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Some of the Technology That Could Have Helped Prevent the Boston Bombings -- But Are There Concerns?


"...capabilities we have today."

There are unmanned aerial vehicles that are small and equipped with cameras that could be used by law enforcement. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Last week, TheBlaze talked with security experts about the technology used to help identify and then track down suspects in the Boston bombing and also sort through evidence that could help bring them to justice. Now, experts are discussing technology that could have helped prevent such an event from even happening in the first place.

Suspects in the April 15 bombing. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, left, was captured by authorities. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with authorities. (Photo: FBI)

Former DHS Assistant Secretary from 2003 through 2005, Robert Liscouski, who is now the director of Implant Science Corporation, told TheBlaze that the technology to be more proactive in crime prevention is out there.

"Yes, there are types of technology that can be proactively deployed to help ID an incident before it takes place," Liscouski said. Much of the technology is dual use, meaning it could be used to identify and thwart would-be crimes, but also can be used by law enforcement to solve crimes after they occur.

There are unmanned aerial vehicles that are small and equipped with cameras that could be used by law enforcement. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Liscouski painted this picture: imagine the cellphone of a known user -- someone of interest to law enforcement -- setting off an alert if it came within certain boundaries set by authorities. Once that cellphone crosses the line, authorities are alerted. That cellphone is then tracked using geolocating technology, which Liscouski said could place it within a yard of where it might be located. This location could then be monitored with any available surveillance cameras in the area. No cameras? Send in a surveillance drone with a video feed. If the resolution on the camera is good enough, it could conceivably send a live feed of footage to an evaluation system using facial recognition technology to help confirm identity. Deploy appropriate law enforcement to the area to monitor activity.

"[These are] capabilities we have today," Liscouski said.

Cellphone locations can be tracked with a stingray system. City law enforcement departments have long been installing surveillance cameras in public spaces -- as of 2007 Boston had at least 147 cameras on city streets and public buildings.  Next-generation surveillance cameras can even pick up on clues signifying potentially criminal behavior. And surveillance drones have recently been in the spotlight as the FAA is set to open up the skies by 2015 for their use over domestic soil for military/law enforcement, private and commercial entities. Some police departments have already acquired drone surveillance systems. Facial recognition technology is used at major events like the Super Bowl for security purposes already.

Of course, the situation detailed by Liscouski would require the subjects involved to be people being monitored for suspected criminal activity in the first place.

What about the bomb? Even with bomb sniffing dogs in public spaces rooting out explosives, Liscouski pointed to technology that can not only do the same sensing but can also identify the type of device it might be.

If metal is involved with the explosive, which in the case of the pressure-cooker IED used in the Boston bombing was metal and packed with metal shrapnel, a T-ray scanner like that being tested by the NYPD to scan for weapons under clothing could detect it in bags as well.

Even though some of this technology could help prevent crimes before the happen there are also many ongoing legal cases regarding the civil liberties issues with each one of them. Not only that, but the technology isn't fool-proof either, requiring various factors for it to actually pick up on potential criminal activity. And the potential for it to "misdiagnose" potentially criminal activity behavior is associated with such technology as well.

TheBlaze's Buck Sexton, who on Saturdays hosts The Buck Sexton Show on the radio, wrote after the attack April 15 that the tragedy was sure to be used to "push agendas," which in this case could be implementing of certain technologies or, as New York City Major Michael Bloomberg suggested, changing interpretations of the Constitutions itself.

But Sexton wrote, "we must resist the temptation to trade liberties for the perception of security."



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