Big Brother is watching us all... (related: see also related article-Watch List now criticized even by Notorious Us Dept Justice- in this related article)
By Humphrey HawksleyBBC News,
Washington excerpt from article below 'We'll scan a person with one of these things and tell what they're actually thinking."
The US and UK governments are developing increasingly sophisticated gadgets tokeep individuals under their surveillance. When it comes to technology, the US five ten," said the research student, pushing down a laptop button to seal the measurement. "That's your height." "Spot on," I said."OK, we're freezing you now," interjected another student, studying his computer screen. "So we have height and tracking and your gait DNA".
"Gait DNA?" I interrupted, raising my head, so inadvertently my fullface was caught on a video camera." Have we got that?" asked their teacher Professor Rama Challapa. "We rely on just 30 frames - about one second - to get a picture we canwork with," he explained.
I was at Maryland University just outside Washington DC, where Professor Challapa and his team are inventing the next generation of citizen surveillance.
They had pushed back furniture in the conference room for me to walk back andforth and set up cameras to feed my individual data back to their laptops. Gait DNA, for example, is creating an individual code for the way I walk. Their goal is to invent a system whereby a facial image can be matched to your gait,your height, your weight and other elements, so a computer will be able toidentify instantly who you are."As you walk through a crowd, we'll be able to track you," saidProfessor Challapa. "These are all things that don't need the cooperationof the individual."Since 9/11, some of the best scientific minds in the defence industry haveswitched their concentration from tracking nuclear missiles to tracking individuals such as suicide bombers.
My next stop was a Pentagon agency whose headquarters is a drab suburbanbuilding in Virginia. The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) had one specific mission - to ensure that when it comes to technology America Its track record is impressive. Back in the 70s, while we were working with typewriters and carbon paper, Darpa was developing the internet. In the 90s, while we pored over maps, Darpa invented satellite navigation that many of us now have in our cars. "We ask the top people what keeps them awake at night," said its enthusiastic and forthright director Dr Tony Tether, "what problems they see long after they have left their posts." "And what are they?" I asked.He paused, hand on chin. "I'd prefer not to say. It's classified.""All right then, can you say what you're actually working on now.""Oh, language," he answered enthusiastically, clasping his fingers together. "Unless we're going to train every American citizen and soldier in 16 different languages we have to develop a technology that allows them to understand - whatever country they are in - what's going on around them." I hope in the future we'll be able to have conversations, if say you'respeaking in French and I'm speaking in English, and it will be natural."
"Yep. All by computer," he said." And this idea about a total surveillance society," I asked. "Is that science fiction?" "No, that's not science fiction.
We're developing an unmanned airplane - aUAV - which may be able to stay up five years with cameras on it, constantlybeing cued to look here and there. This is done today to a limited amount in Baghdad
Interestingly,we, the public, don't seem to mind. Opinion polls, both in the US Britain New York Chicago Britain where our movements are monitored round the clock by four million CCTV cameras.
Ian Kitajima flew to Washington from his laboratories in Hawaii to show me sense-through-the-wall technology. "Each individual has a characteristic profile," explained Ian, holding a green rectangular box that looked like a TV remote control. Using radio waves, you point it a wall and it tells you if anyone is on theother side. His company, Oceanit, is due to test it with the Hawaiian NationalGuard in Iraq next year, and it turns out that the human body gives off such sensitive radio signals, that it can even pick up breathing and heart rates. "First, you can tell whether someone is dead or alive on thebattlefield," said Ian. "But it will also show whether someone inside a house is looking to harmyou, because if they are, their heart rate will be raised. And 10 years fromnow, the technology will be much smarter.
We'll scan a person with one of these things and tell what they're actually thinking." He glanced at me quizzically, noticing my apprehension."Yeah, I know," he said. "It sounds very Star Trekkish, butthat's what's ahead.">
From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 15 September, 2007 at1130 BST on BBC Radio 4.
Please check the programme schedules for World Servicetransmission times.Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/6995061.stmPublished: 2007/09/15