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24 February 2003 "Star's Lie Detector Challenge to Michael Jackson"
The tabloid Star magazine has challenged musician Michael Jackson to a lie detector "test." Excerpt:

IS he or isn't he?

The one question millions of Americans want to ask is whether Michael Jackson is a sexual predator of children. Or is he merely an eccentric 44-year-old entertainer with a fondness for kids bordering on the bizarre?

He has admitted to sleeping in the same bed with young boys but denies any sexual contact with them, despite having settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit involving a 13-year-old kid. So who is the real Michael Jackson and what is the real story?

Star magazine is now giving Jackson the chance to settle this disturbing national debate. We are offering Jackson $1 million to take a lie detector test. If he truthfully answers the "10 Questions America Wants to Ask" in a simple "yes or no" format, he would prove whether he has been unfairly branded a monster.

The questions range from the depth of his involvement with young boys to whether or not he really had sex with Lisa Marie Presley. "This is a bona-fide offer to Michael Jackson," says Star Editorial Director Tony Frost, who fired off to Jackson a registered letter about the offer. "Once and for all, Michael could put all the rumors and innuendoes to rest."


Star has chosen one of the country's foremost specialists, retired Miami Police Homicide Detective Nelson Andreu. He owns the highly respected Deception Check Polygraph and Investigative Services in Miami. In addition to an impressive list of credentials, Andreu is certified by the Florida court system as a polygrapher of sexual offenders. He has tested hundreds of suspects.

"A polygraph measures the involuntary physiological changes in a person being interviewed," Andreu explains. "No one can beat it. I'll be happy to work with Mr. Jackson."

Passing or failing a lie detector "test" puts nothing to rest: polygraphy is a pseudoscientific fraud that has no diagnostic value. It may, however, have some value as a promotional stunt for sensationalistic publications like Star magazine.

20 February 2003 "Pentagon Foresees Expanded 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:


Despite escalating criticism concerning the validity of polygraph testing, the Defense Department may seek to increase reliance on the polygraph as a security and counterintelligence tool, according to a new report to Congress.

In 1991, Congress authorized the Pentagon to conduct no more than 5,000 counterintelligence-scope polygraph (CSP) tests annually (not including tests on intelligence agency personnel, which are performed under the authority of the Director of Central Intelligence).

But "since that time, the Department has identified additional vulnerabilities and threats to classified information that did not exist over a decade ago," according to the new report.

In particular, "the broad based use of information technology systems, coupled with the development of information sharing capabilities over the internet and through other electronic media, require the updating of DoD information assurance policies and practices to keep pace with this emerging threat."

"These enhanced security requirements may require a CSP polygraph examination for access to DoD information systems."

Accordingly, "an increase in the CSP ceiling ... may be requested from Congress," the report stated.

The Defense Department's "Annual Polygraph Report to Congress, Fiscal Year 2002," contains recent program statistics, anecdotal summaries of cases in which polygraph testing aided investigators, and descriptions of current polygraph research initiatives. The report is available here:

The new DoD report attempts to deflect an extremely critical evaluation of polygraph testing that was published by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2002.

"It is important to note that the NRC report... concluded that the polygraph technique is the best tool currently available to detect deception and assess credibility," the Pentagon said. But this is quite disingenuous.

What the NRC report actually said, critic George Maschke of pointed out, is that "[s]ome potential alternatives to the polygraph show promise, but none has yet been shown to outperform the polygraph" (p. 8-4). As for the polygraph itself, "[t]here is essentially no evidence on the incremental validity of polygraph testing, that is, its ability to add predictive value to that which can be achieved by other methods" (p. 8-2).

While the majority of persons who undergo polygraph testing do so without incident, it is a career-ender for some and a deeply disconcerting experience for quite a few others. And at least some polygraph examiners apparently engage in occasional free-lance interrogation of their own.

One recent applicant for employment at the CIA told Secrecy News that his polygraph examination included the question "Do you have friends in the media?"

10 February 2003 Israel: "A lying test"
Ha'aretz published the following letter from co-founder George Maschke:

A lying test

Regarding "Cellcom CEO puts execs under the grill" by Hadar Horesh, February 7:

Yitzhak Peterburg's decision to force senior Cellcom executives to submit to polygraph tests or be fired is a mistake. Polygraph "testing" is simply unreliable. The dirty little secret behind the polygraph is that the "test" depends on trickery, not science. The polygrapher exhorts the examinee to answer all questions truthfully, but secretly assumes that denials to certain questions - called "control" questions - will be less than truthful.

One commonly used control question is, "Did you ever lie to get out of trouble?" The polygrapher steers the examinee into a denial, warning that anyone who would do so is the kind of person who would be guilty in the incident under investigation. But secretly, it is assumed that everyone, even innocent people, have [sic] lied to get out of trouble.

The polygrapher scores the test by comparing physiological reactions to these probable-lie control questions with reactions to relevant questions (e.g., "Did you talk to any reporter about those business plans?") If the former reactions are greater, the examinee passes; if the latter are greater, he fails. This simplistic methodology has no grounding in scientific method.

Polygraph tests also include irrelevant questions like "Is today Saturday?" The polygrapher falsely explains that such questions provide a "baseline for truth," but in reality, they are not scored at all and merely serve as buffers between sets of relevant and control questions.

Investigators value the polygraph because naive and gullible examinees sometimes confess. But many truthful persons fail the "test." Perversely, the test is biased against the truthful because the more candidly one answers the control questions, and as a consequence feels less distress when answering them, the more likely one is to fail. Conversely, liars can beat the test by augmenting their physiological reactions to the control questions. This can be done by constricting the anal sphincter muscle, biting the side of the tongue, or merely thinking exciting thoughts. Although polygraphers frequently claim they can detect such countermeasures, no polygrapher has ever demonstrated any ability to do so, and peer-reviewed research indicates that they can't.

George W. Maschke

10 February 2003 Israel: "CEO's decision to polygraph execs - at behest of Cellcom board"
Ha'aretz reports. Excerpt:

Cellcom's shareholders are the ones behind the controversial order of the mobile operator's brand new CEO, Yitzhak Peterburg, that company executives undergo lie detection tests as a precondition for their continued employment, after a series of leaks to the press.

Specifically, the shareholders ordered Peterburg to halt the rash of leaks, which disclosed details of Cellcom's new working plan and internal top-level discussions, by a crushing move. Peterburg was the one who decided to use a polygraph, an idea that won the shareholders' support.

Peterburg's directive was designed mainly as a deterrent, not necessarily to hunt down offending managers, on whom he - as a new manager - is dependent.

Outraged executives lost no time leaking their complaints to the press. Labor law executives noted that despite the lack of precedence in court rulings, mandatory polygraphing is probably illegal under the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom (1992).

9 February 2003 Israel: "Polygraph requirement leading Cellcom VPs to consider resignation"
Efi Landau reports for Globes [online]. Excerpt:

Cellcom VPs are opposed in principle to Cellcom president and CEO Dr. Yitzhak Peterburg's order that company executives take a polygraph examination, but do not dare to publicly oppose him. Peterburg wants to discover who leaked information to the press last week.

Peterburg himself was examined on Friday, and appointments for all company executives were made for this week. The company spokesperson declined to say what questions Peterburg was asked in his polygraph test, and what the results were.

Several Cellcom VPs have received job offers, and are considering them. Peterburg announced today that taking the test is a precondition for continuing to work at the company. In his statement to the press, Peterburg said that the company had an obligation to ensure that senior executives who were "damaging and sabotaging company activities would not continue in their posts at Cellcom".

Senior company sources said that Peterburg himself is damaging the company and undermining its business, by instituting a reign of terror and beginning an irreversible process of demoralization.

7 February 2003 Murder Victim's Ex-husband Claims Police Harassment for Refusing Polygraph
Brian Arrington of the Gloucester County, New Jersey Times reports in an article titled "Murder victim's ex: Don't harass me." Excerpt:

Since his ex-wife, Jennifer Whipkey, was murdered in May, the 23-year-old says he has been trailed, threatened and harassed by police who are attempting to coerce him into taking a lie detector test.

"They are basically telling me if that I don't take this test they are going to make it hard for me around town," he said. "I thought we were supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. They're treating me like a criminal."

[Adam] Whipkey, a laid-off construction worker, said he didn't kill the mother of his 4-year-old daughter and that he has cooperated with police. He has taken a DNA test he said proves his innocence. He said he has answered all their questions. But it seems every time the leads dry up, police are back at his door.

Whipkey said he is going to press charges against the West Deptford Police Department and the County Prosecutor's Office for harassing him. He is meeting with authorities today.


He said he won't take a polygraph test. He said it's not because he has something to hide, but because it s not admissible in court and not 100 percent accurate.

Adam Whipkey is smart to refuse a polygraph "test." Polygraphy has not been proven through peer-reviewed research to reliably differentiate between truth and deception at better-than-chance levels under field conditions.

7 February 2003 Israel: "Cellcom CEO puts execs under the grill"
Hadar Horesh reports for Ha'aretz. Excerpt:

Yitzhak Peterburg, the new president and CEO of Cellcom cellular phone company, has been so disturbed by recent leaks to the press of corporate doings, that he called senior executives together yesterday and told them to take a polygraph test to establish who was responsible for the leaks.

Whoever refused to take the lie-detector test would be fired, he said. And to set an example, Peterburg himself volunteered to be the first to take the test.

Since Peterburg took over at the end of last year, company executives have complained about his new style of management, which often leaves them out of decision-making. Earlier this month, he announced a series of cost-cutting measures including 10 percent pay cuts for senior executives and the reduction of 280 jobs. This follows downsizing of 450 workers in 2002.

6 February 2003 Israel: "Cellcom execs to take lie detector test"
This short article from Globes [online] is cited here in full:

At a special management meeting called today, Cellcom president and CEO Dr. Yitzhak Peterburg announced that, due to a wave of information leaks, all Cellcom managers would be required to undergo a polygraph test if they wished to continue working at the company. Peterburg emphasized that no one was exempt from the procedure, and that he would be the first to be tested by the lie detector.

Peterburg added that Cellcom was a commercial firm operating in a competitive environment, and that employees on all levels were committed to maintain maximum confidentiality. He said that the company had an obligation to ensure that senior officials who were "damaging and sabotaging company activities would not continue in their posts at Cellcom".

Cellcom's spokesperson said that the measure was intended to protect all those staff members who did their work faithfully and were mindful of confidentiality.

4 February 2003 Retired Public Defender Who Relied on Polygraphs May Be Sued
Los Angeles Metropolitan News-Enterprise associate editor Robert Greene reports in an article titled "Suit Against County, Pubic Defender for Poor Defense Reinstated". Excerpt:

A county public defender who established a policy of giving lie detector tests to every client and who allegedly assigned inexperienced lawyers to defend capital cases can be held liable under civil rights laws for denying defendants effective counsel, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.

Although the deputy public defender who took the client's case to court cannot be held accountable for his actions under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, the court held, the county, and the county employee with administrative control over the office, can be.


Harris carried out a policy, which his lawyer said already was in place when he took the job, of giving a polygraph test to every client the office represented.

As interpreted by the majority opinion, Miranda's allegation was that the results of the test dictated how seriously the Public Defender's Office worked to represent its client. A client whose test results indicated innocence might be defended vigorously while one whose results showed guilt would receive only limited investigation and minimal defense, Miranda claimed.

Schroeder said Harris, who allocated state funds within the office, was acting on behalf of the county in making his decisions and thus qualified as a "state actor" under Sec. 1983.

While not reaching the question of whether Harris actually used the lie detectors to determine how to allocate his resources, the court said Miranda's allegation about polygraphs was a sufficient claim of a governmental deliberate indifference to the requirement that every criminal defendant receive adequate representation.

"This is a core guarantee of the Sixth Amendment and a right so fundamental that any contrary policy erodes the principles of liberty and justice that underpin our civil rights," Schroeder said.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling may be downloaded as a PDF file here:

17 January 2003 FBI Reliance on Polygraphs in Terror Investigations Criticized
In an Albany, NY Times Union article titled, "In terror pursuit, a maze of leads," staff writer Brendan Lyons mentions criticism of the FBI's reliance on polygraphy. Excerpt:

Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a 34-year-old Jordanian immigrant who was being held in Albany County jail contacted authorities and claimed he had driven one of the 19 hijackers on a taxicab tour of Albany a few days before the attacks.

The claim allegedly was made by Abraham Yousef, an Albany cabdriver from Troy who is in state prison after being convicted of raping a teenager he met on the Internet. Some theories police considered in weighing Yousef's claim was that the hijackers who flew out of Boston might have looked at New York's Capitol as a secondary target, or as a landmark for steering south along the Hudson River toward Manhattan, sources close to the case said.

While some police sources still believe Yousef was telling the truth, they said FBI agents dismissed Yousef's story because they could not corroborate his claim after giving him a polygraph exam. FBI officials in Albany declined to discuss their interrogation of Yousef.


Despite massive overhauls in the FBI and other police agencies since Sept. 11, there are critics who still question the way some leads have been pursued in this region -- and whether polygraphs have replaced old-fashioned shoe leather.

In Yousef's case, for instance, one federal law enforcement source said agents may have put too much faith in technology to determine whether Yousef's claim warranted more attention.

"They have been relying too heavily on lie-detector tests," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Part of their investigative methods, especially the foreign counterintelligence people, is to go give them lie-detector tests, and most people would think it isn't a very effective method."

FBI agents also zeroed in on the man whom Yousef claimed had introduced him to one of the 9/11 hijackers -- 34-year-old Ali Mounnes Yaghi, a Jordanian immigrant and longtime pizza shop owner in Albany. Yaghi was taken into custody by FBI agents three weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks and also given a polygraph exam while being shown photographs of the 19 hijackers.

His attorney said an FBI agent told him that Yaghi flunked the polygraph exam, but the agent declined to say what questions they believe he failed to answer truthfully.

Yaghi was later cleared of having any connections to terrorism and deported to Jordan last July.

Yaghi, who has a criminal record in Albany that includes charges of trying to run down a cop and a conviction for carrying an illegal handgun, sat in the courtroom for most of Yousef's rape trial in August 2001.

Yousef's story, when coupled with Yaghi's outspoken anti-American beliefs, convinced some police officers in Albany that a Sept. 11 terrorist may have visited the city.

"That was real. That happened," insists one police official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The structure of the information, in my opinion, made it almost impossible to be a lie."

10 January 2003 "The 'dirty little secret' about polygraph tests"
The Washington Times published a letter by co-founder George Maschke in response to Ann Geracimos' 9 Jan. 2003 article, "Interpreting a polygraph test." Excerpt:

"Interpreting a polygraph test" (Metropolitan, yesterday) only scratches the surface in explaining how polygraph tests are interpreted. The dirty little secret of the polygraph community is that the "test" depends on trickery, not science. The polygrapher exhorts the examinee to answer all questions truthfully, but secretly assumes that denials to certain questions -- called "control" questions -- will be less than truthful....

9 January 2003 "Interpreting a polygraph test"
Ann Geracimos reports for the Washington Times. Unfortunately, it seems that Mrs. Geracimos interviewed only polygraphers for this article, and in explaining to her how polygraph "tests" are interpreted, they apparently neglected to explain the trickery behind "control" questions. Excerpt:

The word "polygraph" means "many writings" in graph form -- a simple definition that gets considerably more complicated when applied to the polygraph machine.

About all that proponents and opponents of this device can agree on is that its operation involves as much art as science because it is the interpretation of graphs that counts.

Few people anywhere claim that the machine  better and somewhat incorrectly known as a lie detector -- is infallible. At best, it is what Frank Horvath, a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University and a past president of the American Polygraph Association, calls "a diagnostic tool." At its worst, it traps people who are "truth tellers" by implicating them falsely.

The machine measures a person's physiological reactions -- changes in heart function, respiration and perspiration -- to a carefully phrased series of questions that result in a computer printout similar to that of an electrocardiograph. Generally, a significant change in vital signs -- an increased heart rate, etc. -- indicates a person is lying.

The exam is administered by a polygraph examiner trained to read the results and upon whose expertise the outcome depends. Depending on the reason for the test, the examiner can determine the worth of the exercise or rule the outcome inconclusive. At least 60 hours of college work -- or equivalent experience in police work -- are required for trainees.

An examiner reviews with the test taker ahead of time the language employed to be certain no words are used that the subject does not understand. The examiner also establishes what is called a base line to determine the subject's normal nervous response, given that most people are anxious to some degree in such a setting -- at least for the first time.

8 January 2003 Fabricator Michael Hamdani Passed Polygraph, Sent FBI on Wild Goose Chase
The FBI's nationwide dragnet for suspected terrorist infiltrators was based on an apparently bogus tip from accused Canadian forger Michael Hamdani. In a 3 January 2003 Washington Post article titled "Fake-ID Arrest Led to FBI Hunt," staff writer John Mintz reported that U.S. and Canadian investigators had questioned Hamdani extensively using polygraph machines. U.S. President George W. Bush authorized a nationwide manhunt for the putative terrorist infiltrators based on Hamdani's polygraph-confirmed information. But in an 8 January 2003 Washington Post article titled "Wanted: 5 Men -- The Terror Alert That Wasn't," Ruth Marcus and Dan Eggen report that the tip was bogus. Already, revisionists within the FBI have begun rationalizing the apparent false negative outcome of Hamdani's polygraph interrogation, assigning blame to the Canadians for a "seriously flawed" polygraph examination.

In a case with as serious national security implications as this one, why didn't the FBI promptly review the Canadian-administered polygraph examination? According to the Washington Post, U.S. investigators were in Canada. In a high priority case such as this one, surely a "quality control" review could have been completed within 24 hours. But it appears that it was only after Hamdani's story was called into question by the testimony of a Pakistani jeweler whose picture Hamdani had falsely identified as that of one of the supposed "terrorists" that the FBI found any "problems" with Hamdani's polygraph examination. Such post hoc rationalizations of erroneous polygraph outcomes are standard fare from the polygraph community. But the real problem is that polygraph "testing" is a pseudoscientific fraud. It has no scientific basis whatsoever, and unless the subject makes a confession or admission, the polygrapher can only guess as to whether he is telling the truth.

For discussion of the Hamdani case, see the message board thread, US-Wide Manhunt Hoax Based on Polygraph.

8 January 2003 "Lie-Detector Test During Probation Ruled OK"
Shannon P. Duffy of The Legal Intelligencer reports. Excerpt:

Requiring sex offenders to submit to random lie-detector tests during the probationary period after release from prison is not unconstitutional, but forbidding them from owning a computer may be going too far, a federal appeals court has ruled.

In a pair of opinions handed down this week, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a man convicted of possessing child pornography should not have been barred from owning a computer, but upheld another judge's decision to impose random polygraph testing of a man who confessed to both child pornography and molestation charges. In United States v. Lee, the court found that mandatory polygraph testing of a probationer is allowable since the defendant may still invoke the Fifth Amendment right not to answer a question that could be incriminating.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, visiting Judge Robert J. Ward of the Southern District of New York found that requiring a probationer to submit to random polygraph tests "is reasonably related to the protection of the public, as well as the rehabilitation of the [defendant]."

Ward, who was joined by 3rd Circuit Judges Jane R. Roth and Morton I. Greenberg, found that such polygraph testing "could be beneficial in enhancing the supervision and treatment" that Albert M. Lee will undergo during the three years of supervised release after he serves his 57-month prison term.



Albert Lee was arrested in February 2000 for knowingly transporting child pornography by computer. He was later indicted on additional charges that included enticing a minor by computer to engage in sex. In his guilty plea, Lee confessed that he met female minors via an Internet chat channel titled "GirlsandOlderGuys." Through online conversations, he met a 15-year old girl, and later met her in person and engaged in sexual acts with her. He also confessed that he had attempted to meet other minors online in order to induce them to perform sexual acts with him, and that he had transmitted child pornography online.

Prior to sentencing, Lee was sent to the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg, Va., for a psychological evaluation. In a report, the psychiatrists recommended that Lee "should be required to register as a sex offender, not be allowed contact with his victims, have no contact with persons under the age of 18, not own or operate a personal computer or other devices that allows Internet access, and should not be housed in an area where minors congregate."

The report also recommended that Lee not be allowed to hire any minors to perform household chores or yard work, and that random searches of his residence be conducted for the presence of sexual risk factors.

But it was the final recommendation that Lee challenged on appeal -- that he be required to submit to "frequent polygraph examinations."

Assistant Federal Defender Christopher S. Koyste argued that the polygraph condition violates Lee's Fifth Amendment rights because the examiner could ask him about prior uncharged offenses or other potentially incriminating conduct.

Koyste said mandatory polygraph examination could put Lee in a situation in which he would be compelled to incriminate himself by providing the government with information that could be used against him.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Leonard P. Stark argued that the Fifth Amendment provides no protection against answering questions when the answers pose no realistic threat of future criminal prosecution, even if the answers could serve as the basis for a revocation of supervised release for an offense on which appellant has already been convicted. Judge Ward found that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that defendants have a Fifth Amendment right when being questioned by probation officers, but that they must invoke it.

Koyste argued that polygraph testing substantially increases the coercive nature of the probation proceeding because the defendant is physically restrained by being attached to a polygraph machine, and a former police officer would be administering the test.

As a result, he said, Lee would be forced to choose between making incriminating statements and jeopardizing his liberty by refusing to answer questions.

Ward disagreed, saying Lee still has the right to remain silent.

"Should Lee choose to terminate the interview and exit the room while being questioned, he may do so by having the machine detached from him in a matter of moments. If [he] feels obligated or compelled to stay through the end of the proceeding, we are not persuaded that this differs in any significant way from an ordinary probation interview at which the probationer may feel that same obligation," Ward wrote.

But Ward cautioned that Lee's silence should not be used against him -- even if his physiological reaction is detected by the machine.

7 January 2003 India: "Soon, investigators may ride brain waves to nail culprits"
Ranjani Ramaswamy reports for The Indian Express. Excerpt:

Mumbai, January 7: WE wasted reams of newsprint wondering if Salman Khan had indeed been driving that night. His inebriation aside, how could it have been conclusively verified beyond any doubt that his was actually the hand on the steering wheel? The truth, concurs Dr C R Mukundan from NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neural Sciences, Bangalore) lies permanently encoded in Khan's own brain fingerprint.

''In fact, the Khan case would be an ideal case for brain fingerprinting, a process which is a gauge of actual experience. The actual experience of the perpetrator or witness is encoded in a very specific manner in his brain. This would be revealed during the course of the EEG (Electroencephalogram) and the carefully formulated probes used to stimulate his brain waves. Probes are the key words or phrases compiled with the help of the investigating officers, which act as a trigger for the person under scrutiny,'' says Mukundan. So, if there was a red shirt on the crime scene that only the investigating policemen know about and the words 'red shirt' are used in the probe, the subject's brain waves react in a telling manner, explains Mukundan, who is developing an indigenous form of brain fingerprinting in close collaboration with the Forensic Science Lab in Bangalore. His project has also been granted Rs 70 lakh by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting a few months ago.

Mukundan is participating in the All India Annual Conference on Forensic Science in the city.

Brain fingerprinting was originally developed in the early 1990s by Dr Lawrence Farwell, who created quite a stir with his patented technique. Farwell also managed to prove conclusively to the courts, years after a gruesome murder case, that the prime suspect who had been convicted for life since 1977, had in fact not committed the crime. His system has been touted the world over as 100 per cent accurate and is being used by all major investigation services across the globe.

''When Farwell's paper came out, the repercussions were of course phenomenal and we all got excited. But I started taking special interest two years ago when we were working with the polygraph (lie detector) machines, which we found very inconvenient. In the polygraph the machine takes note of the subject's supression or anxiety in divulging information. But with the brain fingerprinting we can go beyond that. We can figure out whether a person was actually on the crime scene or not, and what his subjective experience really was. In fact, with all this global terrorism, people are talking of putting gadgets and sensors at all airport doorways, where the brain fingerprint with the help of visual stimuli of all passengers would be recorded. So that one can predict if a person with a 'terrorist experience' is boarding the flight and they can at least be called for questioning,'' adds Mukundan.

6 January 2003 "Liar's Poker"
Brendan I. Koerner writes for The Village Voice. Excerpt:

Q: I've been asked by a potential employer to take a lie-detector test. There was a fair amount of pot smoking in my distant past, and I'm worried it'll disqualify me from the job, which I desperately need. Aren't there ways to beat the machine?

Before we start discussing techniques for fooling Mother Tech, let Mr. Roboto play lawyer for a sec. You don't mention who this potential employer is, but unless it's Uncle Sam, there's no way in Hades you can be coerced into taking the test. A 1988 federal law, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, forbids private-sector firms from using lie detectors to screen applicants, though some unscrupulous bosses will try and bully you. (Word to the wise: Don't cave—worse comes to worst, you'll have a sure-thing discrimination suit to file.)

No such legal protections exist when it comes to government jobs, however, despite mounting evidence that polygraphs are about as reliable as 17th-century dunking stools. Good thing the Web teems with tips on how to ace any lie-detector test, regardless of the numerous blunt-puffing skeletons in your closet.

As fans of cheesy detective fare already know, polygraphs work by measuring the physiological reactions of testees. The theory goes that a heightened pulse and sweaty palms invariably mean a person's not on the up-and-up. Problem is, that assumption is rooted mainly in medical folklore. Not a single study exists to support a universal correlation between lying and excessive perspiration, or a speedier heart rate. Some people are just more anxious, and will exhibit the physiological signs of deception when telling the absolute truth—especially when they're strapped into a machine and brusquely ordered, "Tell us how many times you smoked dope. Tell us!" (For federal jobs, 15 times or more over a lifetime is usually an automatic disqualifier.)

The other great polygraph flaw is its reliance on the "control question." This is the question a polygrapher asks in order to establish what your lie looks like on the machine. A popular one is "Have you ever driven a car after drinking?"—the assumption being that no adult imbiber's ever been a perfect angel. But if you're really the conscientious type, and your answer of "no" is truthful, then you're royally screwed for the remainder of the test.

6 January 2003 "Faulty lie detector"
The St. Petersburg Times calls for dumping the polygraph in this editorial. Excerpt:

In a stark overreaction to the spying allegations against Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at the Los Alamos weapons lab in New Mexico, Congress ordered the Energy Department to begin a massive polygraph screening program for employees at the nation's nuclear weapons labs. About 16,000 people in jobs with possible access to sensitive material were selected for security evaluations utilizing polygraph tests.

But the results of those tests have not been what Congress intended. Rather than flushing out spies in our midst, they have demoralized staff with false positive results and driven top scientists from our nuclear weapons program. Now, a study by the National Research Council suggests that polygraph tests are practically useless for security screening.

The 245-page report indicates that polygraph tests, which measure physiological changes of subjects as they are questioned, have little actual science backing up their validity. This reliability problem has always dogged the tests, which are not admissible in court except in rare instances. Even so, they continue to be widely used as an investigative technique.

The report's findings would be little more than an interesting note if lie detector tests weren't so damaging. In criminal investigations, they can create a rush to judgment. Police may abandon other leads and focus on making the evidence fit a certain suspect who failed a lie detector test, when in fact the results may be a false positive. Polygraph tests used as an employment screening device can harm morale, while offering little in the way of enhanced security. Home Page > Polygraph News