Sorting out the details in the death of bin Laden will take many years. Recently, however, information regarding how the U.S. military used specialized biometric technology to ensure they got the "bad guy" illustrates the convergence of cognitive science, optics, and technology. During the raid, U.S. Navy Seals used SEEK or Secure Electronic Enrollment Kits to match bin Laden's physical characteristics with data accumulated over the years, including hundreds of photographs. According to SEEK's makers, Cross Match Technologies, the device combines "Forensic-quality fingerprint capture, rapid dual iris scan capability and innovative facial capture technology."
Although the image matching software provides a strategic advantage in tracking down criminals and terrorists it may also lead to our ever-increasing surveillance culture. It is not hard to imagine that in the near distance future biometric/forensic devices will become as ubiquitous as closed-circuit camera systems. Imagine such a sophisticated device that will be able to "read" or scan an individual's emotional and physical condition. Imagine being stopped by a bouncer at a bar armed with a biometric scanner only to tell you that you've reach well above your limit and have to find another way home. Imagine a scanner able to detect the facial characteristics of a shoplifter as they enter a store. Now imagine SEEK being used to identify and collect information on citizens engaged in peaceful protest.
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that we are only at the beginning of an era where intelligent machines will be used to both safeguard as well as oppress people. While the world awaits the disclosure of bin Laden's death photos, the release of the SEEK data may help to quiet nay sayers and inform the greater public. In the realm of scientific scrutiny, biometrics quantifies the old adage "seeing is believing."