The U.S. Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is currently testing an on-site biometric-response-based lie-detector system called the Cogito device (Cogito1002) at an airport in Knoxville, Tennessee. If adopted, the Cogito1002, made by Israeli company Suspect Detection Systems Ltd. (SDS), will augment a human-based screening system called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Technique), which first began testing at Logan Airport (Boston) after 9/11 and is now operational in approx. a dozen U.S. airports.
Here’s how the Cogito1002 tech works:…
A passenger goes into an oval booth, swipes their passport, dons a set of headphones, and sticks their hand inside a sensor that monitors biometric responses (blood pressure, heart rate/pulse, and sweat levels) while they answer 15-20 questions in their language of choice on a touch screen about their travel plans. The person’s sex, age, and nationality, as well as their location, determine what questions get asked, and the whole process takes approx. 5 minutes.
According to an article in the The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Shabtai Shoval, CEO of Suspect Detection Systems developed the Cogito1002 with the assistance of “leading former Israeli intelligence officials, polygraph experts and computer-science academics.” The device goes beyond the scope of a standard lie detector machine by analyzing a person’s answers not only in relation to the rest of his/her answers, but also those of his/her peer group that’s been previously determined by security experts. "We can recognize patterns for people with hostile agendas based on research with Palestinians, Israelis, Americans and other nationalities in Israel," Mr. Shoval says. "We haven’t tried it with Chinese or Iraqis yet." The Cogito 1002 can be customized for specific cultures and specific threats based on the intelligence that’s been gleaned.
In tests conducted inside Israel, the Cogito1002 is showing an approx. 85% accuracy rate with control groups role-acting as terrorists. Not bad, however 15% is still too many terrorists getting through, which is why auxilliary terrorist-detection systems, including human/people-based systems like SPOT, are so important. It should be noted that the Cogito1002 also incorrectly identified 8% of innocent passengers as potential threats in the Israeli tests. SDS wants to up the Cogito1002’s accuracy level/rate (i.e. correct terrorist detection level/rate) to 90%, while reducing the false positives (identifying innocent travelers as potential threats) to only 4%. That’s the goal, anyway. Let’s all hope they’re successful and the system works as advertised. If they are, and it does, chalk another one up for the Israelis.
Just one more thing. It’s Defense Review’s opinion as of this writing that the Cogito1002 should not be used on every airport traveler. It’s our opinion that it should only be used on those subjects that have been previously identified on-site (or even earlier) by human observers or other human-intelligence methods/procedures as fitting specific preditermined potential-threat profiles or exhibiting suspicious behavior. Otherwise, the system (Cogito1002) could create unnecessary delays at airports and incorrectly red-flag more innocent people than otherwise necessary. On the other hand, even if the machine clears an individual, that should not necessarily be the last word, as machines can be sometimes be fooled. If an individual fits the predetermined terrorist profile and/or is acting suspiciously, human-based screening techniques by trained professionals should always be incorporated into the security package. At this point in time, there is simply no substitute (mechanical, electronic, or any other type) for human intuition and educated opinion, especially that of trained anti-terrorism/security professionals.
The following is a listing of SDS corporate personnel, including respective background information, from the company website:
Mr. Shabtai Shoval: Founder and CEO. Mr. Shoval has more then fifteen years of senior management experience in the High-Tech and telecom industries. Shoval’s professional background includes the position of CEO of Comverse TVGate Division (NASDAQ: CMVT), Vice President of Telrad Holding – the investment arm of KOOR INDUSTRIES, president of the Israeli Cable TV Association, founder of ISDNet, serving on the boards of numerous companies including Exalink, Algorithmic Research Ltd, MED 1, Gvanim and others. Shoval has unique background in counter terrorism strategies and held a position of special advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.
Mr. Ishayau (Sigi) Horowitz: Founder and methodology counselor. Mr. Horowitz has over thirty years of academic and field experience in polygraph theory and practice. Mr. Horowitz is the former head of the polygraph division of the Israeli Police, a member of the American Polygraph Association and a senior investigator for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Mr. Horowitz holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Bar-Ilan University (Israel) and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from the Tel-Aviv University (Israel).
Mr. Amiram Levin: A figurehead supporting the SDS methodology and concept Mr. Levine brings with him extensive support from his many years of experience in interrogation and counter-terrorism. Mr. Levin served as the Deputy Head of the Mossad and commander of the renowned "Sayeret Matkal", Israel’s elite intelligence and counter-terrorism commando unit.
Mr. Gal Peleg: R&D team leader. Mr. Peleg is accredited with the development of the basic algorithm underlying the SDS technology. Mr. Peleg brings with him over ten years of experience as a software engineer. Mr. Peleg’s expertise centers on designing and implementing solutions for embedded systems, adapting new technologies and adopting new environments for embedded systems, developing real-time frameworks and algorithms for DSP technologies.
Prof. Naftali Tishby: Learning System Advisor. Mr. Tishby is the Head of the School of Engineering and Computer Science in the Hebrew University (Israel). Mr. Tishby also heads the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation and The Suadrsky Center for Computational Biology.