Federal Official Declares That Anyone Who Speaks Out Against Lie Detector Tests Should Be Criminally Investigated
from the insanity dept
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.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?
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.
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.