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The lie detector is itself based on lies

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The Lie Behind the Lie Detector

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The dirty little secret behind the polygraph is that the "test" depends on trickery, not science. The person being "tested" is not supposed to know that while the polygraph operator declares that all questions must be answered truthfully, warning that the slightest hint of deception will be detected, he secretly assumes that denials in response to certain questions -- called "control" questions -- will be less than truthful. An example of a commonly used control question is, "Did you ever lie to get out of trouble?" The polygrapher steers the examinee into a denial by warning, for example, that anyone who would do so is the same kind of person who would commit the kind of behavior that is under investigation and then lie about it. But secretly, it is assumed that everyone has lied to get out of trouble.

The polygraph tracings don't do a special dance when a person lies. The polygrapher scores the test by comparing physiological responses (breathing, blood pressure, heart, and perspiration rates) to these probable-lie control questions with reactions to relevant questions such as, "Did you ever commit an act of espionage against the United States?" (commonly asked in security screening). If the former reactions are greater, the examinee passes; if the latter are greater, he fails. If responses to both "control" and relevant questions are about the same, the result is deemed inconclusive.

The test also includes irrelevant questions such as, "Are the lights on in this room?" The polygrapher falsely explains that such questions provide a "baseline for truth," because the true answer is obvious. But in reality, they are not scored at all! They merely serve as buffers between pairs of relevant and "control" questions.

The simplistic methodology used in polygraph testing has no grounding in the scientific method: it is no more scientific than astrology or tarot cards. Government agencies value it because people who don't realize it's a fraud sometimes make damaging admissions. But as a result of reliance on this voodoo science, the truthful are often falsely branded as liars while the deceptive pass through.

Perversely, the "test" is inherently biased against the truthful, because the more honestly one answers the "control" questions, and as a consequence feels less stress when answering them, the more likely one is to fail. Conversely, liars can beat the test by covertly augmenting their physiological reactions to the "control" questions. This can be done, for example, by doing mental arithmetic, thinking exciting thoughts, altering one's breathing pattern, or simply biting the side of the tongue. Truthful persons can also use these techniques to protect themselves against the risk of a false positive outcome. Although polygraph operators frequently claim they can detect such countermeasures, no polygrapher has ever demonstrated any ability to do so, and peer-reviewed research suggests that they can't.

Latest News:

In PR Scramble, New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Abruptly Terminates Business With Fraud-Tainted Polygraph Operator Daniel Ribacoff
Within hours of the New York Daily News' reporting on Long Island polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff's racist text messages, the MTA "canceled all remaining polygraphs that were scheduled to be given by Ribacoff's company until his contract expires in early 2022."

Oklahoma Polygraph Board Absolves Lying Polygraph Operator of Wrongdoing
James R. Kelly appears to have lied for the purpose of concealing evidence in a judicial proceeding. The Oklahoma Polygraph Examiners Board seems not to have a problem with that.

Steve Wilkos Show Kicks Polygraph Operator Dan Ribacoff Off Team
Celebrity polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff, who has been with the tabloid television talk program, The Steve Wilkos Show, since its 2007 debut, is evidently no longer on the "team."

Celebrity Polygraph Operator Dan Ribacoff Sent Racist Text Messages has obtained copies of text messages sent by polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff of New York that, while intended to be humorous, evince a deep-seated contempt of, and disdain for, black people.

CVSA Huckster Charles Humble Files for Bankruptcy from Newly Purchased $1.6 Million Home
On 31 August 2021, Charles Wayne Humble, the man behind the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), a quack device marketed to law enforcement agencies, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on behalf of his company, NITV, LLC.

Light 'Em Up Podcast Interviews Co-Founder George Maschke
Topics discussed include Maschke’s personal experience with the polygraph, the scientific shortcomings of polygraphy, polygraph policy, and countermeasures.

Steve Wilkos Show Guest Who Passed Polygraph Later Confessed to Murdering 15-Month-Old
Jesse Wayne Perkins of Clemmens, North Carolina, has pleaded guilty to first degree murder and been sentenced to life in prison.

Polygraph Statement of Mukhtar Alizay
Statement provided by an Afghan combat linguist who served with the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army Special Forces. He was blacklisted after failing a polygraph test.

Polygraph Statement of an Afghan Combat Linguist
Statement provided by an Afghan combat linguist who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving with U.S. forces. He was fired after failing a polygraph "test" a month after his injuries, and as a consequence, he has been denied a Special Immigrant Visa.

Former NSA Polygraph Division Chief Says Polygraphs Should Not Be the Deciding Factor in Visa Determinations for Afghan Interpreters
Thomas P. Mauriello, who once headed the NSA's Polygraph Division, tells Newsy national security reporter Sasha Ingber that while he thinks the U.S. government should use polygraphs, they alone shouldn't be the determining factor in decision-making.

Former DoD Polygraph Chief Casts Doubt on Policy of Denying Visas to Afghan Interpreters Based on Polygraph Results
In a report published online on Tuesday, 27 July 2021, Newsy In the Loop presenter Christian Bryant asked national security reporter Sasha Ingber about the plight of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants who have been rejected because they failed a polygraph.

How Did CIA Officer and Serial Sexual Abuser Brian Jeffrey Raymond Get Away With His Crimes for So Long?
On Friday, 23 July 2021, Brian Jeffrey Raymond, who, as previously reported on the blog, was until last year all but certainly a career CIA intelligence officer, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual abuse and one count of transportation of obscene material in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He awaits sentencing and will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

CNN on Plight of Afghan Interpreters Terminated for Failing Polygraphs
In a report presented by foreign correspondent Anna Coren, CNN chronicles the plight of Afghan linguists who served with United States forces but have been denied Special Immigrant Visas. Both interpreters showcased in the video report were fired because they failed pseudoscientific polygraph "tests."

Steve Wilkos on Lie Detectors: "Hell No…I Would Never Take One!"
The host of the Steve Wilkos Show is unwilling to eat his own dogfood.

Special Immigrant Visas Should Not Be Denied Based on Polygraph Results
As noted on the blog, the United States is denying Special Immigrant Visas to Afghans who served honorably with U.S. forces merely because they "failed" a scientifically baseless polygraph "test"—once. With U.S. forces completing their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August, the lives of many of these individuals are in grave danger. Please write to President Biden and urge him to reverse this policy.

Complaint Against Polygraph Operator James R. Kelly of Oklahoma
"On 5 July 2021, I filed a complaint (attached) against polygraph operator James R. Kelly with the Oklahoma Polygraph Examiners' Board. This complaint is on the agenda for the board's next quarterly meeting, which is to be held tomorrow, Friday 16 July 2021 at 10:00 in Norman…"

SDPD Adds Questions About Hate Crimes and Biases to Pre-Employment Polygraph Process, Acknowledges 50% Failure Rate
At a meeting of the San Diego City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee held on 16 June 2021, Captain Rudy Tai of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) mentioned that the pre-employment polygraph screening process now includes questioning about hate crimes and racial bias.

New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department Has Polygraph Contract With Daniel Ribacoff's Fraud-Tainted Firm
In a 22 April 2021 YouTube interview with retired NYPD detective Ron Licciardi, polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff, who is best known for his appearances the lowbrow daytime television talk program, the Steve Wilkos Show, disclosed that he has the contract for administering pre-employment polygraph examinations to New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department applicants.

Personal Statement of a CIA Applicant
A recent applicant for employment with the Central Intelligence Agency shares his or her polygraph experience.

NY Lawsuit Details Alleged Fraud by TV Polygraph Operator Daniel Ribacoff’s International Investigative Group, Surveillance of Actress Leah Remini for Church of Scientology
A recent filing in a New York lawsuit presents overwhelming evidence that a private investigation company run by TV polygraph operator Dan Ribacoff engaged in fraudulent billing practices.

LAPD Polygraph Operator Michael Ward Spins the Truth About Polygraphy
In a public relations video posted to Facebook on 24 April 2020, LAPD polygraph operator Michael Ward explains for applicants the special procedures in place for polygraph screening during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also tells some whoppers.

Racial Discrimination Alleged in New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Polygraph Screening
An applicant for employment with the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department has filed a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in connection with a pre-employment polygraph screening "test" administered by that department.

Part 2 of the Pretend Podcast's Interview with Doug Williams
In season 7, episode 7 (The Lie Detector part 2) of the Pretend true crime documentary podcast, Javier Leiva concludes what is likely the last public interview of the late polygraph critic, Doug Williams.

Remembering Doug Williams
"I knew Doug since before the launching of in 2000. He had generously mailed me copies of news articles and a VHS cassette with interviews in which he had appeared…."

Doug Williams, RIP
It is with deep sadness that we report that longtime polygraph critic Douglas Gene Williams died on Friday, 19 March 2021, after an illness.

Doug Williams Interviewed on the Pretend Podcast
In season 7, episode 6 (The Lie Detector part 1) of Pretend, a true crime documentary podcast, Javier Leiva interviews Doug Williams.

Kyriakos Kotsoglou on Polygraphs in the British Legal System
In episode 102 of the legal podcast Excited Utterance, Vanderbilt University law professor Edward K. Cheng interviews Northumbria University senior lecturer in law Kyriakos N. Kotsoglou about the use of polygraphs in the United Kingdom.

Texas DPS Polygraph School Graduation Ceremony Showcases Law Enforcement's Faith in the Pseudoscience of Polygraphy
On Friday, 12 March 2021, the Texas Department of Public Safety Polygraph School graduated its 29th class….

CIA's "Molly Hale" Lies About Lie Detectors
The CIA provides a false and misleading reply about polygraph screening in response to an inquiry from a prospective applicant.

Dr. Phil Presents Polygraph Operator Gil Witte as a "Countermeasures Expert"
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Matt Orchard on "The Lie of the Polygraph"
Matt Orchard of Christchurch, New Zealand addresses the pseudoscience of polygraphy in the latest episode of his YouTube documentary series, Crime and Society.

Apparent CIA Officer Brian Jeffrey Raymond, Charged With Drugging and Sexually Molesting Multiple Women, Evidently Beat the Polygraph
Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Raymond was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency and that he beat the polygraph at least once.

Archive of Private Russian Polygraph Forum Leaked has been provided with an archive of a Russian polygraph-related message board including a private forum for polygraph operators.

TV Polygraph Operator Dan Ribacoff's International Investigative Group Allegedly Bilked Client
A lawsuit filed in Nassau County, New York alleges that TV polygraph operator Daniel D. "Dan" Ribacoff and his "family owned & operated" private investigation company, International Investigative Group, bilked the plaintiff out of millions of dollars.

Canada's Intelligence Watchdog Issues Report Critical of Polygraph Screening
The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency has issued a report critical of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's reliance on polygraph screening.

Stathis and Marinakis' "Shadows into Light": A Failure of Peer-Review
In January 2020, the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse published online an article by Marigo J. Stathis and Maria M. Marinakis purporting to show that the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), a quack device marketed as a lie detector by the so-named National Institute for Truth Verification (NITV), is highly useful for interrogating pedophiles who use the Internet in the commission of crimes, producing no false positives and a 100% confession rate from those who failed.

Oklahoma Probationer Benjamin Lawrence Petty Sentenced to 15 Years' Imprisonment for Failing Polygraph and Denying Guilt
On Friday, 23 October 2020, Oklahoma district judge Dennis Morris revoked Benjamin Lawrence Petty’s probation and sentenced him to 15 years in prison because he allegedly failed two polygraph "tests" and denied having committed the crime for which he was on probation.

Dr. Phil Replaces Jack Trimarco with Polygraph Operator John Grogan, Whom Trimarco Called "a Fraud"
The tabloid television talk show Dr. Phil, which debuted in 2002, has long used polygraphs as a ratings gimmick, especially during Nielsen sweeps, a rating period that is especially important for advertising revenue.

Polygraph Screening Sidelined Dozens of Afghan Interior Ministry Officers
In 2018, some 40 officers of the Afghan Ministry of the Interior saw their careers sidetracked after they were compelled to undergo polygraph screening at the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

Polygraph Statement of Sherzai Sulimany
An officer in the Afghan Interior Ministry shares his polygraph experience. Marks 20 Years Online
Friday, 18 September 2020 marks's 20th anniversary online….

Accused Russian Spy Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins Evidently Beat the Polygraph to Penetrate INSCOM and the DIA
On Thursday, 20 August 2020, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia indicted former U.S. Army Special Forces officer Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins of Gainesville, Virginia on a single count of "Conspiracy to Gather or Deliver Defense Information to Aid a Foreign Government."

Accused Spy Alexander Yuk Ching Ma Evidently Beat the Polygraph to Penetrate the FBI
On Thursday, 13 August 2020, FBI Special Agent Chris Jensen filed under seal a criminal complaint against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma of Honolulu, Hawaii, charging him with "Conspiracy to Gather and Communicate National Defense Information of the United States to a Foreign Nation."

Ignatz Theodor Griebl: The Nazi Spy Who Escaped Thanks to the Polygraph has obtained archival news photographs of a Nazi spy who escaped to Germany in 1938 thanks to the FBI's misplaced reliance on polygraph chart readings.

NITV Falsely Claims Peer-Reviewed Study Shows CVSA Is Highly Accurate
The so-named National Institute for Truth Verification (NITV), which markets a putative lie detector called the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), and its associated group, the National Association of Computer Voice Stress Analysts (NACVSA), have in recent years claimed that a 2012 independent peer-reviewed study shows that CVSA has an accuracy rate on the order of 97% or higher.

Polygraph "Tests" and How to Beat Them co-founder George Maschke's talk, "Polygraph 'Tests' and How to Beat Them," presented on 31 July 2020 at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) 2020 conference, may now be viewed online.

San Jose P.D. Polygraph Operator Robert E. Foster Charged with Multiple Felonies
The Santa Clara County, California District Attorney’s Office has charged Robert E. Foster, a polygraph operator with the San Jose Police Department, with "with using his private security company to commit insurance fraud, tax evasion, wage theft, and about $18 million in money laundering."