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Topic Summary - Displaying 2 post(s).
Posted by: orolan
Posted on: Apr 25th, 2003 at 4:03pm
  Mark & QuoteQuote
Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?
Posted by: PROAc
Posted on: Apr 25th, 2003 at 5:44am
  Mark & Quote
Navy Times of February 10, 2003

Keith Taylor
Lie-detector test is an archaic disgrace

The writer is retired after 23 years as a Navy enlisted man and officer in the field of cryptology. He can be reached at

Can the polygraph really determine who has been naughty or nice? Or do we use it because it just gives answers, although not necessarily right answers?

Many a sailor has been faced with the opportunity to “prove” his innocence by taking a lie-detector test. Should he?

Elie Shenour, Ph.D, head of the Biosystems Research Institute in San Diego, suggested, “If you’re innocent, avoid the thing at all costs. If you’re guilty and the evidence is against you, take it. It might be the way out.”

The scientist was not alone in his views. A report published by the U.S. House Select Committee on Intelligence of the 100th Congress, 1987 to 1988, 
concluded: “The excessive reliance on polygraph examinations since 1981 creates a false sense of security and represents a dangerous trend that may 
increase rather than decrease the risks to our national security.”

And how about this? “Its most obvious use is as a coercive aid to interrogators, lying somewhere on the scale between the rubber truncheon and the diploma on the wall behind the interrogator’s desk. It depends upon the overall coerciveness of the setting.”

That was written by a guy who knew what he was talking about: the CIA’s Aldrich Ames.

Ames wrote it from prison after he was caught supplying the Soviet Union with the names of American agents spying on them. His actions cost at least 14 of them their lives. It also closed many windows into the country that had promised to bury us.

Ames’ actions should have raised some eyebrows. For example, in 1989 he paid $540,000 in cash for a home. That was overlooked, possibly because the CIA investigators relied on a lie detector. Their report stated, “In April 1991, [the CIA’s Office of Security] determined that Ames had successfully completed the reinvestigation polygraph with no indications of deception, just as he had five years previously.”

Maybe if our top spy outfit had continued a rigorous investigation in spite of the often-discredited machine, they would have come up with the truth.

Spy after spy has beat the machine while betraying his country. That doesn’t mean the various agencies haven’t caught “somebody” by using the thing. Unfortunately, some of those caught have been innocent. They lost their jobs. Some lost their freedom. Once tainted, they lost their credibility.

Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 1st Class Daniel King was held in jail for more than 500 days from 2000 to 2001 based on nothing but those squiggly lines. Finally, the case was dropped. The sailor lost a year and a half of his life. In addition, he will spend the rest of it trying to live down the findings of a machine that was supposed to read his mind.

Don’t look for him to be offered a government job soon, or a high-paying job of any sort anywhere. Once a person fails a lie-detector test, he’s through. That even goes for jobs that do not require a clearance.

Remember Wen Ho Lee? The government used the polygraph to coerce a confession by the nuclear scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Calif. Eventually, all but one count, a single felony count of mishandling classified material, were dropped. Not a charge of deliberately betraying his country remained anywhere but in the heads of those who relied upon a machine that doesn’t work.

Federal judge James Parker apologized “to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner [in which] you were held in custody by the executive branch.” He went on to chastise “the top leaders in the executive branch [who] have embarrassed our entire nation and each of us who is a citizen of it.”

Perhaps somebody back there paid attention. Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy asked the National Research Council to conduct a study of the scientific validity and reliability of using polygraph testing to identify personnel who may jeopardize national security.

The study, released in October, said, “The federal government should not rely on polygraph examinations for screening prospective or current employees to identify spies or other national-security risks because the test results are too inaccurate when used this way.”

Let’s put the lie detector in a museum somewhere, perhaps alongside the rack and other medieval devices, and move into the 21st century.