Signal Detection - A case study

The Case of Richard Reid

The case study focuses on a man named Richard Reid, a terrorist who used signal detection theory to his benefit to get past the French airport security system. His main objective was to use homemade bombs to destroy a Boeing 767 airplane. With the explosives concealed at the heels of his shoes, Reid boarded a flight for America just four months after the deadly 9/11 terrorist assault by al Qaeda on American soil. Around 8:40 in the morning, the incidents took place at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris, France. In the scenario, the security officers failed regarding the thorough analysis of an individual before boarding the plane and not having a random selection.

Mistaken Identity

In this case, the choice made had a biased view as a British citizen with Jamaican roots described as 6 foot 4 inches tall and seemed of an undetermined race with an unkempt appearance, was suspected to be a terrorist. He had a British passport with trips to the Middle East, e.g., Israel, and that raised questions for the guard who had to call an officer of the frontier police who had a French accent to question the person. During the questioning, the real terrorist was able to get to the gate without much pressure, and even though he had a new passport, they did not bother checking his flight history. The signal stimulus made the attendant assume Reid was not a terrorist and cleared him to board even after not questioning the nature of his trip to America.

Detection Theory and Consequences

Detection theory shows the ability to discern the information bearing patterns and those that do not and distract the primary goal. The officials came to a consensus about the gentleman they had taken in for questioning. They said he was innocent and did not appear as a threat, which I agree. Signal detection made the officials confuse an honest person to a terrorist due to patterns in his appearance and let a real terrorist fly to America.

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