Spies, Lies and Polygraphs; Screening Consistently Fails the Truth test.(OPED)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 17, 2002 | Go to article overview

Spies, Lies and Polygraphs; Screening Consistently Fails the Truth test.(OPED)


Byline: Drew Richardson, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Recently, the National Academy of Sciences issued a landmark report regarding the use of polygraphy by various federal agencies. Although many issues were explored and several conclusions were drawn, none was more important than the finding that polygraph screening is completely invalid as a diagnostic instrument for determining truth regarding counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, past activities of job applicants and other important issues currently so assessed by our various federal, state and local governments.

During an Associated Press briefing, it was stated by various panel members very clearly and emphatically that no spy had ever been caught as a result of polygraphy, none would ever be expected to be so revealed, and that although a precise figure cannot be assigned to the number of false-positive results, large numbers of the tens of thousands of people subjected yearly to this sort of "testing" are likely being falsely accused about their backgrounds and activities.

The jury is in and the evidence is clear and compelling. The American people should insist and our executive and legislative branches of government should ensure that the technological and sociological embarrassment we have come to know as polygraph screening should be immediately stopped. Not one more innocent applicant or employee should be falsely accused and not one more spy should be given cover through having passed a polygraph exam. The notion (as will be suggested by some in government agencies using polygraph screening) that this is just one tool among many being used to address problems is wrong and dangerous mumbo-jumbo. The results of polygraph screening examinations are either believed or they are not. If they are believed, they are acted upon and, furthermore, these actions, if based upon erroneous polygraph results, will continue to lead to the sorts of grave injury to country and citizens as previously noted.

There exist few, if any, better examples than polygraph screening to disprove the notion and oft-said maxim about "anything being better than nothing" as a solution for a problem. …

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