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NAS: Lie Detectors Can Be Fooled

From: Robert Gates <RGates8254@aol.com>
Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2002 22:38:18 EDT
Fwd Date: Wed, 09 Oct 2002 07:45:57 -0400
Subject: NAS: Lie Detectors Can Be Fooled

Of interest to the List. Over the years some skeptibunkers have
lived, and now died on polygraph results.

Source: Reuters.com


Lie Detectors Can Be Fooled, Panel Decides

Tue Oct 8, 2:17 PM ET
By Maggie Fox

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lie detectors may sometimes work in
specific cases with specific questions, but they are of little
use in general screening, for government employment for example,
an independent panel said on Tuesday.

After interviewing polygraph experts at the CIA (news - web
sites), FBI (news - web sites) and other agencies, the panel of
the National Academy of Sciences (news - web sites) determined
that it is possible to fool a lie detector, especially if the
subject is being screened for general criminal or spy activity
and not for some specific act.

The academy committee, appointed at the request of the
Department of Energy (news - web sites), decided that polygraphs
cannot be relied on for mass screening of federal employees
because they can falsely suggest an honest employee is lying and
can be fooled by someone who is trained to do so.

"The US federal government, through a variety of agencies,
carries out thousands of polygraph tests each year on job
applicants and current employees, and there are inevitable
disputes that are sometimes highly publicized when someone '
fails' a polygraph test," the panel, made up of professionals
who have never worked with lie detectors, wrote in its report.

"Over 19 months, the committee held a series of meetings,
visited polygraph facilities at several government agencies, and
examined large numbers of reports and published papers," it
added. "We attempted to listen carefully to people representing
both sides in the debate on polygraph accuracy, and we then
stepped back and reviewed the evidence ourselves."

Sometimes polygraphs can work, they decided - although something
better is clearly needed.

"We conclude that in populations of examinees such as those
represented in the polygraph research literature, untrained in
countermeasures, specific-incident polygraph tests can
discriminate lying from truth telling at rates well above
chance, though well below perfection."

But the lie detector can be fooled by someone who has training -
  which, in the case of government agencies, would be precisely
the people they are trying to screen out.

"Certain countermeasures apparently can, under some laboratory
conditions, enable a deceptive individual to appear nondeceptive
and avoid detection by an examiner," the report reads.

"Overconfidence in polygraph screening can create a false sense
of security among policy makers, employees in sensitive
positions, and the general public that may in turn lead to
inappropriate relaxation of other methods of ensuring security,"
it adds.

"Its accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security
violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify
reliance on its use in employee security screening in ederal

The report noted that sometimes a person appears to be lying on
a polygraph when in fact he or she is anxious - especially if
that person is from a "socially stigmatized" group.

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