ACLU demands info on government telepathy efforts
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked intelligence agencies to release all information on plans to use brain scanning during interrogations of suspected terrorists.

The watchdog group said it fears that the government might employ neuroimaging as a lie detector. The most likely tool is Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which observes changes in blood flow to the brain when a person performs an activity, such as answering a question.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request last month asking the Pentagon, National Security Agency, CIA, FBI and Homeland Security Department for all records on the use of fMRI and “other scanning or measurement technologies of the brain that seek to detect truth, deception, guilty knowledge, accurate recollection or recognition, or to otherwise assist in or support interrogation or to identify individuals for follow-up questioning.”

According to ACLU’s public statement, scientific research has not substantiated the use of fMRI as a reliable mind reader.

“These brain-scanning technologies are far from ready for forensic uses and, if deployed, will inevitably be misused and misunderstood,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program. “What we don’t want is to open our newspapers and find that another innocent person has been thrown into Guantánamo because interrogators have jumped to conclusions based on a technology no one understands very well.”

He added, “We do not want to see our government yet again deploying a potentially momentous technology unilaterally and in secret, before Americans have had a chance to figure out how it fits in with our values as a nation.”

Employee union gets talk radio show — no interest from XM or Sirius yet
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) launched a weekly, one-hour program June 30 called “Inside Government.” The first show featured AFGE National President John Gage and guest Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

The series focuses on workforce issues such as retirement, homeland security and privatization.

Gage is the show’s creator and executive producer. Future segments will include interviews with other political leaders, journalists, AFGE members, AFL-CIO leaders and celebrities.

The shows air Fridays at 10 a.m. EDT on (1050 AM in the Washington, D.C., area). It is also distributed to radio stations nationwide.

If you tune in July 14, you can hear Witold Skwierczynski, president of AFGE’s National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations Locals.

NASA testing human immune system — with fruit flies
NASA sent up thousands of fruit flies in space shuttle Discovery last week so researchers can study the effect of space flight on the human immune system. Scientists already know that space travel affects astronauts’ genes and immune systems, but NASA’s concern is that their immune systems could become suppressed in space and certain bacteria might become toxic in space — creating a dangerous combination.

The purpose of the fruit fly study is to assess space flight’s threat to human health. Flies placed onboard before the launch will produce a second generation in space. The space-bred flies will have matured from embryo to larva to adult under microgravity conditions.

Scientists will compare the fruit flies grown in space with a genetically equivalent control group bred in a NASA lab. External conditions for both groups will be identical, except for exposure to radiation and microgravity.

When the astroflies descend back to Earth, scientists will mix both sets of cousins with bacteria to compare their immune system responses.

Bethesda AFCEA chapter regales its own with annual awards
Chapter members honored last month include:

  • Cathy Hirsh, a consultant who earned the Chairman’s Award for establishing the AFCEA Bethesda Chapter’s Montgomery County High School Scholarship program.

  • Jonathan Benett, senior director of Management Systems Designers, who won the Young AFCEAN of the Year Award for fostering an environment in which young professionals from the private and public sectors can network and seek guidance.

  • Angela West, enterprise account manager at Symantec; Kelvin Martinez, marketing manager at ENC Marketing and Communications; and Lenny Ilkovich, partner at Vandelay Technologies, who racked up Young AFCEAN Meritorious Service Awards.

  • Leamon Lee, an associate at LHL, who was given the Chapter Distinguished Service Award for his contributions as chapter founder and Advisory Council member since the chapter’s inception.

  • Joanne Connelly, president of ConnellyWorks, and Steve Vito, group publisher and executive director of Government Executive, who were awarded Meritorious Service Awards for the AFCEA Charity Event — a gala at the Mayflower Hotel last April to benefit the Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health.

  • Steve Krauss, senior manager at GTSI, and Harold Youra, president of Alliance Solutions, who took home Chapter Meritorious Service Awards.

  • Beth Kelley, the AFCEA Bethesda Chapter’s registrar, who received the Chapter Special Recognition Award.

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