“Polygraph Techniques Should Be Subject to Scientific Peer Review”

In this letter to the editor of the Los Alamos Monitor, Rick Nabel elaborates on Professor William G. Iacono’s recent remarks at a colloquium at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Excerpt:

[Professor Iacono]…told me that he considers polygraphy to be the most boring thing he works on. Like many of us here at Los Alamos, he is first and foremost a researcher. Debunking polygraphy is largely a hobby he pursues as a public service. We were very fortunate to have him speak at Los Alamos since he tries to limit his appearances on this topic. And how does Professor Iocono get rewarded for speaking out about polygraphs? He has received letters comparing him to Adolph Hitler and the purveyors of the holocaust. He has had death threats. Apparently there is a well entrenched polygraph community in this country that doesn’t want to have their techniques critically reviewed in public. Perhaps the most disturbing result of this lack of review was the part of Professor Iacono’s talk, where he showed us how some of the studies, which profess to show that polygraphs are accurate, cook their data. It is not surprising that the polygraph techniques that are being used by the FBI and the DOE have not been published in any of the standard scientific journals of psychophysiology. In short, the DOE is giving exams that have not been subjected to the peer review process to determine their scientific validity. While employees of the FBI and CIA might find that acceptable, that is certainly not the case for employees at a scientific institution like Los Alamos National Laboratory. We subject our work to peer review all of the time. We shouldn’t expect anything less of the purveyors of polygraph exams.

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