Published 22 Jan 2017, 7:07 pm By Jackson Yogarajah. Principal Trainer, Consultant & Author, Jackson Body Language International
I refer to the article on the Transparency International Malaysia proposal for polygraph tests to address abuse among civil servants.
As the author of the book ‘55 Reasons Why Sharifah Aini Was Not Lying’ written in 2004, I am obligated to give my views, just in case the Public Services Commission decides to spend a huge amount of the taxpayers’ ringgit without looking into the pros and cons of the polygraph machine.
It’s my sincere belief that the polygraph machine as a tool to address abuse among civil servants is totally unacceptable. In an experiment conducted in 1996 by a Professor Furedy he noted that the Control Question Test (CQT) is not a standardised “test” but an “unstandardisable” interrogatory interview. The consequence is that the examiner’s subjective opinion may influence the outcome, as was demonstrated effectively in an experiment by Professor Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University on a CBS ‘60 Minutes’ show that he designed.
It was a drama staged by the producers of CBS TV’s news programme ‘60 Minutes’ that investigated the controversial use of polygraph tests by private employers to examine the validity of polygraph tests. In the test CBS randomly selected four polygraph examiners from the telephone directory and had each polygrapher examine four employee suspects.
The polygraphers were initially contacted by a manager at the magazine, who told them that more than US$500 of camera equipment had been stolen, almost definitely by someone on the inside. The polygraphers did not know that other examiners had been engaged, and they conducted their examinations in a Popular Photography office.
Unbeknownst to them, the office had been modified to enable surreptitious filming. When the polygraphers arrived on scene, each was told that although all of the suspects had access to the camera, one of the four was probably the guilty party.
A different person was “fingered” for each polygrapher. Not surprising to polygraph critics, each examiner found the person who had been fingered to be deceptive, and each examiner tried mightily to get the guilty person to confess. No one, of course, had stolen anything. The four employees were confederates, who were paid to convince the polygrapher of their innocence.
With dramatic flair, CBS demonstrated that polygraphers do not necessarily use psychophysiological information to make their diagnoses of deception. Polygraphy is not science. The CQT can have no scientific validity because it is not a scientific procedure. Yet there are some who pretend to make a distinction between the scientific validity of the CQT for security screening purposes as opposed to the investigation of specific incidents.
So, for our government to determine the trustworthiness of its employees based on a pseudo-scientific procedure that fundamentally depends on trickery, is biased against the truthful, and yet may be easily defeated by deceptive persons who employ countermeasures. In the United States like the Minnesota polygraph statute prohibits all polygraph ‘testing’ of employees or prospective employees. In the book ‘The Lie Behind the Lie Detector’ by George W Maschke & Gino J Scalabrini, on page 22 it states, “No one in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is more qualified than retired Supervisory Special Agent Dr Drew C Richardson to render an informed opinion on the scientific validity of polygraph screening. Dr Richardson earned a doctorate in physiology from George Washington Medical Center in 1991.
The NSA funded his doctoral dissertation research, which related to the use of novel cardiovascular indices applied to a lie detection task, and he collected his data at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI). Dr Richardson is a graduate of the DoDPI basic polygraph examiner’s course and has worked in the bureau’s now defunct polygraph research unit.
Testimony of Dr Richardson
Speaking before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts (Richardson, 1997), Dr Richardson testified:
1. [Polygraph screening] is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity. Although there is disagreement among scientists about the use of polygraph testing in criminal matters, there is almost universal agreement that polygraph screening is completely invalid and should be stopped. The diagnostic value of this type of testing is no more than that of astrology or tea-leaf reading.
2. If this test had any validity (which it does not), both my own experience, and published scientific research has proven, that anyone can be taught to beat this type of polygraph exam in a few minutes.
3. Because of the nature of this type of examination, it would normally be expected to produce large numbers of false positives.
A colleague Dr Richardson refers is Professor Furedy.
Dr Furedy wrote to clarify that his reference is “to all forms of the North American [‘Control’ Question ‘Test’] polygraph, and not just the screening use” results (falsely accusing an examinee of lying about some on the validity of polygraphy (23 issues)).
As a result of the great consequences of doing this with large numbers of law enforcement and intelligence community officers, the test has now been manipulated to reduce false positive results, but consequently has no power to detect deception in espionage and other national security matters.
Thus, it is believed that there is virtually no probability of catching a spy with the use of polygraph screening techniques. This was after a careful examination of the Aldrich Ames (spy) case which was bungled, revealed that any shortcomings in the use of the polygraph were not simply errors on the part of the polygraph examiners involved, and would not have been eliminated if FBI instead of CIA polygraphers had conducted these examinations.
I therefore strongly believe that this is largely a reflection of the complete lack of validity of this methodology of deception or lie detection. To the extent that when we place any confidence in the results of polygraph screening, and as a consequence we shortchange traditional security vetting techniques. It has been said that the United States national security has been severely jeopardized.
Inalienable right to just treatment
4. Because of the theoretical considerations involving false positive results and because of untrustworthy stories told by self-alleged victims of polygraph screening, many believe that the bureau is routinely falsely accusing job applicants of drug usage or drug dealing. Not only is this result irreparably harming these individuals, but it is likely denying the bureau access to qualified and capable employees.
Although these individuals do not have an inalienable right to federal government employment, they do have an inalienable right to just treatment by all governments including Malaysia.
5. It is believed that claims of cost effectiveness, and the utility of polygraph screening are altogether wrong, reflects misplaced priorities, and leads to activities that are damaging to individuals and ultimately to their country including us.
Dr Richardson is not the only scientist to warn that polygraph screening is without validity. Before his retirement in 1995, the late Dr William J Yankee, then DoDPI director, had assembled an independent scientific advisory board which reviewed and provided comment on DoDPI’s academic curriculum and intramural research programme.
Since there is a an highly proven deception detection methodology I am obligated to write this article, to call the attention of all Malaysians to the pitfalls and dangers of polygraphy and to protect the innocent from future polygraph abuses in our country.
It is said, because of the US government’s reliance on this pseudo-scientific procedure, thousands of truthful persons had been falsely accused of deception and suffered serious adverse consequences. On the other hand, deceptive persons can easily defeat polygraph ‘tests’ through countermeasures, as did the ‘famous'’ convicted spy Aldrich H Ames.
I sincerely hope to stimulate informed public debate about polygraph policy and that we should not rely on this latter-day trial by ordeal. Instead our move should be not to rely on unreliable polygraphy that would one day undermine - not strengthen - public perception on corruption and security of our beloved nation, Malaysia. As it is said that there will be NO accurate lie detector (it may never happen) before getting rid of a bogus one.
Let me sum up what the authoritative book says.
That polygraphy is not science;
That polygraphy, like phrenology and graphology, is without scientific validity;
That the US government’s reliance on unreliable polygraphy had served to protect spies, thus undermining not enhancing - their national security;
That polygraph ‘tests’ are actually interrogations;
That polygraphy depends on your polygrapher lying to and deceiving you;
That the simplistic method by which your polygrapher decides whether you are truthful or deceptive is not scientific;
That polygraphy is biased against the truthful;
That polygraph ‘testing’ can be (and has been) easily defeated through countermeasures;
That you should recognise interrogation tactics and not be fooled by them;
That you may be falsely accused by the lie detector;
That you can help put an end to polygraph abuse.
Every year, thousands of law-abiding people in the world submit to polygraphic interrogations. And every year, hundreds - if not thousands - are falsely accused based on polygraph chart readings and are routinely denied due process and their rights as innocent subjects.
Despite all this pseudo scientific procedures the use continues, ironically, the US government has the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) banning the use of polygraphy for most of the private sector, unfortunately some agencies in our government (Malaysia) are thinking of spending the rakyat’s hard-earned taxes to consider these machines.
We care deeply about our country and our communities. In writing this piece my purpose is to help protect the innocent from polygraph abuse and to help strengthen our collective security by exposing waste, fraud, and abuse.
We believe that our government should not, through the polygraph screening process, lie to and deceive its employees and those seeking introduction employment. The five-day courses on Deception Detection is a course for those who qualify, it will open up frontiers of applicable new knowledge.
That the Truth Detection Methodology or Deception Detection Methodology that is been taught can be employed with a degree of effectiveness that equates to or even surpasses the polygraph machine.
Jackson Yogarajah. Principal Trainer, Consultant & Author, Jackson Body Language International