“Scrap Polygraph Screening”

The Saipan Times has published a letter to the editor from AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke. Excerpt:

The CMNI Department of Public Safety’s decision to require Police Academy applicants to take polygraph tests beginning January 2003 is a mistake. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has recently completed a detailed study of polygraph screening and found it to be completely invalid….

“Problem Polygraphs”

The Chicago Tribune published a letter from AntiPolygraph.org’s George Maschke regarding its 19 Nov. editorial, “Polygraphing students, sensibly.” The following is the text of the letter as published (it was edited for length):

Problem Polygraphs

George W. Maschke, Co-founder, AntiPolygraph.org

December 1, 2001

The Hague, The Netherlands — In “Polygraphing students, sensibly” (Editorial, Nov. 19), you characterize as “ingenious” Dunlap, Ill., school Supt. Bill Collier’s decision to give student athletes accused of violating a pledge not to drink, or remain in the presence of those who do, the opportunity to prove their innocence. Mr. Collier’s intent to avoid wrongly punishing the innocent is laudable, but his decision to rely on polygraph tests is hardly ingenious.

Your observation that “polygraphs are not foolproof” is an understatement. Polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis; it is, instead, fundamentally dependent on trickery. The polygrapher, while admonishing the examinee to answer all questions truthfully, secretly assumes that denials in response to certain questions–called “control” questions–will be untrue, or that the examinee will at least have doubts.

An example of a control question is, “Did you ever cheat in school?” The polygrapher steers the examinee into a denial by suggesting that someone who would cheat in school would also cheat outside of school.

The polygrapher scores the test by comparing physiological reactions to these probable-lie control questions with reactions to relevant questions such as, “Did you drink alcohol at that party?” If the former reactions are greater, the examinee passes; if the latter are greater, he fails.

This simplistic methodology has never been validated by peer-reviewed scientific research and 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 subtly augmenting their physiological reactions to the control questions. This can be done by constricting the anal sphincter muscle, biting the side of the tongue or merely thinking exciting thoughts.

While polygraphers claim that any experienced examiner can easily detect countermeasures, peer-reviewed research has shown that they cannot.

“Polygraphs Are Unfair”

AntiPolygraph.org’s George Maschke comments on CIA pre-employment polygraph screening in a letter to the editor of The Dartmouth, Dartmouth College’s independent student newspaper. This short letter is cited here in full:

To the Editor:

Tara Kyle wrote about a resurgence in interest in the CIA following the events of Sept. 11 (“CIA gets bombarded with spy wannabes after attacks,” Nov. 14). Kyle touched upon the issue of fairness in employment, and it is with this in mind that I am writing to bring to your attention a grossly unfair hiring practice that should be of concern to Dartmouth students (and indeed to anyone) seeking employment with the CIA: polygraph “testing.”

The CIA does not inform those seeking employment (or indeed, its own employees) that polygraph “testing” actually depends on the polygrapher lying to and deceiving the person being “tested” about the nature of the procedure. Nor does the CIA inform applicants that polygraphy has an inherent bias against the truthful. (Perversely, the more honestly one answers the so-called “control” questions, and as a consequence shows weaker physiological reactions to them, the more likely one is to fail.) This notwithstanding, anyone can pass (or beat) the polygraph using easily-learned countermeasures that polygraphers cannot detect. And importantly, the CIA does not inform applicants in advance that their polygraph interrogators may ask about the most intimate details of their private lives. Persons considering employment with the CIA should ponder how intimate a relationship they are willing to have with their government.

“LAPD Polygraph Test Results Don’t Tell Full Truth”

AntiPolygraph.org’s George Maschke comments in this Los Angeles Daily News op-ed piece. Excerpt:

LOS Angeles has awarded a $615,000 noncompetitive contract to a company to give polygraph tests to Los Angeles Police Department recruits, paying double the going rate for lie-detector experts.

Phyllis Lynes, assistant general manager for the Personnel Department’s Public Safety Bureau, has defended the contract, saying, “The other alternative was not to staff the Police Department, and that’s not an acceptable alternative.”

A better alternative is to scrap the polygraph altogether.

Since February, when polygraph testing began, the LAPD has branded roughly half of the otherwise qualified applicants polygraphed as liars.

I have heard from numerous LAPD applicants who claim they were falsely accused of deception. One writes, “Here I was, thinking I was well on my way to serving LAPD with integrity and honor, being accused of not only being a druggie, but a liar as well.”

Another notes, “I was told that if I tell the truth I have nothing to worry about; boy, was I wrong.”

Those falsely accused of deception have little or no avenue of appeal.

“An In-Depth Investigative Look into the Lie Behind the Lie Detector”

Jeff Rambo, editor-in-chief of Internet start-up news site SOURCERUNNER, interviewed AntiPolygraph.org’s George Maschke for this article, the first in a series. Excerpt:

Is the polygraph examination like playing Russian roulette with your reputation? Many describe it as doing just that.

There are dozens of both pro-polygraph and anti-polygraph Web sites. However, one that certainly stands out among the pack would be AntiPolygraph.org….