Seeing threats, feds target instructors of polygraph-beating methodsSubmitted by fonzdrew on Sat, 08/17/2013 - 02:06
WASHINGTON — 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.
The criminal inquiry, which hasn’t been acknowledged publicly, is aimed at discouraging criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using the polygraph-beating techniques, which are said to include controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic.
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.
By attempting to prosecute the instructors, federal officials are adopting a controversial legal stance that sharing such information should be treated as a crime and isn’t protected under the First Amendment in some circumstances.
“Nothing like this has been done before,” John Schwartz, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, said of the legal approach in a June speech to a professional polygraphers’ conference in Charlotte, N.C., that a McClatchy reporter attended. “Most certainly our nation’s security will be enhanced.”
“There are a lot of bad people out there. . . . This will help us remove some of those pests from society,” he added.
The undercover stings are being cited as the latest examples of the Obama administration’s emphasis on rooting out “insider threats,” a catchall phrase meant to describe employees who might become spies, leak to the news media, commit crimes or become corrupted in some way.
The federal government previously treated such instructors only as nuisances, partly because the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven. Instructors have openly advertised and discussed their techniques online, in books and on national television. As many as 30 people or businesses across the country claim in Web advertisements that they can teach someone how to beat a polygraph test, according to U.S. government estimates.