Desperate To Stop Leaks, The Trump Administration Considers Moving From Bad Ideas To Worse Ones

from the do-you-consent-to-the-use-of-sodium-pentothal? dept

The Trump Administration is so frustrated by constant leaks, it's willing to try anything to stop them. Apparently, this may one day involve questionable tech with an extremely-spotty track record. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has an idea -- a bad one -- to address the ongoing White House leakstravaganza.

Sessions' idea is to do a one-time, one-issue, polygraph test of everyone on the NSC staff. Interrogators would sit down with every single NSC staffer (there's more than 100 of them), and ask them, individually, what they know about the leaks of transcripts of the president's phone calls with foreign leaders. Sessions suspects those leaks came from within the NSC, and thinks that a polygraph test — at the very least — would scare them out of leaking again.

Sessions' spitball may never come to fruition but it does indicate the White House is still no closer to uncovering the source(s) of these leaks. This also indicates the AG is willing to alienate NSC staffers with mandatory tests predicated on nothing more than Sessions' belief the leaks came from within the NSC.

On top of that, there's the dubious deterrent effect of deploying machinery whose results should be taken with a shaker of salt. The machines can be beat. Research and "How To" literature bear this out, although the federal government does what it can to prevent the spread of the latter. False positives are a problem as well. Ringing up staffers for leaking just because a machine said yes isn't going to stop the leaks or put investigators any closer to catching the real culprit(s).

But this is the way things go when the federal government is in charge. It relies heavily on polygraph tests when vetting applicants for agencies like the Customs and Border Protection. And it continues to deploy these tests even when applicants have admitted to activities or relationships that would disqualify them from federal employment.

Chances are Sessions' polygraph idea will likely remain just an idea. It could be the multiple discussions Sessions is engaging in are all part of his leak deterrence plan -- to have the threat of mandatory lie detector tests hovering in midair for the rest of tenure. Even so, it's a desperation move that shows the White House can't contain the leaks, much less hope to stop them. Suggestions like the one made by Sessions are just going to turn more staffers against the administration, which means more leaks, rather than less, over the course of this administration's lifetime.

Filed Under: jeff sessions, leaks, lie detector, national security, polygraph


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    David, 25 Sep 2017 @ 3:17am

    And another one.

    This falls under the "this shit has a past independent from Trump, but it has a bright future thanks to him" category.

    Of course Trump is not personally responsible for this but through his chosen personnel. "personelly", so to say.

    There are enough bad ideas to start with that Trump and his administration do not have to come up with their own. But of course reprioritizing the bad ones leaves the U.S. in a worse state than before. And backwards movement is not really conducive regarding an "America first" goal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 25 Sep 2017 @ 3:56am

    `We've lost the competent technicians of the CIA and NSA c.q. the ability to recruit them, let's loose those of the NSC too!'
    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 4:20am

    Can we hook Trump up to a polygraph?

    Just wondering.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 4:40am

    Re: Can we hook Trump up to a polygraph?

    One can and will not learn a thing... Pathetic liars easily pass a polygraph test.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 4:52am

    it shows what a farce the Trump administration is and what a bunch of Nazi-ish storm troopers that are employed within it at the top positions! it must surely indicate how far the administration is prepared to go to try to cover it's ass and that if there was nothing to hide, it would have nothing to fear! Obama's government was far from being 'transparent' but this one is so much worse! it obviously has no intention of allowing any of it's mal-practices being released to and scrutinised by the people it is supposed to represent, preferring to keep everyone in the dark who are outside of the 'particular few'. the problem then is that when leaks do occur, Trump and his cronies are going to crap backwards but take every means at their disposal to silence the leakers and i wouldn't be surprised if that included some serious 'accidents'!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:07am

    Next stop: Gitmo

    They'll just waterboard those lying bastards there until they speak up...although it's rather peculiar we can't seem to find any good NSC staff these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Vidiot (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:12am

    Re: Can we hook Trump up to a polygraph?

    They'd have to use the pediatric sensors for his hands...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:12am

    Too bad...

    ...phrenologists are so rare today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Ben (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:28am

    Snowcrash

    Has Jeff S read Snowcrash recently... all federal employees undergo regular polygraph tests. Neal Stephenson gets it right again. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:39am

    Re: And another one.

    the "this shit has a past independent from Trump, but it has a bright future thanks to him" category

    See also: white supremacist groups.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    SlapBone (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:40am

    Re: Snowcrash

    I always thought government employees were subject to polygraphs anyway. Snowcrash must be where I got that idea.

    I don't need Neal Stephenson to know that Jeff Sessions is an autocratic little tyrant though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:48am

    Re: And another one.

    "There are enough bad ideas to start with that Trump and his administration do not have to come up with their own."


    But as we all know, he must have the biggest and baddest bad idea of them all so that he can brag about it every day

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 7:03am

    leakstravaganza

    Or leakapalooza.

    Even so, it's a desperation move that shows the White House can't contain the leaks, much less hope to stop them.

    It may be easier to find the bits that are not leaking. Like a couple of rocks poking through the surface of a river.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 7:18am

    Re: Too bad...

    This Administration makes one long for corrective phrenology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 25 Sep 2017 @ 7:27am

    Trump would throw Melania into the pond to see if she floats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anon, 25 Sep 2017 @ 7:31am

    Single minded...

    The same Jeff Sessions that prosecuted members of a non-profit volunteer group for voter fraud for collecting voter registrations (of black voters), a prosecution that failed miserably - but presumably had the same effect as this polygraph test is intended, to intimidate people from further activity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re: Can we hook Trump up to a polygraph?

    somebody better get some ice on that burn

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Berenerd (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 8:07am

    Just get everyone drunk, its more reliable than a lie detector.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    bshock, 25 Sep 2017 @ 8:36am

    The more you tighten your grip, Trumpenfuhrer, the more leaks will slip through your fingers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Justa Thought, 25 Sep 2017 @ 9:32am

    Let Us Pretend (i.e., democracy)

    In order for a democracy to exist in a real sense, the public must be informed, educated, engaged, and to whom the elected are accountable.

    Since this is clearly not the the case in the USSA, and hasn't been for several decades (if ever), why bother with all this nonsense about secrets (except for those lethal ones in the hands of dangerous sub-humands)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 9:42am

    I'm more surprised that this might mean NSC staff don't have someone on the top monitoring *all* their lower staffers' devices (including those at their private homes) 24-7.

    But if they're not, does it mean the leaks are from a very good higher-up liar?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonmylous, 25 Sep 2017 @ 10:48am

    They still use those?

    The only people caught lying by polygraphs are... no one. Courts are finally realizing its all a bunch of garbage and pseudo-science, minus the science part! No two polygraph administrators can give the same analysis, there are so many ways to "cheat" and feed false data to the machine (seriously, clenching your asshole shut works, curling your toes, biting your tongue or cheek, sighing... SIGHING!) its literally nothing more than a show to try and get the victim nervous enough for the interviewer to literally guess (oh wait no, they are biased as well generally in favor of the person paying them) whether or not someone is lying.

    Sure Mr Sessions, the entire internet already knows how bullshit a polygraph is, go ahead and waste more of OUR money by making everyone take one, please!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 11:01am

    science? Who needs science? We are a country of doers, not thinkers! - Donald Trump, probbably

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 25 Sep 2017 @ 11:10am

    Re: They still use those?

    I didn't think any court allows polygraphs as evidence in the US for many years. I'm pretty sure the courts know it's voodoo, but many people don't, ergo prosecutors like to use it as a starting point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 25 Sep 2017 @ 11:28am

    Re:

    "I love the poorly educated!" - DJT
    Yes...yes he does, for he knew with so many poorly educated, his time had come. With the help of some 'friends'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 1:06pm

    Re: They still use those?

    Polygraphs are a spook security blanket essentially to give them 'something' to assure them. Plus when the guy they recruit ends up selling state secrets to Russia it is 'not their fault' because he passed the polygraph.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    David, 25 Sep 2017 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Can we hook Trump up to a polygraph?

    You mean "pathological liars". The problem is that somebody who cannot be bothered with the truth is not even a liar.

    So even assuming polygraph tests would be somewhat reliable, you'd have to apply them to Trump's advisers rather than himself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 3:15pm

    Re: Can we hook Trump up to a polygraph?

    Do you want exploding lie detectors? Because that's how you get exploding lie detectors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    John Smith, 25 Sep 2017 @ 11:27pm

    What, no truth serum?

    Amateurs.

    Polygraphs aren't used by those in power not because they are not accurate, but because they are TOO accurate. Plausible deniability would cease.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:32am

    A pathetic liar is too impaired to know whether or when he is lying…

    …thus making polygraph tests a exercise in futility. ‌ ‌ ;]

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Thad, 26 Sep 2017 @ 11:01am

    Re:

    Huh? I'm hitting Poe here. Are you joking or are you serious?

    The unreliability of polygraph tests is well-documented.

    Here's a representative piece from the American Psychological Association.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Idiot, 1 Oct 2017 @ 8:47am

    "Good gravy! This machine is a piece of garbage that goes of randomly."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.