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Military Testing WMD Sensors at Super Bowl 176

Lam1969 writes "Members of the Michigan National Guard will be at the Super Bowl on Sunday to deploy 'sensor fusion', a real-time, IP-based wireless technology that combines readings from portable and fixed devices that can potentially detect terrorist threats. While sensors capable of detecting chemical, biological, or radiological threats have been used at previous Super Bowls, the readings had to be communicated by radio between different security personnel. Sensor fusion automatically takes readings from the devices and uploads them to a central, secure Web server, where security staff anywhere can monitor conditions at the event. From the article: 'The software uses open standards and is open-source, based on the OSGi Service Platform, which is a standardized, component-oriented computing environment for networked services. OSGi allows networked devices to be managed from anywhere in the world, while allowing software to be installed, updated or removed on the fly while the device is operating.'"
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Military Testing WMD Sensors at Super Bowl

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  • testing? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 2MuchC0ffeeMan ( 201987 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:29AM (#14641663) Homepage
    This may seem like a silly question, but how can you test for something that won't be there?

    Are they just trying to restrict false positives? Or just show off that they have something? This is just going to be another ineffective technology [] that too much money was spent on.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:30AM (#14641667)
    This might stop a suicide bomber, so I'm not saying it's a useless exercise. On the other hand, if you put it in the context of everthing else that's going on, it seems likely that they are spending a vast amount of money to wave the flag. They even have the Canadian army and airforce deployed presumably to keep an enemy airforce or army from flooding over the northern border. Sounds like overkill to me.

    I'm not saying the terrorists won't strike again or that we shouldn't protect ourselves. Spending this much money on a big show just doesn't seem like the best way to deploy our resources.
  • by alan.briolat ( 903558 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:32AM (#14641679)
    OSGi allows networked devices to be managed from anywhere in the world, while allowing software to be installed, updated or removed on the fly while the device is operating
    So if the source code is available for anyone to analyse, AND the software can be updated on-the-fly... what makes this effective?

    Why does everyone keep assuming terrorists are stupid? Attacks don't succeed through stupidity, they succeed through ingenuity. Look at the source, find a hole, "fix" the software, detonate a WMD...
  • Great but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jmcmunn ( 307798 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:37AM (#14641693)

    By the time this sensor figures out that someone has a WMD strapped to their chest, the WMD is obviously already there at the stadium (or relatively close, depending on where they set it up) and everyone there is already in danger. I mean, how likely is it that the terrorist bought a ticket and is going to the game? Remember in the movie "Sum of All Fears" they just dropped off a vending machine a few days before the game. So I am guessing they are just checking to see that this kind of thing works "In the real world" more than anything. I could see it being more useful at airports watching for WMDs making their way into the country or something.
  • by IAAP ( 937607 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:39AM (#14641704)
    Patients of Nuclear medicine getting stopped by cops. []

    This was making news in the Wall Street Journal and other papers back in the early part of 2002. Maybe that's why the military wants to test at the SB? A huge sample and plenty of possibilities for picking up cancer patients that could lead to positives.

  • Re:Of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:43AM (#14641720)
    six billion people watching.

    The viewing figures are less than 100 million. I think you are confusing the Super Bowl with an event that the rest of the world gives a damn about.
  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:45AM (#14641728) Homepage
    I'm not saying that this shouldn't be used here, but why weren't they tested at, say, a regular Lions game beforehand? It's the same number of people in the same location, just not as many of them are VIPs with the associated security concerns in case of evacuation.

    This has little to do with the technology, or any actual threat. It is a fairly high-profile event, and so it is widely perceived as a target for an attack. If you stage public, high-profile events creating the perception of security you calm people down, and the event can proceed as planned.

    It's just like scanners at airports - you counter the perception of a threat with the perception of security and everybody walks away happy. It means that a technology to, for example, scan passengers at airports without any visible organization or inconvenience is actually a lot less useful than a largely inneffective - but public - display of zeal. If you had an effective, unobtrusive way to scan people, you'd probably still need to keep sham security stations active, hassling people and delaying proceedings, just for the needed visibility.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:48AM (#14641741)
    Why does everyone keep assuming terrorists are stupid

    If they possessed such skills and technology, we would be seeing massive terrorist attacks on information infrastructure, not people blowing themselves up in buses.
  • by FinestLittleSpace ( 719663 ) * on Saturday February 04, 2006 @11:55AM (#14641766)
    Terrorism's aim isn't usually just to screw up an infrastructure. They tend to realise that it's a heck of a lot more productive to kill a few people and make everyone cry their eyes out, than for a few corporations to fall to their knees (which, given the fact that there's a lot of EXCELLENT IT infrastructures on this planet - run by slashdotters often!).

    Emotional terrorism will nearly always beat information terrorism, especially when any sort of harm caused creates huge economic strains in the rush, build up and subsequent 'security increase' afterwards (why the hell do they even entertain the idea of half million pound sluggish weapon scanners at busy train stations in the UK?)
  • FEAR (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @12:16PM (#14641835)
    Live it! All day long, all the time, at every event and every gathering. Let it control your life. Vote only for those who make you feel safe. Attack those who would limit government power.


    It becomes you.
  • by ishmalius ( 153450 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @12:25PM (#14641878)
    Has nobody else noticed the obvious reason the National Guard are doing this? Not only do they get their weekend hours out of the way, but they get free admission to the SuperBowl. Since last-minute tickets are costing over $1000, I am sure that they are bragging to their buddies what a boondoggle they have accomplished.

    I once got into a U.S. Open golf tournament by volunteering for "Emergency Services." After spending about 5 minutes setting up some tables, I wandered away and got a beer and watched the tournament like everyone else. And the badge looked cool.

  • Re:"secure" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MooseByte ( 751829 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @12:31PM (#14641907)

    "Let's hope it isn't anything like those voting machines."

    I was going to joke that at least they were testing WMD detectors and not WMDs, but your post sparked the realization that a hacked voting system is far more dangerous to a nation than any WMD ever could be.

  • Six billion? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @12:32PM (#14641911)
    Someone already commented how wrong your figure is. And I believe that's exactly why no one has to fear a terrorist attack on the Super Bowl. Merkins seem to have a fixation with this, I remember a film I saw nearly thirty years ago []. Let's face it, very few people outside the USA know or care about the Super Bowl.

    Terrorists have their target audiences. The Al Qaeda wants to impress people in the muslim countries, who think of "football" as the sport that's played by kicking a round ball with the feet. If 90% of the TV news anchors around the world have to explain what this "super bowl" thing is, and its true importance in the collective American mind, the intended message of the attack would be wasted. It's not as if there was an attack in the World Cup [], whose audience does reach in the billions mark.

  • by Alwin Henseler ( 640539 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @12:35PM (#14641922)
    From the article:

    Future capabilities could include small wireless cameras linked to facial-recognition software databases that would help identify suspects in crowds, he said. "It can be kind of scary," Ricker said, "but it's not as scary as the alternative."

    Not as scary as a (possible) terrorist attack with many casualties? I happen to disagree. I find it very annoying that law enforcement/government seems to want to have any type of 'disturbance' of our society under control. Be it terrorism, crime, violent protests, hooligans, whatever.

    Just imagine an 'ideal' world where this would actually work: camera's everywhere, all your actions registered, all terrorists locked away, 100% of crimes solved, citizens obeying all rules, drop a chewing gum on the street and a fine is automatically subtracted from your paycheck, leave your doors unlocked and nobody would even think of walking in to steal your belongings. Bomb attacks only happening in movies or history books.

    Now THAT is a scary thought. Would you want to live that way? I sure as hell don't. Sure, streets would be clean, life would be safe and easier, but it would also be very boring.

    No need to make life 'perfect'. Just do what is needed to bring negative things down to acceptable levels. Find a balance between that and how much effort is spent to archieve it.

    It seems to me this balance is often lost. Are measures really cost-effective? Just imagine that all the money going to counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq had been spent on health care and development aid for poor countries instead. That could have lifted millions out of poverty. Anyone in the Bush administration even have a rough estimate about how many (potential) terrorism that would save, or what boost that would give the US economy (and image)?

    'Suspect packages' are found every other day now, and train stations cleared or appartment blocks evacuated. Terrorist strike prevented? Nope. Somebody forget their cellphone or shopping bag, and countless men-hours were wasted.

    Common sense, people. Traffic, starvation (if you're really poor) or disease might kill you. If you're 'lucky', a lightning strike, plane crash or falling coconut (yes, they kill more people than sharks!) might do it. Looking at how likely it is, mr. Bin Laden & friends are near the bottom of the list. So why is so much effort wasted on that? I'll take some crime and the occasional bombing instead, thank you.
  • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @01:49PM (#14642279) Homepage
    by running OSGi for that. I have been involved in a solution that acted unstable and erratically since it was running on an OSGi platform. OK, it may depend on which platform, but there are several issues around developing code on that platform. Since then OSGi has been thrown away and the application is instead executing standalone.

    As I see it - OSGi is just an operating system on top of an operating system, and much of the functionality can actually be achieved easier by other means.

    Otherwise - a wireless sensor network as it actually is about is fairly simple, but isn't each node in the net rather expensive? A node actually talking IP will require an IP stack and that in turn will require a fair amount of CPU power together with OSGi. But on the other hand - if the nodes are able to run IP and OSGi they are certainly able to use encryption and certificates to validate the data. Cheaper wireless sensors doesn't have enough punch to be able to do much encryption - but on the other hand you may afford to lose a couple of them before anything becomes a problem.

  • Or, even worse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Saturday February 04, 2006 @01:52PM (#14642293) Homepage
    By the time this sensor figures out that someone has a WMD strapped to their chest, the WMD is obviously already there at the stadium (or relatively close, depending on where they set it up) and everyone there is already in danger.

    Or, more likely, the sensor never figures out that someone has a WMD strapped to their chest, because

    1. Nobody has any and
    2. The people who actually might want to do harm to America could just as easily pull this off with totally ordianary weapons of non-mass destruction-- and are much more likely to

    and so while you're spending all this time staring at the WMD detector, whatever actual threats may or may not actually exist just walk right past you undetected.

    In the last 20 years the only successful major terrorist attacks against the United States were pulled off with boxcutters, fertilizer, and pickup trucks, and yet we're focusing on expensive, high-tech gadgetry that you practically need the support of the U.S. government to get hold of anyway.
  • Re:"secure" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @02:05PM (#14642353) Journal

    The OSGi Alliance ("OSGi Alliance") hereby grants you a fully-paid, non-exclusive, non-transferable, worldwide, limited license (without the right to sublicense), under the OSGi Alliance's applicable intellectual property rights to view, download, and reproduce the OSGi Specification ("Specification") which follows this License Agreement ("Agreement"). You are not authorized to create any derivative work of the Specification. The OSGi Alliance also grants you a perpetual, non-exclusive, worldwide, fully paid-up, royalty free, limited license (without the right to sublicense) under any applicable copyrights, to create and/or distribute an implementation of the Specification that: (i) fully implements the Specification including all its required interfaces and functionality; (ii) does not modify, subset, superset or otherwise extend the OSGi Name Space, or include any public or protected packages, classes, Java interfaces, fields or methods within the OSGi Name Space other than those required and authorized by the Specification.

    IANAL, but that doesn't strike me as open; viewable source and open source are two seperate things! This one seems to lack the ability to modify the source.
  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @02:07PM (#14642362)
    They even have the Canadian army and airforce deployed presumably to keep an enemy airforce or army from flooding over the northern border. Sounds like overkill to me.

    Try opening a map. You think just maybe an arena seating 65,000 wouldn't be as a tempting a taget and an easier kill than the twin towers?

  • Re:I, for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @03:30PM (#14642726)
    I, for one... Welcome our new terrorist-smeller pursuivant overlords

    And well you should. The terrorists have the will, and a plan [] to become our new overlords. If they succeed, you will be living in a genuine theocracy uniting church and state, governed by Sharia law [], in all of its harshness, including threat of crucifixion, beheading, stoning, and amputation [].

    Our present "overlords" do well in defending us against the malice of the would-be Islamist terrorist overlords. The Islamist terrorists have a demonstrated interest in conducting infamous [] attacks aimed at mass murder, and a stated goal of killing four million Americans [] in pursuit of their nightmare state []. The Superbowl is a natural target. The terrorists have the will to kill everyone at the Superbowl, but lack the opportunity due to the vigilance of our present "overlords",.... long may they "reign".

  • Real WMDs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @04:40PM (#14643001) Homepage
    The thing is:

    Chemcial, (Most) Biological, and Radiological Weapons Are Not WMDs.

    Chemical weapons are notoriously inefficient. In World War I, several tonnes of chemical weapons were produced for every fatality that they caused. Aum Shinrikyo tried almost (20?) attacks before they finally got fatalities, and most of their attacks did absolutely nothing. Chemical weapons are very ineffective killers, and aren't even that great at maiming, compared to normal weapons. They're just scary.

    Most biological weapons developed thusfar are designed not to spread contagions from person to person very readily, as you don't want a region you're taking over to infect your own troops. Anthrax is a good example of this. It's biological, but it's used in the same way chemical weapons are. Not a WMD -- just scary.

    Radiological weapons are the least damaging. "Dirty bombs" weren't developed by modern nations for a good reason: they don't do much (the Japanese investigated use of them in World War II and had a program to investigate their use, but nobody has done much with the concept since). The problem is that to kill people with radiation, you typically need long-term exposure. However, people flee when they suspect that something is wrong. All you do is scare people and make them not want to go back to a given area. Sure, if you had several tonnes of high-level waste and a discrete dispersal mechanism you might be able to cause some casualties, but you could cause a lot more with (much easier to acquire and use) several tonnes of high explosives.

    To sum up: Nuclear weapons are true WMDs. A few biological weapons (such as smallpox) are WMDs, but they're closer to "doomsday devices"; most biological weapons aren't because militaries don't want their own weapons to attack them back. Chemical weapons aren't WMDs. Dirty bombs aren't WMDs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @08:08PM (#14643673)
    The world has never loved the United States and it never will. So be it.

    Children in grade school base thier self view on the opinions of others -- a necessity to fit in. God help the child who is different than the pack. Some grow out of such a mentality but I don't think that most do. Just because others say you are wrong doesn't make it so.

    In recent history Europe has never encountered a problem that they didn't attempt to appease. I don't really care what they think of the US's war on terror. Who's best interest do you really think that tehy hold? The US's or their own? As a US citizen I know which I hold.

  • Re:Or, even worse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mesocyclone ( 80188 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @08:37PM (#14643739) Homepage Journal
    Sure, it's a bit hyperbolic, but it makes a point

    However, I don't think we are missing the forest for the trees. We need to worry about every tree, and the entire forest.

    Al Qaeda, unlike the previous Islamic terrorists, seeks to destroy our country as a force in the world, and ultimately to convert it to an extreme form of Islam - by force. So does Iran, after they have destroyed Israel and recovered from the nuclear counterstrike.

    The Islamofascists have claimed a special dispensation from Allah to kill up to 4,000,000 to do it. And of course, if that doesn't do the job, I'm sure they can get the quota raised. Furthermore, Al Qaeda has sought, and is continuing to seek, weapons of mass destruction - things actually made for that - in order to do so.

    Yes, they may use low tech attacks against us, although those tend to have less of a combat multiplier. They could blow up a bunch of school buses and really piss us off, but pissing us off and scaring us is not their goal (unlike the Palestinian terrorists of the past). Their goal is to really hurt us very badly. And to do that, they need to make attacks that are very deadly.

    The simplest one of those, I would think, is downing a bunch of airliners with either bombs in cargo, or MANPADs. That would have substantial economic consequences. But it would also piss us off a whole bunch and not really hurt us more than 9-11 did. Furthermore, they tried this in the mid 90's ( Bojinka ) and were only stopped by accident.

    Just to maintain their street cred in the terrorist world, they have to top 9-11. The easiest way to do that, if they can get hold of it, is to use a WMD - preferably a nuke.

    A small, simple ( gun design enriched U-235 ) device would kill a very large number of people - primarily from fallout from the ground burst (especially since it would require a lot of U235 that would turn into fallout instead of fission energy). These weapons are so easy to design that almost anyone with a bit of a science background, a bit of engineering, and access to a machine shop could build it. The US used one in WW-II and never even tested it first. The only hard part is getting enough U-235, and guess who keeps announcing that they are going to make a whole bunch of that - starting today (or was it yesterday?). It's that beacon of sanity, Iran. You know, the country whose president talks of his green halo that strikes dumb UN ambassadors when he speaks? Who denies the holocaust and has said that he will destroy Israel? The guy whose bosses have said that they can stand nuclear retaliation if the result is worthwhile - even if it takes out a whole bunch of Muslims? The country which has long been the most significant sponsor of terrorism in the world (can you say Hezbollah and their chemical armed missiles?)?.

    Yeah, those guys are just one of the threats to make Al Qaeda (a loose term anyway) a whole lot more dangerous.

    Or perhaps we should consider the Al Qaeda linked cell which was picked up in London. Those dudes were working on Ricin, a very nasty (if not that toxic by CW scales) poison. They probably learned how to do that from Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda guy who lived in Iraq under Saddam and who is now cooperating with the Baathists in killing Iraqis and Americans. He too was make Ricin weapons, and also tried to set off a large (of rather odd) chemical WMD attack in Jordan last year.

    Or we can look at how easy it is to genetically alter bacteria and viruses to make them into really nasty bioweapons - contagious and deadly. The rate of improvement in genetic engineering (measured in cost per base pair synthesized or decoded) is faster than Moore's law (my daughter used to do this stuff for a living and may be doing it again shortly). If you want to get really nervous, and know a bit about bacteriology, google up "mousepox" and "interleukin," and then remember that Islamofascists, unlike other enemies we have had, really don't care if they turn loose something that takes out 90% of the world's population. Also easy

APL hackers do it in the quad.