Monday, July 2

Travel Polygraph Mass Line-Ups a Set-Up for Dissidents

Rumor control has it that Draper Laboratory of Massachusetts is the leading bidder on a government contract for implementing a "credibility assessment" travel screening program so inaccurate that the officials will have latitude to political dissidents will be caught in via screening technology accurate as flipping a coin.

Yesterday (Sunday, 1 July) posted a sobering news item that suggests our authoritarian federal handlers will soon add a flawed screening procedure to the Amerikan Security State's growing arsenal of surveillance tools.

The U.S. Government is soliciting bids for a project that, if implemented, could see travelers facing lie detector testing at airports, border crossings, and other high traffic venues. The project is sponsored by the Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment (DACA), which until recently was known as the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI). “Credibility assessment” is the U.S. Government’s latest buzzword for “lie detection” and supplants the now démodé “detection of deception.”


According to the amended solicitation, the scope of the project is:

To identify, implement, empirically evaluate, and validate optimal procedures for speedy accurate credibility assessment of humans passing through a security checkpoint in high volume environments (e.g., airports, border crossings, building entry). The effort shall specifically address physiological and behavioral assessment using instrumental and/or non-instrumental procedures applicable in multi-cultural environments with emphasis on the identification and reduction of factors affecting assessment accuracy and variability. It is anticipated that the scope of the project will be broad enough to justify a multi-disciplinary investigatory team and multi-site data collection.

Did you catch that buzzphrase "applicable in multicultural environments"? That is double-speak to soften the hard fact that polygraphs are racially biased; innocent blacks are more susceptible to a false-positive test than innocent whites. In addition, statistical tests demonstrate coin tosses are as reliable as polygraph testing in determining if a person is lying (more here). Motivated individuals also can be taught how to beat a polygraph test. So there should be no wonder that results of a polygraph now are excluded from court hearings, though police departments still widely use them.

But our fascism lovers at the Pentagon and Homeland Security are oblivious to this overwhelming evidence. When the federal government implemented polygraph screening as a precondition for post-9/11 federal employment, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed existing literature on the procedure in 2002, concluding 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 federal agencies.”

Though the NAS also determined that reliance on polygraph testing could be "dangerous to national security," the program nonetheless was implemented. But additional political mischief is evident in polygraph employee screening. Officially sanctioning such a clearly flawed screening protocol undermines all objective hiring standards by fostering more creative latitude to deny anyone suspected of exhibiting "dishonesty" in their support of the "constitution" and loyalty to the Bush White House.

AntiPolygraph cites some disturbing details suggesting that America's enemies will exploit the flawed technology while many innocent travelers will be sweep up in America's post-9/11 surveillance machinery:

[A]lthough the U.S. Government pretends that it already has a working lie detector (in the form of the polygraph), it is deceiving only itself. Al-Qaeda and other Islamic insurgents know full well that the lie detector is a sham. Moreover, even if a 90% accurate, countermeasure-proof lie detector were developed (something this project has virtually no prospect of achieving), it would be worthless for such a task as screening travelers for terrorists. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that as many as 1 in 100,000 travelers is a terrorist. With a 90% accurate lie detector test, for every 1 terrorist correctly flagged as deceptive, some 10,000 innocent travelers will wrongly be so flagged. One remains stuck with the hopeless task of finding the needle in the proverbial haystack.

The security net continually tightens around freedom-loving Americans. If ever there was a time for those who love the freedom of mobility and oppose the Bush administration to have concern of being caught up in its post-9/11 fascist police state launched with it bogus "war on terrorism," it would be now.

Raise hell.

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