Submitted by Charlton Stanley, (aka Otteray Scribe) guest blogger
Polygraph tests are 20th-century witchcraft.
-Sen. Sam Ervin (1896-1995)
As the Obama administration and the Department of Justice ramps up the crackdown on security violators and leakers, the whole thing has taken a bizarre turn. There is an ongoing criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie-detector tests. The two men are Doug Williams, who operates Polygraph.com, and Chad Dixon, who had a website called “PolygraphExpert.net” which has been taken down. Chad Dixon has entered a guilty plea, but the charges against him are being kept secret under seal. Dixon faces a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison; however, prosecutors are asking for a two-year sentence. Williams has not been charged with any crime; at least not yet, but is said to be under investigation. His only publiccomment was to say he has done nothing wrong.
The criminal investigation has not been acknowledged publicly. What little news that has come out is the claim it is meant to discourage criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using so-called polygraph-beating techniques. Several current or former polygraph examiners are alleged to have been providing training materials and classes on how lie detector devices work and how to “beat” them.
Doug Williams and Chad Dixon’s business records were seized. The records are believed to include the names of as many as 5,000 persons who sought advice from the two men. The government claims about twenty of those people applied for positions with the government or government contractors. About half of that group was hired, including one or more getting jobs with the National Security Agency (NSA).
Federal officials have adopted a unique and controversial legal theory that teaching clients how lie detectors work and how to pass the test is a crime, and not protected under the First Amendment.
I find this more than curious. By way of full disclosure, I own a voice stress analysis machine and several biofeedback devices. I first became interested in the detection of malingering, dissimulation and outright lying when I was still in graduate school, and have maintained that interest ever since. Some people lie to look good, and some lie to look bad. Some lie and don’t even know they are lying. Some lie when the truth would serve them better.
In this piece, we will take a look at exactly what it is the Feds are talking about. And we will puzzle about why they want to make it a crime for anyone to teach people how the machines work. Or more accurately, don’t work.
Everyone is familiar with anxiety. Hands sweat, voice trembles, breathing may become more rapid, and the heart races. Many times trembling is visible to the naked eye. Anxiety is a fear reaction. Both the polygraph and voice stress analysis take advantage of these physiological reactions to fear, and take measurements of them. The theory behind both machines is that an anxious person will react. Practitioners of polygraphy and voice stress analysis operate on the assumption that telling a lie will result in a predictable and measurable physiological reaction.