I-Team: Bracelet Promises Air Safety, At A Price
Flying today can be stressful, inconvenient and downright difficult. Just consider the crowds, the lines, the hassles and the lost luggage that often comes with a trip to the airport these days.
But what if there was a way to make it all easier? What if you had one small device, say a bracelet, which carried all your flight information and other data to make things easier?
This bracelet could even track you and your luggage.
Former United States Air Marshal Jeffrey Denning describes the idea this way: "The bracelets would take the place of boarding tickets it would also work as a GPS to track air travelers and their luggage."
Jeffrey Denning is intimately familiar with airline security. He owns his own private security company near Chicago. And he worked as a US Air Marshal for three years before quitting to start up and run his own company in 2007. Denning says airline passengers might use this bracelet technology in place of a boarding pass but the government could use it for something else.
"And here's the shocking part," Denning said. "No pun intended. If the passengers act up it (the bracelet) would shock and immobilize them for several minutes."
That's right. If the flight crew decides that you're getting out of control or posing a threat, to them or the plane, they could simply engage a computer, press a button which would activate this bracelet, shocking and incapacitating you for as long as several minutes.
"I guess the design was that for any air passengers who would become a terrorist or be a terrorist," Denning told the I-Team. "The bracelet has a capacity to shock the whoever is wearing it kind of like a police 'taser.'"
The CBS4 I-Team found a demonstration video titled "The Last Line of Defence(sic)" which shows the situation and the demonstration of the use of this bracelet technology exactly as Jeffrey Denning described.
The I-Team found the video posted on the web site of the Canadian Company that claims to be the contractor for research and development of this technology.
"It would incapacitate a potential hijacker..." the video's narrator intones.
In fact, according to a patent application, discovered on-line and dated August, 2005, the inventor of this technological tool describes the bracelet as a "...remotely activable electric shock device on each of the passengers..." on an airplane.
The CBS4 I-Team, working together with our investigative partners at CBS2 in Chicago, tracked down the man who says he invented this bracelet. It is the same man who made the demonstration video "The Last Line of Defence(sic)" posted on the web.
The inventor, who doesn't want his name used, told the I-Team that he created what he calls the "safety bracelet" with the intention of preventing an armed hijacking on a passenger plane. He said he invented the bracelet to avoid another 9-11.
And the inventor told us that he believes the bracelet would not be mis-used on innocent passengers.
He confirms he also created the bracelet to track passengers and their luggage.
On the Canadian company's web site a July 8, 2008, news release titled "Clearing up Misconceptions About the EMD Safety Bracelet" states, in part, "The bracelets remain inactive until a hijacking situation has been identified." According to the demonstration video "EMD" stands for "Electro-Muscular Disruption."
Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union calls this idea "unbelievable."
"It's so silly on so many levels it's hard to imagine," Steinhardt said.
Steinhardt is the director of the Technology Delivery Program for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C.
"There is no level of threat here that justifies anything like this," Steinhardt told the CBS4 I-Team.
But apparently someone in the United States Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate thought the idea was, at the very least, worth considering.
The CBS4 I-Team obtained two different letters sent from DHS to the bracelet's inventor back in 2006. The letters were confirmed as authentic by a DHS spokesman. The letters raise the question of just how far our government is prepared to go in consideration of using this technology.
Both letters are signed by the same Project/Program Leader in DHS's office of Research and Development branch.
They read in part
"..we have been interested in...the reusable security bracelet idea you told me about."
"...it is conceivable to envision a use to improve air security, on passenger planes."
CBS4 Investigator Stephen Stock asked Jeffrey Denning "When you got this letter what was your first reaction?"
Denning replied "You can't do that! We're America!"
The former US Air Marshal not only runs his own security business he also serves as a current Washington Times security analyst and blogger. Jeffrey Denning first obtained the DHS letters from 2006 and passed them on to the CBS4 I-Team.
Jeffrey Denning\Former US Air Marshal : "It's in essence binders and chains," Denning said to describe the idea of putting these bracelets on air travelers. "(By) putting an electronic handcuff on them (passengers) and then shocking them (passengers) like a dog if they get out of line."
"That whole proposition was never part of the proposal to us," said a DHS official.
In an interview with the CBS4 I-Team John Verrico, a spokesman for DHS's Security and Technology Directorate, denies that anyone in his office ever considered these bracelets for use on general aviation passengers.
"The only use or proposal that we had received was to use it in transporting prisoners," Verrico said.
U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart reacted swiftly to this idea of these bracelets being used on general aviation passengers.
"If this thing has any life still in it I guarantee I'll take care of it," Diaz-Balart told the I-Team.
The Republican Congressman who represents southwest Miami-Dade, Monroe County and part of Collier County, serves on the House Transportation committee and its aviation subcommittee. Diaz-Balart said believes that even the idea that anyone would consider using these bracelets on regular passengers crosses the line.
"This is an option obviously that is a lot more suitable for either dangerous animals or for dangerous prisoners not for normal flying customers," Diaz-Balart said.
CBS4 investigator Stephen Stock asked Jeffrey Denning how seriously he thought this idea was received in Washington.
"You've served in air marshal service for three years is it inconceivable that this would actually be seriously considered?" Stock asked.
"At first I think "No!" Denning answered. "But then again I worked for three years for the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) as a federal air marshal and I've seen some outrageous things. So I wouldn't put it past them," Denning said.
The CBS4 I-Team discovered a lot of chat on the web about this bracelet idea.
There have even allegedly been death threats made against the DHS official who sent these letters as well as against the officials in the Canadian company that posted the demonstration video.
For his part, Jeffrey Denning says he quit the US Air Marshal's service because of what he called gross mismanagement.
Denning said he's speaking out now about these bracelets because of his concerns about both the safety and the basic civil rights of every American who flies.
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