Criminal Justice

Feds crack down on beat-the-polygraph instructors

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Federal authorities are investigating instructors who purport to teach their students how to pass lie-detector tests–particularly instructors who taught the techniques to people who were trying to obtain classified or sensitive government information.

The probe of beat-the-polygraph instructors is part of the Obama administration’s crackdown on employees who allegedly violate security and leak sensitive information, according to a detailed report by McClatchy’s Washington Bureau and the Charlotte Observer.

McClatchy reports that the criminal inquiry, which is aimed at deterring criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government, hasn’t been acknowledged publicly.

Supposed polygraph-beating techniques include “controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic,” the news organization notes.

McClatchy has confirmed at least one guilty plea in the crackdown, which has raised some First Amendment alarms.

John Schwartz, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, was quoted by McClatchy as saying at a professional polygrapher’s conference in June, “Nothing like this has been done before. Most certainly our nation’s security will be enhanced.” He also noted in his speech that teaching polygraph countermeasures isn’t necessarily illegal. But if instructors know their students intend to use the techniques to lie about crimes, that’s another story.

The article identifies the two men targeted for investigation, including an Indiana man who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and obstructing an agency proceeding.

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