A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector

By David T. Lykken | Go to book overview

Chapter 15
PREEMPLOYMENT
SCREENING BY THE FBI
AND OTHER FEDERAL
AGENCIES

The whole process smacks of 20th century witchcraft. . . . The burden of proof should be on those who assert the efficacy of polygraph in predicting the behavior of prospective . . . employees. There have been practically no efforts to compile this Proof. . . . Why then do [employers] have such blind faith in these devices? In my opinion, it is directly related to the role of science and technology in our society -- the cult of the "expert." There is an increasing belief that anything scientific must be more reliable and rational than the judgment of men. . . . There is no necessity for these infringements of freedom and invasions of privacy; but even if there were a necessity for them, I believe that every citizen should answer like William Pitt: "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human liberty. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

-- SENATOR SAM J. ERVIN, JR.

The federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 eliminated most preemployment polygraph screening by American business, but drug companies, private security businesses, and federal, state, and local governments were exempted from the Act's proscriptions. For many

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