Within hours of the September 11 attacks, even rabid civil libertarians were talking about the need for national identification systems, giant linked databases, face-recognition technology, closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitors, biometric authentication, profiling and increased government wiretapping powers. Some of these measuresparticularly, more latitude in wiretappinghave already been enacted as law, as security services around the world have seemingly dusted off every plan once deemed too invasive and presented it to legislatures. If to gain security in the U.S. we must compromise some of the rights that have been considered essential, at least we should be reasonably sure that such measures will be worth the money and lost liberty. Yet based on current uses of the security technology, there is reason to remain skeptical.
Most of the proposed technologies are not only controversial but also expensive, slow and complicated to deploy. Most are either untried or untested on the necessary scale and carry risks that are not well understood. Solid scientific data are frequently lackingfew studies exist detailing the success rate of psychological profiling, for example. One rare exception is a January/February 2001 study published in Australasian Science that tentatively concluded that the few profilers who agreed to be tested (only five did) performed only slightly better than competing groups of psychologists, science students, detectives and, pulling up the rear, civilians and psychics.