WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Department of Homeland Security is launching an artificial intelligence task force in an effort to keep up with foreign threats, but the American Civil Liberties Union says the endeavor is setting off alarm bells.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the task force on Friday, which will work to figure out how to best use AI tools to combat threats.
“The pivotal moment we are now in requires that we also act today,” Mayorkas said. “To advance our critical homeland security missions.”
Mayorkas said he wants to use AI to screen cargo for illicit drugs like fentanyl, to identify and rescue child abuse victims, and to defend against China.
“We must never allow ourselves to be susceptible to failures of imagination,” he said.
While he promised transparency, the ACLU said that’s something the department has failed to do for decades.
“DHS has an appallingly bad track record when it comes to transparency,” said Patrick Toomey, the deputy director of the ACLU National Security Project.
Toomey said he’s concerned AI is frequently biased against marginalized communities.
“If what they ultimately propose to do is use AI to try to read X-ray scans of cargo better, that may not raise many concerns. But if it means using AI to conduct background checks, identify reportedly suspicious individuals or put people on watch lists, that can be hugely problematic for American civil rights,” Toomey said.
The new AI task force must report recommendations within 60 days.