“That’s No Lie: Wireless Polygraph on the Way”

Oded Hermoni reports for Ha’aretz:

The American government is funding the development of new technology for a polygraph machine that is capable of identifying whether a person is telling the truth, without physically attaching him to the equipment. There are also plans to develop a mat of sensors that will be used in airports to test the answers of passengers during questioning.

The technology, developed by an Israeli high-tech company, uses external sensors that cause minimum physical discomfort to the person being interrogated.

The Technical Support Working Group of the American Homeland Security authorized a grant of $750,000 earlier this week to fund the project, a joint venture of the Israeli Atlas and the American Whizsoft. The research and development stage is expected to be completed in 16 months with a single prototype that will be tested.

Atlas, an Israeli R&D company operating since 1977 which specializes in the analysis of psychophysiological phenomena and their impact, works mostly in outsourcing functions for medical equipment for both Israeli and foreign companies, but also for the Defense Ministry.

Atlas is joining the wave of dual-use technologies whose origins are in medical treatment and are also being used in the development of anti-terror equipment.

According to Gideon Miller, an adviser to Atlas in the project, what is unique in this project is the ability to process the information in real time and the ability of the sensors to evaluate from a distance the condition of the person interrogated.

This $750,000 grant seems to be made in connection with a Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) Broad Agency Announcement that was reported in Polygraph News on 23 October 2001. That announcement stated in relevant part:

R-111 Ports of Entry Passenger Screening Aid

Develop a deception detection device for use with counterterrorism based structured interviews for passengers of the various modes of transportation. The system should apply known relationships between electrodermal activity and the detection of deception in a polygraph to a portable device. Consideration will be given to alternate approaches and sensors. Emphasis should be placed on processing time.

The quest for a non-invasive lie detector for screening passengers seems to have been a knee-jerk reaction to the events of September 11, 2001. The TSWG should heed the finding of the National Academy of Sciences that polygraph screening is completely invalid and that further investments in polygraph research are likely to produce at best only modest improvement.

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