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Wed Dec 12, 2012, 07:35 AM

Commentary: Fed polygraphs seems more like Big Brother than about national security


Commentary: Fed polygraphs seems more like Big Brother than about national security
The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer
Posted on Monday, December 10, 2012

The ethics of the matter, and the seemingly gratuitous intrusiveness of some interrogations, are just part of the problem with polygraph screenings of federal employees and applicants.

There's also the far more fundamental question of whether the process even works. Do these tests truly make us safer? Or are they an abuse of power by federal agencies that, by their very nature, are exempt from public accountability?

At issue is a process so notoriously undependable that polygraph results are still not admissible in court decades after the technology was developed; and even the professionals who administer it are loath to vouch for its reliability.

A June report by McClatchy Newspapers and a follow-up published just this past week offer unsettling and even appalling details of polygraph testing. The National Reconnaissance Office, an intelligence organization many Americans probably didn't even know existed, has been leaning on federal agencies to probe the most intimate and personal areas of people's lives. Details of the interrogation of a young woman offered a CIA job -- she was subjected to hours of harsh, even abusive questioning about her rape and subsequent miscarriage -- are enough to sicken even the most security conscious among us.

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