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U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraphs
Aug 30th, 2003 at 3:07am
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On Thursday, 4 September 2003, the U.S. Senate Energy Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Department of Energy polygraph program. The meeting is scheduled for 10:00 A.M. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 366. A live webcast is also scheduled.
  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #1 - Aug 30th, 2003 at 9:44am
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If one of your senators is a member of the Senate Energy Committee, why not call his/her Washington office to express your concerns about governmental reliance on polygraphy?

A full listing of Committee members is available here:

http://www.senate.gov/~energy/about/about_members.html

Additionally and/or alternatively, you can write to the Committee using the following convenient on-line form:

http://www.senate.gov/~energy/contact/contact.cfm
  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #2 - Aug 30th, 2003 at 10:26am
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I've used the above web form to send the Committee the following message:

Dear U.S. Senate Energy Committee members and staff:

I am a co-founder of AntiPolygraph.org, a non-profit, public interest website dedicated to exposing and ending polygraph waste fraud and abuse. I was among those invited by the National Academy of Sciences' Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph to deliver a presentation during their series of public meetings.

As you hear testimony on the Energy Department's polygraph policy this Thursday, I hope that you will seriously consider the option of scrapping that policy altogether. The National Academy of Sciences found polygraph screening to be completely invalid, concluding that misplaced governmental faith in polygraphy poses a danger to national security objectives.

The notion, suggested by some, that polygraph screening should somehow be limited to those with access to the most sensitive information is just plain silly. The polygraph should be scrapped altogether.

Polygraph screening has never caught a spy, nor is it likely ever to do so. As Dr. Drew C. Richardson, formerly of the FBI Laboratory Division, testified before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, even if polygraph screening had some validity (and it does not), anyone can be taught to beat this kind of test in a few minutes.

You don't have to go to spy school to learn how to beat the polygraph. This information is readily available on-line.

AntiPolygraph.org makes available a free e-book titled The Lie Behind the Lie Detector that will be helpful to you as you examine the DOE's polygraph policy. You can download it as a 1 mb PDF file here:

http://antipolygraph.org/lie-behind-the-lie-detector.pdf

Chapter 1 provides a brief overview of polygraph validity, citing sources including the NAS report.

Chapter 2, on federal polygraph policy, includes a detailed, well-referenced discussion of the DOE's polygraph policy.

Chapter 3 explains just how the polygraph procedure "works" (and doesn't), including the Test for Espionage and Sabotage format used by the DOE. Sources for this chapter include Department of Defense Polygraph Institute documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Chapter 4 explains precisely how to pass (or beat) a polygraph examination. We made this information publicly available in order to help the truthful to protect themselves against the risk of a false positive outcome. But spies, saboteurs, and terrorists may also use this information to fool the polygraph. Although polygraph examiners typically boast that they can detect such countermeasures, no polygrapher has ever demonstrated any ability to do so, and the available research evidence suggests that they can't.

AntiPolygraph.org has also assembled a great deal of documentation that may be useful to you. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have of me.

I may be reached by e-mail to <maschke@antipolygraph.org>. My home phone number (I'm an American working in The Netherlands) is XXXXX. You can also reach me at AntiPolygraph.org's voice mail number (in the U.S.): 206-666-4271.

Sincerely,

George W. Maschke
AntiPolygraph.org
  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #3 - Aug 30th, 2003 at 7:37pm
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I sent a letter to a senator from my state who serves on the commttee. I'll post the reply I (should) get.
  
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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #4 - Sep 3rd, 2003 at 12:14pm
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The witnesses for the hearing will be Deputy Secretary of Energy Kyle E. McSlarrow and Dr. Stephen E. Fienberg, who headed the National Academy of Sciences' Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph. A trusted source reports that "both [Senators] Domenici and Bingaman [respectively, the Energy Committee Chairman and Ranking Minority Member] are hopping made over [Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham's] handling of the polygraph program and his shameless rejection of the NAS report."

The following article by Environment and Energy Daily reporter Lauren Miura, cited here in full, will be of interest:

Quote:
Panel to probe DOE's use of polygraph tests

Lauren Miura, Environment & Energy reporter

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hear testimony this week on the Energy Department's controversial use of polygraph tests to screen employees before working on top-secret projects at national laboratories.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said in April that DOE will continue to use lie detectors to screen employees, despite a National Academy of Sciences report released last October that said polygraph tests are too inaccurate to identify spies or other threats to national security. DOE does not use polygraph examinations on a "stand-alone basis, but as part of a larger fabric of investigative and analytical reviews," Abraham said (Greenwire April 15).

Abraham's announcement prompted criticism from some lawmakers and scientists. "There is no question that DOE is under pressure because of problems involving security and lab management," committee chairman Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) said in April. "This, however, should not be the basis for continuing a polygraph program that has been studied and found wanting."

Domenici and ranking committee member Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) had written a provision into the FY '02 Defense Authorization Act that required DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration to change DOE's polygraph program based on the National Academy of Sciences study. But DOE officials "entirely ignored it and they decided to retain the pre-existing policy without any change whatsoever," said George Maschke, co-founder of the non-profit group Antipolygraph.org.

"If DOE is supposed to be the 'best of science', how can they use an unscientific tool against scientists and expect them to respect the department after that?" asked Alan Zelicoff, a former senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratory who recently resigned over polygraph issues.

The American Polygraph Association said the NAS study failed to adequately recognize the "many successes" of the polygraph test in criminal and national security uses. "Polygraph testing, admittedly not perfect, has been and continues to be an extremely valuable tool," the group said in a statement.

After the Wen Ho Lee spy controversy in 2000, DOE expanded its polygraph testing to include about 20,000 scientists in DOE's lab, weapons complex and headquarters who have access to sensitive and classified information. Lee was accused of mishandling classified information with the intent of giving it to China, but reached a plea agreement and was never formally charged with espionage.

Schedule: The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4, in 366 Dirksen.

Witnesses: Deputy Secretary of Energy Kyle McSlarrow is expected to testify, as well as Dr. Stephen Fienberg of Carnegie-Melllon University, who chaired the National Academy of Sciences study on the validity of polygraph testing.
  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #5 - Sep 4th, 2003 at 5:27pm
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If you can't get the webcast from the Energy Committee page, a sound feed is available on CapitolHearings.org.
« Last Edit: Sep 4th, 2003 at 7:22pm by George W. Maschke »  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #6 - Sep 4th, 2003 at 6:38pm
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Can't get the webcast (must be a lot of folks watching) and can't find a link to a sound feed at capitolhill.org.
But I understand through print media that McSlarrow intends to state that DOE will be reducing their reliance on polygraphs.
  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #7 - Sep 4th, 2003 at 7:18pm
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Actually, I know two others in addition to you and myself who couldn't get the Energy Committee webcast, and I don't know anyone who was able to do so. However, I was able to listen to most of it on CapitolHearings.org. (I mistakenly typed "CapitolHill.org" above. Sorry!)

The good news is that written statements submitted by the witnesses are now online:

http://www.senate.gov/~energy/hearings/witnesslist.cfm?id=895

In his oral remarks, Dr. Fienberg made an especially quotable statement: "The polygraph is an interrogation tool. It's not a tool to learn about truth-telling."
  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #8 - Sep 4th, 2003 at 7:26pm
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George

Regarding your letter to the committee; you forgot to tell them how you were wronged by the polygraph.  I think it's only fair you let them know where your agenda sprouted.
  
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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #9 - Sep 4th, 2003 at 7:28pm
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Saidme,
What was that you said about "deaf ears" ???

Perhaps you're the one who can't "hear" the polygraph's siren song?

I liked this from Mr. McSlarrow's testimony, among others:
Quote:
I am also recommending that we consider establishing a separate mechanism, within the Department but external to the Office of Counterintelligence, to evaluate any complaints lodged against polygraphers and identify and correct specific issues associated with the conduct, performance, or training of polygraphers.
« Last Edit: Sep 4th, 2003 at 7:53pm by orolan »  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #10 - Sep 4th, 2003 at 8:30pm
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Saidme wrote on Sep 4th, 2003 at 7:26pm:
George

Regarding your letter to the committee; you forgot to tell them how you were wronged by the polygraph.  I think it's only fair you let them know where your agenda sprouted.


It occurs to me, Saidme, that you might benefit from a  visit to Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies.  In particular, check out Attacking the Person (argumentum ad hominem).

Please don't feel bad, though.  This most basic of logical fallacies (attacking the messenger instead of the message, in an apparent belief that doing so actually responds to and counters the opponent's argument) is far and away the most common argument technique exhibited by polygraphers on this site.  Fortunately, it's fairly obvious to even the casual observer, and I'm sure it would be obvious to the Committee, as well.

It comes down to this:  what, exactly, does the origin of George's "agenda" have to do with the accuracy of what he's saying?  You need to give a specific answer to this question in order to avoid the "ad hominem" fallacy mentioned above -- simply saying "his feelings towards the polygraph are the reason he's opposed to it" won't cut it.  They're two separate things.

Such a lack of understanding of logic does go a long way towards explaining blind faith in the polygraph...

Skeptic
« Last Edit: Sep 4th, 2003 at 9:45pm by Skeptic »  
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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #11 - Sep 5th, 2003 at 9:09am
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The Energy Department's surprise announcement -- the evening before the hearing -- of a major reduction of the number of personnel who would be subject to polygraph screening (from 20,000 to 4,500) was a political masterstroke. It took the senators by surprise and effectively served to blunt criticism of the Energy Department's indefensible decision, announced back in April, to completely ignore the conclusions of the NAS report.

Senator Domenici in particular seems to be placated by this announcement. But is simply reducing the number of persons subjected to this quackery enough? Hardly. Snake oil administered in smaller doses is still snake oil. The newly announced Energy Department policy still leaves thousands subject to polygraph screening and leaves open the possibility (perhaps the likelihood) that those numbers may later grow when the political climate is more favorable.

Note that the Defense Department, unlike the Energy Department, has escaped accountability for its decision to completely ignore the conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences. John P. Stenbit, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence, announced that decision less than a month after the NAS published its findings, and since then, efforts have been underway to remove existing limits and to increase DoD's reliance on polygraphy. (See, for example, the message thread, DoD Polygraph Program to Expand Under House Bill and the article, "Polygraph: An intelligence tool in growing demand" published in a publication of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.)
« Last Edit: Sep 5th, 2003 at 9:43am by George W. Maschke »  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #12 - Sep 5th, 2003 at 9:54am
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Quote:
I think the Energy Department's surprise announcement of a major reduction (from 20,000 to 4,500) of the number of personnel who would be subject to polygraph screening was a political masterstroke. It took the senators by surprise, and effectively served to blunt criticism of the Energy Department's indefensible decision, taken back in April, to completely ignore the conclusions of the NAS report.

Senator Domenici in particular seems to be placated by this announcement. But is simply reducing the number of persons subjected to this quackery enough? Hardly. Snake oil administered in smaller doses is still snake oil. The newly announced Energy Department policy still leaves thousands subject to polygraph screening and leaves open the possibility (perhaps the likelihood) that those numbers may later grow when the political climate is more favorable.

Note that the Defense Department, unlike the Energy Department, has escaped accountability for its decision to completely ignore the conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences. John P. Stenbit, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence, announced that decision less than a month after the NAS published its findings, and since then, efforts have been underway to remove existing limits and to increase DoD's reliance on polygraphy. (See, for example, the message thread, DoD Polygraph Program to Expand Under House Bill and the article, "Polygraph: An intelligence tool in growing demand" published in a publication of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.)


George,
I think your assessment is essentially correct.  However, this decision carries with it implicit acknowledgement of the NAS's findings, and thus carries with it some political danger.  While Domenici may call off the dogs now, the fact remains that the polygraph's "infallibility" mystique has been badly tarnished.

The biggest problem, of course, is the continuing impression that the polygraph is an effective tool "of last resort", one that evidently causes collateral damage but gets the job done when it absolutely has to be done.  This is a myth that really needs to be addressed: is it truly appropriate to treat the polygraph as the "ultimate weapon" when it comes to security?  It would seem that the DoE thinks it is, since they're keeping the use of the polygraph for the most sensitive positions.

Unfortunately, the NAS's own findings might lend credence to this belief: their conclusions could be taken to mean that being hyper-sensitive about polygraph results will catch the bad guys, even if a lot of good guys are caught, too.  If one believes it's more important to prevent bad guys from getting into positions of ultimate trust than to not falsely finger a lot of innocent people, this position can look rather attractive.

I also agree with George that proponents of the polygraph are likely hoping to take the heat off and weather this storm now, so as to expand polygraph testing in the future.  It is to be hoped that this will not happen.

Skeptic
  
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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #13 - Sep 5th, 2003 at 11:04pm
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Quote:
The biggest problem, of course, is the continuing impression that the polygraph is an effective tool "of last resort",

I got the impression from Mr. McSlarrow's testimony that the DOE is now seeing the polygraph more as a tool "of first resort", if you will. Information gleened from polygraph exams would have to be further investigated and corroborated prior to any action being taken.
While an improvement, along with the 75% reduction in the number of people subject to polygraphs, it still isn't enough. As George said, snake oil is still snake oil.
A battle is won, but the war goes on.
  

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Re: U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraph
Reply #14 - Sep 6th, 2003 at 9:51am
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Orolan,

The notion, suggested by Kyle McSlarrow and other polygraph proponents that a failed polygraph "test" in and of itself will not have an adverse affect upon the person "failing" the "test" is ridiculous. It's clear that McSlarrow and the DOE's counterintelligence staff are still under the delusion that polygraph screening has diagnostic value as a test of truth versus deception.

As Drew Richardson noted in a Washington Times op-ed piece published shortly after release of the NAS report:

"The jury is in and the evidence is clear and compelling. The American people should insist and our executive and legislative branches of government should ensure that the technological and sociological embarrassment we have come to know as polygraph screening should be immediately stopped. Not one more innocent applicant or employee should be falsely accused and not one more spy should be given cover through having passed a polygraph exam. The notion (as will be suggested by some in government agencies using polygraph screening) that this is just one tool among many being used to address problems is wrong and dangerous mumbo-jumbo. The results of polygraph screening examinations are either believed or they are not. If they are believed, they are acted upon and, furthermore, these actions, if based upon erroneous polygraph results, will continue to lead to the sorts of grave injury to country and citizens as previously noted."
  

George W. Maschke
I am generally available in the chat room from 3 AM to 3 PM Eastern time.
Tel/SMS: 1-202-810-2105 (Please use Signal Private Messenger or WhatsApp to text or call.)
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U.S. Senate Energy Cttee. Hearing on Polygraphs

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