Feds targeting polygraph beating instructors

posted at 9:31 am on August 18, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

To start off, I wasn’t even aware that this was a service being offered. There are apparently people out there who, for a fee, will train you on how to beat a polygraph test. Since one potential pool of clients for such services might include those interested in applying for sensitive intelligence jobs with the federal government, Uncle Sam won’t be having any of that.

Seeing threats, feds target instructors of polygraph-beating methods

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.

Reading through all of the McClatchy report, it sounds like a blanket criminalization of the teaching process is on sketchy ground at best. Insty has this to say.

This is a disgrace. First, it’s a clear First Amendment violation. Second “lie detectors” are bits of lame pseudoscience that don’t work anyway. The feds’ heavy reliance on them in security cases is just further evidence of their incompetence and unseriousness here. Also, if you read the creative charges the feds are using here, it’s just more evidence that we need to rein in prosecutorial discretion.

I’m not entirely sure about the applications of the First Amendment here, though it has a long tradition of being applied to many things which aren’t immediately obvious as “speech” in our society. But jumping in to begin investigating – and presumably shutting down – a business which teaches people how to control their body functions during a test sounds like it’s way over the line.

There may be one exception to this, though, which McClatchy allows, but it wouldn’t deal with the general area of teaching these methods. If it can be definitively shown that the instructors knew information which would be instrumental to a federal case and not only failed to report it, but actively helped somebody else to conceal that information, then there might be a case to be made.

But instructors may be prosecuted if they know that the people they’re teaching plan to lie about crimes during federal polygraphs, he said.

In that scenario, prosecutors may pursue charges of false statements, wire fraud, obstructing an agency proceeding and “misprision of felony,” which is defined as having knowledge of serious criminal conduct and attempting to conceal it.

“When that conspiracy occurs, both parties are guilty,” said Schwartz, a veteran federal polygrapher who heads Customs’ polygraph program. “And it makes more sense to me to try to investigate the party that’s doing the training because when you do that, you eliminate dozens or hundreds or thousands of people . . . from getting that training.”

As I said, I suppose I can see that, but you’d need some awfully conclusive proof that the instructor was in on the specifics of the information being hidden. In general terms, though, if somebody simply walks into the office and says they want to learn how to confuse a set of polygraph results, it strikes me as an outrageous overreach of governmental power to simply start shutting down or locking up the instructors.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Holder and Co. need life in prison. These traitors need to brought to justice. And not that phony socialist crap called social justice either.

Flange on August 18, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Of course this is an admission that the test-beating methods work, which is also an admission that the tests can’t be trusted.

David Blue on August 18, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Don’t lie to Eric and Janet, and Uncle Sam.

They’s don’t take kindly ta pissy little serfs.

PappyD61 on August 18, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Maybe we should start requiring politicians and other government officials – to include Holder – be required to submit to polygraph test which are administered on CNN. The fact is, the government is full of liars, and corrupt goons regardless of party. Truth is treason in an empire of lies.

MoreLiberty on August 18, 2013 at 9:42 AM

The simplest method is the “Butt Clench” technique. Just before the test begins clench your butt cheeks and concentrate on keeping them clenched the whole test.

It’s kinda like the Lamaze method.

myiq2xu on August 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Any defiance to authority must be crushed.

An old truth, but entirely appropriate to these days.

CPT. Charles on August 18, 2013 at 9:46 AM

The criminal inquiry, which hasn’t been acknowledged publicly, is aimed at discouraging criminals and spies…

Spies? From where — the Tea Party? Because any foreign agents would be already trained by their own agencies to beat lie detectors.

Who do these jokers think they’re kidding?

Liam on August 18, 2013 at 9:48 AM

…why do they need lie detector tests for?…for the last 5 years the MSM fully endorses the practice and lying has become an acceptable fact!

KOOLAID2 on August 18, 2013 at 9:49 AM

David Blue on August 18, 2013 at 9:36 AM

They just validated what I’m sure many thought were a scam.
Anyhow, I’m sure teaching the Constitution will be outlawed next.

cartooner on August 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

…why do they need lie detector tests for?…for the last 5 years the MSM fully endorses the practice and lying has become an acceptable fact!

KOOLAID2 on August 18, 2013 at 9:49 AM

The Regime uses them to make sure their people are lying. Carney gets one every day.

myiq2xu on August 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM

The DOJ would like a word with you. Please proceed to room 101.

forest on August 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

The simplest method is the “Butt Clench” technique. Just before the test begins clench your butt cheeks and concentrate on keeping them clenched the whole test.

It’s kinda like the Lamaze method.

myiq2xu on August 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM

…it sounds like the method Socialist Fog and his sister libfreeorgan use… to prepare to post on Hot Gas!

KOOLAID2 on August 18, 2013 at 9:59 AM

The simplest method is the “Butt Clench” technique.

Fellow Penn and Teller fan? Since their old HBO show devoted an episode to this, I wonder if the feds try to drag them in.

kc-anathema on August 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Some people don’t need to be taught this:

The word “Taqiyya” literally means: “Concealing, precaution, guarding.” It is employed in disguising one’s beliefs, intentions, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions or strategies. In practical terms it is manifested as dissimulation, lying, deceiving, vexing and confounding with the intention of deflecting attention, foiling or pre-emptive blocking. It is currently employed in fending off and neutralising any criticism of Islam or Muslims.

http://www.islam-watch.org/Warner/Taqiyya-Islamic-Principle-Lying-for-Allah.htm

And, of course, politicians, too…

http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/politicians_lying_is_free_speech_/

Fallon on August 18, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Oh come on, I can beat a polygraph, and so can anyone else with good emotional control who understands how these things work, and how they don’t. Nothing can measure “lying”; all they measure is your emotional response to being questioned and challenged. The only real “trick” is convincing weak-minded people that there’s some magic going on, which is what charlatans and con-artists of all ages have always relied on. Lie detector tests work on the simple minded, the foolish, and the mindlessly compliant, but not on anyone else.

btw, since it’s hard to maintain a pure blank emotional slate for an extended period of time, the best way to “beat” a test is to fill your mind with “false positives” and concentrate on those exclusively during any given test. Not mundane things like an alternate story, because your emotions will become engaged if the tester sees through it – better to believe in utterly insane fantasies, because that will lead any test giver to nothing but a series of insane, incoherent results, and he’ll give up. Think about nothing but chemtrails, for example, and how they are the Cause of Everything.

whenever you see the word “Inconclusive”, that’s usually what’s happened. Insanity can be a great friend in some situations.

Tom Servo on August 18, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Dietrich from Barney Miller beat the lie detector decades ago.
Dietrich

Or he was telling the truth and really was born in a galaxy far, far away…

LtGenRob on August 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Theoretically, it’s not just the government who might use a lie detector on you. It could be criminals, foreign enemies, terrorists, etc. I’d want to be able to give them disinformation to trip up their criminal plans. I should be able to take the training, unless the government doesn’t want me lying to the mafia or whoever is hooking me up to the test against my will.

Buddahpundit on August 18, 2013 at 10:27 AM

“Remember Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe it’s true!”

johnnyboy on August 18, 2013 at 10:30 AM

George is going to jail!

johnnyboy on August 18, 2013 at 10:31 AM

this one works.

johnnyboy on August 18, 2013 at 10:36 AM

If you can beat the polygraph, that by itself proves the polygraph is unreliable and therefore invalid.

Over the years law enforcement has tried hard to persuade us all that polygraphs are valid but as far as I’m concerned they are quackery.

Chuckles3 on August 18, 2013 at 10:37 AM

I don’t have a lot of confidence in polygraphs. I once had a polygrapher reluctant to pass me because I flat-lined the control questions.

flipflop on August 18, 2013 at 10:45 AM

“The federal government should not rely on polygraph examinations for screening prospective or current employees to identify spies or other national-security risks because the test results are too inaccurate when used this way, says a new report from the National Academies’ National Research Council.”

http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=10420

Viator on August 18, 2013 at 10:48 AM

I can neither comfirm nor deny this. In fact, I

johnnyU on August 18, 2013 at 10:58 AM

I was glad to see Glenn Reynolds’ quote. There are myriad actions made illegal by the government that would (should) not intuitively be known to be illegal. This gives the government the tools is get around our constitutional rights at the whim of political winds. It is wrong, wrong, and wrong.

bville 13027 on August 18, 2013 at 11:00 AM

What the KGB would tell their informants before a CIA or FBI polygraph test:

Get a good night sleep
Talk to the interviewer and make eye contact
Don’t be nervous or worry, these things are quackery and only work if you are nervous.

Seems to have worked for Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames. They passed polygraph tests.

Wallythedog on August 18, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Years ago, while serving in the military, I was randomly selected to take a polygraph. Once I was done, the person who administered the test told me how to beat it. Guess Obama’s goons should track that guy down and throw him in the slammer.

Fazman on August 18, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Over the years law enforcement has tried hard to persuade us all that polygraphs are valid but as far as I’m concerned they are quackery.

Chuckles3 on August 18, 2013 at 10:37 AM

They are quackery and junk science. Law enforcement only uses them as a tool to extract confessions.

TX-eye on August 18, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Maybe next, the feds will shut down chemistry classes…..explosives, you know. Doctors know how to kill people, no more med schools.

We used to live in a free society.

FOWG1 on August 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM

I’m not entirely sure about the applications of the First Amendment here, though it has a long tradition of being applied to many things which aren’t immediately obvious as “speech” in our society.

What the hell are you talking about? Me telling you how to fake a polygraph is speech. What else would you call it?

Also, polygraphs are laughably inaccurate. They show nothing. My buddy applied to be a cop, lied about a few things in his background (nothing major) and instead of that “spiking” on the test, they said he was spiking on the questions where he was telling the truth.

It’s psychological — if you think the machine can tell when you’re lying, youre more likely going to tell the truth. The machine and the operator have NO IDEA if you’re lying. As long as your answers are the same as your pre-polygraph answers, there is nothing they can do. Just don’t change your answers based on the machine “spiking” and you’re fine. Total joke.

But me typing that paragraph apparently isn’t protected speech in Jazz’s world, and could lead to me being imprisoned by the feds.

Timin203 on August 18, 2013 at 11:13 AM

We are a lot closer to 1984 than most can imagine.

coldwarrior on August 18, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Any a**hole can defeat these tests:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NLf7XwLpyQ

Shaughnessy on August 18, 2013 at 11:21 AM

The charges pled guilty to are said to have been “obstructing an agency proceeding and wire fraud”. I wonder what kind of legl advice this one guy had? These charges seem open to many obvious defences.

Blaise on August 18, 2013 at 11:29 AM

But me typing that paragraph apparently isn’t protected speech in Jazz’s world, and could lead to me being imprisoned by the feds banned by the moderators.

Timin203 on August 18, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Heh.

gryphon202 on August 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM

I know from personal experience that a lie detector test is only valid if it give the results the cops want, any other result they just throw out. If it gives any different result than the one they are looking for (even if it says you are telling the truth) they will ignore it and try something different. Like a lawyer told me, you can never “prove” your innocence through one of those tests.

Johnnyreb on August 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

The obvious next step is to attack any company or individual that provides advice on how to keep your computer and voice communications confidential.

It’s inevitable under progressive fascism.

slickwillie2001 on August 18, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Penn and Teller did a BS segment on this including how to beat the tests. Also liked their show on BMI measurements…also BS pseudoscience.

Maybe next, the feds will shut down chemistry classes…..explosives, you know. Doctors know how to kill people, no more med schools.

We used to live in a free society.

FOWG1 on August 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM

In high schools chem students can’t use probably half the chemicals that many of us used in labs or were shown in demonstrations because the State says they can cause cancer. Can’t even use naphthalene for melting point determination…just toooooo much of a health risk!

Meanwhile, the State allows (on purpose some say) all manner of dangerous crap to be included in our food and water.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 18, 2013 at 12:22 PM

There’s a good reason the results of polygraph testing are inadmissible in court. Junk science.

merlich on August 18, 2013 at 12:25 PM

In high schools chem students can’t use probably half the chemicals that many of us used in labs or were shown in demonstrations because the State says they can cause cancer. Can’t even use naphthalene for melting point determination…just toooooo much of a health risk!

Meanwhile, the State allows (on purpose some say) all manner of dangerous crap to be included in our food and water.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 18, 2013 at 12:22 PM

That’s the truth. I used to browse my older brothers’ Chemistry textbooks from three and five years ahead of me, and the difference was astounding, and this was the seventies.

If you own a Gilbert, Chemcraft or Merit decent-level Chemistry set from the sixties, the FBI would consider you a subversive today.

slickwillie2001 on August 18, 2013 at 12:37 PM

slickwillie2001 on August 18, 2013 at 12:37 PM

As a kid in the 50s, I had the largest chemistry set that Gilbert made…and it was amazing the things that could be made with its “ingredients”.
Especially if one consulted The Handbook of Physics and Chemistry.

And, yeah, these days mere possession of half of the included chemicals would put you on the terrorist watch list.

Solaratov on August 18, 2013 at 12:53 PM

“To start off, I wasn’t even aware that…”

Jazz could begin a lot of his pieces with this phrase.

Akzed on August 18, 2013 at 1:24 PM

I read somewhere a few years ago that a court through out a challenge to a confession because a polygraph was used to elicit a confession from a moron.

It wasn’t really a polygraph, it was a steel colander put on the suspect’s head that had a wire attached to it that went behind a copy machine. The machine’s paper trays contained sheets of paper with TRUE and FALSE on them, depending on which tray the cops selected.

They got the suspect to confess, supposedly, with this method. Of course, we can’t know if it was a real confession or the guy just felt whipped.

Akzed on August 18, 2013 at 1:31 PM

And, yeah, these days mere possession of half of the included chemicals would put you on the terrorist watch list.

Solaratov on August 18, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Back in the mid 70s I ran a coal and water testing lab. I had access to chemicals and materials that would make a terrorist drool. Pretty much anything short of U235 or Pu239. I had enough sodium cyanide sitting around to take out a small city. Don’t get me started on brucine, I hated that stuff, didn’t even like having it in the lab but I needed it for some test. I had literally tons of chlorine stored on site in small 150 lb cylinders and in 2000 lb cylinders. Bulk Sulfuric acid, bulk sodium hydroxide, barrels of hydrazine and cylinders of anhydrous ammonia. All this stuff sitting around in the open unguarded.

Oldnuke on August 18, 2013 at 1:32 PM

How do you ” beat ” something that is voodoo science in the first place, is not recognized by ANY criminal court and is simply a blood pressure test based on a question you ask?

What a waste of all kinds of effort on all sides.

TX-96 on August 18, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Urging them to join forces with his agency, he declared in a more than two-hour speech that “evil will always seek ways to hide the truth.”

Ironic.

VerbumSap on August 18, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Does this mean that that religion that uses E meters is subversive and a criminal enterprise?

meci on August 18, 2013 at 2:11 PM

It’s no great leap from Obama deciding which laws he will enforce and which he will not to just inventing new criminal law and prosecuting people based on it.

African dictators do it all the time, in between their lavish parties, luxury vacations, and stashing billions in secret bank accounts.

Since the media has degenerated into the propaganda wing of the Democratic Party, who will spread the word of this new outrage before it is too late?

Adjoran on August 18, 2013 at 2:15 PM

it strikes me as an outrageous overreach of governmental power to simply start shutting down or locking up the instructors.

Since this is a policy of the Most Transparent Administration Evah, I find doubly outrageous.

BobMbx on August 18, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Next, they will be prosecuting financial planners for explaining methods of tax avoidance

J_Crater on August 18, 2013 at 3:02 PM

There’s a good reason the results of polygraph testing are inadmissible in court. Junk science.

merlich on August 18, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Here in Ohio, a polygraph test is normally only given in a criminal case if both prosecution and defense agree to accept the results of the test, no matter what they are. This is called a stipulated test, and is usually done at the instigation of the defense (i.e., consel knows their client is innocent of the charge).

The same holds true for the so-called “Psychological Stress Evaluator”, or PSE.

Neither one is admissible in evidence on Ohio except as “stipulated”. For sound scientific reasons.

The polygraph measures variations in respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and skin electrical conductivity (a genteel way of saying “whether or how much you are sweating”). The idea being that lying tends to cause fluctuations in all of the above.

In fact, many variables can totally screw a polygraph test. Such as the temperature in the room; too hot, and the subject naturally will perspire more. Physical condition and exertion can cause problems. As can congenital heart conditions, or for that matter hypertension. (I have high BP, and that would have to be adjusted for; it isn’t always practical.)

The PSE supposedly measures “microtremors” in the voice that betray emotional states. (This was the test Dietrich beat on Barney Miller, BTW.) It does not work on people of a nervous disposition, nor for that matter on a trained orator. Don’t even think about giving it to an opera singer, especially not a coloratura; they make their living by controlling those “tremors” consciously.

And oh yes, no system that relies on measuring emotionally-induced agitation variances in physical markers will work on people with certain emotional/psychological disturbances. Notably congenital or compulsive liars, sociopathic personalities, or actual psychopaths. All of the above lack normal emotional reactions to lying- not to mention pretty much everything else.

Finally, such tests don’t work on people suffering from delusional or paranoid (schizophrenic) states. You see, when they tell you that they are in hiding from the Secret Masters of the Planet Neptune, or that there are invisible green bunnies with fangs sitting under your chair, it’s because they believe that to be the truth.

In other words, the “lie detectors” are most likely to fail to give a valid result on exactly the sort of subjects you are most likely to need them for.

In short, both the polygraph and PSE are pretty much worthless. As I learned when trained on the former over thirty years ago.

And I’m not telling you anything you won’t find in any decent college-level Abnormal Psych text, either.

Scientific facts are sort of hard to “classify”.

clear ether

eon

eon on August 18, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Obama is really hitting hard as the truth about him drips out!I Read where he is shutting down E-mail sites that offer encryption. Wonder why?

Marco on August 18, 2013 at 4:04 PM

It’s easy to beat ‘em. Just be a sociopath.

John the Libertarian on August 18, 2013 at 4:08 PM

They should target all the Liars in DC, incl. themselves.

Schadenfreude on August 18, 2013 at 4:17 PM

But instructors may be prosecuted if they know that the people they’re teaching plan to lie about crimes during federal polygraphs, he said.

How can you conspire to lie when you don’t know the questions in advance? You can’t. This is garbage.

The polygraph is not science, it is subjective and it is not reliable, which is why polygraphs are not allowed in real courts. There were various famous cases where innocent people went to jail thanks to false positives.

Polygraphs work on the principle that a liar will freak out when he lies, and this freaking out can be measured. This works only in limited circumstances, because (1) not everyone freaks out on lies, and (2) not everyone is calm on truthful answers.

If the public in general knew the truth about the polygraph, it would never work. It only works if you don’t know how it works, if you BELIEVE in its effectiveness, and are therefore scared of it enough that you freak out when you try to lie.

This is why there is a vast conspiracy of like minded individuals who all want to deceive the public into thinking that the polygraph is effective. This news is just more effort in the furtherance of that conspiracy.

kaltes on August 18, 2013 at 4:25 PM

The feds must stop these instructors. They can not have the general population acquiring the same hidden lies skills practiced by this administration.

JohnFLob on August 18, 2013 at 5:29 PM

I’m with Instapundit on this one. For one thing, lie detector tests are akin with alchemy in terms of scientific validity; for another, free speech.

As it happens, I know how to pick locks and I’m pretty good at it. What can I say? It’s a hobby. I like puzzles and think padlocks, door locks, etc. are especially fun to figure out and bypass, with the payoff being that sweet little thrill of adrenalin and minor rush of endorphins when the cylinder turns. Mind you, I only open my own or at someone’s express request if they’re locked out of their house or their car or whatever. Anyway, if the feds can charge these guys with felonies for teaching people how to pass a lie detector test, then they could nail me for teaching my daughter how to pick the lock on her apartment door when she locks herself out. Actually, based on the prosecutorial logic at work here, the government can bring the hammer down on anyone disseminating knowledge on any topic the government deems undesirable. That’s a bad road to go down, and things are bad enough as it is.

troyriser_gopftw on August 18, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Actually, based on the prosecutorial logic at work here, the government can bring the hammer down on anyone disseminating knowledge on any topic the government deems undesirable. That’s a bad road to go down, and things are bad enough as it is.

troyriser_gopftw on August 18, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Indeed.
Everyone commits three felonies a day” as it is.

AesopFan on August 19, 2013 at 2:07 PM