The Department of Homeland Security two years ago considered the use of “safety bracelets” that can deliver a debilitating shock similar to that of a Taser for controlling prisoners during transport.
The inventor of the magnetically secured wristbands — Per Hahne of Toronto — has proposed that his electro-muscular disruption (EMD) devices be fitted on all airline passengers as a safeguard against terrorist attacks. But Homeland Security officials in July 2006 focused on the potential use of the bracelets only for transporting prisoners.
“Our interest was to detain with less-than-lethal means an apprehended suspect,” said Homeland Security spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.
Nothing came of the Homeland Security meeting with Mr. Hahne, despite a lengthy letter to the inventor expressing interest in the device, but his bracelet has since attracted the attention of aviation and security fans in the blogosphere.
CrankyFlier.com and TravelSecurity.blogspot.com both questioned earlier this spring whether the bracelet could achieve widespread usage.
A blog post Wednesday on The Washington Times’ Web site, www.washingtontimes.com/weblogs, drew thousands of hits and resulted in more than 1,000 e-mails to the bracelet’s marketing company, Lamperd Less Lethal, based in Toronto. A video on the company’s Web site shows how the bracelets can be used to control all airline passengers.
Jeffrey Denning, a blogger who moderates the Aviation Security community on The Times’ site, said he cringed at the thought that the government might mandate that all passengers wear the tracking devices for flights.
But Ms. Kudwa said the Homeland Security Department never considered the technology as a terrorist-stopping measure.
“At the end of the day, this was never funded and followed up on,” she said. “Nor do we support the asserted use in the video, and we have never pursued the development of such technology.”
Mr. Hahne and Lamperd Less Lethal say airlines could augment security by fitting all passengers with the bracelets, which could be programmed to contain a passenger’s travel data, such as identification information and seat number.
In addition, flight crews would be able to shock any terrorists who took troubling action once a plane was airborne, the bracelet maker says.
“I’ve tried to convey to everyone my interest is aviation and terrorist hijackings,” Mr. Hahne said in a telephone interview. “It’s not really for me to say what the U.S. government wants to do with a patent of mine. The idea can be left or taken.”
The video on the company’s Web site cites the security breaches that led to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and explains how the bracelet could hold a passenger’s identification and allow him or her to be tracked through an airport and onto a plane.
In case of a terrorist threat, a flight attendant or pilot could shock the passenger by use of a remote control and debilitate the person from further action.
“This device is not meant to be an onerous, punitive measure for passengers,” said Mr. Hahne. “It is meant to save their lives. It is something meant to be used only when the plane is being hijacked.”