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23 December 2001 Los Angeles Considering Sex Offender Polygraphs. Stuart Pfeifer of the Los Angeles Times reports on the monitoring of sex offenders in "O.C. to Track Sex Criminals With GPS." Excerpt:

Authorities said the tracking and lie detector tests represent powerful deterrents for offenders and could also tip off police to crimes the probationers might commit. "It is a controversial issue for us. But our primary concern is the protection of the community," said Bill Daniel, director of special operations for the Orange County Probation Department.. .

By taking polygraph tests, offenders are more likely to tell the truth during counseling sessions and therefore can more easily confront and deal with their problems, Daniel said.

"To be successful treating sex offenders, we need them to be completely honest," he said .. .

Los Angeles, however, has expressed interest in the polygraph program Orange County has instituted but is waiting to see what kind of reception it receives in the courtroom.

Orange and San Diego counties are the only major jurisdictions in the state to use random lie detector tests on sex offenders. And in the year since it began, some judges have raised warning flags.

22 December 2001 "Campus Police Asking for DNA Samples." A Colorado football player submits to polygraph in gang rape investigation. The Associated Press discusses the use of scientific (DNA) and nonscientific (polygraph) investigative techniques in a report provided on Excerpt:

Campus police have asked some Colorado football players to provide DNA samples as investigators look into a student's claim she was gang raped at a party for recruits. . .

Only one football player with significant playing time on the nation's No. 3-ranked team has been mentioned in connection with the accusations, Barnett said in a statement released by the athletic department Saturday. The coach did not identify the player and said he voluntarily took a lie detector test.

"The results indicate that the student-athlete was not complicit in this alleged activity," Barnett said.

Results of pseudoscientific polygraph "tests" should never be relied upon by police when determining whether to include or exclude an individual as a suspect in a criminal investigation.

18 December 2001 DOE Polygraph Policy to Be Repealed. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy in Government Project reports in today's Secrecy News electronic newsletter:


The controversial Department of Energy counterintelligence polygraph program that was enacted by Congress three years ago will be repealed and replaced by a new program, according to the Defense Authorization Act of 2002.

The previously mandated polygraph program, which required the polygraph testing of perhaps twenty thousand national laboratory personnel, drew stiff resistance from scientists and others. A newly reconfigured DOE polygraph program will be based on the results of a pending National Academy of Sciences study.

See the new defense authorization provision on polygraph testing here:

Last week, a federal judge rejected government efforts to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges the use of polygraph testing for screening of federal employees. The lawsuits were brought against the FBI, DEA and Secret Service by eleven plaintiffs, represented by attorney Mark S. Zaid, who were denied employment based on polygraph tests. See:

14 December 2001 "The science of lies: From the polygraph to brain fingerprinting and beyond." Matt Bean of Court TV reports.'s Gino J. Scalabrini is among those interviewed for this report. Excerpt:

A tablet made in ancient Babylon warned, "When a man lies, he looks down at the ground and moves his big toe in circles." Ancient Chinese lore professed that a liar who held rice grains in his mouth would spit them out dry, instead of wet as would those telling the truth. And French Renaissance philosopher Michel Montaigne cautioned "He who is not very strong in memory should not meddle with lying."

While conventional wisdom may have kept society honest for centuries -- the Babylonians realized early on that liars often refrain from looking their dupes in the eye -- it wasn't until the 20th century that people began to use science to get a leg up on liars. But the science of truth is far from failsafe.

The most popular method of lie detection in use today is the polygraph machine, developed in the 1930s, but its accuracy is widely disputed. That's one reason why, in the Department of Justice's investigation of the more than 1,200 people so far detained in the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, the polygraph may be joined by at least one new lie detection mechanism.

9 December 2001 "The Lie Detector That Scans Your Brain." Clive Thompson reports on Dr. Lawrence A. Farwell's brain fingerprinting technique in this New York Times magazine article. Excerpt:

The police have tried for years to get into the heads of criminals. But the accuracy of polygraphs, which measure pulse rates and blood pressure, has frequently been questioned since steely-nerved liars can quell these physiological cues. Now a new technique called "brain mapping" promises to add a new (if creepy) weapon to crime fighting: a device that can scan the brain of suspects and hunt for incriminating thoughts.

The idea of monitoring brain waves isn't new. Scientists have long known that certain recognizable waves occur when people are surprised, pleased or frightened. But recently the technique has become much more precise. At Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories, a company in Fairfield, Iowa, the chief scientist, Lawrence Farwell, interrogates suspects by checking their EEG's for "P300 waves." These waves are produced when the brain encounters words or images that it recognizes; thus the police, Farwell claims, can present a suspect with information that only a criminal would know and see if the brain recognizes it.

1 December 2001 "Problem Polygraphs." The Chicago Tribune published a letter from'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,

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.

30 November 2001 "Ariz. man named in terror probe failed polygraph." Dennis Wagner of the Arizona Republic reports on the case of Faisal Michael Al Salmi. Excerpt:

Faisal Michael Al Salmi, an Arizona man who was indicted as part of the federal anti-terrorism campaign, failed an FBI lie-detector examination when asked if he played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, according to court records.

However, Al Salmi passed a second test when he denied participating in those events.

Al Salmi faces a two-count indictment on charges of providing false information to the FBI. Investigators first contacted him after discovering that he had rented a flight simulator at Sawyer Aviation in Phoenix. Hani Hanjour, the suicide hijacker who crashed a jetliner into the Pentagon, also trained on the simulator.

Frederick F. Kay, an assistant federal public defender who represents Al Salmi, could not be reached for comment. Kay disclosed the lie-detector results in a U.S. District Court motion asking that the evidence be precluded at trial.

FBI agents first questioned Al Salmi on Sept. 18, when he denied knowing Hanjour and agreed to a polygraph exam. Before the test began, agents told Al Salmi they believed he had lied to them. His answer: "Just because I met someone doesn't mean I know his plans."

During the first test, Al Salmi was asked, "Did you see Hani in Arizona?" and, "Did you help in any way with the bombing last week?" He answered "no" to both questions, and a polygrapher concluded that the responses were deceptive.

Kay's motion says Al Salmi then acknowledged that he met Hanjour at a Tempe mosque, but insisted he played no role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

During a second lie-detector test, he was asked, "Did you see Hani at Sawyer Aviation this summer?" and, "Did you participate in the terrorist acts on Sept. 11?"

Al Salmi answered "no" again. This time, the examiner found that his responses were not deceptive.

Mr. Al Salmi's "failing" one day and "passing" the next is hardly surprising, considering that polygraph "tests" have no theoretical foundation and lack both standardization and scientific control.

26 November 2001 (cover date) "Climbing Inside the Criminal Mind." Sarah Sturman Dale reports on Dr. Larry Farwell's brain fingerprinting technique in this short article. Excerpt:

He went to Harvard, works in Iowa and loves swing dancing. That's not the typical profile of an anticrime crusader, but Lawrence Farwell is an unusual guy. While developing technology that would allow the vocally paralyzed to speak, he stumbled across a trove of seemingly extraneous signals stored in the brain. He began looking for a way to put that information to use. Result: a new forensic technology he calls brain fingerprinting.

22 November 2001 Modesto, Calif. Mayor Issues Polygraph Challenge. The Modesto Bee reports on a polygraph challenge issued by Modesto mayor Carmen Sabatino in an article titled "Mayor argues for lie detector test." This short article is cited in full, with hyperlinks added by


Modesto Mayor Carmen Sabatino [] publicly challenged Stanislaus County Supervisor Ray Simon [] on Tuesday to take a lie detector test regarding the 1999 mayoral election.

Simon was not interested. "I wouldn't be so foolish as to take a lie detector test -- I don't care what (Sabatino) demands," he said. "Frankly, this is just another example of his bullying attitude."

Though the California secretary of state's office cleared county officials of wrongdoing, Sabatino continues to charge that Simon, County Counsel Mick Krausnick and others tried to manipulate when ballots would go out for the all-mail runoff election.

Monday, a Superior Court judge agreed with Sabatino's recommendation that the civil grand jury investigate itself for a possible breach of confidentiality regarding release of a document tied to Sabatino's manipulation claim.

Though no one admits leaking the document, which Simon had on his Web site at one point, Krausnick said no breach occurred because the document is public record.

22 November 2001 "Attorney: Canseco passes lie-detector test to prove innocence." The Associated Press reports on the results of a polygraph chart reading given by polygrapher George Slattery to baseball player Jose Canseco. Excerpt:

MIAMI - Former American League MVP Jose Canseco passed a polygraph test he took to prove his innocence in a Halloween night scuffle at a local night club, his attorney said Wednesday.

Canseco, a free agent after playing last season with the Chicago White Sox, answered questions Monday regarding the fracas. Police said the baseball player grabbed a club patron by the neck, punched him and broke his nose. A second man needed 20 stitches in his lip.

"The results show that I'm telling the absolute truth and the so-called victims and witnesses are liars," Canseco said. "There's definitely a conspiracy going on here."

Unfortunately for Mr. Canseco, the results of his polygraph chart reading show...nothing. Polygraph "testing" has no scientific basis, and is easily defeated through the use of countermeasures that polygraphers cannot detect.

21 November 2001 Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 Contains Voice Stress Analysis Provision. Section 109(a)(7) of this legislation states that the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security may:

Provide for the use of voice stress analysis, biometric, or other technologies to prevent a person who might pose a danger to air safety or security from boarding the aircraft of an air carrier or foreign air carrier in air transportation or intrastate air transportation.

Voice stress analysis "tests," like polygraph "tests," are junk science and should by no means be relied upon for the purpose contemplated by this legislation.

19 November 2001 "Polygraphing students, sensibly." The Chicago Tribune editorial staff (who should know better) moralize on the "sensible" use of polygraphs to interrogate high school students. Excerpt:

After raiding a teenage drinking party in Dunlap, Ill., near Peoria, police sent the local high school a list of the students who allegedly were present. As it turned out, 12 of them were athletes--who as a condition of participation in sports are required to pledge not to drink or to remain at a party where underage drinking is going on. Several of those reported by the cops were members of the football team--which had just made the playoffs for the first time since 1994.

Given the circumstances, school Supt. Bill Collier did something that was unpleasant but necessary. He suspended all 12 of the athletes who were reported, including nine football players. If that had been the end of it, the episode would not have drawn any notice or complaint outside of Dunlap.

But Collier wasn't entirely happy with this remedy. He had doubts about the guilt of some of the kids, because the police made no arrests and didn't see all the kids whose names they turned in. Some of the teens insisted they had left the party as soon as they found there was drinking.

Vexed over the difficulty of getting at the whole truth, Collier then did something else: He gave the suspended students the option of taking polygraph tests. Those who passed would be reinstated; those who failed would be no worse off. Students could have their lawyers present, and the cost would be split between the district and the parents. Ten students took him up on the offer. Three were cleared, the rest flunked.


Polygraphs are not foolproof, and administering them in an effort to detect misbehavior where none was alleged would be hard to justify. But to make them available on a voluntary basis to students who have already been judged deserving of suspension suggests a welcome desire to avoid harming kids who have done nothing wrong.

The fact that polygraphs make sense in this case doesn't mean they should be put into widespread use. No one wants school officials forcing students to take such exams as a routine matter, as they do with drug tests.

This tool should be regarded as a last resort in special circumstances. The Dunlap school district acted sensibly when faced with a troubling dilemma. The next one that embraces polygraphs may not have such a good reason.

You can send a letter to the Chicago Tribune by e-mail to For discusion of the Dunlap High School polygraph inquisition, see the message board thread, "Dunlap dishes out polygraph ultimatum."

19 November 2001 "Polygaphs Are Unfair."'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.

18 November 2001 Southern California Man Suspected of Al Qaeda Links Passes Polygraph. Aldrin Brown of the Orange County Register reports on the case of Palestinian-American Tawfiq Mohamad Mousa in an article titled "O.C. man quizzed in federal probe." Excerpt:

A Palestinian-born Anaheim businessman jailed in Santa Ana on federal charges could be among the first known U.S. citizens targeted by the FBI's expanding terrorism investigation, his attorney said.

Tawfiq Mohamad Mousa, 40, is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Tuesday in his third attempt to be released on bail pending the outcome of his case.

Mousa, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in Orange County about 20 years, agreed to take a lie detector test and has been questioned repeatedly by federal agents about ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, said his attorney, Alex R. Kessel. Kessel said his client passed the lie detector test.

"I think Mr. Mousa is unfortunately caught up in their net but has not given any indication that he has any involvement with terrorism," Kessel said during an interview. "Good, hardworking Arabic and Muslim people are getting caught up in the wide net the FBI is casting in its search for "terrorists."

Mousa has been held in jail since his indictment Oct. 24, accusing him of making bank deposits beginning Sept. 11 of more than $188,000 in small chunks, to avoid filing currency-transaction reports, according to an arrest and search warrant affidavit.

During an investigation of those transactions, bank officials told FBI agents that Mousa previously wired money totaling about $200,000 to an unspecified bank in Israel between May 8 and July 25 -- also in small chunks, the court papers showed.

Federal law requires the filing of a currency report for any transaction over $10,000. Deliberately avoiding the reports by moving money in smaller increments is a crime known as "money structuring." All of Mousa's alleged deposits and wire transfers were between $9,000 and $10,000.

17 November 2001 Al Qaeda Studied Polygraph Countermeasures. New York Times correspondent David Rohde, in an article titled, "In 2 Abandoned Kabul Houses, Some Hints of Al Qaeda Presence," reports that documents seized in two Kabul houses formerly used by members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization include Arabic language instructions on how to pass lie detector tests.

With the FBI making heavy use of polygraph interrogations in the PENTTBOM investigation, it is crucial that the seized Al Qaeda documentation of polygraph countermeasures be translated and independently analyzed by those whose livelihoods and professional reputations do not depend on the perpetuation of polygraphy.

16 November 2001 "Woman wins suit over false arrest." Staff writer Jim Houston of the Columbus, Georgia Ledger-Enquirer reports on a lawsuit brought by a woman who was arrested by her employer after failing a polygraph "test." Excerpt:

A Phenix City woman whose ex-employer swore out a warrant charging her with theft won a $90,000 verdict Wednesday from a Muscogee County Superior Court jury.

Maria Chavez sued Earl Allen, owner of Coqui Videos, for false arrest after Allen had her arrested June 14, 1999. Allen took out a warrant accusing Chavez of stealing about $6,000 from his business May 28, 1999. Chavez was arrested, booked into the Muscogee County Jail and forced to post bond to regain her freedom.

But a Muscogee County grand jury refused to indict Chavez, and Columbus police testified there wasn't sufficient evidence to support an arrest, attorney Frank Martin said.

"He took the law into his own hands," Martin said of Allen's decision to take out a warrant after police refused to do so.

Martin urged jurors to correct the "miscarriage of justice" and protect Chavez from those who would "run roughshod over little people."

Defense attorney Clark Adams said Allen confronted Chavez about taking the money from his store and had reason to be suspicious of her. He also said that Columbus detectives told Allen they would not arrest Chavez based on their investigation. But detectives typed the warrant and drove Allen to a judge's office so he could swear out the warrant, he said.

Adams said he expects Allen to appeal the verdict, primarily based on Judge Frank Jordan's pretrial ruling that prevented Allen from showing that Chavez had failed a polygraph test.

"This gave him a reasonable basis to suspect her," Adams said.

Rely on the divinations of polygraph chartgazers at your own risk.

15 November 2001 "Canseco plans to take lie-detector test to prove his innocence." Associated Press correspondent Ken Thomas reports in an article published in the Naples Daily News. Excerpt:

MIAMI -- Former American League MVP Jose Canseco plans to hook himself up to a polygraph machine next week in front of reporters to prove his innocence in a Halloween night scuffle at a local night club.

Canseco, a free agent after playing last season with the Chicago White Sox, said Wednesday he never punched anyone during a night club fracas on Oct. 31 and accused two California men of trying to use the incident to extort money from him.

"There are a lot of lies being said here and I want everyone to be patient and understand that all of the truth will be brought out," Canseco said.

Canseco and his twin brother Ozzie were released early Wednesday after being charged with aggravated battery. Police said Canseco grabbed a club patron by the neck, punched him and broke his nose. A second man needed 20 stitches in his lip.

Jose Canseco, 37, a Miami native, was charged with two counts of aggravated battery, a second-degree felony. He was released from the Miami-Dade County Jail after posting a $15,000 bond.

Ozzie Canseco, who had a brief major league career and played the last two seasons with the minor league Newark (N.J.) Bears, was charged with one count of aggravated battery. The Miami Beach resident was released after posting a $7,500 bond. The Cansecos are scheduled to be arraigned before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Kevin Emas on Dec. 4.

Jose Canseco said he would publicly take a lie-detector test next week in Miami to clear his name.

14 November 2001 "A Truth Machine: Can brain-scanning technologies stop terrorists -- or just threaten privacy?" Ronald Bailey reports for Reason magazine's ReasonOnline website. Excerpt:

"It's happening much faster than I thought it would," says James Halperin, author of the 1996 science fiction novel The Truth Machine. The novel describes how humanity would react to the invention of an infallible lie detector in the year 2024. "When I was talking about the concept of a truth machine back in the 1990s, a neuroscientist friend told me that his best guess was that it would be 50 years, if ever, before such a thing could be created," says Halperin. "I picked 2024 as the date so that the idea wouldn't seem too ridiculous."

However, recent advances in brain-scanning techniques may bring about the development of a kind of truth machine sooner rather than later. These techniques, if validated through more research, could replace fallible polygraph tests, which some argue are no more accurate than chance in determining guilt or innocence. Self-described "polygraph victims" George Maschke and Gino Scalabrini explain how federal agencies ruin lives by relying on polygraphy to screen applicants for sensitive jobs despite the fact that polygraph tests are so bad that U.S. courts refuse to allow their results to be admitted as evidence in trials.

But the science of detecting deception might be coming of age. Dr. Lawrence Farwell, a psychiatrist who heads the Human Brain Research Laboratory in Fairfield, Iowa, has developed a technique he calls "brain fingerprinting."

"It's not actually a lie detector," explains Farwell. "Instead it detects whether or not certain information is stored in a person's brain." He likens brain fingerprinting to finding fingerprints or DNA traces at a crime scene. The presence of a person's fingerprints or DNA at a crime scene does not tell investigators whether the person is guilty or not. After all, there may well be an innocent explanation for how they got there. Similarly, brain fingerprinting does not tell investigators whether a suspect is guilty or not, just that specific information is or is not present in his or her brain.

13 November 2001 Forced Polygraph Interrogations Alleged in Houston P.D. Whistleblower Suit. In an article titled "Whistle-blower finally gets trial," Rosanna Ruiz of the Houston Chronicle reports on the case of Houston Police Department officer Paulino Zavala. Excerpt:

A former Houston narcotics officer's whistle-blower lawsuit will go to trial today after lingering in court for four years and benefiting from two appellate rulings that kept it from being dismissed.

Paulino Zavala alleges the Houston Police Department retaliated against him after he reported improprieties by internal affairs division investigators during their probe of a narcotics department clerk.


In 1996, Zavala reported to a supervisor and then-Police Chief Sam Nuchia that internal affairs investigators had violated policy by releasing confidential information about the clerk to those outside the department.

Zavala's letter to Nuchia also accused the investigators of discrimination, coercion and intimidation of a witness.

Zavala's suit said he was harassed, forced to take three polygraph tests, placed under surveillance and arrested without probable cause as a result of his complaint.

Pseudoscientific polygraph "tests," which can be manipulated by the polygrapher to produce the desired outcome, are a godsend for the corrupt public official seeking to discredit a whistleblower.

12 November 2001 "The Polygraph Test Meets Its Match: Researchers Find Brain Scans Can Be Powerful Tool in Detecting Lies." Washington Post correspondent Shankar Vedantam reports in this page A02 article. Excerpt:

Telling a lie produces telltale changes in the brain, researchers announced yesterday at a neuroscience conference in San Diego.

Brain scans of volunteers asked to tell lies showed changes as the subjects tried to suppress what they knew was true. The result might eventually form the basis of highly accurate lie detector tests, scientists said.

Unlike conventional polygraphs, which assume that liars are anxious and that such anxiety causes measurable changes in skin and blood pressure, brain scans offer even coldblooded liars little opportunity to cheat because people cannot mask the mental processes responsible for lying.

"We see that a neural network is engaged when someone tries to deceive," said Ruben Gur, a professor of neuropsychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where the research was conducted. "The components of that network are both the tendency to suppress telling the truth and the emotional response involved with the act of deception."

"A procedure like this is very likely in the future for lie detection," he said. Compared with conventional polygraph tests, Gur said, the brain scans "can be much more powerful."

That is because skilled liars show less anxiety than novices and can sometimes pass polygraph tests, while truthful people can be intimidated into showing anxiety and be branded as liars. There are also physiological differences between people that can lead to polygraph unreliability.

12 November 2001 "Brain's one-card trick yields superior lie test." Mark Henderson, science correspondent for The Times of London, reports on the use of magnetic resonance scans to detect concealed knowledge. Excerpt:

PATTERNS of brain activity that betray whether a person is lying have been identified, paving the way for brain scans in criminal investigations.

Scientists in the United States have discovered that several parts of the brain behave in distinctive fashion during attempts to conceal the truth and that this signature of deceit can be picked up by magnetic resonance scans.

The findings, by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, suggest that the technique could be used as a sophisticated lie detector, much more accurate than today's polygraph tests. The polygraph machine, which monitors breathing rate, pulse, blood pressure and perspiration for signs of nervousness, has been available for 80 years and is used in the US, particularly in espionage cases and by employers wishing to check job applicants' honesty.

Its effectiveness is disputed by scientists and polygraph evidence is not admissible in British courts. It is prone to false positives because it works by measuring stress, which is often, but not always, a sign of deceitfulness. Many researchers believe that it can be fooled easily by an accomplished liar. The CIA double agent Aldrich Ames passed a series of such tests. Wen Ho Lee, the atomic physicist falsely accused of espionage, failed three times.

(Actually, to our knowledge, Wen Ho Lee "failed" only one polygraph "test" - the one administered by the FBI in February 1999.)

11 November 2001 "No lie. Lie detector tests don't get to the truth." Madison Taylor of the Jacksonville Daily News comments on Onslow County, North Carolina Commissioner Jack Bright's proposal to give lie detector "tests" to Onslow County Board of Health employees who are the subject of complaints from the public. (For more regarding Jack Bright's well-intentioned but ill-conceived proposal, see William Davis' 8 November Jacksonville Daily News article "Onslow ups the ante for answers.") Excerpt:

I've never taken a lie detector test. Then again, I've never been suspected of a crime, not a serious one anyway. Still, it probably boils down to who's defining this stuff. For example, is spreading around a little baby powder in a crowded movie theater and yelling "ANTHRAX!" a crime or just plain stupid?

Sorry, that was a trick question. The answer, of course, is "both." Our judges would have also accepted "are you kidding me? or "what would Adam Sandler do?" Thanks for playing anyway. We will withhold any swell parting gifts until the economy improves or people on "Saturday Night Live" stop making movies, whichever comes first.

Anyway, I've never been strapped to a lie detector because my most recent transgression namely chronic lawn malfeasance probably doesn't rise to the level of felonious wrongdoing. Still, in my head, I can hear the Gestapo officer from "Hogan's Heroes" threatening me with, "Mr. Taylor, we have veys of making you rake."

But that's not to say I'm out of the woods yet. This is because last week lie detector tests appeared in the news for reasons not really related to alleged criminal activity. One, of course, came from the Onslow County Board of Commissioners, motto, "'Cops' is our favorite show because many of us were actual cops even though we never got to play one on TV." The idea was advanced publicly by Commissioner Jack Bright, a former officer with the Jacksonville Police Department, who said it would be the best way to get to the bottom of alleged perceived problems with the environmental health section of the county Health Department.

By using such technology, Bright reasoned, the commissioners could blow the lid off allegations of unfriendly behavior or arbitrary permitting by some inspectors and, therefore, magically solve the entire national problem of rude service in all walks of American life. For the record, rude service is America's second-largest dirty little secret. It closely trails use of lie detector tests but comes in just above watching "Howard Stern" on TV.

The reasoning is faulty, however, for a lot of reasons.

For one, the use of lie detector tests outside of perhaps police criminal investigations or wartime interrogations, presume guilt not innocence.

For two, the test itself is so inaccurate it's not even allowed in a court of law.

For three, guilty people are generally the ones morally bankrupt enough to know how to beat it. For four, it seems like the kind of thing that happens in really bad countries where rights are something thrown during fistfights at mob scenes. And for five, to quote my late grandfather, "It ain't right."

9 November 2001 "Saudi Passes 2nd Polygraph Test." Pete Yost of the Associated Press reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Saudi man arrested near Washington Dulles International Airport the night of Sept. 11 passed an FBI polygraph test, his attorney said Friday.

It was the second polygraph the FBI has administered to Khalid al-Draibi, who is jailed while under indictment for allegedly making false statements on a visa application.

Drew Hutcheson said his client was questioned at length Monday about his flight training in the United States. The FBI also wanted to know why al-Draibi had numerous driver's licenses when he was picked up about 13 miles south of the airport, the point of origin for the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon. Police stopped al-Draibi for driving with a flat tire.

According to Friday's polygraph, al-Draibi was telling the truth when he denied having any contact with any terrorist group or being asked to perform any terrorist mission, Hutcheson said.

9 November 2001 "FBI: Suspect failed test: Lie detector didn't like Al-Marabh's answers." Tom Godfrey of the Toronto Sun reports in this story carried by the Canadian website Excerpt:

American authorities say Parkdale refugee claimant Nabil Al-Marabh has failed a lie detector test about his activities with al-Qaida and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

U.S. authorities said dozens of al-Qaida suspects were given polygraph tests by the FBI after being picked up following the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Police said Al-Marabh's polygraph questions related to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network and the World Trade Center attacks. Officers said Al-Marabh was uncooperative and denied involvement in al-Qaida.

The official leaking of pseudoscientific polygraph "test" results to smear suspects is a common facet of polygraph abuse, and is a key reason why anyone accused of a crime should refuse to submit to polygraphic interrogation. The officers who characterized Al-Marabh as "uncooperative" failed to note that he did cooperate at least to the extent that he submitted to a polygraph interrogation. Al-Marabh may or may not have been truthful, but the FBI's "readings" of his polygraph charts are without diagnostic value.

8 November 2001 Onslow County, North Carolina Commissioner Urges Lie Detector "Tests." Jacksonville Daily News staff writer William Davis reports in an article titled, "Onslow ups the ante for answers." Excerpt (hyperlinks by

County manager Ron Lewis was mum about a meeting tonight between county commissioners and the Onslow Board of Health, but Commissioner Jack Bright said he would ask the Health Department to begin administering lie detector tests to employees who are the subject of complaints against the department.

The two boards will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Health Department auditorium to discuss "matters of mutual concern."

The county has a long history of problems with certain sections of the Health Department. Commissioners have called public meetings to address complaints about the environmental health section and have repeatedly expressed concerns about the department at their regular meetings.

Bright said he hopes the meeting will help the two boards settle some of the issues. He and other commissioners have received complaints both about the environmental health section -- which oversees the enforcement of septic tanks -- and the animal control section.

Polygraph tests, Bright said, would help determine the innocence or guilt of department employees, but those at the department have been resistant to the idea.

7 November 2001 American Polygraph Association Considers Polygraph "Testing" of Airport Personnel. Issue #58 of's biweekly e-zine, The Polygraph Chronicles, includes mention that the American Polygraph Assoction may seek an amendment rolling back the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA), which restricts private sector use of polygraphy in the workplace. Excerpt:

The American Polygraph Association (APA) Newsletter of Sept/Oct 2001 contains several comments from members of the Board of Directors showing recognition by the professional polygraph community that quality polygraph testing of airport personnel can and should be one way polygraph can serve society. There is an active committee examining the use of polygraph in airport (transportation) security with an eye on possible amendments to the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. The APA committee is comprised of the APA General Counsel, researchers, statisticians, a labor specialist, and several polygraph examiners.

As previously reported in the Polygraph News, an earlier edition of The Polygraph Chronicles reported a similar proposal by National Polygraph Association president Kenneth J. Whaley.

7 November 2001 9-11 Terror Suspect Still Detained After Passing Polygraph. In an article titled "Man Held (and Held) on Suspicion," Los Angeles Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell reports on the case of Hady Hassan Omar, Jr. Excerpt:

As far as federal authorities are concerned, it remains an open question whether Hady Hassan Omar Jr. is linked to terrorism.

The 22-year-old native of Egypt and aspiring antiques dealer was arrested the day after the Sept. 11 hijackings and sits in a maximum security prison north of New Orleans.

He is among the longest-held detainees picked up in the sweeps that followed the terrorist attacks. Omar's case demonstrates the government's determination to use all avenues to block the release of anyone about whom officials harbor doubts. Omar, like many others, is jailed on unrelated immigration charges. No criminal charges have been filed.

But federal authorities are appealing to an immigration board in suburban Washington to deny Omar bond. The government contends he remains a danger to the community, even though he passed a polygraph test. "Compartmentalization of terrorist activity would mean that subject could pass polygraph," states one confidential document in Omar's case, meaning that plots might have been structured to keep participants in the dark on key aspects.

Friends and family of the former waiter at an Italian restaurant in Fort Smith, Ark., view him as a nice guy victimized by coincidence. "He loves America," said his wife, Candy Kjosa, a native of Arkansas who has an infant daughter, Jasmine, with Omar.

But, from the standpoint of the FBI, Omar has at least three strikes against him: He is a young Arab man, he was a passenger on a commercial jet on Sept. 11 and, most crucially, he booked his plane reservation via the Internet at the same Kinko's copy shop in south Florida that was used by suspected hijackers Mohamed Atta, also an Egyptian, and Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi.

Omar insists he was not involved in the terrorist strike and didn't know the hijackers. He has stuck to his story.

Because polygraph "tests" have no scientific basis, have an inherent bias against the truthful, and yet are easily defeated through the use of simple countermeasures that polygraphers cannot detect, no reliance should be placed on them one way or the other.

7 November 2001 Apparent False Positives in 9-11 Terror Investigation. In an article titled, "Nation's Frantic Dragnet Entangles Many Lives," Los Angeles Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell reports on wave of detentions -- often on scant evidence -- that have come in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 11 September. The FBI has made wide use of polygraphy in interrogating detainees. This article documents some apparent false positives cases, such as that of Ahmad Abou El-Kheir. Excerpt:

Ahmad Abou El-Kheir was among the first wave of arrestees in the frantic days after the attacks. The son of a retired general, El-Kheir, 28, studied hotel management in college in his native Egypt. The FBI found that El-Kheir had checked out of a Maryland hotel on Sept. 11. He was believed to be an "associate" of two of the hijackers. A polygraph test showed "strong deception."

El-Kheir was eventually hauled off to New York as one of a number of "material witnesses," believed to have vital information. Soon, El-Kheir's significance seemed to diminish. A federal judge dismissed the material witness warrant on Oct. 11. The onetime suspected associate of terrorist mass murderers found himself in a Bronx court answering to a minor disorderly conduct conviction outstanding from three years earlier.

Next was an immigration charge of having violated the terms of his tourist visa on a previous visit. As El-Kheir was shuttled to and from jails in New York and New Jersey, his lawyer worried about his physical safety amid the charged atmosphere after Sept. 11.

"As far as I know, he's still alive," said El-Kheir's attorney, Martin R. Stolar, who has had difficulty finding his client and arranging for hearings. "They're moving to deport him. I say fine with me. He's had it with this country for a while. But I can't get anybody to pay attention to the case."

5 November 2001 "Police Use of Voice Stress Analysis Generates Controversy." Margie Wylie reports for the Newhouse News Service in a well-researched article on CVSA. Excerpt:

Police departments across the country are buying the controversial Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, which its manufacturer claims can tell when a person is lying merely by the sound of his voice. When a suspect speaks, a computer program "listens" for minute vocal shifts that, in theory, indicate stress.

The technology's critics, citing government and university research, say the CVSA is little more than an electronic Ouija board with accuracy rates to match. At best, they say, voice stress analysis scares suspects into confessions; at worst, it can incriminate the innocent.

CVSA results aren't admissible in most courts, under the same Supreme Court decisions that generally bar polygraph evidence.

Even so, police officers love it. Cheaper and faster than the polygraph, the CVSA can be operated with a few days' training and without the need to "wire up" a suspect. It can also be used in the field, covertly, and on tape recordings, according to the National Institute for Truth Verification of West Palm Beach, Fla., its manufacturer.

Between 1999 and 2000, NITV added 100 new customers. So far in 2001, NITV officials say nearly 300 police departments have bought at least one CVSA. Some have bought several, and nearly all "have put their polygraph on the shelf," said David Hughes, a retired police captain and executive director of the company.

Originating from a Cold War military project, voice stress analysis was first commercialized in the early 1970s.

NITV, founded in 1986, has a virtual lock on the law-enforcement market,according to both the company and its critics. It has sold its $10,000 CVSA to more than 1,100 police departments and trained more than 4,200 CVSA operators at about $1,300 each, Hughes said.

The company's Web site is replete with testimonials and success stories. One Alabama police department is said to have solved a murder case 14 years cold by re-interviewing the main suspect with the CVSA. The suspect had previously taken four polygraphs given by three different examiners, all inconclusive. Confronted with three failed voice stress tests, he broke down and confessed.

Researchers counter that nothing in 30 years of studies proves that voice stress analysis works, either generally or in the specific case of the CVSA.

"Voice stress analysis is a fraud. It has zero validity," said David T. Lykken, a psychology professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and author of the book "A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector."

For discussion of CVSA, see the CVSA forum on the message board.

5 November 2001 "Illinois School Uses Lie Detectors" Jay Hughes of the Associated Press reports on the use of polygraph interrogations at Dunlap High School. For further reading on this story, browse the Polygraph News for Sep.-Oct. 2001. Excerpt:

DUNLAP, Ill. (AP) - One by one, the subjects were led into a room and hooked up to a polygraph machine.

The purpose: to determine whether the teen-agers violated Dunlap High School's code of conduct by attending a party where alcohol was consumed.

Seven of the 10 students who submitted to the lie detector exams - all of them football players - flunked the questioning last month and were barred from competing in the first round of the state playoffs. Some of their parents wept when they learned their children had lied to them.

Dunlap High went to extraordinary lengths to get to the bottom of what was otherwise a routine case of teen-agers getting into trouble.

School Superintendent Bill Collier said it was the right thing to do to sort the guilty from the innocent: ``It may look bad, it may sound bad, but it's the fairest way.''

The investigation began after police broke up a party Oct. 6. Nobody was arrested, but officers took down the names of everyone present and traced the registration of all cars parked there. Their list of 15 athletes was turned over to school officials.

Three students admitted guilt when confronted. But many others claimed that they had left the party as soon as they realized alcohol was present. So school officials proposed the polygraphs.

5 November 2001 "Mayor Race Gets Down and Dirty" New York Post writers Robert Hardt, Jr., William J. Gorta, and Maggie Haberman report on a lie detector "test" at issue in the New York City mayoral campaign. Excerpt:

November 5, 2001 -- The mayoral race exploded yesterday, with Mark Green and Michael Bloomberg trading furious charges - and Green demanding his rival release the results of a lie-detector test Bloomberg took in connection with a sexual-harassment lawsuit.

At a press conference, Green waved around a copy of a now-settled harassment suit against Bloomberg and pressed the issue most of the day.

With the race in a virtual dead heat, Green called on Bloomberg to release the questions and answers from a polygraph he took earlier this year about whether he was telling the truth in the case.

He also accused Bloomberg of "silencing" the former employee who filed the suit, Sekiko Garrison. Bloomberg accused Green of a "smear."

"Based on her words under oath, he said things in the workplace that are nearly disqualifying for someone to run for any office - certainly mayor," Green said.

Garrison - who settled her case for an undisclosed amount of money under confidential terms before the race began - claimed Bloomberg suggested she "kill it!" when she told him she was pregnant.

Bloomberg yesterday again denied saying it, adding, "Who would make a comment like that?"

Asked about the lie-detector results as he toured Brooklyn's Borough Park with former Mayor Ed Koch, Bloomberg said, "Oh, we did all that. He's just making up something."

At the beginning of the year, Bloomberg released a sworn letter from the man who gave the lie-detector test, saying Bloomberg answered all questions truthfully. But Bloomberg didn't provide the raw data.

1 November 2001 "What Gives a Liar Away?" The British Broadcasting Corporation reports on the detection of deception. Excerpt:

Do you know when you're being lied to? Probably not, since even experienced police interrogators are no more adept at spotting porkies than the rest of us.

Improve your chances (only moderately, to tell you the truth) with BBC News Online's expert tips.

1) Don't overestimate yourself

"It's extremely hard to spot deception," says Aldert Vrij, author of the research paper Detecting the Liars, just published in The Psychologist.

Mr Vrij points to a study which suggested police officers and lie-detector operators were no better at identifying liars than a control group of students.

It may be that the self-confidence law enforcement professionals had in their abilities to spot a lie actually worked against them - causing them to jump to decisions without properly scrutinising a story or its teller.

Self-styled "forensic psychophysiologists" (the latest buzzword for "polygraphers") should take note.

1 November 2001 Wisconsin Assembly Passes Antipolygraph Bill. The Wisconson state assembly approved Assembly Bill 484, which "prohibits law enforcement officers and district attorneys from requiring, requesting, or suggesting that a person who alleges that he or she is the victim of a sexual assault submit to a lie detector test, regardless of whether the victim gives prior written and informed consent to the test. The bill also prohibits law enforcement officers and district attorneys from providing the victim information regarding lie detector tests unless the victim requests such information." The text of this bill is available in PDF format here and the legislative history of this bill is available here.

1 November 2001 "LAPD polygraph test results don't tell full truth."'s George Maschke writes 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. Home Page > Polygraph News