"Instant" DNA testing due in 2012. Federal agents make gains in New Mexico. Alabama uses 21st century software to prevent accidental prisoner releases. These and other stories of interest in this week's Homeland Security News.
Rapid DNA Test Could be on the Market Soon
Thanks to a recent $40 million infusion, the company IntegenX has announced its Rapid HT 200 Human Identification System could be available to law enforcement as early as mid-2012. This fully automated DNA testing device is reportedly capable of producing a complete and accurate DNA profile in just 90 minutes, compared to the several days needed using normal methods. In the hands of field officers, the machine could allow the proper identification of criminal suspects, as well as body fluids such as blood and semen.
Sending Federal Agents to New Mexico Pays Off
Unlike the more heavily populated border states of California, Texas and Arizona, New Mexico has traditionally received little attention from federal law enforcement. This has allowed criminal gangs and drug trafficking to flourish in the Land of Enchantment. But since 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has sent more than 60 agents to New Mexico, and this has led to some major drug busts, disruption of gang activity and even the arrest of many high ranking public officials charged with corruption. Most local law enforcement officials are happy the DHS has gotten involved, many saying that state laws are simply too weak to deal with the level and types of crime they're trying to fight.
Alabama Jails Uses Face-Recognition System to ID Prisoners, Guards
Alabama's Madison County Jail has become the first such facility in the United States to install a 3D facial recognition system to instantly ID prisoners and jail employees alike. The system was first installed at the jail's entrance to prevent the accidental release of the wrong prisoners (something that has, in fact, happened). Jail administrators hope to install additional cameras throughout the facility so doors and other barriers can be opened or closed based on an individual's actual identity, not on whether or not he/she happens to be carrying the proper keys or ID cards. The software involved breaks down a person's face into 40,000 unique points around the eyes and nose bridge with a reported 99.2 percent accuracy.
We Are in an ‘Era of Terror,’ Expert Warns
Even though the al Qaeda terrorist organization has been severely crippled since September 11, 2011, it does not mean we are free from the danger of large-scale terror attacks, according to Graham Allison, director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. "Such claims [of safety] fundamentally misunderstand the reality of what must be recognized today and for the foreseeable future as an ‘era of terror.’ We now live in a world in which the widespread dissemination of science and technology has empowered individual maniacs or small groups to indiscriminately kill on a mass scale." Allison strongly urges the U.S. and other governments to invest more in securing nuclear materials, including low-grade radioactive materials used in health care.
TSA Looking for Practical Solutions to Thwart Future ‘Shoe-Bombers’
Since terrorist Richard Reid attempted to blow up an airliner with a "shoe-bomb" in November 2001, airline passengers have had to remove their shoes for inspection before passing through airport security checkpoints. Now, the federal Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) is actively looking at several new technologies that could remove this annoying security bottleneck. Most solutions involve sophisticated scanners that only require that passengers to step on/through them to determine if explosives are present. The TSA has not indicated when it might make a decision. Most airline passengers would agree, the sooner the better.
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