While nowhere near as breathtakingly egregious as Carter's case the latest "in the name of homeland security" nonsense from The Man is a crackdown on people who train others on techniques to pass polygraph tests.
First, a little background: The polygraph, often erroneously referred to as a "lie detector", is a system that measures physiological responses (heart rate, breathing, skin conductivity, etc.) to questions on the theory that lying will cause measurable and predictable signals. Unfortunately the results of these devices are unreliable:
In 2003, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a report entitled "The Polygraph and Lie Detection". The NAS found that the majority of polygraph research was "unreliable, unscientific and biased", concluding that 57 of the approximately 80 research studies that the American Polygraph Association relies on to come to their conclusions were significantly flawed. These studies did show that specific-incident polygraph testing, in a person untrained in counter-measures, could discern the truth at "a level greater than chance, yet short of perfection". However, due to several flaws, the levels of accuracy shown in these studies "are almost certainly higher than actual polygraph accuracy of specific-incident testing in the field".
Even so, in government circles the efficacy of polygraph tests is still assumed to be good enough so they are still used for screening applicants for a huge range of jobs from your local police applicants to prospective NSA employees.
Given that the polygraph is less than 100% accurate a group of specialists has appeared over the years who claim they can teach you how to pass a polygraph test. For example, there's Doug Williams who owns polygraph.com and offers How to Sting the Polygraph, a course on how to handle a test. He says:
If you are nervous when you take your polygraph test, 50% of the time you will be branded as a liar. All the scientific evidence proves that this is a fact. Even the US SUPREME COURT has refused to allow polygraph results into evidence because the polygraph is not reliable and accurate as a "lie detector"! So don't make the mistake of thinking that all you have to do is to tell the truth and you will pass - to pass, you must LEARN HOW TO PASS!
An unpublicized recent investigation by federal agents has targeted instructors like Williams and according to an excellent McClatchy Newspapers article, Seeing threats, feds target instructors of polygraph-beating methods:
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.
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