31 October 2002 "Lie-detector screening to stay in nuclear labs"
Oakland Tribune staff writer Ian Hoffman reports. Excerpt:
Hundreds of nuclear weapons scientists and intelligence analysts will still be strapped to the polygraph machine for the time being, despite a recent report concluding that polygraphs miss spies and tar the innocent as security risks.
The U.S. Energy Department is racing to change its routine polygraph screening program before a six-month congressional deadline. But its lawyers argue that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is legally barred from suspending the controversial lie-detector tests until a new program is in place, according to an internal memo issued Wednesday.
"We are committed to moving rapidly on this issue but, until the secretary issues new regulations, we are obligated by law to continue the present program," wrote Linton F. Brooks, acting chief of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration that oversees Lawrence Livermore, Sandia and Los Alamos weapons labs.
More than 750 Sandia and Livermore employees in California who handle plutonium or nuclear weapons or have access to human intelligence face polygraph tests this year.
A Livermore union, the Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers, had written Brooks urging suspension of the tests after a panel of national experts found that polygraphs were based on poor science and too unreliable to justify such heavy use by federal national-security agencies to screen their workers.
Given Brooks' memo, the union now will ask Congress to scrap the law requiring polygraphs.
29 October 2002 "Federal Report on Confession from Egyptian Is in Dispute"
New York Times correspondent Benjamin Weiser reports. Excerpt:
Release to the public of a report due this week on how the F.B.I. obtained a confession from an innocent Egyptian student who was detained in connection with the attack on the World Trade Center could be delayed as a result of an escalating dispute between prosecutors and the judge who ordered the inquiry, court documents show.
The inquiry focuses on allegations by the student, Abdallah Higazy, that an F.B.I. agent administering a polygraph coerced him into confessing that he owned an aviation radio that was found in the Millenium Hilton Hotel in Lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11 attack, which raised suspicions he might be involved in the hijackings.
Mr. Higazy was later charged with lying when he denied owning the radio, and spent about a month in jail in solitary confinement. He was finally released after a security guard admitted making up the story that the radio belonged to Mr. Higazy, and the radio was claimed by another hotel guest.
The judge, Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who ordered the investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Higazy's confession to the F.B.I., had directed the government to report to him by this Thursday. The judge said he would also decide whether to make the results of the investigation public.
But federal prosecutors in Manhattan, citing the doctrine of separation of powers, told the judge that he did not have the authority to tell them which crimes to prosecute, or when to prosecute them.
"It is our view that the court lacks the power," wrote the office of United States Attorney James B. Comey, "to order us to conduct an investigation of an F.B.I. agent and report the results to the court in writing."
The prosecutors wrote that their investigation was "fully under way" and that they would present the results to the judge in confidence, but not because they were obligated to. They asked the judge to hold off if he decides to order the public release of the findings, as the government may seek to appeal and block such action.
Prosecutors said they were also concerned about making the findings public if the agent, who has denied the allegations, is exonerated.
The name of the F.B.I. agent has not been released. Court documents released earlier show that Mr. Higazy complained that the agent "threatened the safety and security" of his family members in Egypt and the United States, and that he felt he had no choice but to make an admission "to remove his family from harm's way."
For discussion and further documentation on the Higazy case, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread, Polygraph helps coerce false confession.
29 October 2002 Bali, Indonesia: "Three suspects face lie detector tests"
Darren Goodsir, Matthew Moore and Tom Allard report for the Sydney Morning Herald. Excerpt:
Indonesian police have conducted lie-detector tests on three Indonesian men being treated as "possible suspects" in the Bali bombing case.
In interviews with the Herald yesterday, Indonesian experts attached to the police scientific headquarters in Denpasar, PusLab For, confirmed they had done detailed polygraph analysis during interviews with the three witnesses to the October 12 bombings, which killed more than 180 people and injured 320.
At a computer displaying graph read-outs, a Jakarta-based officer, Lukas Budisantoso Msi, said: "I have been doing the polygraph tests on the suspects. We already have the results and a conclusion from the three witnesses."
Mr Budisantoso declined to reveal his findings.
The Indonesian-Australian police effort, Operation Alliance, has been focusing on three Indonesian suspects, seen acting suspiciously just before the blasts in Paddy's Pub and outside the Sari Club.
Police said detailed facial images of three men, compiled in the past week, would be released in "one or two days". It has not been confirmed whether the three photofit images are of the men given the polygraph tests.
27 October 2002 Polygraph Hypocrite Richard Shelby Behind Firing of L. Britt Snider
In a puff piece on Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) titled "Shelby's doubts drove inquiry", St. Petersburg Times staff writer Mary Jacoby notes that it was Senator Shelby who was behind the sacking of L. Britt Snider as head of the joint congressional inquiry into the intelligence failings surrounding the events of 11 September 2001. Snider was fired for having hired a staffer who had "failed" a CIA polygraph "test" -- a "test" that the National Academy of Sciences has recently declared to be without validity. Excerpt:
Eventually, Shelby, Graham, Goss and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Intelligence Committee ranking member, agreed on a one-year, $2.6-million joint inquiry.
The next problem was getting someone to run it. Shelby thought he had the perfect choice: former Department of Defense Inspector Eleanor Hill.
Hill was not only a Democrat who had come highly recommended by her former boss, ex-Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., but she was a Florida native and former Tampa federal prosecutor.
Shelby said he thought this background would make Hill especially appealing to the Floridians [Graham and Goss].
But when Shelby put forth her name, he found out that Graham and Goss had hired someone.
As former special counsel to Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet, L. Britt Snider had been a close associate of the very man the joint panel was investigating.
"I questioned whether Snider would be independent enough to conduct an open, unbiased and hard-hitting inquiry," Shelby said. "But I went along in a spirit of bipartisanship."
An anonymous caller, though, soon tipped a Shelby aide off to the fact that Snider had hired a staffer for the inquiry who had failed a CIA polygraph examination.
Bam! Shelby had the ammunition to oust Snider. The Floridians quickly hired Hill, who proceeded to release a series of devastating staff reports that helped churn public opinion in favor of intelligence reform.
Earlier this year, when FBI agents investigating a suspected leak of classified information asked Shelby and other senators if they would be willing to submit to a polygraph test, Shelby sputtered, "I don't know who among us would take a lie-detector test. First of all, they're not even admissible in court, and second of all, the leadership [of both parties] have told us not to do that."
27 October 2002 Moment of truth as lie detector's worth comes into question
Julian Coman reports for The Telegraph of London. Excerpt:
One of America's most famous detection devices may be consigned to the scrapheap after being used in thousands of trials and making countless appearances in Hollywood films.
The lie-detector, or polygraph test, is routinely used by United States police forces, the FBI, the Pentagon and other government departments in order to investigate crimes, screen employees and root out spies.
O J Simpson failed one after being accused of murdering his wife. In the recent hit film, Meet the Parents, Robert De Niro played an ex-CIA man who even subjects a prospective son-in-law to a polygraph test to discover his true intentions.
A government-sponsored study by the American Academy of Sciences concludes, however, that the suspicious father was wasting his time.
Two years of research has led the academy to report that the lie-detector, which measures abnormal blood pressure, breathing and skin response during interrogation, is so inaccurate and vague that it actually constitutes a "danger to national security".
Drew Richardson, a former FBI special agent and consultant to the report, said: "Panel members very clearly and emphatically found that no spy has ever been caught as a result of a polygraph.
"None would ever be expected to be revealed and large numbers of the tens of thousands of people subjected yearly to this sort of testing are probably being falsely accused about their backgrounds and activities."
Dr Stephen Fienberg, a computer scientist who headed the academy panel that produced the report, said: "The deep flaws with the lie-detector are to do with the thresholds set by interrogators."
The panel found that to catch eight out of 10 spies, an estimated 1,600 innocent interviewees would also be placed under suspicion, rendering the results meaningless.
Eliminating the so-called "false positives" would mean that almost no genuine targets would ever be caught.
"National security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument," said Dr Fienberg.
"There is a mystique about the lie-detector that very much needs to be addressed. It has led to an overconfidence about the status of its results in the popular mind.
25 October 2002 Polygraph test proves flawed
Texas A&M sophomore Melissa Fried comments on polygraphy in this opnion article. Excerpt:
The U.S. Defense and Intelligence communities have taken a beating during the past few months due to their inconstant state of efficiency - sometimes they know what they are doing, sometimes they do not. Regardless of the criticism, the American public still trusts these agencies to protect and guard this nation from outside threats. Until recently, many assumed that Defense and Intelligence had impenetrable borders, meaning that it would be impossible for someone to breach their rock solid security and gain access to The United States' secrets from the inside.
The primary security-screening tool for many agencies within U.S. Defense and Intelligence is nothing more than a worthless piece of metal, and if there was ever an appropriate time to be paranoid about national security, it is now.
17 October 2002 MSNBC's "Abrams Report" on Polygraph Screening
Gregg Jarrett, in for Dan Abrams, spoke with Professor David Faigman, a member of the National Academy of Sciences polygraph review panel and American Polygraph Association president Dan Sosnowski. The following is an excerpt from the program transcript:
[GREGG] JARRETT: When it comes to telling the truth, it seems lie detectors flunk the test. That's right, this according to the panel of scientists who spent 19 long months studying polygraph machines. They found that lie detectors often say that people telling truth are lying, and vice versa. Still, some experts stand behind the accuracy of polygraphs. A handful of government agencies still use them quite a bit.
For more on this controversy surrounding so-called lie detector tests, we're joined now from San Francisco by Professor David Faigman of the University of California, San Francisco, Hastings College of the Law, my alma mater. Say hello to Dean Kane for me. And with us from Atlanta: Dan Sosnowski, who is the director of the American Polygraph Association.
OK, Dan, this is the esteemed National Academy of Sciences that is now saying you can get away with lying to a lie detector test and the test itself can lie about results by falsely suggesting an honest person is lying. You're the pro. Is the academy wrong?
DAN SOSNOWSKI, AMERICAN POLYGRAPH ASSN.: Well, it's nice that we are finally get some research in this area of screening.
I tend to agree with the academy saying that there is a lack of research showing that the polygraph is an absolute scientific tool in that particular area. But, obviously, the results that we come by with the polygraph is great, because individuals who are coming in are telling us constantly information that they would never divulge if it wasn't for the polygraph.
JARRETT: Well, but that doesn't mean that the test itself is reliable, but it may be a good coercive technique. Look, they spent 19 months, Dan, studying polygraphs. They came to the conclusion it's not reliable enough to use in employee security screening for federal agencies. Would you use it for that purpose?
SOSNOWSKI: Oh, absolutely. We have to look at what's being done and what kind of questions are being asked and what's the end result. Are individuals coming in there-not just as a coercive tool. If individuals clearly fail a polygraph-and that's by having physiological reactions observed on the test-we afford them the opportunity to say what was bothering them. And they end up telling us a lot of information.
JARRETT: Professor, what do you think about the accuracy of polygraphs?
DAVID FAIGMAN, HASTINGS SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, let me be very clear. The committee said that it was not valid, in that it's a very weak tool, something more like an ax than a scalpel.
And so what we're saying really is that the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the FBI, the CIA, should not rely on the polygraph and certainly not rely on the polygraph to the exclusion of other technologies. The validity, the accuracy is extremely weak. It's likely to produce many, many false positives, people accused of being spies when in fact they're not spies or terrorists, or they're not terrorists.
And, perhaps even more troubling, it's likely to allow some people who are indeed spies or terrorists to get through.
JARRETT: Would you recommend that it be eliminated completely and used for absolutely nothing?
FAIGMAN: Well, we are not necessarily saying that it should not be use for utilitarian purpose. As you said yourself, it may indeed be a very effective interrogation tool.
But, of course, as long as the examinee believes that a refrigerator or a Xerox machine is a very effective tool, then people will come in. And if they're told they're not doing very well on the test, then they might very well own up to minor security violations. Or, as we see in the criminal context, they might own up to criminal activity.
JARRETT: Dan, you want to respond to that?
SOSNOWSKI: Well, again, it's interesting where the studies are coming from and why are they basically saying it doesn't work.
And it's just like if an individual was requested to submit to a drug test-and sometimes they'll say, "Let's go for a 10-panel type of a screen," that means they're looking at 10 different type of potential drugs that's used. If the individual comes back positive, it doesn't mean he's using every single drug. We have to look at in a screening aspect vs. a very specific type of a situation.
JARRETT: But would you disagree with what the professor said, when the professor said, in terms of accuracy, it's extremely weak.
SOSNOWSKI: Well, just a stand-alone, where you're going to look just only at reactions, possibly it is somewhat weak. But we have to look at the whole totality of that picture.
JARRETT: Gentlemen, I'm so sorry. We're out of time. I hope you'll come back.
Professor David Faigman, Dan Sosnowski, thank you very much.
FAIGMAN: My pleasure.
SOSNOWSKI: Thank you.
17 October 2002 "Spies, Lies and Polygraphs"
Dr. Drew C. Richardson calls for the abolishment of polygraph screening in this Washington Times op-ed piece. Excerpt:
Recently, the National Academy of Sciences issued a landmark report regarding the use of polygraphy by various federal agencies. Although many issues were explored and several conclusions were drawn, none was more important than the finding that polygraph screening is completely invalid as a diagnostic instrument for determining truth regarding counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, past activities of job applicants and other important issues currently so assessed by our various federal, state and local governments.
During an Associated Press briefing, it was stated by various panel members very clearly and emphatically that no spy had ever been caught as a result of polygraphy, none would ever be expected to be so revealed, and that although a precise figure cannot be assigned to the number of false-positive results, large numbers of the tens of thousands of people subjected yearly to this sort of "testing" are likely being falsely accused about their backgrounds and activities.
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.
17 October 2002 "Are Polygraphs Lying?"
In this Washington Post editorial, the Post comments on polygraph policy in light of the National Academy of Sciences' devastatingly critical report on polygraphy, concluding:
One obvious conclusion from this sobering account is that more rigorous studies of polygraphs and their applications in government need to take place. A large number of people every year are put on administrative leave as a result of having failed -- or having not conclusively passed -- polygraph exams. And many people the government wishes to hire become off limits as well. The toll, in other words, is high -- both in human terms and in terms of the people who become unavailable to public service. To the extent this high cost is unnecessary, even counterproductive, people ought to know. And it is certainly wrong to go on expanding public use of the technology in the areas in which its effectiveness is most questionable. Those who defend the polygraph often cite the fact that people, believing that they will be caught by the lie detector, confess to significant breaches instead of facing the exam. But government's most sensitive employment decisions should not be made by placebo effect. Courts generally do not use polygraphs, out of concern about their reliability. Neither should the executive branch in areas where it cannot persuasively demonstrate the effectiveness of the tool.
14 October 2002 "Amid Surge in Popularity, Lie Is Put to the Polygraph"
Los Angeles Times staff writer Charles Piller reports. Excerpt:
The demand to cast an ever-wider net of security across the country has created a rush to embrace technologies that have demonstrated a sometimes staggering propensity for snaring the innocent.
Since last year's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, hijackers, spies and snipers are seen as blending invisibly into airports, public buildings and city streets -- even infiltrating the very agencies that guard against attacks. With almost no one above suspicion, security agencies increasingly are looking for screening technologies that can peer into the thoughts of thousands or even millions of people.
Artificial-intelligence software that plucks terrorist needles from haystacks of unrelated data, facial recognition stations that see hijackers behind newly grown beards at airport checkpoints, and electronic identification systems for travelers are being implemented despite clear signs that the error-prone systems may do more harm than good, experts say.
The latest example in this trend is the 100-year-old polygraph. In a scathing report this month, the nation's most respected scientific society, the National Academy of Sciences, debunked the use of polygraphs to catch spies and screen employees. The study called polygraph tests so flawed as to be "a danger to national security."
But even before reviewing the rigorous assessment, a wide range of police and federal security agencies now say they have no plans to abandon the device. And unlike experimental, high-tech security tools that are not yet widely deployed, the "lie detector" is used daily by thousands of police departments and federal security agencies.
Security officials cite a lack of alternative technologies and, despite the report's findings, an abiding faith that it is better to suspect many in order to detect one or two terrorists or criminals.
Always an Error Margin
"There's always a margin of error," said Wayne Jones, a recruiter for the San Jose Police Department. "But is it a good indicator? Yes. It's not a fishing expedition."
Experts view such widespread support for a discredited technology as a distressing sign of lowered standards of protection as the nation races to catch not only spies and terrorists, but those who might merely be contemplating a criminal act. It signals, they say, a growing disconnect between scientific certainty and security imperatives in the post-9/11 world.
"A key problem is the illusion of control. A lot of technology is marketed to make people think they know more than they do, and can do more than they can," said Edward Tenner, author of "Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences."
"Not only will these technologies be a distraction, but there is an even greater danger -- that terrorists may be able to work around them."
Intelligence and military agencies use the polygraph extensively. In a growing trend, more than 62% of large police departments test job applicants and many test criminal suspects. It's an effort borne of frustration. Security professionals are trying to satisfy public pressure to preempt acts of terrorism and other crimes. No technology can read minds.
But there is the polygraph.
Jones, of the San Jose police, credits polygraph testing of job applicants with saving his city from a Rampart-like scandal, in which crooked Los Angeles cops terrorized lawbreakers and innocents alike during the 1990s.
A Ringing Endorsement
"I put a lot of stock into it -- and I've been in the business for 25 years," he said.
Jones' remarks were echoed by police examiners from Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and San Diego, as well as some with the CIA, Customs Service and Secret Service.
Yet the National Academy report could hardly have been more dismissive of the practice.
Overconfidence in the polygraph actually reduces security because many loyal employees are judged deceptive while most spies escape notice, the report noted.
"National security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument," said Stephen E. Fienberg, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and chairman of the academy panel.
13 October 2002 "Polygraph examiners back the value of their tests"
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writer Michael A. Fuoco reports. Excerpt:
To tell the truth, polygraph examiners for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County police didn't blink an eye last week when a National Research Council study found that lie detector tests administered annually to tens of thousands of federal employees hadn't uncovered a single spy.
But the local detectives' lack of surprise at the findings doesn't mean they doubt the effectiveness of polygraph examinations especially in criminal investigations. And they say the study illustrates how important an examiner is to the process of getting a valid result.
Polygraph examinations are effective tools in criminal investigations because examiners are able to formulate questions relating to a specific known crime, said the two local experts: homicide Detective George Satler and Allegheny County Police Sgt. Bob Downey. Satler is one of one of the city Police Bureau's three polygraph examiners and Downey is a certified examiner who heads the county's general investigations squad.
On the contrary, using them to screen for spies is a tough, if not impossible, task, because the general nature of the probe doesn't permit an examiner to, as is imperative, focus his questioning on a specific incident.
"I wouldn't know how to formulate questions to polygraph for that," Satler said. "That is so much different than what we do."
Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and other law enforcement agencies conducting criminal investigations, generally speaking, use polygraph examinations only after a field of suspects for a specific crime has been narrowed to a few people. The city also uses them when convicts or suspects in crimes want to "snitch" on another person. Assistant Chief William Mullen, who heads the investigations branch, said such informants are not used as court witnesses unless they pass the exams.
In criminal cases, the voluntary polygraph tests are effective because they can eliminate from the suspect pool those who pass them, freeing detectives from chasing dead ends. Conversely, if someone, in police terminology, "bombs the box," meaning was found to be deceptive, detectives can focus more on that person.
But police don't see polygraph machines, which measure variations in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and galvanic skin response (a body's electrical impulses), as a be-all, end-all. Far from it.
In fact, of the more than 2,300 cases the county's detective division investigates in an average year, polygraph examinations are used in about 75 of them. An average of another 55 examinations are conducted for municipal departments.
"A polygraph examination is not a starting point [of an investigation], it's an ending point," said Downey, who, as a supervisor, no longer conducts the examinations but oversees the county's two examiners, general investigations Detectives Ed Adams and Ed Fisher.
12 October 2002 South Africa: "It's all lies"
Liz Clarke reports on polygraphy for the Sunday Tribune. Excerpt:
South Africa's billion-rand security and insurance industries, as well as police and investigative services, could be forced to rethink lie-detecting strategies following an international probe into the reliability of polygraph testing.
The polygraph, used extensively in South Africa to uncover criminal and fraudulent activities, was denounced this week by the National Academy of Science, the United States' premier scientific organisation, which slated it as "more art than science" and stated that "virtually no serious research" had ever been done on its efficacy.
Although polygraph equipment cannot detect a lie, it charts physical responses, including blood and breathing rates, via a monitoring system wired to various parts of the body. The answer to each question is rated according to the response.
The academy's findings, which are expected to outlaw polygraphing as an investigative tool in America, where it is routinely used by the CIA and the National Security Agency, will also have a spin-off effect on the multi-million-rand polygraph industry in South Africa.
Although the results of polygraph tests in South Africa are inadmissible in court, they are widely used by large corporations "in-house" to determine guilt or innocence of suspects, often leading to dismissal.
In a landmark case in South Africa a leading polygrapher, Malcolm Nothling, has agreed to testify as an expert witness in a disciplinary hearing involving a doctor found guilty of inappropriate behaviour, an accusation supposedly "confirmed" by a lie detector test.
Although his testimony could ruin his career, Nothling said that he could no longer live with the "reality" that polygraph testing was "a profoundly flawed" procedure.
"It doesn't surprise me that a report of this nature has been done. Although I have no scientific evidence, I have suspected for some time that the results of polygraph tests are not always accurate. In fact, I would go as far as to say they are biased more against the truthful person than they are against those who are lying."
Nothling said that the day he beat the test by using "certain techniques" available over the Internet was the day he realised it was no longer a reliable-enough tool to establish innocence or guilt. "I think it is playing Russian roulette with people's lives and careers," he said. "We all want a crime-free society, but not when criminals are getting away with their activities and the innocent are possibly being victimised."
10 October 2002 National Academy on Polygraph Testing
Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy discusses the National Academy of Science's polygraph report in his Secrecy News e-mail publication:
NATIONAL ACADEMY ON POLYGRAPH TESTING
The polygraph is a flawed instrument that is "intrinsically susceptible to producing erroneous results," according to a new report of a National Academy of Sciences panel.
The report, prepared for the Department of Energy, is likely to lead to the rescinding of polygraph requirements that were adopted in 1999 to address security defects at the DOE national laboratories.
The authors distinguish between the use of the polygraph for generic security screening -- which they find unwarranted -- and its use in investigations of specific incidents -- for which they find experimental support in some circumstances.
Methodologically, polygraph screening is not a scientific procedure that adheres to fixed standards. Thus, "we have seen no indication of a clear and stable agreement on criteria for judging answers to security screening polygraph questions in any agency using them," the National Academy report stated.
Admittedly, polygraph screening "may be useful" for "deterring security violations, increasing the frequency of admissions of such violations, deterring employment applications from potentially poor security risks, and increasing public confidence in national security organizations."
However, the utility of the polygraph for these purposes "derives from beliefs about the procedure's validity, which are distinct from actual validity or accuracy."
By contributing to the exposure of such unfounded beliefs, the new report ironically tends to subvert this type of polygraph utility.
The full text of the new report, "The Polygraph and Lie Detection," is available in a rather inconvenient format here:
The executive summary may also be found on the Antipolygraph.org site here:
Last year, Congress required the Energy Department to prescribe new polygraph regulations that "take into account" the findings of the NAS study within six months of its release. See:
Accordingly, Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici called on Energy Secretary Abraham to heed the study's conclusions.
"Given the findings of the Academy's study and the continuing dissatisfaction with DOE's existing polygraph program, we urge you to place high priority on the development of a new, significantly scaled-back program that focuses on the use of the polygraph as an interrogation tool and not for employee screening," the Senators wrote on October 8.
Polygraph screening of current and prospective employees is most widespread within U.S. intelligence agencies, where it is generally a precondition for employment involving access to intelligence information. As such, it serves as a ritual of initiation and can generate a sense of camaraderie.
The polygraph examination also functions to acculturate employees into the values of the intelligence bureaucracy.
So, for example, the Central Intelligence Agency has lately asked examinees questions such as "Do you have any friends in the media?" The preferred answer, it is clear, is No.
10 October 2002 "Ex-employee sues Smithfield over polygraph"
Tim McGlone reports for the Virginian-Pilot. Excerpt:
NORFOLK -- A former Smithfield Packing Co. saleswoman has sued the meat giant and two supervisors, claiming the company illegally tried to force her to take a lie-detector test after she filed a sexual harassment complaint.
Julie M. Bannister, a married mother of three, also claims in court papers that a supervisor defamed her by spreading false rumors that she had been having an affair with a customer.
Bannister has filed two lawsuits in Norfolk federal court. One suit, filed Friday against Smithfield and a former supervisor, Joseph Weber, claims Weber defamed her. The other, filed Sept. 13, claims violations of the federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act. Bannister is seeking $18 million.
The polygraph lawsuit hinges on a federal law that prohibits private companies in most instances from requiring or even asking an employee to take a lie-detector test. Exemptions exist for security and armored car companies, nuclear power plants, government workers and anyone in the national security field. The test also is allowed for certain suspected criminal offenses.
10 October 2002 "Lying 'Lie Detectors'"
New York Times columnist William Safire comments on polygraphy, concluding:
Because professional spies are trained to defeat the device; because pathological liars do not cause its needles to spike; and because our counterspies relax when a potential suspect "passes" -- the system breeds the opposite of security.
Here's how I learned about that. In 1981 there was a brouhaha about the Reagan campaign having pilfered a briefing book used by Jimmy Carter to prepare for a debate. James Baker, to deflect suspicion from himself, hinted that it must have been the doing of the campaign chairman, Bill Casey.
Casey, just appointed C.I.A. chief, told me he was going to challenge Baker to a polygraph test to show who was lying. Figuring my old pal Casey was the culprit, I wondered why he would take the gamble. He reminded me he was an old O.S.S. spymaster, and that by using dodges like a sphincter-muscle trick and a Valium pill, he could defeat any polygraph operator. Baker wisely did not take Casey up on the challenge.
A more serious example of the foolishness of dependence on the machine: A national security adviser was suspected of leaking a secret to The New York Times. Though not our source, he flunked the exam, and was about to be fired and disgraced. He put President Reagan on the phone to The Times's publisher, who -- on a one-time basis -- confirmed that the adviser had not been our source. That was one fewer career lost to the predatory polygraph.
To such anecdotal evidence we now add thorough scientific refutation of the technique. As a result, polygraphing should be stopped not only at the Energy Department, which sponsored the Research Council study because it was losing scientists, but at the Defense Department, which subjects some 10,000 employees to the self-defeating display of distrust.
If unfairness to truth-tellers doesn't move you, try the hard-liner's reason: Bureaucratic reliance on today's fault-ridden system lets well-trained spies and terrorists penetrate our defenses.
9 October 2002 "Sandia scientist says polygraph mandate should be cut"
Sue Vorenberg reports for the Albuquerque Tribune. Excerpt:
A new study saying polygraph tests are not accurate enough to screen government employees for potential security risks doesn't surprise Al Zelicoff.
But it doesn't go far enough for him, either.
Zelicoff, a senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories and a leading critic of polygraph tests, said Congress should change a law requiring the tests.
"The polygraph itself is not only worthless, it creates a climate of fear and paranoia," Zelicoff said. "That can't be good for national security."
The National Research Council released its study of polygraph testing Tuesday.
"Its accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies," the study said.
National laboratories, including Los Alamos and Sandia, have used polygraphs for workers in sensitive positions since the polygraph was created. In 1999, Congress mandated that the Department of Energy start using them in routine security checks. And that was when it all went wrong, Zelicoff said.
"The polygraph is a ruse designed to provide an excuse to conduct a wide-ranging inquisition under unpleasant psychological conditions," he said. "It gets worse: `You're lying to me.' `You're too immature to have a security clearance.' `I don't think I can help you anymore.' Those are real statements that have been made to Sandians in the past year. Does that qualify as harassment in the workplace? If it doesn't have any value, it does. That's what the NRC just said."
9 October 2002 "Scientists attack polygraph's accuracy"
Ian Hoffman reports for the Oakland Tribune. Excerpt:
Polygraph tests used by nearly every federal national-security agency as a screening tool will flag loyal workers as security risks and free actual spies from suspicion, a panel of top scientists reported Tuesday.
Gathered by the National Research Council, scientists said the theory and research supporting polygraphy is too weak and the accuracy of the test is "insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening."
"National security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument," said panel chairman Stephen Fienberg, a statistics professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Two lawmakers called on the U.S. Department of Energy to replace its polygraph screening program, targeting 16,000 employees mostly in California, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., with a testing program solely for interrogation of suspects.
Yet beyond the Energy Department and its national labs -- Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia -- the polygraph is deeply embedded in the U.S. national-security apparatus, with an estimated 40,000 workers or applicants tested every year at the CIA, Defense Department, National Security Agency, Secret Service, DEA and -- in the wake of the Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen spy cases -- the FBI.
Thousands more are tested at state and local law-enforcement agencies. This summer, many in Congress
who voted to polygraph nuclear weapons scientists were themselves "put on the box" in an FBI search for leaks at the Senate and House intelligence committees.
Inventors such as psychologist and feminist theorist William Moulton Marston -- later known for creating Wonder Woman, whose lasso compelled truth telling -- devised polygraphy to interrogate World War I spies. The polygraph became hugely popular over the next 80 years, and no one has been more captivated by its mystique than Americans and their law officers.
Yet, said NRC panelist Kathryn Laskey, a professor of systems engineering at George Mason University, "We stress that no spy ever has been caught using the polygraph."
The conclusions of the 310-page report are not new. Scientists have criticized polygraphs as poorly grounded and researched since their creation.
The 310-page NRC report, however, is among the most comprehensive and authoritative on the subject, and the first to highlight the national security risks of growing federal reliance on a test that invariably clears the spies and saboteurs it was designed to catch.
Employees of the nation's three nuclear-weapons labs hailed the report as powerful vindication, in large measure because it echoed their attacks on the scientific foundations of polygraphy and found them equally weak or nonexistent.
"It's time to stop it, for everybody," said Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory physicist Jeff Colvin, president of the Society for Professional Scientists and Engineers, a labor union.
"It doesn't get any better than this. There's no wiggle room here," said Dr. Alan Zelicoff, a physicist and physician at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. "We've been spending millions of dollars on a test that is not worthless, but worse than worthless because it does more harm than good."
In 1999, Congress went into a lather over suspected Chinese thefts of U.S. nuclear secrets and instituted polygraph tests for thousands of career nuclear-weapons employees. Scientists denounced the tests as "voodoo" and "junk science" that insulted their dedication to national-security work.
"You're talking about people who for the most part are very loyal and find it terribly offensive that their loyalty is questioned," veteran Livermore weapons designer David Dearborn said Tuesday. "Then you have an undependable piece of electronic flimflammery, and someone pops up and says 'I think you're being deceptive,' and your clearance is pulled. ... What are we getting as a nation in return? We're getting political cover at best. Because if that's the best we can do to catch spies, we're in trouble. You're not catching the people who are spying, and yet you are having large numbers of people suffer as they're treated like criminals."
9 October 2002 New Mexico Senators Call for End to Polygraph Screening
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) released the following press release.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, October 8, 2002
Scientific Study Supports N.M. Senators' Position that DOE Polygraph Policy Must be Changed
WASHINGTON - In light of a new scientific study released today, U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici are calling for the Department of Energy (DOE) to abolish its current policy of using extensive polygraph testing as a screening tool for DOE employees and employees of national defense laboratories, including Sandia and Los Alamos.
The prestigious National Academy of Sciences today unveiled a report that concludes that while polygraph tests have proven effective under some circumstances, they are not an effective way for DOE to screen current and prospective employees. Under the DOE policy, up to 30,000 employees are subject to taking the test.
The report states: ``Polygraph testing yields an unacceptable choice for DOE employee security screening between too many loyal employees falsely judged deceptive and too many major security threats left undetected. Its accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies."
Bingaman, chairman the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called for the National Academy of Sciences report after Congress required DOE to implement a polygraph program to screen applicants and current employees.
Both Bingaman and Domenici voiced concern at the time that the policy would have a detrimental effect on morale at the labs.
``Polygraph tests may have a role to play in law enforcement, but they don't work as a screening tool for our national laboratories.
In the panic to protect classified information, Congress rushed to implement a policy that had the effect of treating prospective lab employees as suspects. From a practical standpoint, this policy never made sense to me. Now we have scientific evidence that it doesn't work. It's time to change this flawed policy," Bingaman said.
``This study should prompt DOE to immediately set a new course in how it administers polygraphs.
The widespread application of these tests, now deemed of questionable value, have been corrosive to morale at the labs and other DOE facilities. It is my hope that the NNSA can now develop a more focused polygraph policy that is not an affront to the very workers who are dedicated to the United States and its defense," Domenici said.
Domenici authored and Bingaman cosponsored the legislation, later incorporated into the FY2002 Defense Authorization Bill, that requires the DOE secretary and National Nuclear Security
Administration administrator to implement a new DOE polygraph program based on the conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences Polygraph Review.
In a letter today, the Senators urge Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to immediately begin revising the polygraph policy.
``Given the findings of the Academy's study and the continuing dissatisfaction with DOE's existing polygraph program, we urge you to place high priority on the development of a new, significantly scaled-back program that focuses on the use of the polygraph as an interrogation tool and not for employee screening. We are particularly interested in receiving your recommendations regarding any legislative action you believe is necessary to effect a new polygraph program," the Senators wrote.
CONTACTS: Jude McCartin (Bingaman) 202-224-1804
Chris Gallegos (Domenici) 202-224-7082
9 October 2002 "Study warns U.S.: Polygraphs can lie"
Chicago Tribune Washington correspondent Michael Kilian reports. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON --The National Academy of Sciences declared Tuesday that polygraph examinations are dangerously unreliable and the federal government should cease depending on them to screen for security risks.
The academy's 18-month, federally-funded study found that the so-called lie detector not only incorrectly deems large numbers of people who are telling the truth to be liars, but may have allowed spies and others posing security risks into sensitive positions because they were able to pass polygraph tests.
This makes the devices themselves a security problem because so many agencies, such as the FBI and the Energy Department, rely on them, the report said.
"National security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument," said Stephen Fienberg, a Carnegie-Mellon University computer science professor and chairman of the panel of academics who conducted the study.
Calling lie-detector technology badly outdated, the report urged the government to vigorously pursue research into prospective new lie-detection techniques, such as analysis of brain activity, voice stress levels and thermal imaging.
The blockbuster study, commissioned by the Department of Energy after the collapse of the government's case against Los Alamos espionage suspect Wen Ho Lee, and other national security problems, is expected to have enormous implications for the federal government at a time of intensified security worries.
Courts allow polygraph test results to be admitted as evidence only under very special circumstances, and their use on employees in the private sector was virtually outlawed by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
Nevertheless, polygraphs are still widely used in criminal investigations and in a wholesale way by the federal government, according to study commission member Kathryn Laskey, associate professor of systems engineering at Virginia's George Mason University.
By law, personnel employed by the Energy Department's nuclear laboratories, intelligence agencies and in other sensitive areas are subject to polygraphs.
The Energy Department was guarded in its response to the report, but conceded it raises serious questions.
"The ... committee identified the fundamental conflict that we in the national security community must address: How to administer a program that is maximally effective in weeding out security risks while minimizing damage to the vast majority of loyal, patriotic employees?" said the department's acting national nuclear security director, Linton Brooks. "There is no easy answer, but it is a question that we will examine very seriously in the coming months."
Brooks called the polygraph "one of many tools we use to protect some of the nation's most sensitive secrets."
Northwestern University law professor Ronald Allen said the report will have an impact on government security screening but it should not have much impact on the legal system.
"Polygraphs are commonly used by police and prosecutors to determine the reliability of witnesses," Allen said.
"They are used by defense counsel for the same purpose. I don't think this report will change that. If anything, there's a slight trend toward admissibility [of polygraph tests as evidence] in some cases where all parties agree. The issue also has been raised of constitutionality in terms of an individual's right to introduce a polygraph test as evidence in his defense."
The first polygraph device was invented in the 1920s by Harvard University psychology professor William Moulton Marston, who also created the Wonder Woman comic book character.
Marston's invention measured fluctuations in systolic blood pressure, but the modern polygraph also tracks changes in respiration and skin moisture content from perspiring.
The device gained great currency in law enforcement and national security work in the 1950s and at one point, a million or more polygraph examinations were being administered in the U.S. every year, according to University of Minnesota professor emeritus David Lykken, an expert on the subject.
Lykken said that under some circumstances, a polygraph can be used to determine if someone has knowledge of a criminal act, but otherwise it is a poor screening device because it fails so many people telling the truth along with the actual liars.
"I think of all the excellent people we do not employ as scientists or federal agents simply because they failed to pass polygraphs," Lykken said.
9 October 2002 "Spies Get Past Polygraphs, Panel Says"
Reuters health and science correspondent Maggie Fox reports. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lie detectors may work in some cases, but they are too flawed to use for general security screening and could let through skilled spies, an independent panel said on Tuesday.
Not only do polygraphs cost many honest people a government job, but there are spies and criminals who probably know how to deceive them, said the National Academy of Sciences panel, appointed at the request of the Department of Energy.
"Someone who passes a polygraph is often treated as if he were no longer a security threat," Kevin Murphy, a professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University, told a news conference. "We believe that is not justified."
"It means that if there were spies or major violators in their organization, they are not catching them," added Stephen Fienberg, chairman of the committee and a professor of statistics and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "This is clearly a problem for national security."
The skill or technique of the questioner, and the equipment used, makes no difference, the report concluded.
"We stress that no spy has been caught yet using a polygraph," said Kathryn Laskey, an associate professor of systems engineering and operations research at George Mason University in Virginia.
The academy committee, made up of lawyers, psychologists, engineers and other professionals who had no experience with polygraphs, spent a year and a half studying the issue. They interviewed polygraph experts at the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, as well as at the Energy Department, and reviewed previous studies.
MYSTIQUE SURROUNDING POLYGRAPHS
It is clear that agencies rely heavily upon them.
"The U.S. federal government, through a variety of agencies, carries out thousands of polygraph tests each year on job applicants and current employees, and there are inevitable disputes that are sometimes highly publicized when someone 'fails' a polygraph test," the panel wrote.
"The polygraph seems to have received undue deference," said Fienberg.
He said people believe having to pass a polygraph test acts as a deterrent to would-be criminals and spies, and the committee could not say whether this was indeed the case.
Murphy said thousands of people had likely been turned down for government jobs for flunking a polygraph test -- tens of thousands when local police and law enforcement departments were included.
"Certainly many are turned away erroneously," Fienberg added.
9 October 2002 "How not to catch a spy: Use a lie detector"
Pittsburg Post-Gazette science editor Byron Spice reports. Excerpt:
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
Not polygraph examiners, at least not those charged with finding spies and other security risks within the ranks of federal employees, a new National Research Council report concludes.
Lie detectors simply aren't accurate enough to ferret out of what is presumably a handful of spies amid the tens of thousands of federal employees who undergo polygraph examinations each year, said Stephen Fienberg, a Carnegie Mellon University statistician who headed the study.
"The polygraph itself has not caught a single spy," Fienberg said yesterday following the release of his panel's two-year study on the use of polygraphs for screening employees. Lie detector results, he explained, "are better than chance, but well below perfection."
That can make lie detectors an effective interrogation tool for police trying to choose from among a handful of suspects, but even then, a large part of their effectiveness owes to their mystique, Fienberg said. The widespread belief that they work -- or might work -- can lead to confessions.
But when used as a screening tool, polygraphs can be expected to miss many, if not most, spies, while misidentifying untold numbers of loyal citizens as suspicious.
Even if the test were designed to catch eight of every 10 spies, it would produce false results for large numbers of people. For every 10,000 employees screened, Fienberg said, eight real spies would be singled out, but 1,598 innocent people would be singled out with them, with no hint of who's a spy and who isn't.
Yet use of lie detectors as screening tools has expanded, particularly at the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons laboratories following the Wen Ho Lee "spy" case at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
"But it's not just the DOE," Fienberg said. "It's the CIA, the FBI, the NSA. It's every three-letter agency. Even the Postal Service is using polygraphs." The Department of Defense alone administers 10,000 polygraph examinations every year.
"The polygraph is one of many tools we use to protect some of the nation's most sensitive secrets," said Linton Brooks, acting administrator of DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration. "It is used not on a stand-alone basis, but as part of a fabric of investigative and analytical reviews to help security personnel determine who should have access to classified information."
Still, law enforcement and security personnel seem to trust the polygraph more than other tools, Fienberg said. The study panel concluded that this is a misplaced trust that leads to overconfidence. "And this overconfidence can lead to a false sense of security," he added.
Al Zelicoff, a bioweapons expert at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., and an outspoken critic of DOE's polygraph use, agreed that the cloud of suspicion almost always lifts once an individual has passed a lie detector test. "That's a very bad assumption," he added, given that no one claims that polygraphs are perfect.
But the new report makes clear that the polygraph "is worse than worthless when used in a screening mode," said Zelicoff, a Pittsburgh native and graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Lots of honest people are unfairly placed under suspicion and precious resources are diverted from other security measures, he maintained.
9 October 2002 "Scientists Give the Lie to Polygraph Testing"
Los Angeles Times staff writer Charles Piller reports. Excerpt:
Polygraph testing for national security screening is little more than junk science, with results so inaccurate that they tend to be counterproductive, according to a long-awaited report released Tuesday by the National Academy of Sciences.
The nation's premier scientific organization said such tests, a key counterespionage tool for 50 years, promote false confidence that spies and other national security threats have been ferreted out.
Produced by experts in psychology, engineering, law and other fields, the report confirms long-standing doubts about the validity of polygraph testing that led to a 1988 federal law banning the use of such tests for employment screening in most private businesses.
Polygraph results are also inadmissible as evidence in nearly all state courts, with federal courts leaving the decision up to the judges.
"If logic has anything to do with it, then the report will have a major policy impact," said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence analyst with the Federation of American Scientists.
"I don't think federal agencies stop and ask themselves how many spies have we caught with this—because the answer is 'none'—or how many people have been unfairly denied employment, because the answer is 'many.' "
Federal security agencies would not discuss the report's conclusions Tuesday, saying they needed time to review the 333-page report in detail.
The U.S. government subjects thousands of job applicants or employees in sensitive positions to "lie detector" tests each year.
The CIA and the National Security Agency administer polygraph tests to all job applicants and employees. The FBI and the Defense Department also test extensively, particularly since last year's terrorist attacks. Such screenings are also common at large police departments nationwide.
"The polygraph has been, and continues to be, one of a number of useful tools in the applicant screening process," said CIA spokesman Paul Nowack.
Linton Brooks, acting head of the National Nuclear Security Administration—the agency responsible for the United States' nuclear weapons stockpile—said the agency will reassess its use of polygraphs in light of the new report.
"It is used not on a stand-alone basis but as part of a larger fabric of investigative and analytical reviews to help security personnel determine who should have access to classified information," Brooks said.
A Pentagon spokesperson said the Defense Department has valued the polygraph "as an investigative tool" for half a century, but agrees that further research would be valuable.
Some experts say the wide-ranging and authoritative report, which was prepared by the academy's research council based on 19 months of study, could trigger changes in security practice for agencies that depend on polygraph testing.
"It is going to be a watershed" that shifts the burden of proof from polygraph skeptics to its advocates, said Paul Giannelli, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University and a consultant to the national academy panel.
"The report is so devastating that it will affect all uses of the polygraph," he said, noting that the panel concluded that the government has "wasted millions of dollars and ought to go in a different direction."
9 October 2002 "Lie detectors called useless in spy hunt: scientists blast security screenings"
Dan Stober reports for the San Jose Mercury News. Excerpt:
Lie-detector tests are useless in ferreting out spies and they have unfairly tainted innocent employees and job applicants, the nation's leading researchers concluded in a report issued Tuesday.
Prompted by the controversial case of Wen Ho Lee, who was accused of spying for China, the National Research Council found virtually no scientific evidence that polygraphs work for the type of security screenings given to nuclear weapons designers, FBI agents and CIA officers. No spy has ever been caught by a polygraph, the 318-page report noted, while a rigorous test could falsely implicate up to 16 percent of those tested.
``National security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument,'' said Stephen Fienberg, who heads the panel of the National Academy of Sciences. ``The polygraph's serious limitations in employee security screening underscore the need to look more broadly for effective, alternative methods.''
Thousands of federal job applicants and employees in sensitive positions undergo polygraph tests every year. The CIA and National Security Agency give polygraph tests to all job applicants and employees. The FBI and Pentagon also test extensively, especially since last year's terrorist attacks, and polygraphs have increased at nuclear power plants.
In addition, large police departments nationwide employ polygraphs to screen applicants and employees.
The political uproar over the 1999 case of Lee, a former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, led to much-resented polygraphs there, and at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Polygraphs increased at the FBI and CIA after Alrich Ames and Rick Hanssen were found to have spied for Russia and the former Soviet Union for many years.
It was the rebellion against the polygraphs by the nuclear weapons scientists that triggered the study. The U.S. Energy Department, which owns the labs, is required by law to incorporate the findings in a new polygraph policy by the end of the year.
Tuesday, Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., called on the department to abolish the tests. The senators, who have heard the complaints of Los Alamos and Sandia scientists, sponsored the legislation creating the study.
The report's conclusions were music to the ears of polygraph opponents who have long called the tests ``junk science.''
The report ``unambiguously, irrefutably, undeniably rejected the hypothesis that the polygraph has any value whatsoever when used in a screening mode,'' crowed Al Zelicoff, a physicist and physician who does bioterrorism research at the Sandia lab in Albuquerque, N.M.
There is hope among the nuclear scientists that polygraphs will now go away.
9 October 2002 "Can Polygraphs Detect Spies?: Panel Says No, and Worries About Blemishing the Innocent"
Washington Post staff writer Shankar Vedantam reports. Excerpt:
Polygraph tests are ineffective in catching spies and have probably tarred thousands of innocent government employees and applicants with unwarranted suspicion, a top scientific panel has concluded.
While lie detectors may have some utility in criminal investigations, where subjects can be tested on specific questions about a crime, they tend to be unreliable in countering espionage, where large numbers of people are asked general questions about whether they have done anything wrong, the scientists said in a report.
"Too many loyal employees may be falsely judged as deceptive, or too many major security threats could go undetected," the scientists said, warning against reliance on the tests.
The study was commissioned by the Department of Energy in the wake of controversy over the case of scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was wrongly accused of passing U.S. secrets to China. Lee was subjected to polygraph testing, and controversy has swirled around how the tests were administered.
Polygraph tests have long been controversial; they are largely rejected by the courts and most countries, the scientists said. Still, investigators use them routinely, in part because of the belief that simply administering the tests make subjects more compliant and amenable to making confessions.
"We stress, though, that no spy has ever been caught using the polygraph," said Kathryn Laskey, a researcher at George Mason University in Fairfax and a member of the study team assembled by the National Research Council, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences.
For the study, the 17-member panel conducted the most exhaustive review to date of published studies on polygraphs and current government polygraph procedures.
The CIA and FBI now administer polygraph tests to all prospective employees, and both agencies and the national energy labs administer periodic tests to employees with access to secret material.
Spokesmen at the FBI, the CIA and the Department of Energy said they would evaluate the report. Linton F. Brooks, acting director of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the nation's nuclear stockpile and government labs, said the tests were not used on a stand-alone basis, but as part of a larger investigative fabric.
Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) yesterday called on the department to abolish the tests. The senators sponsored legislation requiring Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and the administrator of the NNSA to implement a new polygraph rule based on the new report.
9 October 2002 "Lie-Detector Tests Found Too Flawed to Discover Spies"
William J. Broad reports for the New York Times. Excerpt:
In a report to the government, a panel of leading scientists said yesterday that polygraph testing was too flawed to use for security screening. The panel said lie-detector tests did a poor job of identifying spies or other national-security risks and were likely to produce accusations of innocent people.
The 245-page report, by experts convened by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, said that the scientific basis for polygraph testing was weak and that much of the research supporting its use lacked scientific rigor.
Recently, worries over possible atomic espionage prompted widespread use of polygraph screening at the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories, which are run by the Energy Department. That department requested the 19-month study and financed it.
The report is not the first to question the reliability of lie-detector testing, which is known to have limitations that make its admissibility in court, for example, sharply limited. But it is the first by the academy, and private security experts said its findings could erode support for polygraph testing inside the federal government. Defense and intelligence agencies use polygraph testing tens of thousands of times a year as part of the screening of prospective and current employees for espionage.
"National security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument," said Stephen E. Fienberg, a professor of statistics and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and the panel's leader. "The polygraph's serious limitations in employee security screening underscore the need to look more broadly for effective, alternative methods."
The report said lie tests, which measure pulse and breathing rates, sweating and blood pressure, had some usefulness in investigating particular crimes but were far from totally reliable. But in routine security screening, the panel said, they often flag innocent people as lying, while missing actual security risks.
"No spy has ever been caught using the polygraph," Kathryn B. Laskey, a professor of systems engineering at George Mason University and a panel member, told reporters.
The council is the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, an organization of eminent scientists chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters. The report is the academy's first formal assessment of polygraph testing. The panel performed its evaluation by reviewing previous research on lie detector tests and by visiting centers where the tests are performed and developed.
White House officials said the academy report would be carefully studied.
"It's important to note," said Gordon D. Johndroe, spokesman for the White House Office of Homeland Security, "that polygraph examinations are one small part of a very comprehensive background investigation" for people in the government's most sensitive programs.
Steven Aftergood, a security expert at the Federation of American Scientists, a private group in Washington, said the report could be decisive in the long-standing debate over the polygraph's reliability. "People will still want to use it, but they will no longer be able to say experts disagree" on its usefulness, he said. "They don't."
6 October 2002 National Academy of Sciences' Polygraph Report to be Released on Tuesday, 8 October
The long-awaited report of the National Academy of Sciences' Study to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph is scheduled for public release with a press conference to be held on Tuesday, 8 October 2002 at 11:00 A.M. Eastern time A webcast will be available at that time at:
6 October 2002 Tennesean Sponsors Polygraph "Test" of Man Who Accused Priest of Sexual Abuse
Tennessean staff writer Laura Frank reports on allegations of sexual abuse brought by John Kline, a former student, against ex-priest Ron Dickman, a former Catholic school principal, in an article titled, "Ex-Ryan principal accused of molesting students; ex-priest Ron Dickman denies allegations." In a sensationalistic stunt, the newspaper paid for a polygraph "test" for Mr. Kline. Excerpt:
In addition, The Tennessean commissioned the former head of the FBI's national polygraph unit to conduct a polygraph, or ''lie detector'' test, on Kline.
''There is no question in my mind John is telling the truth,'' said Kendall W. Shull, who was chief of the polygraph unit at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., until he started his own consulting firm last year.
The Tennessean offered Dickman, who declined to be interviewed for this report, the opportunity to undergo a polygraph with Shull, as well. He declined, but his attorneys later commissioned their own, which they say he passed.
Dickman's attorneys released three of the questions he was asked during his polygraph. None asks directly whether Dickman had sexual contact with Kline. The Tennessean attempted to interview the examiner who gave Dickman the polygraph, but Dickman's attorneys declined to give consent and declined to release any more information about the polygraph.
A nationally recognized expert on polygraphs who was contacted by The Tennessean said he had ''serious reservations'' about the way questions were posed to Dickman.
Pseudoscientific polygraph "testing" is not a valid way to assess truthfulness. The Tennesean's resort to such nonsense detracts from what otherwise seems to be a well-researched article.
6 October 2002 "Details on polygraphs of Kline, Dickman"
Tennesean staff writer Laura Frank reports. Excerpt:
Last month, John Kline sat down in a chair at the Marriott Residence Inn in Brentwood with tubes and wires attaching his body to a polygraph machine.
Consultant Kendall W. Shull, whose previous job was overseeing the Federal Bureau of Investigation polygraph unit at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., began asking questions as a computer screen charted Kline's blood volume, breath rate, heartbeat and perspiration.
Kline had alleged that a former priest and principal molested him when Kline was a 16-year-old junior at Father Ryan High School. That man, Ron Dickman, said through an attorney that Kline's allegations are false. The Tennessean commissioned the polygraph for Kline.
Among the many questions Shull asked Kline, one was most pertinent: ''Did Ron Dickman perform oral sex on you during the year 1981?''
Yes, Kline answered.
Shull asked it another way: ''When you say Ron Dickman performed oral sex on you in 1981, is that a lie?''
No, Kline said.
At the end of the two-hour process, Shull, who has an advanced polygraph studies degree from the University of Virginia and has done polygraph research for the Department of Defense, read the results.
''There is no question in my mind John is telling the truth,'' Shull said later. ''The charts are real clear. Some charts aren't. These are. There's no question he passed the test.''
Shull sent a copy of Kline's polygraph results to his partners at National Polygraph Consultants without revealing his analysis of the charts.
Analysts there reached the same conclusion, said Shull, who has conducted more than 380 polygraphs in cases of violent crime, espionage and more for the FBI.
The Tennessean relayed the results of the test to Dickman's attorney, George Barrett, who discounted the validity of polygraphs.
''I don't have any confidence in those,'' Barrett said. ''They're not really science. ... They're not admissible in court.'' Barrett also declined The Tennessean's request to have Shull administer a polygraph to Dickman.
Two weeks later, Dickman's attorneys commissioned their own polygraph for Dickman. Attorney Edmund L. ''Ted'' Carey Jr. said Dickman passed his polygraph, too.
''In Mr. Dickman's pretest interview with the polygrapher, he denied any sexual involvement with Mr. Kline,'' Carey wrote in a letter to The Tennessean.
When Dickman was hooked up to the polygraph machine, Carey said, the examiner asked questions that referred to the earlier conversation with Dickman:
· ''Did you lie about sexual abuse of John Kline?''
· ''Did you lie about having any sexual act with John Kline?''
· ''Were you physically present when John Kline was sexually abused?''
To each question, Dickman answered ''no.''
The polygraph examiner, Richard E. Poe of Largo, Fla., found the responses to be truthful, Carey said.
1 October 2002 Wrongfully Convicted Man Who Failed Polygraph Wins Declaration of Innocence
Phil Trexler of the Beacon Journal reports on the exoneration of Jimmy "Spunk" Willams, who was wrongfully convicted of raping a child, in an article titled "A wrong is officially righted." Williams was convicted in part on the basis of his having failed a polygraph "test." Excerpt:
Further harming Williams' case was an agreement between prosecutors and his trial lawyer to allow jurors to hear the results of a lie detector test. Williams flunked it. Unless both sides agree to reveal the results, lie detector tests are not admissable in court because they can be unreliable.
At the conclusion of the trial, Williams was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison.
A common prosecutorial tactic is to tell a suspect that charges may be dropped if he passes a polygraph "test." But the suspect must first sign an agreement stating that the results of the "test" are to be admissible in court. This is typically done in cases where the evidence against the suspect is weak to begin with and the prosecution has little to lose. But even an innocent suspect has much to lose by stipulating to such terms. These pseudoscientific "tests" have an inherent bias against the truthful, because the more honestly one answers the so-called "control" questions, the more likely one is to "fail." Moreover, a polygrapher's prejudice or willful manipulation can also determine the outcome. See Chapter 3 of AntiPolygraph.org's free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector for more on how these fraudulent "tests" really work (and don't).
1 October 2002 Police chief defends Levy case
Washington Times staff writer Matthew Cella reports. Excerpt:
Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey defended yesterday the results of a polygraph test administered to a man in prison for attacking two women in the same park where former government intern Chandra Levy's remains were found, but he said police would like to ask the man a few more questions.
Ingmar Guandique, serving a 10-year sentence in a federal prison in Kentucky, was convicted of attacking two female joggers in separate assaults near Broad Branch Road, which is where Miss Levy's remains were found May 22. Both women fought back and escaped without serious injury.
Guandique was arrested July 1, 2001, the same day of the second attack.
D.C. police questioned Guandique, 21, about Miss Levy's disappearance and administered a polygraph test after a fellow inmate said Guandique had confessed to the killings.
Chief Ramsey said Guandique passed his test, though Guandique failed a similar polygraph test.
The chief said he would like to re-interview Guandique now that Miss Levy's remains have been discovered.
"Now that we found the body and you look at the MOs of the two attacks that didn't result in death and hers looking for similarities, we need to go back and ask this guy this set of questions that are really specific now to what we know about what probably happened at that crime. But he's not cooperating," Chief Ramsey said.
The Washington Post reported in Sunday's editions that police were concerned that the polygraph test may be unreliable because the FBI administered it through an interpreter. Chief Ramsey dismissed that concern, saying he was satisfied with the use of the FBI-qualified interpreter. He said the same interpreter was used during the polygraphs of Guandique and the other inmate.
Chief Ramsey speculated that the inmate who said Guandique had confessed may have provided secondhand information and failed the polygraph test when asked whether he had heard the confession directly.
29 September 2002 Polygraph at Issue in Chandra Levy Murder Investigation
Washington Post staff writers Sari Horwitz and Allan Lengel report in an article titled, "Levy Probe Concentrates On Rock Creek Attacker." Excerpt:
Detectives in the Chandra Levy murder case are focusing on a man convicted of assaulting two women jogging in Rock Creek Park last year -- a suspect who was initially discounted after he passed a polygraph test that investigators now believe was flawed.
Ingmar A. Guandique, 21, has been in prison for the assaults on the joggers since July 2001, two months after Levy disappeared. After her remains were found in the park May 22, some investigators reexamining his case were struck by the similarities in the three crime scenes, law enforcement sources said.
Investigators then discovered that a Spanish-speaking interpreter instead of a bilingual polygraph technician was used in administering Guandique's polygraph, sources said. Relying on an interpreter, according to legal experts, can skew the results of the test because the questions are filtered through and possibly altered by the interpreter.
A Tip Discounted
D.C. police first spoke to Guandique about the Levy case in the summer of 2001 after U.S. Park Police alerted them to his arrest in the jogger assaults, according to court records. But law enforcement sources said they found nothing to indicate he was involved in her disappearance, especially since, at the time, they weren't aware that her body was in the park.
After Guandique's arrest, an inmate at the D.C. jail told authorities that Guandique had confided in him that he stabbed Levy and left her body in the park, law enforcement sources said. The inmate didn't try to trade the information for a lighter sentence, saying he came forward because he felt bad for the Levy family.
In September 2001, the inmate failed a polygraph test, also administered through an interpreter. Guandique, who denied involvement in the Levy case, passed, the sources said, and authorities felt comfortable that he was not their man.
When Levy's body was found eight months later, Guandique's name surfaced as someone who had attacked other women in the park. High-ranking police, knowing that their detectives had discounted him because of the polygraph, played him down as a suspect, with Ramsey scolding, "The press is making too big a deal of it."
Ramsey's then-deputy, Terrance R. Gainer, was more blunt: "He wasn't our suspect then. He's not our suspect now."
Ramsey last week defended the use of the interpreter. "When you've got language issues, it's not unusual to use a translator," he said.
But Billy Franklin, director of the Virginia School of Polygraph in Norfolk, said he prefers not to use interpreters because if they don't pose the questions correctly, the answers can be wrong.
"In such an important case, they should have used a bilingual examiner if possible," he said.
James Starrs, professor of law and forensic science at George Washington University, contends that because lie detector tests can be unreliable, they shouldn't always determine the course of an investigation.
"Simply because someone passes the test, they shouldn't be written off, absolutely not," he said.
24 September 2002 Polygraph Dragnet in Franklin County, IL
Jim Muir reports for The Southern Illinoisan in an article titled, "Franklin Sheriff Says One Person Had Access to Pot Storage" Excerpt:
BENTON -- As the investigation into the disappearance of 5-10 pounds of marijuana from a secure county storage facility enters its third week, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Wilson said only one person from his staff had access to where the pot was stored.
Wilson said it's unfair to label the entire jail staff for the disappearance.
"There are 13 people that we have determined that had access to the storage facility," Wilson said. "But only one of those people is actually an employee of this department."
Wilson said the marijuana was placed in a storage facility behind the jail late in the evening on Sept. 6 after agents from the COMIT Drug Task Force raided a Hamilton County residence and confiscated a large cache of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.
When officers entered the building Sept. 9 to inventory the drugs seized during the bust, the marijuana was discovered to be missing. Wilson said more than 100 marijuana plants and a wide assortment of drug-related items were left behind.
"It's unfair to say that all jail employees are involved in this because they're not," said Wilson. Immediately after Wilson was notified that the marijuana was missing he contacted state police officials who took over the investigation. Lie detector tests have been given to the 13 people in question, but no details on the results are being released.
18 September 2002 AntiPolygraph.org Marks 2nd Anniversary
Two years have passed since AntiPolygraph.org first went on-line on 18 September 2000. Since then, we've rapidly grown to become the Internet's leading site for polygraph information and a focal point for public debate of polygraph issues. Our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (now in its second edition) has been downloaded 40,000+ times, making it perhaps the most widely distributed book on polygraphy ever published. We thank all those who have helped to make AntiPolygraph.org a success, and look forward to continued progress as we enter our third year on-line.
18 September 2002 Held Without Charge: Material witness law puts detainees in legal limbo
Newsday staff writer John Riley reports on post 9/11 civil rights abuses stemming from the material witness law in this well-researched investigative article, which is the fourth in a series. Among other things, he documents the case of Abdallah Higazy, from whom an FBI polygrapher extracted a false confession. Excerpt:
Higazy, an Egyptian diplomat's child who had spent long stretches of his youth in the United States, came to New York in late summer last year to attend engineering school with the aid of a scholarship from the Institute of International Education, a U.S.-government-affiliated foundation.
The institute reserved a room for him at the Millenium while he was looking for a place to stay in Brooklyn. After evacuating on Sept. 11 and settling into his studies, he apparently came into the scope of federal investigators when Millenium security guard Ronald Ferry claimed to have discovered a ground-to-air radio in a safe in Higazy's room, along with his passport, on top of a copy of the Quran.
Ferry said he found the items while taking inventory of guests' property in the closed hotel in October and reported it to the FBI. But Higazy, who had been in touch with the hotel about retrieving his abandoned property, heard nothing until he came to the hotel on Dec. 17 to get his possessions.
After informing management the radio listed under his name on an inventory list was an error, he was ushered into a room by three FBI agents. In addition to the radio, he says, they questioned him about his political views, his friends, his background in Egypt and why he was in the United States
Then, as Higazy stuck to his insistence that he had never seen the radio and didn't even know what it was, they arrested him as a material witness. He remembered the title of an Egyptian play: "A Witness Who Witnessed Nothing."
Without the material witness law, the government would have been in a difficult position. They couldn't tie the radio itself to any criminal conduct - there has never been any evidence, at least publicly, that the Sept. 11 hijackers received transmissions from the ground. And even if the radio had been Higazy's, it's not a crime to have a radio in your hotel room.
But the material witness law provided an alternative - and, in the end, a case study in how the ability to arrest without charges can spawn charges without a crime.
Investigators justified holding Higazy based on a web of circumstances: He denied owning the radio. He was a recent arrival, staying next to the World Trade Center. He was from Egypt, and so were some hijackers. He had maps of New York and Washington airports in his room. He wasn't forthcoming because he first denied knowing anything about the radio, but later volunteered that he knew about such devices from his service in the Egyptian army.
Prosecutors acknowledged, in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, that despite arresting Higazy, they still hadn't contacted the Institute of International Education, which had placed him at the Millenium, to check out his explanation of why he was there. Dunn, Higazy's attorney, told the judge that the airport maps had been provided to all incoming students and said that agents were taking an unduly jaundiced view of his attempts to deny knowledge of the particular radio while admitting that he knew about radios generally.
Rakoff, according to transcripts that were later unsealed, said that it was "not perhaps the most overwhelming showing on the part of the government," but concluded that a grand jury might reasonably want to hear testimony about the radio. He agreed to hold Higazy. And once in custody in a small cinder-block cell, the ground shifted.
Higazy was detained because his "testimony" was material, but prosecutors did not actually want the testimony he was offering. Indeed, it was clear, Dunn said, that if Higazy went before a grand jury and stuck with his story, he would be charged with perjury. Instead, they wanted him to change his story and tell the "truth" as they saw it.
Unless he did that, it wasn't clear when Higazy would be released, or how he could earn his freedom from his top-security cell at the Metropolitan Correction Center.
"You're guilty until proven innocent as a material witness," Higazy said. "You're in a closed loop. As far as I knew, they were going to hold me indefinitely until I 'cooperated.' There were other guys [at the correction center] who had been there since a few days after Sept. 11. I didn't want to be there indefinitely."
That fear led Higazy - against Dunn's advice - to ask for a lie detector test, hoping it would show he wasn't lying. Prosecutors agreed, but insisted Dunn couldn't be in the room. The strategy backfired. Higazy spent three to four hours alone in a room with the government's polygraph examiner, but no lie detector test ever was completed.
Instead, according to Higazy, the examiner - an FBI agent whose name is still under seal - impressed on him again and again that it would be hopeless to try to pass the test without changing his story, admitting he owned the radio and explaining where it came from. And eventually, Higazy says, as the test turned into an interrogation, a threat was made that led him to fear for both relatives at home and a brother attending school in upstate New York.
"If you don't cooperate with us," Higazy recalled the agent saying, "the FBI will make your brother upstate live under scrutiny and will make sure Egyptian security gives your family hell." Prosecutors initially denied any threats were made, but now decline to comment on what happened and on the permissibility of using such threats as an interrogation technique.
Already convinced he would never get out if he stuck to the truth, the interrogation pushed him over the edge, Higazy said. He thought he was being "set up" in the United States, and saw no reason the setup couldn't fool Egyptian police just as it had fooled the FBI.
"I began hyperventilating, my heart was racing, I had sweaty palms, I could feel my blood pressure going up," Higazy recalled. "Admitting that the device was mine seemed like the lesser of two evils."
After the session, Higazy sought to recant his "confession," and refused to go before the grand jury to repeat it. So prosecutors charged him with lying to the FBI in his original denials about the radio and cited the confession at Higazy's arraignment. Then, five days later, the whole case collapsed.
A pilot - who has never been identified - showed up at the Millenium looking for the radio he left in his room on the 50th floor. Ferry admitted he had lied, saying the radio had actually been found on a table by a co-worker. Higazy was released. Since then, Ferry has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, receiving a sentence of weekends in jail for six months. Rakoff has pressed the office of U.S. Attorney James Comey in Manhattan to investigate and report on what happened during Higazy's interrogation.
Higazy - a chatty, friendly sort who has married an American woman and completed his courses since his release - was initially forgiving, ascribing his detention to an unavoidable mistake. Since then, he says, his views have hardened.
He and Dunn have learned, they say, that the government moved to arrest him as a material witness without a sworn statement from his chief accuser, Ferry. They have questions about why the government didn't interview other Millenium witnesses - such as a second employee who, according to court papers, was with Ferry when the radio was discovered - before arresting Higazy. And they wonder why the government moved to detain Higazy without even bothering to call the educational institute that placed him at the hotel.
"It was a rush to judgment," Dunn said.
They think he was from the start treated more like a suspect than a material witness. And they think the polygraph was a ruse - used to entice a man eager to win his freedom into a planned interrogation without his lawyer.
"All this," Higazy said, "could have been avoided."
18 September 2002 Florida Terror-Alert Students Refuse Lie Tests
NewsMax.com reports. Excerpt:
Three Muslim medical students who were stopped by police on Friday and interrogated for 17-hours after allegedly making jokes and threats related to the 9/11 anniversary have declined to take lie detector tests to back up their denials.
The refusal came after their accuser, Georgia resident Eunice Stone, said she'd be willing to submit to a lie test to prove her story, challenging them to do the same.
"While the young men were willing to take a polygraph ... we didn't want them to take a polygraph at this time," said the students' lawyer, Khummar Wahid, in an interview Tuesday night on MSNBC's "Phil Donahue Show."
"There's some scientific problems with taking a polygraph," complained Wahid, who is part of a legal team representing the three students assembled by the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Wahid said he also feared the test may be used as evidence against his clients, explaining, "At this time we're not 100 percent confident that the FDLE or Georgia or the FBI won't be in some way trying to file some sort of criminal charges here."
Khummar Wahid is absolutely right in counseling his clients to refuse to submit to any lie detector "test." If you are ever suspected of a crime -- whether innocent or guilty -- it would be wise for you to refuse to submit. The "test" is a fraud that has no scientific basis whatsoever. "Passing" will not necessarily clear you of suspicion, while "failing" one of these pseudoscientific "tests" is highly prejudicial.
13 September 2002 Israel: "Ministry tells El Al not to subject staff to lie detector tests"
Zohar Blumenkranz reports for Ha'aretz. Excerpt:
The Justice Ministry has prohibited El Al from subjecting its employees to polygraph tests aimed at discovering who in the company has been leaking information to the media. The ministry directive is based on a ruling by the attorney general opposing the use of these kinds of tests in public companies.
The airline's director-general, Amos Shapira, decided last month to hire a private investigation agency and have the company's executives undergo lie-detector tests in order to find out who leaked data from the company's financial statements for the first half of the year. Shapira was also upset that some of his conversations with the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee had also been leaked to the press.
In a letter to El Al's chairman of the board, Michael Levy, the deputy attorney general, Edo Baum, wrote: "The attorney general has asked me to call your attention to the summary of a discussion held in our office in March 2001 on the subject of polygraph tests aimed at identifying leaks in one of the statutory authorities that is not part of a police investigation. It is stated there: The attorney general stressed the difficulty of polygraph tests in cases like this, when juxtaposed against a person's dignity and freedom."
The summary cited in the letter notes that asking an employee to undergo a polygraph test puts the employee in an uncomfortable and inappropriate situation. In addition, this kind of testing has not proved to be successful in uncovering leaks, the letter notes.
12 September 2002 Lab employee alleges improper polygraph exam
This short article from the website of KRQE News in Albuquerque, New Mexico is cited here in full:
Sandia National Laboratories is looking into allegations of improper questioning of one of its employees by a U.S. Energy Department polygraph examiner. The unidentified employee alleges the examiner asked inappropriate medical questions during a lie detector test.
After complaining within Sandia, the employee was called in for a second exam and asked accusatory questions. So says a senior Sandia scientist, Al Zelicoff, who has interceded on behalf of the unidentified employee.
Sandia president Paul Robinson says he's asked senior Sandia managers to review the case. Polygraphs are used to screen groups of Sandia employees handling secret information.
12 September 2002 Singapore: "Clubs respond to queries about lie-detector tests"
The Singapore Straits Times follows up on the polygraph "testing" of soccer players. Excerpt:
WERE any of your players summoned by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau for lie-detector tests?
If so, do you know what the outcome was?
Would you like to know the names of those who flunked the test before you sign up players next season?
These were the three questions Timesport asked officials of the 12 S-League clubs yesterday after it reported that a few players had failed the random polygraph tests which were introduced last year as part of an initiative to prevent match-fixing.
While officials of three clubs admitted they knew some of their players had taken the test, seven said none of their players had been called up for testing. The answer from the remaining two was: 'Don't know'.
All the club officials were more than cooperative when Timesport contacted them for their 'frank and honest' responses.
Of the three club officials who admitted their charges were tested, the first said two of its players underwent the test, the second said only one was summoned and the third said the club was 'in the dark' about the number.
All three, however, did not know what the outcome of the tests were.
Many of the officials referred to yesterday's The Straits Times report which said that the soccer grapevine had it that 30-odd players had undergone the tests in the last two seasons, that some of them had failed it and that their respective clubs had been 'unofficially' made aware of it.
One official said: 'One of my players admitted he was tested, but we don't know whether he passed it. So he is treated just like the rest.'
A team manager declared: 'None of us know anything. Not me, not the chairman, not the coach, not the guys.'
Attempting to sum it up for all, another manager bellowed: 'This is a private matter. It is confidential information. I don't know anything.'
And he was supported by yet another 'don't know' official who added: 'How would I know? As long as a player is not banned, I can sign him.'
Though polygraph tests are inadmissible as evidence in court, officials of all the 12 clubs said they would like to have some form of guidance from the Football Association of Singapore on a matter which was this 'sensitive'.
11 September 2002 Singapore: "S-League players fail match-fixing lie-detector tests"
The Singapore Straits Times reports on the polygraph "testing" of soccer players. Excerpt:
Club officials say they were 'unofficially' told of players who failed the test - they now have to decide what to do about it
SOME S-League football players have failed the lie-detector tests introduced last year.
But because the polygraph tests are inadmissible as evidence in court, the Football Association of Singapore is treating the matter delicately.
When contacted by The Straits Times, FAS chief operating officer John Koh would not comment on the results of such tests.
But club officials disclose that they were 'unofficially' told of players in their clubs who had failed the test.
It is then left to the clubs to decide on the next course of action - which includes not employing such players.
A senior club official, who did not want to be named, said: 'There is nothing on paper. It is all word-of-mouth communication.'
The FAS introduced the polygraph tests a year ago, in response to a call by Fifa to combat match-fixing worldwide.
Fifteen to 20 players are reportedly tested each year.
10 September 2002 "Telling the Truth About Lie Detectors"
Dan Vergano reports for USA Today. Excerpt:
A long-time law enforcement favorite, the lie detector, now finds itself sweating the hot lights of scientific inquiry.
Crime dramas have long depicted the polygraph's tangle of wires and wiggling chart lines uncovering lies during a hard-boiled criminal interrogation. As suspects are questioned, the device checks for sweaty skin or racing hearts to root out deception, but the machine's accuracy has long been in dispute.
Nonetheless, the polygraph has a higher-than-ever profile. It's an ongoing bone of contention on Capitol Hill and a factor in recent spy investigations of FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen and physicist Wen Ho Lee. In the Lee case, the FBI's contention the physicist had lied on a polygraph test in 1998 led to 59 charges, all but one dropped in a plea bargain two years later. That sparked a request for a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, due as soon as the first week of October, on the validity of the polygraph.
Now, some of the same politicians who called for polygraphs of federal employees are involved in an FBI investigation aimed at finding who's responsible for a classified intelligence leak about two intercepted messages that hinted at the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Many House-Senate intelligence committee staffers and legislators, perhaps most prominently Sen. Richard Shelby, R.-Ala., have declined to take polygraph tests.
"Allowing the executive branch to submit the legislative branch to lie-detector tests raises constitutional issues of separation of powers," Shelby says, in a statement.
Polygraph critics such as Alan Zelicoff of Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico find the sensitivity of Shelby and his committee peers ironic, noting two years ago that the committee helped instigate the polygraph screening of weapons scientists designed to root out spies.
A physician biodefense researcher at the weapons lab, Zelicoff has led opposition to the polygraph there, saying that for screening purposes, the device's measures -- pulse, blood pressure, breathing and sweating -- reveal deception about as well as a coin flip. He likens the polygraph to a defective medical test, one whose high false-positive rate, depicting honest people as liars, makes it unreliable as a diagnostic tool. Last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft estimated the false-positive rate of polygraphs at 15%, about a one-in-six chance, at a news conference.
Polygraphs are perhaps the most controversial tool in law enforcement. Some states and federal court judges now accept lie-detector results, but many states ban them outright. A 1998 Supreme Court decision allowed such bans, but read in part, "There is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable: The scientific community and the state and federal courts are extremely polarized on the matter."
The disagreements have become so entrenched that the NAS deliberately sought members for its report committee who had never staked out a position on the issue. "My primary qualification is I've never worked on the topic," noted committee chair Stephen Fienberg, a statistics expert at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
The key question before his committee is whether the lie-detector test is a scientific test of deception.
9 September 2002 Namibia: "Roads body abandons lie detector tests"
Tangeni Amupadhi reports for The Namibian. Excerpt:
THE Roads Authority has stopped trying to catch out liars among people it wants to hire or promote.
The Authority abandoned using lie detector tests after unhappy workers seeking promotion complained to The Namibian.
While the Roads Authority has stopped using lie detectors, the man hired to conduct the tests says the practice is widespread as a condition of employment in Namibia.
This raises ethical and legal questions, lawyers say.
The agency recently advertised internally for positions of a 'Law Administration Officer' and 'Licensing Officers'.
After listing specific requirements for the posts, the advert stated in bold letters: "All applicants will be subjected to a polygraph screening test prior to attending the interviews."
Asked whether this was company policy, Roads Authority spokesperson Dintwe Mootseng said the lie detector test has been required by the Namibia Traffic Information System (NaTIS) as a means of ensuring the credibility of the organisation which issues driving and motor vehicle licences.
"We can confirm that there is a requirement from NaTIS for people in sensitive positions to take the polygraph test," Mootseng said.
"The NaTIS system is an international system which spans across southern Africa and beyond. The integrity of the system is of utmost importance, we cannot afford to compromise it in any way," he said.
But Mootseng added that the practice had been suspended and the results of the latest polygraph tests would be disregarded until the Roads Authority has clarified the policy.
"We have erred, we realise we made a mistake by doing this," Mootseng said.
9 September 2002 Israeli Scientist Who Spied for Soviets Passed "Successive Lie Detector Tests"
Boston Globe correspondent Dan Ephron reports on the case of Dr. Marcus Klingberg in an article titled, "Israel details damaging espionage case." Excerpt:
JERUSALEM - The first reports of his arrest surfaced in 1991. By that time, Marcus Klingberg, one of Israel's leading scientists, already had been languishing in jail for eight years.
Even then, Israeli military censors barred journalists from reporting anything but the basic facts of his case. Klingberg had worked at one of Israel's most sensitive security installations. He had been arrested in January 1983 and convicted four months later of spying for the Soviet Union. His family was forced to keep quiet about Klingberg's whereabouts, even to the point of lying to journalists who inquired about the case.
Last week authorities finally lifted the veil on the details of one of the most damaging espionage affairs in Israel's history.
From 1957 to 1975, Klingberg, 84, who had served as deputy head of the secretive Biological Institute near Tel Aviv, passed information to the Soviet Union about Israel's chemical and biological warfare programs, seriously compromising the country's ability to defend against a nonconventional attack, according to a new book and to security officials familiar with the case.
Both Mossad and Shabak, Israel's foreign and domestic security agencies, had suspicions about Klingberg over the years, but surveillance operations turned up nothing and the scientist managed to pass successive lie detector tests.
9 September 2002 UK: Lie-detector tests on paedophiles 'unreliable'
David Derbyshire and Roger Highfield report for the Daily Telegraph Excerpt:
A scientist yesterday questioned a proposal to use lie-detector tests on convicted paedophiles to see if they would reoffend.
Initial trials by two American polygraph examiners in the West Midlands, Northumberland and Surrey found that a third of those taking the tests lied when they told probation officers that they were not having unsupervised contact with children.
As a result "significant action" was taken in three cases to prevent them reoffending and the Home Office is now considering a pilot scheme, marking the first time such tests have been used within the criminal justice system in Britain.
But, at the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Leicester, Dr Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, said the results of these tests should be treated with caution.
5 September 2002 Polygraph "Testing" of Rape Victims Debated in NC Sheriff's Election
Alex McAllister reports for the Jacksonville, North Carolina Daily News in an article titled, "Sheriff faces his challengers." Excerpt:
Sheriff Ed Brown on Wednesday defended his use of the polygraph tests on rape victims when investigating cases of sexual assault.
Brown addressed the issue during a forum for candidates running for sheriff hosted by the Onslow County Council for Women at Hilda's Restaurant in Jacksonville.
Brown was joined at the forum by Democratic challenger Leon LeBlond along with Republican candidate Paul Buchanan; Wayne Morris, a Republican who will appear on the ballot as unaffiliated; and Billy Woodward, a Democrat who will also appear on the ballot as unaffiliated. Libertarian candidate Mathew Tillman did not attend.
Woodward, the son of the late former Sheriff Billy Woodward Sr., raised the issue and asked Brown, his former boss, if polygraph or lie detector tests are used in such cases.
"If this is the case, that will be the first policy done away with," Woodward said, referring to his administration should he win election in November.
Brown defended the policy saying that times have changed. False accusations in such cases are not uncommon.
"We've seen something today we didn't see in law enforcement 30 years ago," Brown said and added that in some cases, there isn't any evidence and the polygraph is used to find the truth when both parties disagree.
"I agree polygraphs shouldn't be used as a prerequisite for charging," Brown said.
Other candidates agreed with Woodward.
"The polygraph is nothing but an instrument, it's the last resort you should use," Buchanan said.
"No one should have anything held over them, because that's victimizing the person," Morris said.
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