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Home Office plans for science to tackle terror

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The government has set out its plans to use science and technology to tackle crime and terrorism. Home Office Minister Andy Burnham, last seen on the ID card campaign trail, published details of the technologies he hopes can be brought to bear in the department's Science and Innovation Strategy 2005-08.

His wish list includes RFID tracking, new scanning technologies, the development of a so-called drugalyser for roadside drug testing and a wider use of biometric identifiers. In particular, the report highlights the potential of gene analysis to help identify a person by suggesting details of their "physical characteristics and lifestyle".

Burnham said: "We are dealing with increasingly sophisticated, organised criminality and we need to ensure that our use of science and technology meets the challenge."

The Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) is already working on many of these technologies. The researchers are working on using spectroscopy to probe a saliva sample for any drugs, including illegal drugs, that it might contain.

RFID tagging is already being used to combat counterfeiting, and other tracking technologies are in use to monitor criminals. There is also more to come from automatic tracking and identification from CCTV pictures, the department said.

As well as setting up a team within the Home Office to oversee the implementation of the strategy, Burnham says he hopes to work closely with universities, industry and other government departments both in the UK and abroad.

"We invest nearly £60m each year across a broad range of sciences and on top of our own investment, we are now leading a £14 million cross-Whitehall counter-terrorism research programme to address the knowledge gaps that need to be filled." ®

Read the proposal for yourself here.

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