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20 February 2005 NSA Employee Punished Following Inconclusive Polygraph
In an article titled "Security access denial at issue," Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz writes, among other things, about the case of an NSA employee who was accused of espionage and forced out following inconclusive polygraph results. Excerpt:
U.S. intelligence agencies are abusing rules on access to classified data to punish employees who upset security officials or who go against prevailing bureaucratic viewpoints, according to three officials who say they were unfairly forced out.
Another NSA official, a 17-year specialist involved in highly classified work, was punished and forced to retire after his clearances were suspended based on an "inconclusive" polygraph test indicating he might be a spy and saboteur.
The NSA wouldn't comment on either case.
Without access to classified information, all three officials could not continue in their jobs.
"There is no doubt in my mind that security clearances are used as a weapon by various agencies to push away a perceived problem," said Mark Zaid, a lawyer who has defended numerous federal employees on security-clearance issues.
In most cases, there is no legal recourse to claims made by security officials whose power over clearances is virtually unchecked, Mr. Zaid said. Appeals procedures vary among agencies and are very limited. In almost all cases, clearances are never restored.
The NSA employee, a mathematician who spoke on the condition he not be identified by name, said that after the polygraph, he was forced by the agency to work in the NSA motor pool.
"I was accused of sabotage and espionage and very specifically asked who my handler was," the former NSA official said.
The NSA mathematician said his superiors asked security officials to let him work on unclassified NSA projects, but was told he must continue "pumping gas and washing buses."
"It's punishment, and it's punishment for having done nothing wrong," the former official said.
27 January 2005 Lie detectors spark debate on reliability: Police asking for tests in City Hall flooding
Paul Hughes reports for the Waterbury, Connecticut Republican-American:
WATERBURY -- Polygraph examiner Leighton R. Hammond says lie detector tests of some city employees should speed the police investigation into whether any of them are responsible for the flooding of City Hall last weekend.
"It certainly would narrow the field down very quickly," said Hammond, who has conducted polygraph examinations for 25 years.
However, he said no employees can be forced to take a lie detector test.
A 1975 state law forbids the polygraph testing of private and public employees without their permission. The only exemptions are police officers and employees of the state Department of Corrections.
The law says polygraphs cannot be used to screen prospective employees. No private employer or arm of state and local government can require employees to submit to a lie detector test or dismiss or discipline an employee for not taking a polygraph.
A 1988 federal law also regulates the use of polygraphs in private and public workplaces.
Police Chief Neil O'Leary announced Wednesday that police will ask some City Hall employees and firefighters to take a lie detector test to assist in the investigation of the last weekend's flooding.
The source of the flooding was a standpipe in a closed office on the fourth floor of City Hall. Police want to test any city workers who had access to that room and firefighters from the firehouse adjoining City Hall. A standpipe is a high vertical pipe used for storing water and keeping it at a desired pressure.
Police believe a standpipe valve in that fourth-floor office was opened sometime late Saturday, flooding the entire building. Investigators doubt a mechanical failure was the cause, though the possibility has not been ruled out yet.
H. James Haselkamp Jr., the city's director of human resources, said state law leaves the decision of whether or not to submit to a polygraph test to individual employees. He said he expects city unions will advise members not to be tested.
"It would not surprise me at all if the employee unions say no," Hammond said.
Stephen Laccone, president of the city's blue collar union, said individual union members are free to decide whether or not to undergo testing.
O'Leary reported some blue collar workers agreed to talk to police and take a polygraph test. "We've done some interviews," he said.
It was unclear Wednesday what the firefighters union was recommending its members do. Union president Daniel French said Tuesday he would consult with the union's lawyers. French did not immediately respond for requests for comment Wednesday.
A polygraph records bodily changes assumed to occur when a subject lies. The devices record breathing, blood pressure, pulse rate and perspiration. The physiological responses are charted and the examiner analyzes the charts and renders an opinion on the truthfulness of the person.
Proponents of polygraph testing and its critics disagree over the accuracy and reliability of polygraph evidence.
If properly conducted, Hammond said, polygraph results are nearly 100 percent accurate.
John Hovarth [sic], a polygraph examiner with 30 years experience and criminal justice professor at Michigan State University, said the accuracy rate ranges from 85 to 95 percent, give or take.
Lie detector tests are not admissible in Connecticut courts. The state Supreme Court has repeatedly held that polygraph evidence is inadmissible because of the questionable accuracy.
The American Polygraph Association reports some states and federal district courts allow the use of polygraph evidence under certain circumstances. The only state that allows the unhindered use of polygraph evidence is New Mexico. Horvath said it is treated the same as other scientific evidence in courts.
The American Polygraph Association contends scientific evidence shows polygraph examinations are highly accurate and reliable. The association also concedes the polygraph is not infallible and errors do occur. It recommends examiners follow certain procedures to reduce the possibility for errors.
"Nothing is perfect," said Hammond, who works as an examiner for 60 Connecticut police departments and the state Office of the Chief Public Defender.
The National Research Council concluded in a 2002 study that polygraph examinations are too inaccurate for the U.S. government to screen job seekers and employees for spies or other national security risks. However, the study found the tests can be useful in the investigation of specific, known events, such as crimes.
In these cases, the council said, tests can differentiate lying from telling the truth at rates well above chance, but they are far from perfect.
Horvath said much of the accuracy and reliability rests on the credentials, experience and conduct of the examiner.
According to the American Polygraph Association, there are 29 states with laws that license polygraph examiners. Connecticut is not one of them.
Hammond said there are 15 members enrolled in the Connecticut chapter of the American Polygraph Association. The association sets training and educational requirements for members. It also has bylaws and a code of ethics that members must follow.
26 January 2005 Waterbury employees face polygraph testing
Steve Gambini reports for the Waterbury, Connecticut Republican-American. Excerpt:
WATERBURY -- Employees with access to the fourth floor of City Hall will be asked to take polygraph tests as police continue to investigate possible causes of a massive weekend flood in the building.
"We're going to ask them to take a polygraph because it's a valuable tool," said Police Chief Neil O'Leary. "It's a very routine investigative tool that's used by our department. It's so routine that we have three certified polygraph examiners in the department."
Firefighters who were working on the day of the incident were among the first to be asked to take the lie detector tests, but O'Leary said the investigation is not trying to single out those workers above all other potential suspects.
"We're starting with the people who had immediate access, and that would include the people who were sleeping in the building," O'Leary said. "Then we'll move on to other city employees, and quite frankly some former employees who had access to the building."
Those current employees will include those who were using the closed, fourth-floor office as a place to smoke cigarettes during the workday. O'Leary said investigators found numerous ash trays in the small office.
Daniel French, president of the firefighters union, said he was consulting with the bargaining unit's attorneys for advice on how the firefighters should respond to the request for lie detector tests.
"They haven't even ruled out the possibility that it was an accident or a frozen pipe yet," French added.
If Waterbury, Connecticut firefighters and other city hall employees can be legally compelled to submit to polygraph interrogations, then it might be prudent for all to educate themselves about the trickery on which polygraph "testing" depends and then adopt the "complete honesty" approach outlined in Chapter 4 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, informing their polygraphers up-front that they understand that polygraphy is a pseudoscientific sham.
19 January 2005 DOE weighs random polygraph tests for employees
Mike Nartker of Global Security Newswire reports in this article published by GovExec.com. Excerpt:
The Energy Department is considering administering random polygraph tests to some personnel as part of new counterintelligence regulations proposed this month.
Those who could be subject to the random tests include personnel with access to classified nuclear weapons-related information, according to a notice published Jan. 7 in the Federal Register.
One of the main goals of the random tests is "deterrence" against "damaging disclosures" by employees whose level of access to sensitive information did not warrant mandatory polygraph testing, the department said.
Noting that the number of workers expected to be subject to random tests is "small," the Energy Department said it plans to create a random test program that would be applied to the "minimum" number of people while still serving the deterrence goal.
The proposed regulations would also result in a dramatic reduction in the number of employees who would be subject to mandatory screening, from potentially 20,000 to about 4,500, according to the Energy Department. The reduction would be achieved, the department said, by the narrowing the range of information that would require mandatory screening prior to being accessed.
The Energy Department first began polygraph testing in the wake of the 1999 Wen Ho Lee controversy, which involved a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist accused of mishandling nuclear weapons codes. In late 2001, though, Congress ordered the department to create new polygraph regulations, taking into account the results of a study being conducted at the time by the National Academy of Sciences.
That study, released in 2002, said polygraph tests were ineffective as a screening tool for potential security risks, warning of both "false positive" and "false negative" results.
"Polygraph testing yields an unacceptable choice," the study found. "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."
Opposition to polygraph testing has been greater at the U.S. national laboratories than in any other government sector, according to Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. Scientists at the laboratories, he said yesterday, view polygraph tests as "idiotic, unfounded and degrading."
To discuss the DOE's planned changes to its polygraph policy, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread, DOE Proposed Rulemaking on CI/Polygraph Policy.
19 January 2005 Producer eyes Killen lie-test for TV viewers
Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson, Mississipi Clarion-Ledger reports:
If producer Ralph Andrews gets his way, reputed Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen will appear on his new TV series, Lie Detector.
"If he's claiming he is innocent, then he should jump at the chance to appear on our program and take a polygraph examination," Andrews said. "If he's guilty, he's not going to come on our show unless he's an idiot, but we've had some idiots come on before."
Informed of the request, Killen's lawyer, Mitch Moran of Carthage, replied sarcastically, "Yeah, like I'm going to let him go on that show."
Killen, a 79-year-old sawmill owner and part-time preacher, pleaded innocent Jan. 7 to three counts of murder stemming from the June 21, 1964, killings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.
Chaney's brother, Ben, of New York City, who believes Killen is guilty of the crime, said if he had a chance to ask Killen one question while strapped to the lie detector it would be, "Why? Other than the issue of race, why did you do it?"
Killen has repeatedly proclaimed he had nothing to do with the killings. "I don't believe in murder," he said in a 1999 interview with The Clarion-Ledger. "I believe in self-defense."
Lie Detector, which will air for 13 weeks starting in March on the PAX network, is a reincarnation of an old show that first appeared in 1962. It was revived in the mid-1970s.
In one show, James Earl Ray, who pleaded guilty to the 1968 murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., took a lie detector test. He failed miserably when he pronounced his innocence.
"He was lying," Andrews said. "There was no question."
In its most recent incarnation in 1998, hosted by O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, James Nichols, brother of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, failed a test when he said he knew nothing of that plot.
"We were way ahead of our time," said Andrews, who has produced such shows as the Super Comedy Bowls for CBS.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the admissibility of polygraphs because of the split in the scientific community about their reliability, Andrews said he's convinced the tests are accurate with the right equipment and, more importantly, the right operator. "It's like a scalpel," he said. "A scalpel is no good if a doctor doesn't know how to use it."
He said he's never been able to fool his highly qualified operator, despite repeated attempts. In fact, he said, the 1970s version of his show offered to pay $10,000 to anyone who could successfully lie.
No one did, he said. "If I were (wrongly) charged with murder, I would rather put my life in the hands of a polygraph operator than the jury."
Polygraph examiner Wayne Humphreys of Brandon, a former Jackson police officer who has been conducting such tests for 20 years, chuckles when he sees the detectors used on reality shows. "They're using the old analog instrument, which is not widely used anymore," he said.
On top of that, "most of the shows I've seen, the machine's not even activated," he said.
The lie detector test of today hardly resembles the analog system, he said. Computers monitor the body's electricity and not just breathing, but swallowing. In addition to blood pressure, computers record movement of "the aortic valve and any extraneous thing the heart may do," Humphreys said.
15 January 2005 UK: Paedos 'Can Beat Lie Test'
Don Mackay reports for the Mirror:
PAEDOPHILES and other sex offenders could fool lie detector tests, experts warned yesterday.
As part of bail conditions the Home Office is drawing up plans to use polygraphs to monitor whether sex offenders will strike again.
But the British Psychological Society said the tests could be beaten - and are anyway far from accurate. One study of polygraph techniques used in criminal probes found up to 17 per cent of guilty suspects "cheated" and were found innocent, while as many as 47 per cent of innocent suspects were classed as guilty.
Tests are based on physical responses - such as increased sweating, heart-rate, blood pressure and respiration - to questions.
But the BPS found subjects could suppress their reactions.
Professor Ray Bull of Leicester University, who chaired the working party, said: "We must not deceive ourselves into thinking there will ever be an error-free way of detecting deception.""
A Home Office spokesman said polygraph tests on sex offenders and others were still at the pilot stage.
He added: "We have found tests encourage offenders to disclose previous offences and current behaviour."
14 January 2005 The future of lying
Chris Summers of BBC News reports. Excerpt:
As the British government unveils plans to make lie detector tests mandatory for convicted paedophiles, some scientists in the US are working on more advanced technology which might be better equipped at detecting deception.
Imagine the Pentagon equipped with a machine which can read minds. Sound like the plot of a Hollywood thriller?
Well, it might not be that far away.
The US Department of Defense has given Dr Jennifer Vendemia a $5m grant to work on her theory that by monitoring brainwaves she can detect whether someone is lying.
She claims the system has an accuracy of between 94% and 100% and is an improvement on the existing polygraph tests, which rely on heart rate and blood pressure, respiratory rate and sweatiness.
Her system involves placing 128 electrodes on the face and scalp, which translate brainwaves in under a second. Subjects only have to hear interrogators' questions to give a response.
But the system has a long way to go before it replaces polygraphs, which were invented almost a century ago and remain a tried and tested system of deception detection.
BBC reporter Chris Summers fails to note that while the polygraph may be "a tried and tested system of deception detection," it has failed the test of scientific scrutiny. In its report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences likened polygraph practitioners to a shamanistic priesthood.
13 January 2005 UK: Sex Offenders Face Lie Detector
BBC News reports. Excerpt:
Convicted paedophiles would face mandatory lie detector tests in parts of the UK under plans put forward by the government.
The measure is in the Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill, which was published on Thursday.
The Home Office says 148 tests have been carried out on sex offenders since a pilot scheme began in September 2003.
The bill also contains plans to allow private companies to supervise offenders on community sentences.
The use of lie detector - or polygraph - tests has been piloted in areas across the UK, including Lancashire, Manchester, Devon and London, on volunteers.
Under the proposals, the tests would become mandatory in the pilot areas.
They could be used to help monitor behaviour, such as whether sex offenders are keeping bail conditions to stay away from schools.
The Home Office will see how the tests work in the pilot areas before deciding whether to use them nationwide.
A spokeswoman said: "Protecting the public is our priority. We have a responsibility to keep abreast of modern technological developments to see how they can help us."
The polygraph is not a "modern technological development." Rather, as Professor John J. Furedy has put it, it is a "technological flight of fancy" that is "founded on lies."
10 January 2005 Canada: Terror suspect passed lie detector test, expert says
The following Canadian Press report was published on GlobeandMail.com:
Montreal A polygraph expert testified Monday that he believes suspected sleeper agent Adil Charkaoui told the truth when he denied in a lie detector test having any links to terrorists.
Mr. Charkaoui, who has been in detention since May, 2003, on a national security certificate, was making another attempt in Federal Court to get bail.
Polygraph expert John Galianos told the court he believes Mr. Charkaoui answered all questions truthfully during the Nov. 17 test. Mr. Charkaoui was asked to respond to the federal government's allegations that he knew al-Qaeda terrorists and trained with them in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
“It is my opinion that Mr. Charkaoui told the truth when he responded to questions pertinent to the inquiry,” Mr. Galianos said. “Mr. Charkaoui had no unusual physical reactions to the questions.”
Mr. Charkaoui, a 31-year-old permanent resident of Canada, was to testify in his own defence later on Monday.
Mr. Galianos acknowledged under cross-examination that polygraph tests are not foolproof.
Under questioning from Justice Department lawyer Daniel Roussy, the former Sûreté du Québec officer said the test's accuracy depends on the phrasing of the questions.
Mr. Charkaoui was asked five questions during the test: whether he planned to tell the truth, whether he trained in terrorist camps, if he was ever a member of a terrorist network, if he was currently a member of a terrorist network and whether he had ever planned attacks.
He responded “No” to all of the questions, Mr. Galianos said.
But Mr. Roussy pointed out Mr. Charkaoui was never asked whether he had handled firearms or if he knew people who may have committed violent acts.
Outside the courtroom, Mr. Roussy said the test result would have no effect on the government's position.
“He still represents a danger to the Canadian public and he's a threat.”
The government suspects Mr. Charkaoui of being an agent who could be activated by al-Qaeda at any time.
A final decision on whether to deport him to his native Morocco still has to be made.
Under the security-certificate rules, the federal government can hold suspects – and eventually deport them – without disclosing the evidence it has against them. Suspects' lawyers are also denied a chance to cross-examine government representatives.
The Federal Court of Appeal recently upheld the constitutionality of the security-certificate process, saying individual rights must sometimes be suspended to preserve national security and protect Canadians' safety.
Not only are polygraph "tests" not foolproof, as polygrapher John Galianos conceded, but they have no scientific basis whatsoever. It is worth noting that the Encyclopedia of Jihad, a training manual for Al-Qaeda insurgents, explains that the lie detector is a sham.
10 January 2005 DOE Reducing Number of Required Polygraphs
The Associated Press reports in this article published by the Albuquerque Journal:
LOS ALAMOS -- The U.S. Department of Energy has proposed reducing the number of employees subject to lie detector tests, but opponents of the tests say the department misconstrued National Academy of Sciences findings on their use.
The revised rule would allow random polygraph tests, but will prohibit managers from relying solely on those tests to take action against employees.
The Energy Department "proposes to conclude that the utility of polygraphs is strong enough to merit their use in certain situations, for certain classes of individuals and with certain protections that minimize legitimate concerns," according to the DOE's revised polygraph rule published Friday.
In April 2003, the DOE proposed fewer polygraph tests after a study said employees could be unjustly accused. The National Academy of Sciences found lie detector tests weren't an effective means to screen for spies and could result in "false positives" -- innocent lab workers coming under suspicion for espionage.
The DOE began requiring employees take lie detector tests following the Wen Ho Lee controversy at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Lee was accused in 1999 of mishandling nuclear weapons codes; the case ended with a plea bargain that freed him after nine months.
Concerns over the tests prompted congressional demands for the NAS review and that the Energy Department incorporate the results into its polygraph program.
"Polygraph testing yields an unacceptable choice," the NAS said. "Its accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violations from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies."
The April 2003 proposal reduced the number of people who would be required to take the tests from 20,000 to about 4,000, then added a pool of 6,000 employees who would be tested randomly.
The latest proposal doesn't estimate the number of employees who could be randomly tested but said the total would be much lower.
The DOE misconstrued the NAS findings on polygraph tests and "unduly relied on the counsels of bureaucrats with a vested interest in the perpetuation" of such tests, George W. Maschke of AntiPolygraph.org wrote the Los Alamos Monitor in an e-mail after the latest draft rule was published.
Stephen Fienberg, who headed the National Research Council committee that reviewed polygraph use, told a Senate committee hearing in September 2003 that the scientific foundations of the screening for national security "were weak at best, and are insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies."
While acknowledging the DOE should use all effective tools available to conduct thorough background checks, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., expressed concerns "that DOE would pursue a polygraph policy at odds with the National Academy of Sciences findings."
"While polygraph tests might be effective as an investigative tool, there is no evidence it is a useful screening tool so I'm not clear on why the DOE wants to use it for that purpose," he said.
10 January 2005 Polygraphs reduced by DOE order
Roger Snodgrass of the Los Alamos Monitor reports on the Department of Energy's proposed changes to its polygraph rule.
The Department of Energy will significantly reduce the number of individuals now subject to lie detectors, according to a revision of the proposed rule published Friday.
Random use of polygraph tests will take place, however, although sole reliance on polygraph results for adverse actions against employees will be strictly prohibited.
More than two years after floating a polygraph proposal that essentially repudiated the findings of a study by the research body of the National Academies of Science, the rule is back again with supplemental revisions.
"My immediate observation is that the DOE has largely misconstrued the findings of the National Academies of Science regarding polygraphy and unduly relied on the counsels of bureaucrats with a vested interest in the perpetuation of polygraphy," wrote George W. Maschke of AntiPolygraph.org, in an e-mail shortly after the latest draft rule was published.
Moreover, he added, "DOE still fails to address the fact that information on how to beat the polygraph is readily available to anyone who seeks it, and that no polygrapher has ever demonstrated any ability to detect polygraph countermeasures."
DOE's notice acknowledges that the question of using polygraphs is "the latest manifestation of this perennial struggle" - between openness and national security concerns.
"There are no easy answers to the dilemma of how best to reconcile these competing considerations," the notice states in an introduction to the background of the rule.
Despite the NAS's concerns about the "validity" of polygraph testing, DOE continues its call for a testing program that includes what the proposal characterizes as, "substantial changes" in response to previous critics.
"DOE proposes to conclude that the utility of polygraphs is strong enough to merit their use in certain situations, for certain classes of individuals and with certain protections that minimize legitimate concerns," the document states.
In its proposal of April 2003, DOE reduced the number of people designated for mandatory screening from 20,000 to about 4,000, and then added another pool of 6,000 employees who would be tested randomly.
The latest proposal does not estimate the number of employees eligible for random testing but says the total tested would be much lower.
After a previous version of the rule met with criticism from employees and the scientific community, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham asked Deputy Secretary of Energy Kyle McSlarrow to consider longer-term changes.
McSlarrow told a Senate committee at the time that he found many of NAS's concerns to be well taken.
Dr. Stephen Fienberg, who chaired the National Research Council committee that authored the white paper critical of polygraphing, reminded senators at that time of its conclusions.
"The scientific foundations of polygraph screening for national security were weak at best," he said, "and are insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies."
A public hearing at DOE headquarters in Washington has been scheduled for Mar. 2. Written comments (10 copies required) are due Mar. 8.
The rule can be read or downloaded from the Federal Register, http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-248.htm .
To discuss DOE's proposed rule changes, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread, DOE Proposed Rulemaking on CI/Polygraph Policy.
9 January 2005 Creator of brainwave lie detector fears it may be misused
Jenifer Johnston reports for the Sunday Herald:
THE creator of a new lie detector which scans brainwaves before a subject even speaks has admitted she fears what could happen if it falls into the wrong hands.
"We assume that the people asking the questions are going to be noble and working for something that is good , but of course that is not always going to be the case," Dr Jennifer Vendemia told the Sunday Herald. This week she will address a major conference on crime at London's Science Museum.
Vendemia's new detector deduces from brainwaves whether a subject is preparing to answer a question truthfully.
Her work is funded by US government grants of $5.1 million (£2.7m), but at the end of her research she can choose to hand her device to the government or to a private company or individual.
"I stand to gain a great deal from it personally when it is completed, but I am very mindful of the uses it could be put to," she said. "I have tried several times to get ethical investigations going into what we are doing here without success."
The detector developed by Vendemia, a retained investigator with the Department of Defence Polygraph Institute, places 128 electrodes on the face and scalp which translate brainwaves in less than a second. Subjects only have to hear interrogators' questions to give a response.
On groups, Vendemia has so far had an accuracy rate of between 94 and 100%.
Professor Paul Matthews, a neurologist at Oxford University who will also address the conference, said there are ethical concerns surrounding new lie detection technology. "In the US particularly the suspect has the right to remain silent -- this technology obviously changes that."
Dr. Vendemia's lecture is scheduled for 13 January. The Lecture List provides the following announcement:
Naked Science: Criminal Memories
How would you feel about having your mind read by a machine? Is this the ultimate invasion of privacy? Find out more about the sophisticated memory testing or 'brain finger-printing' technologies currently used on criminals in the USA and discuss with experts whether we should use them here. This event is one in a series of debates on crime.
The Home Office has already begun trialing polygraphs, which typically measure heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, as part of sex offenders parole in the North West of England - but what lies in the future of lie detectors? Will we soon test cheating partners and dishonest employees? Can we really ever trust technology which tells us what we are thinking?
Experts include Dr Jennifer Vendemia, Principal Investigator, Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, USA, who will discuss the potential pitfalls revolving around the misrepresentation of the research. Professor Paul Matthews, Neuroscientist, University of Oxford will also be on hand to discuss the science behind lie detectors. Tor Butler-Cole, King's College London, will be talking about the ethical and legal implications of using new brain fingerprinting techniques to determine criminal responsibility. The event will be facilitated by Dr Dan Glaser, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UK. Gareth Jones, presenter of Tomorrow's World and children's show How2 will facilitate this event.
The Dana Center, which is hosting the conference, has an announcement on its website. Admission is free, but reservations are required.
5 January 2005 UK: Sex offenders forced to face lie-detector tests upon release
Independent crime correspondent Jason Bennetto reports:
Sex offenders living in the community are to take compulsory lie-detector tests after a study found 85 per cent were reoffending or breaching parole, or had failed polygraph tests.
The Home Office intends to introduce a law to force those offenders released from prison under community and probation orders to take the tests. The move is understood to be part of a pilot study included as a clause in the planned Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill in the coming year.
The police are also considering using polygraphs to help monitor sex offenders and have discussed deploying them in cases involving domestic violence and stalking.
The controversial polygraph tests, which are considered to be 90 per cent accurate, can detect when people are lying by measuring changes in breathing, heart rate and sweating.
The move towards a compulsory system follows the results of the continuing pilot study in which 200 convicted sex offenders, who are mostly paedophiles but include some rapists, have volunteered for tests. The results, which were disclosed to The Independent, revealed that 85 per cent either failed or disclosed information about reoffending, breaching the conditions of their community orders, or were experiencing deviant behaviour involving children. Within the 85 per cent, about two-thirds made disclosures of information that had not been known to their probation officers. About 20 per cent failed the polygraph test without making a disclosure, but revealed information that needed further investigation.
The testers were not allowed to ask the sex offenders whether they had reoffended, but some volunteered the information, including one man who admitted having sex with an underage victim.
At first the new power for compulsory tests will be used in the project in which a total of 200 sex offenders have so far undergone a polygraph test. If this study is successful, the mandatory scheme is expected to be adopted nationally. The Probation Service, which along with the Home Office and police has been exploring the use of polygraphs, is enthusiastic about the use of lie detectors in managing sex offenders. The National Probation Directorate is drawing up plans for a possible regulatory body that could oversee the training and qualifications of polygraph testers.
Don Grubin, professor of forensic psychiatry at Newcastle University, who is leading the polygraph study, said: "We have discussed the use of polygraphs with the police.
"They are not using it at the moment, but are interested in trying it out in certain situations. They have indicated that it could be used in managing sex offenders, cases of domestic violence and people with a history of stalking. They are reluctant to use it in a criminal investigation, but I think there is some potential there."
Professor Grubin described the results of the current tests as "startling". "Most of these guys who are put before the polygraph just admit it all." Asked why offenders who were breaking their release conditions would volunteer to take a lie test, he replied: "There are some who want to prove they are low risk and think they can beat the polygraph." It can also be used to show that a former offender is sticking to his treatment and is no longer a danger.
In July last year Home Office and police representatives visited the FBI in Washington, the Department of Defence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a private polygraph-testing centre to investigate lie detectors, which are widely used in the US.
Liz Hill, the head of public protection at the National Probation Directorate, who is overseeing the tests for the Home Office, said: "One of the things we learnt was that if you are going to go down this route you need a regulatory body."
The UK agencies involved in developing lie detectors have said the test can only be used as an indicator. The machines would not be used to gather evidence to be used in court.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE POLYGRAPH
The creator of the comic strip character Wonder Woman also invented the first lie detector, or polygraph.
But the original device, unveiled by the psychologist William Marston in 1917, was widely criticised and has been replaced by far more sophisticated techniques.
Polygraphs are being used in a UK pilot study of 200 male sex offenders in nine regions around England. The Home Office believes they could be a useful tool in managing sex offenders.
The test measures changes in the rates of breathing, sweating and heart activity. The subject has tubes going round his chest and abdomen to measure breathing. Blood pressure is also recorded, and two flat rods are stuck to the subject's palm and finger to measure sweating.
These calculations indicate arousal in the subject. The theory behind the polygraph is that arousal is a non-voluntary part of the nervous system. If the subject's response pattern is greatly altered then it indicates that they are lying.
The sex offenders take up to three sets of questions, to which the answer is yes or no. One test is "sex history disclosure" in which the offender is questioned about victims and other behaviour. The "maintenance test" involves the offender being questioned about whether he is sticking to conditions of parole. Under the "specific issue test", the subject is questioned about aspects of an offence that they are denying. Only about 15 per cent of the offenders taking part in the British trial passed their polygraph test first time.
The claim that lie detectors "are considered to be 90 per cent accurate" is one that is only being made by those with vested interests in promoting polygraphy, and flies in the face of the broad consensus amongst scientists that polygraph "testing" has no scientific basis. The claim that William Marston's polygraph technique "has been replaced by far more sophisticated techniques" is also misleading. The "control question test" that is the standby technique of the polygraph community can hardly be characterized as "sophisticated." On the contrary, it is highly simplistic and easily thwarted by the use of simple countermeasures that polygraphers cannot reliably detect.
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