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Spies, Lies and Polygraphs
The Washington Times ^ | Oct. 17, 2002 | Drew Richardson

Posted on 10/16/2002 10:36:16 PM PDT by George Maschke

Edited on 07/12/2004 3:57:59 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]

Recently, the National Academy of Sciences issued a landmark report regarding the use of polygraphy by various federal agencies. Although many issues were explored and several conclusions were drawn, none was more important than the finding that polygraph screening is completely invalid as a diagnostic instrument for determining truth regarding counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, past activities of job applicants and other important issues currently so assessed by our various federal, state and local governments.


(Excerpt) Read more at asp.washtimes.com ...


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: counterespionage; counterintelligence; espionage; liedetector; polygraph; terrorism
Dr. Richardson has previously testified before the U.S. Senate regarding the dangers of polygraph screening, where he warned that "[i]t is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity" and that "anyone can be taught to beat this type of polygraph exam in a few minutes."

Polygraph screening has never caught a spy. Aldrich Ames beat the polygraph, and so did Senior Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes, who on Wednesday, Oct. 16th was sentenced to 25 years in prison for spying for Cuba.

As Dr. Richardson testified, anyone can be taught to beat a polygraph test. You don't need to go to spy school. Just see AntiPolygraph.org's free e-book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (739 kb PDF).

Dr. Richardson and the National Academy of Sciences are right: polygraph screening is a clear and present danger to the national security and to the reputations of law-abiding, loyal Americans who are being falsely accused based on this pseudoscience.

Please sign the on-line End Polygraph Screening Now petition calling on President George W. Bush to abolish polygraph screening by executive order.


1 posted on 10/16/2002 10:36:16 PM PDT by George Maschke
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To: George Maschke
This posting reeks of a closet liberal's strawman appeal to libertarians. I personally would sleep safer at night knowing that every soldier and government official had passed a polygraph, even if a few criminals or traitors slipped through.

I seriously doubt that everyone "can be taught to beat this type of polygraph exam in a few minutes", though I'm willing accept that some can. But what is your proof of false positives (i.e., a person telling the truth is judged to be lying), other than anecdotal evidence?

Even highly emotional people can successfully pass a polygraph so long as they are truthful in their responses because the examiner begins with baseline questions to determine the subject's response to telling the truth and lies.

Such interviews might also be preceded or followed up by background investigations, so even if the subject successfully fools the machine, one of his associates could contradict his statement:

Q: Have you ever smoked pot?

A: No, sir!

Your buddy: Duuude, he's a total pothead!!!

Incidently, your alleged CIA interviewee, "fnord", would have been advised not to laugh during the interview, as it makes the polygraph needles twitch.

Didn't a former director of the CIA discontinue polygraph testing, and wouldn't that have allowed Ames to escape detection?

2 posted on 10/16/2002 11:51:26 PM PDT by paratus
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To: paratus
What you said:
"Didn't a former director of the CIA discontinue polygraph testing, and wouldn't that have allowed Ames to escape detection?"

Are you thinking of John Deutsch, the guy who had classified data on his home computer and held onto his security clearances after his stint was over? IOW, John-The-Smoking-Gun-Guy?

3 posted on 10/17/2002 2:00:52 AM PDT by JusticeLives
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To: paratus
This posting reeks of a closet liberal's strawman appeal to libertarians.

Polygraph policy is not "liberal vs. conservative" issue. While in the past, public debate over polygraphy has pitted civil libertarians against law-and-order conservatives, the new debate is between those who understand that polygraphy is a pseudoscientific fraud and those who have not yet figured it out. Note that Dr. Richardson's article appeared in the conservative Washington Times, which on Tuesday published yet another antipolygraph opinion piece by Steve Chapman titled "The Truth Is, Polygraphs Lie." William Safire (no bleeding heart liberal) has also long been a polygraph opponent.

I personally would sleep safer at night knowing that every soldier and government official had passed a polygraph, even if a few criminals or traitors slipped through.

Did you know that the key to passing the Department of Defense's polygraph "Test for Espionage and Sabotage" is simply to make no substantive admissions? The only people who "fail" are those who make admissions. Everyone else ultimately passes. See my letter to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld for details.

But what is your proof of false positives (i.e., a person telling the truth is judged to be lying), other than anecdotal evidence?

That large numbers of false positives would occur for every spy (if any) correctly identified is statistically predictable and is noted in the National Academy of Sciences' report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection. (You can download the executive summary in PDF format here.)

Even highly emotional people can successfully pass a polygraph so long as they are truthful in their responses because the examiner begins with baseline questions to determine the subject's response to telling the truth and lies.

The "baseline questions" provide no logical basis for comparison. Here's how the "test" really works: the polygrapher tells the examinee to answer all questions truthfully, warning that any hint of deception will be detected by the polygraph. But the polygrapher secretly assumes that denials to certain questions -- called "control" questions -- will be untruthful.

One such question is, "Did you ever lie to get out of trouble?" The polygrapher steers the examinee into a denial by implying that any admission would cast doubt on his general trustworthiness.

The second kind of question are relevant questions: the ones that really matter, like, "Did you ever provide classified information to any unauthorized person?"

A third type of question are irrelevant questions. Examples include, "Are the lights on in this room?" or "Are you wearing shoes?" The polygapher falsely explains to the examinee these questions provide a "baseline for truth" because the true answers will be obvious to both the examinee and the polygrapher. But in reality, these irrelevant questions are not scored at all. They merely serve as buffers between pairs of relevant and "control" questions.

The polygrapher scores the test by comparing reactions to the probable-lie control questions with reactions to the relevant questions. If the former reactions are greater, the examinee passes; if the latter are greater, he fails. This simplistic methodology has no scientific basis. Persons who are more nervous when truthfully answering the accusatory relevant questions than when answering the "control" questions are likely to fail, whereas deceptive subjects who understand the fraudulent nature of the procedure can ensure they pass by covertly augmenting their reactions to the "control" questions. Techniques for doing this include constricting the anal sphincter muscle, biting the side of one's tongue, thinking exciting thoughts, or modifying one's breathing pattern. For more on polygraph procedure and countermeasures, see Chapters 3 & 4 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector

Didn't a former director of the CIA discontinue polygraph testing...?

No. But the current one would be wise to do so.

4 posted on 10/17/2002 2:08:26 AM PDT by George Maschke
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