Federal Official Declares That Anyone Who Speaks Out Against Lie Detector Tests Should Be Criminally Investigated

from the insanity dept

The Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers was already fairly crazy, what with its official designation of “leakers” as “aiding the enemy,” but now apparently it’s extending even further. Federal agents have now launched criminal investigations into some instructors who claim they can teach you to beat a lie detector test, all done under the mandate of the war against whistleblowers.

Federal agents have launched a criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie detector tests as part of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on security violators and leakers.

The criminal inquiry, which hasn’t been acknowledged publicly, is aimed at discouraging criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using the polygraph-beating techniques, which are said to include controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic.

Methods for how to beat lie detector tests have been around for ages, and they are unreliable to begin with — so much so that many experts and groups have expressed doubt about polygraphs or disavowed them entirely. The National Research Council, the National Academy of Sciences, the Congress Office of Technology Assessment, the American Psychological Association, the Supreme Court — the list of doubters goes on and on, and any discussion of the question inevitably covers the ways people intentionally trick the test, to the point that these methods are practically common knowledge. Even Mythbusters has tested whether or not you can beat the polygraph, as has Penn & Teller: Bullshit! in an episode where they taught volunteers how to beat a test on camera. I wonder if these shows should now be investigated as well?

Either way, it seems like a huge stretch to claim that merely teaching potential methods for beating a lie detector should be considered a crime. At the very least, that seems to test the bounds of the First Amendment. One of the instructors targeted has already plead guilty, but to “obstructing an agency proceeding and wire fraud,” while the feds are pushing for two years in jail for the other one. While some of the details are under seal, it appears that federal agents basically set up a “sting” operation, in which they induced the two people to teach them how to trick a polygraph, and in the process “admitted” to the instructors certain crimes that they were involved in. This sounds a like borderline entrapment. In fact, the report notes that the people who “sought out” the information from the two men who were investigated generally just wanted books or videos — not the “one on one” lessons the feds set up.

The impact of all of this is creating serious chilling effects just on those who oppose the use of polygraphs in general:

Some opponents of polygraph testing, including a Wisconsin police chief, said they were concerned that the federal government also might be secretly investigating them, not for helping criminals to lie but for being critical of the government’s polygraph programs. In his speech to the American Association of Police Polygraphists, Schwartz said he thought that those who “protest the loudest and the longest” against polygraph testing “are the ones that I believe we need to focus our attention on.”

The “Schwartz” quoted there is John Schwartz, a Customs and Border Patrol official who is involved in the investigations. So, yeah, that’s a federal government agent specifically claiming that he wants to focus his criminal investigatory power on those who speak out against polygraph testing. If I were to take a polygraph test right now it would note that I’m telling the truth when I say that sounds a hell of a lot like a police state, where federal agents publicly declare that they’re going to use their criminal investigation powers to target people who oppose a program they support. Talk about chilling effects and a massive First Amendment violation.

To have a federal official, with investigatory power, whose already involved in existing investigations flat out say that he wants to target those who speak out, is incredible. That’s not the way our government is supposed to work.

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Comments on “Federal Official Declares That Anyone Who Speaks Out Against Lie Detector Tests Should Be Criminally Investigated”

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65 Comments
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: There's no credibility left...

Can we raze the government to the ground and start over after breaking the United States up into smaller countries?

Once you raze the federal government to the ground, what you will have is a bunch of smaller countries.

Very Nixonian. Of course, Nixon knew that polygraphs didn’t work, but his intent was to scare the FBI straight.

Anonymous Coward says:

So what should we do with those that confess to lying and you don’t need a lie detector to verify? James Clapper comes immediately to mind. This isn’t some one speaking out against it, this is someone saying they intentionally did so with the express purpose of lying to the Congressional Oversight Committee.

When should we expect Federal Officials to instigate criminal proceedings?

That One Guy (profile) says:

And the elephant in the room is...

The fact that it’s even possible for someone to teach techniques to beat a polygraph machine, means the machines are anything but accurate.

Something that actually was able to tell the truth of a statement, rather than say, being based upon temperature of a room(higher temp = more sweating), how calm a person is when being questioned(someone who’s guilty but is sure the cops don’t have enough evidence to bust him is going to be a lot calmer than an innocent person that the cops have been interrogating for a few hours) or any number of other tiny little factors would not be able to be beat by any technique other than honesty.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put some cookies in the oven for the imminent SWAT assault, I heard the local team likes macadamia nut the best.

SolkeshNaranek says:

Re: And the elephant in the room is...

And the elephant in the room is…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put some cookies in the oven for the imminent SWAT assault, I heard the local team likes macadamia nut the best.

I would recommend putting the copious amounts of elephant poop you are going to acquire into the cookies instead.

Would serve the SWAT team right.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: And the elephant in the room is...

Not so much an elephant as a fairy, “a la” Tinkerbell…you have to believe. The whole polygraph scam is based on the subject being sufficiently “suggestible” (read “gullible”) to believe that he will evince an orienting response ( http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/432446/orienting-response ) when lying. The chap administering the test has to tell you convincingly that lies produce orienting responses. If you don’t believe, Tinkerbell dies.

I suggest they try auguring with the entrails of federal officials. It’s similarly accurate and WAY more useful.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

As an attorney and with my unfortunate experience with the criminal justice system, I’ve noticed two types of lie detector advocates. The first type realize the tests are complete BS but skillfully use then to draw out confessions.

The second type are scary, they’re absolute true believers. And like any true believer, they’re dogmatic and prone to anger when confronted with actual verifiable evidence.

I’m assuming (based upon my own subjective opinion) that John Schwartz falls into the latter group.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wait ... huh?

No, it’s a crime to teach a party how to beat a test that one cannot be forced to take in the first place and often cannot be used as evidence against someone who is accused of a crime if, during the course of teaching said party, said party says they have committed a crime but are actually lying about the crime they committed. See, doesn’t that make much more sense?

Robotsbeepboop (profile) says:

First, let me share http://www.antipolygraph.org.

The creator of the polygraph had one other well known invention- the comic book character Wonder Woman. I am not making this up.

There is no science behind the polygraph- it is beloved by inquisitors as an excuse to carry out invasive interrogations.

It is outrageous and unacceptable that this nonscientific widget is being used under the rubric of protecting our country.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. They work as well as, and on the same principle as, the old timey “donkey in the tent” test:

Put the testee in a dark tent with a donkey. He’s told to hold the donkey’s tail and that the donkey will bray if he utters an untruth. He’s then questioned, sight unseen.

The trick is that the donkey’s tail is covered with soot. If he emerges from the tent with clean hands, he was trying to dodge the test and therefore was likely to be lying.

What both the donkey test and the polygraph have in common is that whatever efficacy they have (which isn’t great) depends entirely on the subject believing in the infallibility of the test.

Anonymous Coward says:

My teacher taught me how to read. I can use that knowledge to read instructions on how to make a bomb. My teacher should be investigated for potentially creating more Boston bombers.

My science teacher explained how some explosives work, this can also help me build a bomb, he should also be arrested!

I’m totally concerned about my former teachers creating more terrorists, honest! It’s totally NOT that I hate my reading teacher for making me read boring books, or that I hate my science teacher for teaching me about evolution and global warming that I consider bogus theories!

DigDug says:

Hey Mr. Schwartz

Lie Detectors are a scam, a fraud, pure bull shit – they have been repeatedly proven ineffective in over 80% of their uses.

Anyone on any kind of nerve-calming medications, anti-depressants, some pain meds, amongst other things can pass these with flying colors while lying through their teeth. Anyone can train themselves to remain calm while lying, it doesn’t require any kind education to learn how.

So take your fucking polygraph and shove it up your fucking ass.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yes, try to criminally investigate us, like the fools you are. You idiots are only fueling the hate in others for you. Nothing more. Sooner or later you’ll have to realize this. And when you do maybe you’ll learn to look into the people’s reasons behind things instead of merely resorting to your own opinions.

There’s a common saying, it’s that “ignorance is bliss.” Have you ever wondered why it’s so ignored, so misunderstood (if understood at all) and just not taken seriously enough? Society is just too used to it and you guys are the source of the problem.

And besides, lie detectors do not work. They work, they just don’t work on one hundred percent of people a hundred percent of the time. Get over it, stop denying it and learn to face to facts every once in a while. I knwo that cognitive dissonance is hard for you to deal but it’s not the end of the world. So suck it, bitches.

aldestrawk says:

An easy way to avoid prosecution is simply to not take any customers who mention specifics about how they are going to use this knowledge, just like the head shops that can legally sell pipes and bongs as long as their customers do not mention the M-word or any of its synonyms. The end result is that the courses continue as before. What may happen is that the feds periodically investigate and use that excuse to gain the list of customers. All such customers are then eliminated from government positions requiring lie detector tests. If a judge won’t allow a search warrant could they use a National Security Letter?
Whatever happens next you can be sure that Chad Dixon is absolutely getting shafted because the feds need him to make an example of.

aldestrawk says:

legal problems

I am not a lawyer but it seems this tactic can lead to some very awkward, a severe understatement, legal situations. If the feds can prosecute this in the context of lie detector tests for government jobs, wouldn’t this argument also apply to criminal prosecution where a suspect agrees to taking a lie detector test? Even if the results are not used in court, you could be, essentially, obstructing justice by preventing confessions.
Also, a good part of the reason that lie detectors work at all is that subjects have bought into the fiction that the devices work. So, studying the efficacy of lie detectors, or even speaking about the results of those studies could be construed as a crime if you tell someone who is about to undergo a lie detector exam. I don’t see how the law can separate this aspect from teaching methods to defeat the tests.

Spiffy the Wonder Hamster says:

So lemme get this straight

It is now, apparently, a crime to tell someone else how to beat a completely inaccurate and unscientific test, that has been _repeatedly_ shown to literally be worse than useless (the error rate is that high), and that likely will affect their livelihood or their life itself.

This sounds exactly like the America in the 21st century I’ve come to know and loathe. I do not find this surprising in the least.

More points for the “most open and participatory administration in history” (that’s from whitehouse.gov).

Anonymous Coward says:

I disagree, Mike. In fact, I have personally designed a newer, more accurate method of lie detection more specific to the purpose at hand. I call it the “quarter flip”. I’d like to use this opportunity to present this method to the world.

1. Obtain a USD $0.25 coin – a “quarter” of a dollar
2. Stand in front of subject to be tested
3. Place “quarter” on your thumb
4. Release your thumb upwards
5. Find the “quarter”
6. Analysis stage. If the “quarter” displays the face of George Washington, a true patriot, the test subject is likewise a true patriot. If the “quarter” instead shows the White House, the subject has been distributing the administration’s secrets and should be punished accordingly. If the “quarter” lands in any other configuration (edge, etc.) the test subject is a WIZARD and should be TERMINATED IMMEDIATELY.

We may safely dissolve the Federal and State court systems, secure in the knowledge that this test approaches 50% accuracy. This is more than any other method available on the market today.

“Quarter Flip Method” (c) 2013, you no use.

Anonymous Coward says:

when is it going to be accepted that the USA is now a Police State? even worse, when is it going to be admitted that it is a Police State? what on earth has happened to make a country stoop so low as to want to class everyone, even it’s own citizens, as enemies. after what happened between East and West Germany, you would think lessons would be learned, but it appears not!

George Maschke (user link) says:

Correction and Comments

I’m a co-founder of AntiPolygraph.org and am cited in the McClatchy article upon which this post is based. (In May of this year, I received suspicious e-mails that seemed like an entrapment attempt.)

I’d like first to correct a factual error in this Techdirt post. It states: “One of the instructors targeted has already plead guilty, but to ‘obstructing an agency proceeding and wire fraud,’ while the feds are pushing for two years in jail for the other one.”

Actually, it is the one who pled guilty, Chad Dixon, for whom the feds are pushing for a two-year jail sentence. The other, Doug Williams, who runs Polygraph.com, has to date not been charged with any crime. Earlier this week, Oklahoma City News 9 aired an interview with him.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Special Agent John Schwartz’s remark that those who “protest the loudest and the longest are the ones that I believe we need to focus our attention on” suggests that the motivation for this criminal investigation, dubbed Operation Lie Busters, is political, and constitutes retaliation for speech the government doesn’t like.

If you agree that it should not be a crime to teach others about how to pass a polygraph “test” (a pseudoscientific procedure that is inherently biased against the truthful), then please consider downloading a copy of AntiPolygraph.org’s free e-book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF) and sharing it with friends. The information about polygraph countermeasures that some in the U.S. Government would like to suppress is to be found in Chapter 4.

nofx says:

regaining unconsciousness

First they put away the dealers,
keep our kids safe and off the street.
Then they put away the prostitutes,
keep married men cloistered at home.

Then they shooed away the bums,
then they beat and bashed the queers,
turned away asylum-seekers,
fed us suspicions and fears.
We didn’t raise our voice,
we didn’t make a fuss.
It’s funny there was no one left to notice
when they came for us.

Looks like witches are in season,
you better fly your flag and be aware
of anyone who might fit the description,
diversity is now our biggest fear.

Now with our conversations tapped
and our differences exposed,
how ya supposed to love your neighbor
with our minds and curtains closed?
We used to worry ’bout big brother,
now we got a big father and an even bigger mother.

And you still believe
this aristocracy gives a fuck about you.
They put the mock in democracy
and you swallowed every hook.

The sad truth is
you’d rather follow the school into the net
’cause swimming alone at sea
is not the kind of freedom that you actually want.

So go back to your crib and suck on a tit
go bask in the warmth of your diaper.
You’re sitting in shit and piss
while sucking a giant pacifier,
a country of adult infants.
A legion of mental midgets,
a country of adult infants,
a country of adult infants.
all regaining their unconsciousness
?There are a lot of bad people out there. . . . This will help us remove some of those pests from society.”

Wolfy says:

I don’t know why the Feds have their collective panties in a bunch… even though they have all their screening eggs in the “polygraph basket”, portable EEG’s will prove even better and more flexible. Want to catch a religious crazy trying to take down a plane? Walk one past the portable scanner, and now you have the “religious crazy” signature. Now you can scan for “religious crazy” for all Fed. jobs.

hopponit (profile) says:

lie detector

Back in ’80 at the end of my first enlistment I went to work for a building supply warehouse in Savannah, Ga. We started having a problem with theft. The management had everyone take a lie detector test. They found NOTHING, however two people were fired because of the operators judgement about their answers! After having everybody retested a couple more times they left a safe open and hid till the crook showed up. The managers nephew had been doing it. Turns out he was a sociopath type and he believed his lies as he told them. No training needed. Oh by the way as a minor he wasn’t charged. And with no proof he didn’t even have to pay back the earlier money!

Anonymous Coward says:

Teaching people how to get away with lying

It doesn’t seem to matter to any of the commenters, or to Mike – perhaps because it detracts from the Big Government theme of the story, but not one in the story seems to be being investigated because of their criticism of polygraphs. Rather, the people targeted in stings were offering to teach people how to lie in polygraph exams and still pass them. Oh, and they get paid big bucks for these “lessons.” Why is it these guys are supposed to be heroes again?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In order: 1) You’d have higher accuracy from flipping a coin, and 2) No, because with how they ‘work’ the test is very easily skewed by any number of factors, including bias on the part of the tester, the temperature of the room, stress levels completely unrelated to guilt/innocence, and probably the biggest strike against them, they rely almost entirely upon the placebo effect, and if the one being tested doesn’t believe they work, they don’t.

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