WH Considers Monitoring Phones Of The Mentally Ill To Predict Mass Shootings

Official White House Photo/Public Domain

The proposal would create a new federal agency that would “come up with out-of-the-box ways to tackle health problems.”

The Trump administration is considering a proposal that could see a federal agency monitoring the phones and other devices of known mentally ill people in an effort to predict who might perpetrate a mass shooting.

According to The Washington Post, the proposal originated with former NBC Chairman and long-time friend of the president Bob Wright, who has briefed top officials within the administration.

The proposal hinges on the creation of a new research agency called HARPA — similar to the military’s DARPA — that would “come up with out-of-the-box ways to tackle health problems.”

Wright’s advisers put together a three-page proposal, called SAFEHOME for Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes, at the White House’s request following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, last month.

Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have worked hard to push the narrative that mass shootings are an issue of mental illness rather than the prevalence of guns in the country.

Marisa Randazzo, former chief research psychologist for the U.S. Secret Service, told The Post that while it would be nice to identify individuals who pose a threat before they act, there are “so many things about this idea of predicting violence that doesn’t make sense.”

Such a move would obviously raise privacy concerns, she said, but even further, such a program would almost certainly result in countless false positives, saying it “would likely flag tens, or hundreds of thousands, more possible suspects than actual shooters.”

But the primary flaw with something like HARPA, Randazzo said, is the premise that mental illness is linked to violence: “Everything we know from research tells us it’s a weak link at best,” she said.

Still, the concept has garnered bipartisan support in Washington and beyond. The Post noted that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden mentioned HARPA on the campaign trail in Iowa last month.

“Those who have been in the military know there’s an outfit called DARPA,” he said. “It’s the thing that allows the military to do advanced research on everything from stealth technology and the Internet and all those other things … We should be doing the same thing with health care.”

Biden suggested such an agency could help solve health issues like Alzheimer’s disease and obesity.

However, others — like Stephen Hart, a clinical forensic psychologist and researcher on violence risk assessment — believe predicting who will or will not one day turn violent is a fool’s errand.

“The irony is that there are low-tech solutions that already exist for some of these problems that we simply aren’t funding or deploying enough,” he said, pointing to research and policies that address the sheer number of guns in the U.S., as well as threat assessments, “which emphasizes preventing violence by identifying and addressing the problems in people flagged by fellow students or co-workers.”

The Post also noted a 2012 report commissioned by the Pentagon which found that all the technology currently available that could possibly help predict future violence is essentially useless: “The study’s panel devoted an entire appendix to dispelling the notion, entitled “Prediction: Why It Won’t Work.” Instead, it recommended approaches such as threat assessment.”

The report concluded that prevention, rather than prediction, is the way forward.

Read the full report.

Comments (4)
No. 1-4
Roadrageinwy
Roadrageinwy

Oh, I don't f*cking THINK so. More of the nazi crap out of Steven Miller's sick mind, I'll bet. And wait until they get their hands on all the "fun" dna tests people have been taking for years - - they'll know immediately who's "pure" enough to join the so-called master race. Better get your butts out and vote in 2020, or the US won't even be recognizable any more.

Virgoman1
Virgoman1

Yep....continue your trashing of the Constitution! You all will be held liable for all the lawlessness you constantly do to the American people. Once tRump is history we will restore America ! The Gestapo won't stand!!!!

Janedit
Janedit

If they REALLY believe that mental illness is the problem, where are the proposals for easier access to community mental health care, especially for the uninsured; more hospital beds; funding for research and treatment; training police to respond to mentally ill persons; and stopping the use of jails as de facto dumping grounds for the mentally ill? I am bipolar and if this goes through, I'll start every phone call with, "Fuck Trump!"

MimiB
MimiB

What's the name of that sci fi movie with this premise? Or for something more recent, the Sherlock inspired TV show Elementary recently featured a tech exec who'd developed a similar program, that identified potential shooters... and eliminated [killed them first. Did it go wrong? Of course.] them. In any case, as too often happens, POTUS gets his crack pot ideas from popular culture's imaginings. Things like constitutionality don't weigh in. For guns, he's going to propose anything that doesn't involve getting the NRA in a tither. I'd like to remind Trump and America's gun nuts, that other countries have mentally ill people that don't go around shooting up schools and public gatherings. What could the difference possibly be? Oh, right, rampant irresponsible gun ownership including ARs.