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Atrocity of 9/11 to save tech sector – Cheney

And face-recognition outfit Visionics hears the call

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A profitable surveillance state may rise from the ashes of Ground Zero if the Bush Administration has its way. Indeed, high-tech gizmos will play an increasing role in US military ventures and homeland security, Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday during a speech at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California.

According to a report by Reuters, the Veep reckons that a shift in emphasis from useless consumer gadgets to weapons and surveillance gear will help bring back the roaring '90s, when the phrase 'technology firm' was one of the most powerful incantations of the marketplace.

The Bush Administration is attempting to allocate an additional $85 billion in federal revenue for defense budget increases and homeland defense initiatives from which the technology sector can profit, if it would only turn its genius to good.

The Veep explained that another attack against the Fatherland is inevitable, and suggested that the industry has now been called to a higher mission. "The forces that defend you five or ten years down the road will come from the research we are conducting today," the wire service quotes him as saying.

It would seem that the forces that irritate and delay us, and peer into databases looking for nasty titbits about us, will also come from this research. We note that a day later, fingerprint-recognition outfit Identix announced plans to buy face-recognition outfit Visionics for $269 million in stock.

The Register was first to report that Visionics' technology is a dismal failure in crowd-surveillance situations, a market onto which the company nevertheless persists in pushing itself. But as we noted, face-recognition has some value in controlled authentication situations, especially when backed up with a second check such as fingerprint recognition.

So the merger makes some sense, practically speaking, and might indicate that Visionics is looking to do more than make a fast buck off everyone's terrorist fears in the wake of 9/11 by carving out a more modest niche where it can actually deliver on its promises. ®

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