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Government United States

Feds Target Instructors of Polygraph-Beating Methods 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-seen-confiscating-crystal-balls-and-dowsing-rods dept.
schwit1 writes "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. So far, authorities have targeted at least two instructors, one of whom has pleaded guilty to federal charges, several people familiar with the investigation told McClatchy. Investigators confiscated business records from the two men, which included the names of as many as 5,000 people who'd sought polygraph-beating advice. U.S. agencies have determined that at least 20 of them applied for government and federal contracting jobs, and at least half of that group was hired, including by the National Security Agency. By attempting to prosecute the instructors, federal officials are adopting a controversial legal stance that sharing such information should be treated as a crime and isn't protected under the First Amendment in some circumstances."
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Feds Target Instructors of Polygraph-Beating Methods

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:35AM (#44593227)

    I mean if we are going to go with the crackpot solutions we wouldnt want phrenology to feel left out, i believe it has some valuable insight and wait till i tell you about alchemy and auras.

  • Oh man, oh man (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:37AM (#44593247)

    The Obama admin is sure pulling out all the stops on the full retard organ, this time.

  • How about (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:39AM (#44593261)

    Just admitting that Polygraphs are not reliable indicators of truthfulness?

  • Protecting a lie (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:40AM (#44593265)

    IALA

    The real crime here is that law enforcement agencies are using such a notoriously unreliable [apa.org]technology for investigatory and evidentiary purposes. Polygraphs have absolutely no place in the modern justice system.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:42AM (#44593285)

    Finally, we have a case for information being outlawed.

  • QL'EB? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:43AM (#44593295) Homepage Journal

    It's like attacking tarot readers for claiming they can work out when palmists are making shit up.

  • Polygraphs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <.onyxruby. .at. .comcast.net.> on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:47AM (#44593319)

    Why the hell are polygraphs still being used in the 21st century? They aren't admissible in a court of law for a damned good reason. They are junk science and no better than a voodoo board. The only thing they do is tell whether or not your nervous. They are a perfect example of something that provides a false sense of security as Ames and your other famous spies all /passed/ their lie detector tests. These things need placed in the museum of junk science post haste.

  • Our President (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:47AM (#44593321)

    Is now more immoral and corrupt than his predecessor. That is quite a feat for anyone.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:48AM (#44593329) Journal

    ...Polygraphs can be beaten and as such are not reliable!
    Deniability is man most powerful tool. So really its all about abstraction. What definition do you apply to the questions or do you simply deny the questioner over your own internal thoughts?

    The ability of beat a polygraph might actually be a quality the government is looking for....... considering all the lies they have told and certainly spying would find the ability to beat a polygraph an asset.

    So you see, its really all null and void this polygraph issue.

    Now what more does anyone need to consider in their mental state to beat a polygraph?

  • So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:06AM (#44593441) Journal

    > Investigators confiscated business records from the two men, which included the names of as many as
    > 5,000 people who'd sought polygraph-beating advice.

    Which was, of course, the real goal. Much like seizing the records of companies that sell hydroponics equipment.

    So what has this incident taught these instructors, whether they be good or evil?

    1. Cash-only and don't use records.
    2. If someone says they want to do evil, give them their money back and kick them from the class. Otherwise, don't ask, don't tell.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:14AM (#44593485)

    Yes it sounds like they're going after them for conspiracy rather than simply teaching these techniques, which is the sort of legal technicality beloved of prosecutors, but you're missing the bigger point. This is not analogous to someone selling a gun to a person who says they want to rob a bank; it's analogous to letting someone take your chemistry class even though they say they want to make a bomb to blow open a bank safe. This is stopping the dissemination of information because it could be used for nefarious purposes.

    Additionally, the undercover agents said that they already did commit these crimes, not that they were planning on using these techniques to commit crimes in the future. If potentially helping somebody to beat the charges is a crime, then why are defense attorneys legal?

  • Re:How about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:22AM (#44593531) Journal
    Lie detectors are 100% reliable. If I see one at a job interview, it is a sure sign that I don't want to work there.
  • Re:How about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonbryce (703250) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:32AM (#44593577) Homepage

    And lets look at this 85% reliability more carefully.

    Supposing you have 1,000,000 non-terrorists and 100 terrorists. You ask them if the are a terrorist, and use the lie detector to determine whether or not they are telling the truth. Everyone says they are not a terrorist. The lie detector will identify 150,085 people as terrorists, of which only 85 are actually terrorists. In otherwords, if the lie detector says you are a terrorist, there is a 0.057% probability that you are actually a terrorist.

    How do these figures work?

    Of the 1,000,000 non-terrorists, it will correctly identify 850,000 of them as being non-terrorists, and incorrectly identify 150,000 as being terrorists. Of the 100 terrorists, it will correctly identify 85 of them as being terrorists, and incorrectly identify 15 of them as not being terrorists. A total of 150,085 people identified as terrorists, only 85 actually are.

  • I still don't understand why people assume monitoring breathing, heart rate, and skin conductivity is a 'crackpot' solution.

    OT3 here. Allow me to clean this misconception up. FYI: e-meters work the same way.

  • by interval1066 (668936) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @11:05AM (#44594177) Homepage Journal

    The real crime here is that law enforcement agencies are...

    THE REAL crime here is that there is NO WAY this Fed action passes the first amendment smell test. ANYONE has an ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to say whatever they want about lie detectors, yet no one seems to give a wiff.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @01:33PM (#44595129) Homepage Journal

    I still don't understand why people assume monitoring breathing, heart rate, and skin conductivity is a 'crackpot' solution. There is a scientific basis behind it, unlike most actual 'crackpot' areas. It doesn't ALWAYS work, and it's (clearly) beatable, but it's still a science.

    That's a fair question. Suppose you have a technique that was developed by scientific exploration, it's tested, and it turns out not to work. Is it science (but discredited science), or is it just not science at all?

    It's not like they're praying to the aliens in orbit to read the person's mind and tell them if they're lying or not.

    I'd like to see a controlled trial in which one team reads peoples' minds by praying to aliens, and the other team uses a lie detector. Which team will be better at detecting lies?

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @02:19PM (#44595437) Journal

    The only science that's been found to be behind it is that people are slightly less likely to lie if they think that a lie detector will call them out on it.

    Penn and Teller did an program about lie detectors. Firstly, why are they not being prosecuted, since they explained how to beat them?

    They explained that what happens is that the lie detector is a BS machine, but after the test is "over", the interviewer tells them that the lie detector showed that they were lying and that they should come clean. Many people then tell the interviewer the truth.

    According to Penn and Teller, fooling the lie detector is simple: spoof the results by contracting and releasing a large muscle (they suggested the sphincter muscles) during the interview. This will destroy the value of any baseline measures.

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