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25 October 2004 "Polygraph Unbeatable, Says California Psychologist
In a press release by Rovner & Associates, Dr. Louis Rovner makes some dubious claims regarding polygraphy:
WOODLAND HILLS, Calif., Oct. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- "Almost no human being can beat a polygraph test," says Dr. Louis Rovner, a noted psychologist and polygraph expert in Woodland Hills, California. In fact, lie detection technology has become so sophisticated that a polygraph can now detect a person's efforts to try to beat the test.
In a recent Deputy Sheriff Magazine article, Dr. Rovner writes that there are several books and pamphlets available on the internet which claim to teach people how to beat a polygraph test. None of these, he says, can do what they claim.
Dr. Rovner feels that the idea of beating a polygraph test after reading a short book is absurd. "This is about the same as saying that you will be able to perform a Beethoven Piano Concerto at Carnegie Hall by simply reading a book about piano playing." The interplay between the sophisticated technology of the polygraph, the experience of the examiner, and the involuntary physiological reactions of the subject is so complex that almost no one can look truthful on the polygraph when he is actually lying.
"Beating the polygraph," says Rovner, "is impossible for most people." The polygraph is a scientific instrument which records physiological changes in our bodies. Polygraph examiners are trained to look for subtle abnormalities in these changes as a person answers a series of questions. The changes, he says, are involuntary reactions that occur in our bodies when we are not being truthful. "In order to beat the test," he says, "a person must use his central nervous system to override the involuntary activity of the autonomic nervous system, and he must do it on cue, every 25 seconds or so." Given the anxiety of a typically polygraph subject, it is extremely unlikely that anyone could successfully fool the polygraph.
Scientific research into polygraph accuracy has been going on for more than 40 years. "Overall," says Dr. Rovner, "we are confident that polygraph tests have a 96% accuracy rate when done properly." That statement is backed up by hundreds of research studies and experiments. Rovner's own published research shows that people cannot beat a polygraph test simply by reading about it.
SOURCE Rovner & Associates
Web Site: http://www.polygraph-west.com
AntiPolygraph.org's George Maschke has publicly challenged Dr. Rovner to back some of the claims made in the above press release.
23 October 2004 Transportation Security Administration Employees Threatened With Lie Detector "Tests"
In a report titled, "TSA probe of whistleblowers criticized," Star-Ledger staff writer Ron Marisco reports that Transportation Security Administration employees have been threatened with possible lie detector "tests" in an attempt to identify and punish a whistleblower. Excerpt:
New Jersey's senior U.S. senator and two congressmen yesterday rebuked federal officials for trying to ferret out whistle-blowers at Newark Liberty International instead of fixing the airport's recurring security problems.
The legislators were responding to reports that internal affairs agents with the U.S. Transportation and Security Administration are investigating airport employees they believe may have leaked confidential reports about security breakdowns to the press.
"They ought to be worried about fixing the thing ... and protecting the public," said U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) of TSA officials. "And (spend) a lot less time trying to find people who think we can do a better job. ... If anyone gets exposed, I will stand up for them."
Some airport TSA employees have been threatened with lie-detector tests and possible loss of their jobs and jail time, according to an individual familiar with the probe.
Reps. Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist.) and William Pascrell (D-8th Dist.) echoed Corzine's statements, promising to enforce U.S. laws protecting individuals who expose governmental problems and wrongdoing.
"This is not Red China. This is the United States," said Pascrell. "You're going to have a plethora of whistle-blowers by the time we're done. We've got to know what's going on because we're not getting the truth from management."
Menendez and Pascrell are members of the House aviation subcommittee, which oversees the TSA.
Menendez said he would call Marcus Arroyo, the TSA's federal security director at Newark Airport, to ascertain for himself the extent of the probe.
"To use TSA resources for that, rather than making the nation safer, is outrageous -- if that's the case," said Menendez.
TSA officials declined to comment on the probe.
13 October 2004 Israel: "Knesset okays bill prohibiting lie detector test for employees"
Zvi Zrahiya reports for Ha'aretz. This short article is cited here in full:
The Knesset's Labor and Welfare Committee on Wednesday approved a bill preventing employers from requesting or demanding that a job candidate undergo a lie detector test.
The bill, submitted by MK Yehiel Hazan (Likud), sets special circumstances under which an employer would be allowed to request that an employee undergo a lie detector test.
One of the reasons the bill gives for a polygraph test is a disciplinary investigation being held against the employee. Another reason is an investigation on an event which may cause substantial damage and which raises a reasonable suspicion against the employee's involvement, while no other reasonable way to check the employee's involvement is available.
According to the bill, the employer will be obliged to provide the employee with detailed information on the purpose of the test and the use that may be done with its results. The employer will have to give the employee a reasonable amount of time to provide a written agreement in the presence of a lawyer to undergo the test.
The bill sets instructions about providing the employee with the test results and prohibits the use of results of a lie detector test that was performed against the law's instructions.
The bill also prohibits the employer or any other person to exploit an employee's refusal to undergo a polygraph test.
The bill does not apply to the defense authorities, including the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Police, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad, and the Knesset Guard.
MK Shaul Yahalom (National Religious Party), chairman of the Knesset's Labor and Welfare Committee, said on Wednesday that the bill was important for strengthening employees' rights.
By excluding military and intelligence agencies from the protections of this antipolygraph legislation, Israel is committing the same error that the United States made in 1988, when it created a double-standard by giving federal, state, and local governments an unjustified blanket exemption from the Employee Polygraph Protection Act.
University of Toronto professor of psychology John J. Furedy adds the following commentary:
Just as the ancient Romans knew there was something wrong with entrails reading, but were so desperate to know the future for really important events that they employed it, so both the Americans and Israelis know that the polygraph is flawed, but when it comes to really important things like security, they superstitiously accept its use.
There is also a confusion of ethical with logical considerations. In ethical terms, it makes sense to protect individual rights when all that is involved is wrongly classifying a dishonest employee, but not when the error entails danger to the nation. However, in logical terms, whatever flaws the polygraph has as an employee screener, the same flaws are present as a spy screener. These logical flaws include the fact that it's not a "test" in the sense that an IQ test is a test, the comparison between relevant and "control" questions makes no scientific sense (i.e., its rationale is non-sensical), and the fact that there has been no systematic evidence produced that indicates that the psychophysiological information that is provided actually improves accuracy.
20 September 2004 UNK to Receive $1 Million for Polygraph and Transportation Research
SWNEBR.net reports. Excerpt:
KEARNEY, NE--In Kearney, Nebraska today Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson announced that the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) will receive one million federal research dollars to study two important issues.
The first project is to improve the reliability of polygraph technology in an effort to make it more useful in law enforcement and national security settings. Approximately half a million dollars has been dedicated to this polygraph research venture.
UNK researchers will investigate the influence of polygraph testing on false confessions and the use of lie detectors in the evaluation and monitoring of post conviction behavior.
Development of this project is in direct response to recommendations made by the National Research Council and the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute.
It should be noted that the National Research concluded with regard to future polygraph research that "[t]he inherent ambiguity of the physiological measures used in the polygraph suggest that further investments in improving polygraph technique and interpretation will bring only modest improvements in accuracy." (original emphasis)
7 September 2004 Lawyer: Use polygraph to prove innocence
Jamie Satterfield reports for the Knoxville, Tennessee News-Sentinel:
If a polygraph test can help land a person in jail, a Knoxville lawyer argues, why can it not be used to free the accused?
Knoxville attorney Gregory P. Isaacs wants to use the results of a polygraph examination to try to prove to a jury that his client, Robert Nathaniel Hicks, did not rape and sexually batter two children.
Hicks, the son of Anderson County Assistant District Attorney General Jan Hicks, and his wife, Paula Hicks, both of Caryville, are accused of molesting a young boy and a young girl on several occasions between June 1997 and November 2001.
The high-profile case has been moved to Knox County Criminal Court, and Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols has been tapped to lead the prosecution effort.
Isaacs has filed a motion asking Judge Richard Baumgartner to do something the state Supreme Court says cannot be done - allow the results of a polygraph examination to be presented at trial.
Although he had not yet seen the motion, Nichols dismissed it out of hand. The tests have long been barred as evidence in criminal trials because courts have concluded they are "unreliable."
But Isaacs contends those same tests are used at nearly every other phase of the criminal justice system.
Police routinely use the examinations to either eliminate someone as a suspect or glean a confession. State child abuse investigators are encouraged by the Department of Children's Services to use the tests to help substantiate abuse claims.
The state Board of Probation and Parole uses polygraph examinations to monitor sex offenders, who are required to pay for and submit to the testing every six months to stay free.
Probation and parole officers have used the results of those examinations to help build a case to violate the probation or parole of sex offenders.
"You can't have it both ways," Isaacs said. "The prosecution says it's OK to use them if you're lying, but you can't use them to establish you're telling the truth, which makes absolutely no sense. It would be tantamount to saying DNA testing can be used to put you in jail but not to get you out of jail."
Robert Hicks and his wife are accused in a case that Isaacs' motion insists is a lie crafted by opposing parties in a civil court dispute.
Citing notes from the DCS case manager who interviewed the children, Isaacs details how the girl initially denied any abuse and the boy's initial tale was fraught with inconsistencies.
The stories grew more twisted over time, the motion states.
According to the motion, the children were interviewed in early December 2001. The girl's denial of abuse at that interview changed when a caretaker picked her up and then phoned the case manager to say the girl had lied, the motion stated.
The girl was interviewed again later that day and recounted one alleged instance of abuse, the motion stated.
Three weeks later, the children's caretakers again phoned DCS and contended the children lied, the motion alleged. In a subsequent interview, the children told tales of abuse that included the use of "elephant tranquilizers" and unknown pills, the motion stated.
Isaacs argued in the motion that there is no medical or forensic proof to substantiate abuse claims. He and attorney Herbert S. Moncier, who represents Paula Hicks, have not been allowed to interview either child, and a request for a psychological evaluation of the children has not been approved.
But there is evidence, Isaacs contends, to exonerate Robert Hicks - namely, a polygraph test.
Assistant Public Defender Ken Irvine, a veteran attorney, said Isaacs faces an uphill battle to convince Baumgartner to allow the polygraph results to be used at trial.
"The real problem is not that they won't let it into court but that (authorities) have been unable to scientifically show how reliable it is," Irvine said.
A polygraph, more commonly known as a lie detector test, records various physiological responses - breathing, pulse and galvanic skin response - while a person is answering questions.
The theory is that lying is stressful, and changes in these physiological responses show the changes in a person's stress level during the examination.
The test relies in large part on the ability of the examiner to interpret the recorded responses and the questions posed. Questions must be crafted in a precise way, although there is no formula for how those queries should be constructed.
Polygraph examiners must be licensed in the state of Tennessee. To be licensed, an examiner must have graduated from an approved polygraph school and have either a bachelor's degree or a mix of college work and investigative experience.
Debate over the reliability of polygraph testing has raged for years. Proponents argue the testing has a more than 90 percent accuracy rate. Opponents put that rate at 70 percent.
The state Supreme Court has repeatedly held the testing unreliable and barred its use at either trial or sentencing hearings. However, the court has not banned its use as an investigative tool for police or probation officers.
Parole board official Jack Elder said his agency requires polygraph testing of all sex offenders released on parole or probation. The testing is authorized under the state Department of Correction's Sex Offender Treatment Board policies.
Elder and Field Services Director Gary Tullock said the testing is not used to ferret out reasons to send a sex offender back to jail.
"It serves as a deterrent, and it's a way to target (the offender's) treatment needs," Elder said.
Case law shows that polygraph testing has been used, in part, as a basis for prosecutors to argue a sex offender should be returned to prison.
"I personally think that's wrong," Irvine said. "That's the real problem, that they're using the testing to revoke people from probation or parole. I don't think that is being challenged as often as it should be."
A trial date in the Hickses' case has not been set.
Lawyer Gregory P. Isaacs is right that it's a double-standard for government to rely on polygraphs to monitor convicted sex offenders and at the same time hold that polygraph results are inadmissible as evidence in court. But the proper solution is to abolish polygraph "testing" altogether, not to allow this pseudoscience into court rooms.
4 September 2004 Investigators Seek Lie Detector Tests In Terrorism Case
Eric Lichtblau reports for the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 - Justice Department investigators have sought to have senior federal prosecutors take polygraph examinations in an effort to determine who leaked the name of a confidential informant in a Detroit terrorism case that has become a major embarrassment for the department, officials said Friday.
At the same time, leading Congressional Republicans have raised concerns about the leak of the informant's name and about the department's handling of the case, which led a federal judge in Detroit this week to throw out the terrorism convictions of two Arab immigrants accused of being part of a cell there.
In a pointed letter sent to the Justice Department last month and obtained this week by The New York Times, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and regarded as the department's strongest advocate in Congress, questioned whether officials at the agency "are fully cooperating" in an investigation into the leak, "including submitting to polygraphs."
Congressional officials said they were concerned that the department, which after an investigation has placed blame for the collapse of the Detroit case largely on a single prosecutor, Richard G. Convertino, appeared to have resisted the idea of requiring polygraph examinations for a small group of officials who had access to the name of the informant.
The informant's name was published by The Detroit Free Press in January, in an article that gave a detailed account of accusations of ethical misconduct on the part of Mr. Convertino, the lead prosecutor in the case.
Among the accusations, which he has denied, was that he had improperly persuaded a judge to reduce the sentence of the drug dealer who served as the informant and who helped in translating Arab-language tapes seized in the defendants' apartment.
The informant, an Arab man in his 30's, said then in an interview with The Times that the disclosure of his cooperation with the Justice Department had caused him to fear for his life, forcing him to sleep in his truck for two nights. He later fled the country and returned to the Middle East as a result of the episode.
Justice Department officials in Washington and Detroit declined to discuss the status of the leak investigation, which is being conducted by the department's inspector general. Asked whether prosecutors had agreed to take lie-detector tests, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney's office in Detroit said Friday, "I can't comment on that."
In a court filing this week, Mr. Convertino was accused by the Justice Department of withholding from the defense numerous pieces of evidence that could have influenced the outcome of the terrorism case. The court threw out the convictions the next day.
Mr. Convertino, who was removed from the case late last year, has vigorously denied that he knowingly withheld any evidence and maintains that the Justice Department is retaliating against him because he cooperated with a Congressional investigation in an unrelated case. He says that he himself was victimized by the leak, which publicized information from his personnel file as well as the name of the informant.
And his lawyer, William Sullivan, said in an interview on Friday that some of the same prosecutors in Detroit whom he suspects of trying to discredit Mr. Convertino by leaking the name of the informant had taken part in the investigation into how the terrorism prosecution was conducted. He said those officials should have been recused from that inquiry.
The inspector general's investigation into the disclosure of the confidential information is continuing, and in fact is near conclusion, a department official said.
Such investigations are notoriously difficult and time-consuming to resolve; a criminal investigation into the disclosure of an undercover C.I.A. officer's identity to the columnist Robert Novak and other journalists is now in its ninth month.
Senator Hatch sent his letter to the Justice Department on Aug. 4, nearly a month before the Detroit terrorism case finally collapsed. In it, he said that he "was proud of the department's hard work and successful prosecution of the Detroit terrorist cell" but that he was troubled by the deterioration of the case. He said he was also concerned about reports that Mr. Convertino and other members of the prosecution team had faced retaliation by the department as a result of conflicts over the course of the prosecution.
The senator urged that Mr. Convertino, who himself is being investigated by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, "be treated fairly," and he asked to know "what protections are in place for O.P.R. investigators and staff to ensure that investigations are not used to further political bureaucratic and retaliatory measures."
Mr. Hatch's letter was unusual both for what it said and for who said it, because he has been an outspoken defender of the department and Attorney General John Ashcroft. The senator's office declined to discuss his concerns on Friday.
Other lawmakers have also raised concerns. In joint letters to the department in April and May, Representatives F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the Wisconsin Republican who heads the House Judiciary Committee, and John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the panel's ranking Democrat, questioned what sanctions could be applied to a federal employee who disclosed the name of an informant and whether steps had been taken to protect the Detroit informant after his identity was disclosed.
In a June response to Mr. Sensenbrenner and Mr. Conyers, the department did not discuss details concerning the Detroit informant but said that in general, if an informant's identity is disclosed, "an immediate action would be removal of the informant from any operational or intelligence-gathering roles, followed by temporary or permanent relocation of the informant and his/her family, if applicable."
While the leak of a confidential informant's name is indeed embarassing to the Justice Department, so too should its attempted reliance on pseudoscientific polygraph "tests" in an effort to find the leaker.
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