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),1 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. This despite the fact that NITV has admitted in court that “the CVSA is not capable of lie detection.”
An investigation by AntiPolygraph.org reveals that:
- The study cited by NITV/NACVSA has dubious claim to being peer-reviewed;
- The study did not involve NITV’s CVSA, but rather a different voice stress analyzer called the PSE-101 that was marketed by Dektor Counterintelligence and Security, Inc., a company that has been defunct for some three decades;
- The study is not “independent” in that its primary author had an undisclosed close and continuing relationship with NITV/NACVSA.
The citation for the study touted by NITV and NACVSA is:
Chapman, James L. and Marigo Stathis. “Field Evaluation of Effectiveness of VSA (Voice Stress Analysis) Technology in a US Criminal Justice Setting,” Criminalistics and Court Expertise, 2012 Annual Edition, Number 57.
However, a search of research libraries returns no publication titled Criminalistics and Court Expertise. As James R. Wygant noted in a 2014 commentary in the American Polygraph Association’s APA Magazine, “no trace of a publication by that name can be found on the Internet, although copies of the article itself are available.”
It turns out that the article appeared in a yearbook of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice whose Russian title is Криминалистика и судебная экспертиза (Kriminalistika i sudebnaya ekspertiza). This periodical published Chapman and Stathis’ article in Russian under the title, “Оценка эффективности технологии VSA (Voice Stress Analysis ) на основе практики уголовного судопроизводства в США” (“Otsenka effektivnosti tekhnologii VSA (Voice Stress Analysis ) na osnove praktiki ugolovnogo sudoproizvodstva v SSHA”).
It may seem odd that American researchers would choose to publish in an obscure Ukrainian yearbook in a language that is not their own.
Writer Bob McCarty helps to solve this mystery. In Chapter 22 of a self-published, fawning book about CVSA titled The Clapper Memo2 that is based in part on “dozens of phone calls over a three-year period” with the study’s primary author, James L. Chapman, McCarty reveals that Chapman and Stathis unsuccessfully attempted to have their article published in “a few reputable criminology-oriented, scientific journals in North America” and that it was rejected by at least two such journals.
Only after these rejections did Chapman and Stathis resort to submitting their article to the Ukrainian periodical that ultimately published it.
The article, which is referred to by NITV/NACVSA as “the Chapman study,” suffers serious methodological flaws that should have prevented it from being accepted by any peer-reviewed publication worthy of the name. One such flaw is that Chapman put his thumb on the scale by excluding cases where a confession was unlikely to be obtained, noting (at p. 12 of the English version of his study), “Contract criminals were excluded from this particular analysis, as this special type of offender is known to reject confessions, due to organized crime affiliations, etc., regardless of what their VSA results or the evidence indicate.” There is no scientific rationale for such exclusion.
Notably, the Chapman study does not mention CVSA even once. It instead refers only to “voice stress analysis.” This is because the voice stress analysis “tests” that form the basis for this study were performed by Chapman not with NITV’s CVSA device, but rather with Dektor Counterintelligence and Security’s “Psychological Stress Evaluator.”
In The Clapper Memo, McCarty discloses that Chapman “wrote a lengthy white paper” about the results of voice stress analysis “tests” that he conducted over the course of his career. AntiPolygraph.org has obtained portions of this “white paper,” which ran over 100 pages, that Chapman faxed to John J. Palmatier, who was then researching voice stress analysis, in 1993. In that original paper, Chapman writes, at p. 27:
This field study was drawn from the total number of cases processed with a Psychological Stress Evaluator, PSE-101, by James L. Chapman, Criminologist, during the eighteen years between 1971 and 1989. The procedure in each case consisted of briefing by the requesting agency, suspect interviews, questioning, and the processing of requestioning through a PSE-101, manufactured by the [sic] Dektor Counterintelligence and Security, Inc., Savannah, GA.
The fact that Chapman’s field study was based on his use of the PSE-101 and not the CVSA is unjustifiably omitted from the article published in Ukraine.
Chapman had an undisclosed conflict of interest that helps explain why he would obfuscate what specific voice stress analyzer he used.
At the time of his death on 17 April 2012, Chapman was a member of NACVSA’s Board of Executive Directors. His affiliation with NITV/NACVSA is older than that, however. Chapman’s name appears on NITV’s letterhead as a member of its Board of Directors in a letter dated 11 May 1998.3
James L. Chapman clearly had a close and continuing relationship with NITV/NACVSA. Nevertheless, in a 2011 phone call to Vancouver Sun columnist David Baines, Chapman averred that he had “no real connection” to NITV. Baines writes in a column published on 14 March 2011:
Chapman told me he has just completed a 19-year study confirming that the CVSA device is 96.4-per-cent accurate. He also said the study has been peer reviewed, but when I asked for a copy, he said it has not yet been published, and until it is, he could not provide one.
Chapman purposefully misled Baines by claiming that his study confirmed anything about CVSA.
Nine months later, Chapman delivered a presentation about his study at NITV’s 2012 Annual Advanced Continuing Education Course held 16-20 January 2012 at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On its website, NITV falsely characterized Chapman’s study as a “19-year field study of CVSA”:
NITV’s misrepresentation of the Chapman study has continued and remains ongoing. For instance, a press release dated 11 January 2013 that currently appears on NITV’s web site falsely proclaims:
A newly published research study in the 2012 annual edition of the scientific journal Criminalistics and Court Expertise reports the accuracy rate of the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA®) is greater than 95%, an assertion long made by the system’s manufacturer.
Professor Chapman used the CVSA to conduct the research and the results achieved were highly consistent throughout the period the study’s data were collected. The study’s findings revealed the CVSA, when used as an investigative support tool, can accurately predict whether a person under investigation is being truthful or deceptive. The study’s findings are supported by scientifically-accepted statistical models, and by the 96.4% validated confession rate Professor Chapman attained during the course of the 18-year study.
A 3-page synopsis of the Chapman report currently available on the NITV website similarly falsely claims that it “is based upon actual CVSA examinations.”
More recently, NITV repeated its false claims about the Chapman study in federal court in a 2018 lawsuit against Dektor Corporation (not to be confused with Dektor Counterintelligence and Security) and Arthur Herring III when at para. 50 of its Complaint, NITV falsely attested that “a 2012 peer reviewed published study…of the CVSA showed its error rate to be less than 1%….”
And in an announcement for a CVSA training session that was to be held from 10-14 August 2020 (the week that this article is being published), NITV proclaims in bold letters, “With the recently published 18-year study validating the accuracy of the CVSA at 98%, isn’t it time to acquire the latest in truth verification technology?”
In 2020, there is no peer-reviewed research showing that NITV’s CVSA works at better-than-chance levels of accuracy.
NITV managing member Charles Humble did not respond to a request for comment for this article.