Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is It Safe to Lie Anymore?

I had an interesting evening class on Tuesday for NSP602. Dr. T had invited his former colleague during his days working with one of those 3 letters agency. Being in a course where all topics are serious and heavy, I have the perception that this guest speaker will be a boring one. Knowing people that works with one of those 3 letters agency, and the stuff they do, I was expecting a very long evening.

Our guest speaker had served the agency for more than 34 years and 2/3 of his service, he was doing "Polygraph". He's now retired. He was the best polygraph examiner in the agency. We were all quite fortunate to have him as a guest speaker. His vast experienced doing polygraph for various reasons really impressed us. His involvement in major cases in the past really deserved an applause. He talked to us on the reliability of the polygraph test to examine the psycho physiological or defection indication or in normal term known as lie detection.

A polygraph is an instrument that measures and records several physiological responses such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions, on the basis that false answers will produce distinctive measurements. The polygraph measures physiological changes caused by the sympathetic nervous system during questioning.

Polygraph test have been widely use here in the States. The Intelligence Community and Law Enforcement Agencies are using it for the obvious reasons. Few years back, polygraph have been used as part of Security Clearance process, which means you need to be polygraphed before you can be granted with a Security Clearance. I can see the relevance here. In order for the organizations/agencies to decide a suitable placement for a candidate, it is best to verify the candidates beforehand. The reason is being that, the only person that can verify what you've stated in your security clearance form (ie SF86) is nobody else except yourself.

The evolution of the psycho physiological test or lie detection test is a growing technology. There are few other options to detect lie using technology such as the Voice Stressed Analyzer (VSA) and Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). However the big question is that the reliability of the test. Polygraph technology was there ever since the 1970's but still people are still questioning the reliability. From my personal point of view, there are no single technology in the world is a perfect solutions. It is really hard to define how reliable is reliable enough especially in the Criminal Justice system. It is really a tough job for the investigators, prosecutors and adjudications, and not to forget the policy making people.

The overall session for the NSP602 class was interesting. The talk, the insider stories and the experienced shared was a splendid evening. The session ended with a polygraph demo. A classmate volunteered and the test was conducted upon him. It was like a magic show to us. Hehehe... Personally, I would say polygraph is reliable enough as a defection identification tool. With all the devices being strapped on your body, its enough for me to be nervous and not to tell lie. I would say, I am a bad liar anyways.

And now, the next question arises in my mind is "Is it safe to lie anymore?"

Together signing off...

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