>> Wednesday, September 11, 2013
An Indiana man who made thousands of dollars teaching people how to beat lie detector tests was sentenced to eight months in federal prison on Friday. Though Chad Dixon argued there was nothing inherently illegal about teaching polygraph countermeasures, he couldn’t deny that he had continued to work with two students (actually undercover agents) even after they confided that they planned to use his methods to fraudulently obtain jobs with the federal government. Dixon might not be the last polygraph expert to land in jail: According to a report last month from McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington, D.C. bureau, the federal government has begun to deliberately target for prosecution people who teach polygraph-beating techniques. Why is the government so keen on pursuing anti-polygraph instructors? And why does it put so much stock in a technology that the rest of the world abandoned long ago?- Justin Peters, "The Obama Administration Doesn't WantYou to Know How to Beat a Lie Detector Test"; Slate, September 9th, 2013.
An Indiana man who taught sex offenders and aspiring federal law enforcement officers how to cheat their court- or job-imposed lie detector tests was sentenced to eight months in prison Friday — a somewhat muted victory for authorities hoping to send a stern warning to those in the business of beating polygraphs.- Matt Zapotosky, "Eight months in prison for man who taught sex offenders,aspiring agents to trick lie detectors"; The Washington Post,September 6th, 2013.
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.- Marisa Taylor and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., "Seeing threats, feds target instructorsMcClatchy, August 16th, 2013.
I find this stunning. Obscene, really. Baffling in the sense that it's hard to get your brain around this really being a thing, even though you know some people--in this case, people in law enforcement and Federal government--are so smugly and self-righteously stupid about polygraphy that it only follows they'd wreck some poor bastard's life to defend their sacred mumbo-jumbo.
But that's what this is. If there's a crime committed by Chad Dixon and others, it's possibly a fraud in telling anybody that the polygraph needs to be defeated. The thing is bogus, claptrap, pseudoscience. To worry about someone instructing people on how to "beat" the polygraph is like worrying about someone teaching hexes to protect against witchcraft, or teaching people how to hide springs on their property from dowsers.
Aldrich Ames passed polygraphs all the time when he was a Soviet mole embedded in the CIA. It was easy as falling asleep. No, really: "The KGB advised Ames to get 'a real good night's sleep. Be fresh and rested. Be cooperative. Develop rapport with examiner. And try to remain as calm and easy as you can.'" Forget thumbtacks in your shoe, deep-breathing exercises, Zen meditation, autohypnosis, learning to control your autonomic nervous system à la Hannibal Lecter; no, just get a nice rest the night before, maybe take a nap in the morning, remember to say "Hi" to your interrogator and ask about his wife'n'kids. I'm not sure what Chad Dixon was charging a fee for, but, hey, it doesn't sound like he was being charged with some kind of consumer fraud; it appears he was charged with obstruction of justice and collaborating with people to defraud the Department Of Justice by lying to get jobs. I.e. Dixon's going to prison for bullshitting the bullshitters, not for charging someone a grand and teaching them to breathe instead of telling them to have something nice for dinner and go to bed early the night before.
What the fuck?
The National Academy Of Sciences has said, pretty much, that using a polygraph as a "lie detector" is horseshit. Even wrote a 400-page book about it, and it was hardly the first time they looked at the damn thing and came to that conclusion. I'm appealing to them as authorities because they're smart and their reports are easy to find and freely available online, but it's really kind of commonsensical that the polygraph-as-lie-detector is unproven at best and something of a fraud at worst: consider what the polygraph measures (pulse, respiration, skin conductivity) and whether polygraph examiners have ever proven their presumption that these things change in response to unconscious or autonomic changes in the nervous system caused by some kind of awareness one is speaking or thinking a falsehood (they haven't ever proven that); then ask yourself if there's anything else that could cause changes in physical state, known causes of changes in physical state, and whether the polygraph has any kind of mechanism to exclude causes like stress, fear, exhaustion, illness, indigestion et al. (and it doesn't). Without proof of the premise that lying causes physical alterations and proof that the polygraph can exclude "false positives", you're left with the minimal conclusion that the polygraph measures respiration, pulse, skin conductivity, and so what? Without proof the polygraph is reliable at identifying the cause of those physical changes, your minimal conclusion is there's something going on, but what? And when law enforcement agencies and polygraph examiners continue to insist on nothing but faith and whimsy that the machine does something other than measure these alterations and they know better than the whole entire world why those alterations are occurring, you're left with the maximal conclusion there's a con being perpetrated, and the culprit ain't whomever is wearing the pressure cuff.
It works as an intimidation tool because people are ignorant: people are so frightened of what the machine hypothetically could reveal, they do it themselves. "The polygraph says you're holding something back, Sam." "I-i-i-it does?! Aieee! I stole candy when I was five! I'm so sorry!" Only instead of stealing candy, you know, it's killing a hooker or giving microfilm to the dread Chinese or whatever. It's a bluff, though. "The polygraph says you're holding something back, Sam." "Meh," says Sam, "kiss my ass." Call them and all they have is whatever spike or dip they're imbuing with meaning; which is something they'll do because they're drinking their own spiked hooch. They think the machine is magic, but they're dumb about it.
And now they're sending a poor sap to prison for it. Going by the reports, this is ridiculous and unconscionable. I don't know what to do about it except to rant and rave in the wilderness, letting people who might have missed the news know, this is a thing, this happened, this is bull-sheeit. They might as well be sending a man to prison for some kind of crime against magic. He was selling hexes against our hoaxes, and this being the 21st Century and all, we'll send him to prison for eight months.
The fucking prosecutors were asking for two years. Called Chad Dixon a "master of deceit". Maybe the masters of deceit are the federal prosecutors who accused Dixon of teaching people how to beat a machine concerning which the Offices Of The United States Attorneys' own Criminal Resource Manual offers this incoherent jumble:
Despite the appeal of a mechanical technique to measure a person's veracity, the polygraph has met with limited judicial acceptance and use as a federal investigative tool. In light of present scientific evidence the Department of Justice continues to agree with the conclusion of the Committee on Governmental Operations of the House of Representatives, which held after extensive hearings in 1965:
There is no "lie detector." The polygraph machine is not a "lie detector," nor does the operator who interprets the graphs detect "lies." The machine records physical responses which may or may not be connected with an emotional reaction--and that reaction may or may not be related to guilt or innocence. Many, many physical and psychological factors make it possible for an individual to "beat" the polygraph without detection by the machine or its operator.
H.R.Rep. No. 198, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. 13 (1965). Following further hearings and study, the same conclusions were reached in 1976. The Use of Polygraphs and Similar Devices by Federal Agencies: Hearings on H.R. 795 Before the House Comm. on Government Operations, 94 Cong., 2d Sess. (1976). And in 1988, as a result of continuing doubts about the usefulness and accuracy of polygraphs as a means of detecting deceit, Congress restricted the use of polygraphs in employment decisions. 29 U.S.C. §§ 2001 et seq. Despite Congress's antipathy toward the polygraph, the Department supports the limited use of polygraphs for investigatory purposes.
Masters of deceit, indeed.