“Experts Disagree About Lie Detector”

Associated Press correspondent Jesse J. Holland reports on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s 25 April hearing on “Issues Surrounding the Use of Polygraphs.” Note that the only scientific expert among the witnesses who spoke was Professor William G. Iacono. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The FBI might have started earlier to investigate Robert Hanssen, the agent accused of spying, if the bureau hadn’t resisted subjecting its agents to routine lie detector tests, advocates of the polygraph tests told a Senate panel Wednesday. “It is my opinion that in a security screening polygraph, Robert Hanssen would have reacted with greater than 99 percent certainty,” said Richard Keifer, a past president of the American Polygraph Association.

Opponents of polygraphs say innocent people who are nervous can fail easily, and spies can find out from libraries and the Internet how to manipulate lie-detector test results to their advantages.

“Someone who is clever enough to be a spy should be clever enough to learn these simple techniques to beat a polygraph,” said William Iacono, a psychology professor from the University of Minnesota.

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