Homeland Security: Why Should One Not Trust DNA Analysis?
In the first episode of the third season of Homeland, titled “Black Christmas,” Carrie Mathison and Talbot had finally gotten home. This was a well-deserved reward for the CIA for its investigation, which had led to a case of false identities in Dubai, and while the security measures in place for the home of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were complicated and specific, they did not seem to be too onerous.
But their escapade in the airport security later that day didn’t exactly go well. They both were detained for hours by the UAE authorities for various violations. So how did this all come about?
The system designed to identify terrorists by fingerprints, iris scans, DNA or voice analysis has been abused before. But it is impossible to say whether the government had the system working right the first time. And in some cases where people are considered suspicious of national security concerns, like the one where Carrie and Talbot were apprehended, the system may have failed to work at all.
Still, as time goes by, terrorists are figuring out new ways to evade security measures and, by extension, to escape detection. We can’t help but wonder if the use of biometric technologies for authentication at airports like Dubai’s Burj Al Arab was always part of the plan, even though we can’t be sure they were tried out in this instance. All we know is that the government has spent lots of money to protect its citizens, so perhaps it’s not such a bad idea to make use of those same resources in other cases.
Terrorism is unpredictable enough but hijackings are more subtle and harder to foil. The whole point of hijacking is to instill fear, especially if the hijacked plane is carrying a ton of cash. It is also easy to create a diversion, which is what happened in September 11th. There are people who might be upset with the government, and who will be less likely to protest if they think that the government is performing well to keep them safe.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that encryption technology is almost exclusively used for criminal activities, not civil and commercial transactions. And, even if it is available to national security agencies, they are not allowed to use it. If there were such a program, it would violate international laws and be highly ineffective.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was quite upset when he learned that the FBI had been tapped into the North American terrorist cell that called itself “Jehovah’s Witnesses” because he felt it was dangerous to allow law enforcement to tap the phone calls of a million people. But now that the government has made a deal with Apple in order to get access to an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists, he was glad. He said that it may even encourage terrorists to try to make illegal communications easier.
If this episode is any indication, the U.S. government doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job of defending its national security against terrorism. And that has some people wondering if the only solution is to turn the whole thing over to private corporations, especially since they have the skills and expertise to do the job without stifling free speech. Or maybe it will actually turn out that a poorly thought out government-created system is worse than no system at all.