical image shows up bright in those parts of the brain which were activated by this experiment. These activated areas are then shown as coloured blobs on top of the original high resolution scan, for interpretation of the experiment. This combined activation image can be rendered in 3D, and the rendering can be calculated from any angle. (See here for a brief overview of GLM analysis.)
Now why would the public need to know about this and debate it? This kind of information is for our elected officials to decide, and our enemies don't need to know about it.
Back to the ACLU...
The most likely technology to be used for anti-terrorism purposes is Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which can produce live, real-time images of people's brains as they answer questions, view images, listen to sounds, and respond to other stimuli. Two private companies have announced that they will begin to offer "lie detection" services using fMRI as early as this summer. These companies are marketing their services to federal government agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, the National Security Agency and the CIA, and to state and local police departments.
"This technology must not be deployed until it is proven effective — and we are a long way away from that point, according to scientists in the field," said Steinhardt. "What we don't want is to open our newspapers and find that another innocent person has been thrown into Guantánamo because interrogators have jumped to conclusions based on a technology no one understands very well."
Who does the effectiveness of the program have to be proven to? If it has to be proven to the ACLU it would never happen. If the companies that have developed the technology are providing this service to the government as a useful means they are staking their reputation on its effectiveness. The ACLU admit that they don't understand it well. Who would better understand it than those that developed it?
The ACLU's FOIA requests were filed yesterday with the Pentagon, NSA, CIA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security.
"These brain-scanning technologies have potentially far-reaching implications, yet uncertain results and effectiveness," said Steinhardt. "And we are still in our infancy when it comes to understanding the underlying processes of the brain that the scanners have begun to reveal. We do not want to see our government yet again deploying a potentially momentous technology unilaterally and in secret, before Americans have had a chance to figure out how it fits in with our values as a nation."
The Uncooperative Blogger says:
I say let's experiment on terrorist, what better testing ground can you ask for? The ACLU has become just plain ridiculous, and they are not working in the best interest of our country. The New York Times, the leakers and the ACLU, who I refer to as the American Communist Liberation Union, are killing us in the war on terror!
So, what are we going to learn from an FOIA request? That they are using what I just told you about? Gee, that will be very helpful to the American people won't it?
I'd just like to know how the ACLU would have us handle the war on terror. It seems they want us to fight the killers with kid gloves. If someone can name me one anti-terrorist program our government has implemented that the ACLU has approved of we might have a debate. I can't think of one. If we are to fight the war on terror the way the ACLU wants we might as well just go ahead and surrender.
Bill O'Reilly is right on target.
The anti-Bush crew, led by The New York Times and the ACLU want civilian trials for terrorists, no coerced interrogation, no rendition for terrorists to other countries, no war in Iraq, and on and on. As I opine, The Times and other committed left media believe the Bush administration -- and not the terrorists -- is the primary danger to this country.
Thats ironic, because every once in a while I think it is the ACLU and far left that pose more of a danger to America.
This was a production of Stop The ACLU Blogburst. If you would like to join us, please email Jay or Gribbit. You will be added to our mailing list and blogroll. Over 200 blogs already on-board.