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Scientist Organizes Resistance To Polygraphs

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the drugs-lies-and-security-clearances dept.

Privacy 405

George Maschke writes "Brad Holian, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is using a blog to organize resistance to plans for random polygraph and drug testing of Lab scientists. Holian writes: 'Polygraphy is an insulting affront to scientists, since a committee of the National Academy of Sciences has declared that, beyond being inadmissible in court, there is no scientific basis for polygraphs. In my opinion, by agreeing to be polygraphed, one thereby seriously jeopardizes his or her claim to being a scientist, which is presumably the principal reason for employment for many scientists at Los Alamos.'"

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Polygraphs work--sorta (5, Insightful)

PurifyYourMind (776223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425252)

The idea is to convince people to *believe* that the polygraph machine is scientific and will detect their lies so that they're more likely to not lie, or are nervous while questioning, or even don't take the test at all and just spill it beforehand. It's psychological intimidation, kind of like forcing confessions of bad thoughts in a cult environment. That's one reason you see those "you shall not be subjected to polygraphs at work" posters at your job... a nasty employer could really intimidate people (e.g. union organizers) with it.

Re:Polygraphs work--sorta (5, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425530)

So polygraph is a very expensive baseball bat?

"It would be a shame if something were to happen with your kneecaps..."

Re:Polygraphs work--sorta (1)

Essequemodeia (1030028) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425676)

I work with a variety of rara avis PhDs on a daily basis and judging by the breadth of their widely distributed personality traits, trust is a paramount concern. A researcher who isn't trusted is an unpublished journal article, a brim of sweat wiped from a fallen brow, and a really fucking pissed off scientist. What gives with Los Alamos? Instead of coddling their bullpen of 2000 watt minds they seem insistent on beating them into submission.

Re:Polygraphs work--sorta (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425736)

What gives with Los Alamos? Instead of coddling their bullpen of 2000 watt minds they seem insistent on beating them into submission.


Hey now, we don't want any free thinkers having independent thoughts when national security is concerned, or when business processes are being emplaced. That's just un-American.

Re:Polygraphs work--sorta (3, Interesting)

thestuckmud (955767) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425862)

What gives with Los Alamos? Instead of coddling their bullpen of 2000 watt minds they seem insistent on beating them into submission.
I have to agree. Having worked in a highly secure yet reasonably managed environment, the respect accorded to staff members made me feel more secure than any level of invasive physical or psychological measures could. Treating people like criminals can encourage them to act that way.

By the way, I recently found this [antipolygraph.org] site of polygraph criticisms.

Re:Polygraphs work--sorta (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425756)

The idea is to convince people to *believe* that the polygraph machine is scientific


Unfortunately they are not, and informed people (say, scientists) know this. /I hear that you can beat them by curling your toes //It's not a lie if you believe it's true

Re:Polygraphs work--sorta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17425816)

They also know that other people *do* believe that the polygraph machine is scientific, and may be justly worried that a failed polygraph could hurt their standing.

Polygraphs ... (3, Interesting)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425266)

I guess I can understand polygraphy IF it's at all accurate. After all, they are dealing with dangerous (from a proliferation standpoint) materials and experiments critical to national security. As for drug testing, I think it should only happen if an employee is exhibiting other problems at work, if then. And it also depends what drug is being tested for. Is there any evidence that enjoying the occasional herbal treat harms work performance in any material way?

-b.

Re:Polygraphs ... (2, Interesting)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425386)

> I guess I can understand polygraphy IF it's at all accurate.

It is not. It is junk pseudoscience, and has debunked over and over and over. And no, it is not just some psy-ops thing as one other poster said -- people actually put their faith in these things.

Re:Polygraphs ... (2, Interesting)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425388)

a thought crosses my mind about caffeine being a drug,caffeine certainly displays some properties of drugs(addiction, stimulating effect) I like to see the first employer to try to eradicate caffeine at work !

Re:Polygraphs ... (2, Interesting)

miskatonic alumnus (668722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425750)

Several years ago I read something somewhere that started off --- in the manner of a PBS documentary: (major paraphrasing) Imagine there was a drug discovered in the wild. It was given to people and their symptoms were an increase in blood pressure, hyperactivity, shakes, (extensive list of effects, leading the reader to consider that outlawing the substance might be a good idea, considering that several substances were outlawed already).

Then, at the end: Surprise --- it's caffeine!

I don't remember the source. Does anyone have the source for this?

Re:Polygraphs ... (3, Funny)

Sique (173459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426226)

Caffeine should be banned, as should be DHMO [dhmo.org] .

We should also ban a substance from food where a single ounce already is deadly. But you can buy a substance like this in food stores in packages of a quarter pound and more: Sodiumchloride (NaCl), better known as SALT.

And we need to ban fruits whose main taste is provided by a substance (Furaneol and Methoxyfuraneol), which is deadly if taken in micrograms. Lets ban strawberry.

Re:Polygraphs ... (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425408)

And it also depends what drug is being tested for. Is there any evidence that enjoying the occasional herbal treat harms work performance in any material way?

Across the board? Hard to say. Have I met, worked with, or been exposed to obvious stoners that are clearly and continually unfocused, un-energetic, bad on short-term memory, and always looking for free food at meetings? Yes. Should any use of the word "dude" at the workplace result in immediate termination? Double-plus-extra yes.

Re:Polygraphs ... (4, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425482)

Have I met, worked with, or been exposed to obvious stoners that are clearly and continually unfocused, un-energetic, bad on short-term memory, and always looking for free food at meetings?

There's a huge difference between drug use and drug *abuse*. Profile based on behaviour, not based on chemical testing. If someone's a lazy obnoxious git, by all means fire him if he doesn't shape up, regardless of the reason.

This is like the difference between a red-faced drunkard and someone that has a glass of wine at dinner.

-b.

Do you really want a law breaker? (0)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425532)

Do you really want a law breaker "dealing with dangerous (from a proliferation standpoint) materials and experiments critical to national security". If it weren't illegal, you might have a point. However, it is illegal, so someone who smokes pot is already showing that they have a penchant for ignoring laws that they don't think apply to them. Don't give me some excuse about "civil disobedience" either, because that entails openly admitting that you've broken the law.

I'm amazed that you think polygraphs might be OK, but not drug tests. I could understand someone being against both, or supporting only the drug test, but..., wow, just wow.

Re:Do you really want a law breaker? (4, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425568)

However, it is illegal, so someone who smokes pot is already showing that they have a penchant for ignoring laws that they don't think apply to them.

Oh, for gahd's sake, just because you break a few minor laws does *not* mean that you'd be more likely sell out your country to the enemy-of-the-day. By your "slippery slope" logic, anyone who gets caught for speeding should be pre-emptively shot. After all, who's to say when they'll move from speeding to treason?

-b.

It's not a slippery slope (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425742)

It's already there. You've committed a crime that can be used to blackmail you. The same can hardly be said about speeding. Also, I'm not talking about shooting anyone. I'm talking about not hiring them for a position that you said was vital to our nation's defense. Obviously, you found nothing wrong with my actual point. Otherwise you wouldn't have tried to change what I said. I eschew slippery slope arguments.

Oh, and yes, speeding is also breaking the law. People who lightly dismiss it as such demonstrate contempt for the rule of law. In your case, I'm not very concerned as I suspect you don't claim to hold the highest regard for the law in the first place. (This is not meant to be an insult, so correct me if I'm wrong.) However, for people who do make such claims (typically Republicans), I find such dismissal to be hypocritical.

And just to be clear, I'm hardly a conservative, although I'll admit to holding 2 or 3 views that others might consider to be conservative.

Re:It's not a slippery slope (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425798)

You've committed a crime that can be used to blackmail you.

Actually, if there's a policy of dismissal for minor offenses that don't impact work performance, blackmail becomes more likely. If someone brings the average police department evidence that someone was merely smoking weed, they'd probably ask if they had anything better to do. To an employer this might be a much bigger deal.

-b.

A valid point (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425842)

Still, for matters dealing with national security, I think it's not too much to ask that employees stay off the ganja. I will admit that having never been tempted by the stuff, I'm not in the best position to judge. Still, we are talking about nuclear technology.

Re:Do you really want a law breaker? (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425684)

However, it is illegal, so someone who smokes pot is already showing that they have a penchant for ignoring laws that they don't think apply to them.
I don't think there is a living adult person in the USA that hasn't broken a law yet. I would think that at least a huge percentage of the population breaks them on a regular basis (and please think in the broad sense - I don't mean just drug use).

The fact is, the legal system is not ideal, and that is an understatement. If it is not ideal, not all laws should be followed like lemmings, after all the law is for the people and not the other way around.

Laws are essentially codified behaviour rules, and behaviour rules stem from increasing the stability/success of a population and as well as from morals, which stem from the evolutionary advantage presented by cooperative, but grudge-bearing (in case of lack of cooperation) behaviour.

So basically, the simple fact is that breaking a law in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is useful to have the public think that, as it leads to a better enforcement of the law, which, if the law is alright leads to a more stable society. But, a balance must be struck, because as we established the law is not ideal, so it means there are bad laws. Now in order to fix those laws, we need to either get rid of them or rewrite them, but the process of recognizing and disobeying a law upon personal judgement or "morals" helps this process. So basically you want the population to generally obey laws, but also apply their personal judgement to help the process of improving the laws. This has to be done continously, as time passes the moral Zeitgeist of the previous era gets overwritten by the new moral rules and laws have to reflect that.

Breaking the law deliberately (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425810)

I don't think there is a living adult person in the USA that hasn't broken a law yet. I would think that at least a huge percentage of the population breaks them on a regular basis (and please think in the broad sense - I don't mean just drug use).
However, I doubt a "hugh percentage" of the population deliberately breaks the law on a regular basis. (The fact that so many might regularly break the law on accident is indicative of a problem with our legal system.) Also, how many of those broken laws could be used to blackmail you?

The fact is, the legal system is not ideal, and that is an understatement. If it is not ideal, not all laws should be followed like lemmings, after all the law is for the people and not the other way around.

...

...Now in order to fix those laws, we need to either get rid of them or rewrite them, but the process of recognizing and disobeying a law upon personal judgement or "morals" helps this process. So basically you want the population to generally obey laws, but also apply their personal judgement to help the process of improving the laws. ...

Fine, if you want to openly break the law, à la Thoreau, as a form of protest, you have my respect. However, if you're breaking the law just because you feel like it, that's another story.

Re:Breaking the law deliberately (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425844)

However, if you're breaking the law just because you feel like it, that's another story.

If you're breaking the law because the law is stupid, useless, and outdated, and you're not harming anyone whilst doing so, it doesn't upset me one bit. Just try not to get caught if you're a friend of relative or mine, because that'll make me sad.

-b.

Apathy (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425886)

If the law is stupid, useless, and outdated, why aren't you fighting to change it [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Apathy (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425942)

If the law is stupid, useless, and outdated, why aren't you fighting to change it?

You can't change everything. And there are more ways to change a law than one. Plenty of laws have fallen by the wayside while being ignored and disused while still being "in the books." Things like Virginia having a law against a black man marrying a white woman until two years ago or Connecticut(?) prescribing the death penalty for adultery.

-b.

Two reasons (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426070)

You can't change everything. And there are more ways to change a law than one.

I used to have a job that involved "selling" (something I didn't enjoy at all). My former boss told me that when a client gives you more than one reason for why he doesn't want the product, the truth is that the real reason is probably one not given.

You say there are more ways to change a law than one. I agree completely. There's civil disobedience. There's running for office. There's even voting. What these have in common is that they involve a certain amount of effort and/or risk. (OK, well breaking the law and trying to get away with it also entails a certain amount of effort and risk.) Seriously, the worst strategy for trying to change a law is ignoring it and hoping that it goes away.

If you feel strongly that the law is unjust, stand up and fight it. If you just feel like smoking some dope and hope you don't get caught, then you're part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Re:Breaking the law deliberately (1)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425996)

However, I doubt a "hugh percentage" of the population deliberately breaks the law on a regular basis

I think if you include speeding offences, the OP is probably correct - driving on a freeway, the vast majority of people are doing more than 65. Even on back-streets, more people than not go over 35/45... A rather large fraction of people drive, and if the majority of those are speeding, the percentage of lawbreakers may indeed be huge...

Simon

Did I really say "hugh percentage"? (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426120)

Sure enough, I did. Anyways, you're probably right. I'd like to believe that most of them are not deliberately speeding, but I'd also like to believe that this is the year that we'll see peace in the Middle East.

Re:Breaking the law deliberately (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426100)

Fine, if you want to openly break the law, à la Thoreau, as a form of protest, you have my respect. However, if you're breaking the law just because you feel like it, that's another story.
If I break a law I either do it accidentally or because I think it is not right. I guess the latter is a mixture of disregard of the law and protest, the ratio depends on the particular law.

In this particular case, there are the conflicting ideas. The law says, you can't smoke weed but the person wants to smoke weed presumably because it feels good. Now I believe that the human instinct is to do a risk assessment first: is it worth for me to violate the law for this thing (harshness of punishment, chance of being caught, etc.)? Now after this, people might start contemplating on whether it is in line with their morals to break this particular law. If they find that that smoking weed is worth both the risk and it is okay by their inner moral compass, then they'll go smoke weed.

I support those people breaking the law, because I think that the law is bad, not the action of those people. I don't think it matters why those people are breaking the law, the only thing that matters if the law is good or not. I guess I believe that laws shouldn't be upheld just because they are laws, I believe there has to be some rationality behind them, either moral or survival value.

As a personal note I'd add that I don't smoke anything, don't drink too much alcohol and use moderation in sugar, coffeine and chocolate. I personally regard people who do any of it excessively as irrational. They are all poison in large quantities. But I don't see anything wrong with people wanting to wreck their own body or lives as long as it doesn't affect others.

Different moral philosophies (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426192)

Well, I guess we just have different moral philosophies, and that's OK. Personally, I think that laws should be followed unless there's a compelling reason not to. Because you "want to" is not very compelling. OTOH, I can think of a few things that I might be tempted to break the law over if they were made illegal, even without a reason I'd consider "compelling". I also believe that (almost) all laws have some rationality behind them; it's just a question of whether you agree with that rationale. Part of my views on this have arisen from positions where I've been in authority (e.g., lifeguard) and have had to exercise that authority on those who could not comprehend the reasons behind the rules. Just because you don't understand why a law is in place doesn't make it a bad law. Anyways, this is largely a question of philosophy, and I strongly suspect that nothing I say will change your mind (and vice-versa).

As for your personal note, I couldn't agree more (except for my part about following the law).

Re:Do you really want a law breaker? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425946)

Do you really want a law breaker "dealing with dangerous (from a proliferation standpoint) materials and experiments critical to national security". If it weren't illegal, you might have a point. However, it is illegal, so someone who smokes pot is already showing that they have a penchant for ignoring laws that they don't think apply to them.

So should we sack all government employees who receive a speeding ticket? Should we give extra scrutiny to make sure they haven't cheated on their taxes? Should we also do random testing for other crimes, and randomly polygraph test employees on recent murders?

I've already addressed these points (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426094)

But here's the short version:
  1. No one's ever gotten blackmailed over a speeding ticket, to the best of my knowledge.
  2. I'm not talking about all government employees, I'm talking about those with access to nuclear secrets.
  3. I've already said (or at least implied) that polygraphs are stupid.

Re:Polygraphs ... (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426224)

There's a huge difference between drug use and drug *abuse*.

I couldnt agree more. I say this quite often, (go figure)but the facts remain that if one wants to go home after a LONG day of work and enjoy a beer.... not a problem, eventhough when he gets behind that wheel (IF) he is more likely to cause a fatal accident. When one goes home to enjoy a spliff, the only person getting hurt is Capt'n Crunch!
In all seriousness, if one was to use a vaporizor or bake food with their herbal goods, they are not even hurting themselves, cause as we all know, marijuana doesn't hurt people, it would be the smoke aggravates the lungs...thats it

Re:Polygraphs ... (0, Flamebait)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425502)

Having extreme right guy marked as foe? Yes.
Getting shivers from the thought of viewing the world as a huge liberal conspiracy? Yes.
Reading a post by the aforementioned guy in which his beliefs dominate what he sees? Priceless.

Re:Polygraphs ... (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425888)

Having extreme right guy marked as foe? Yes

I must say, I'm a little curious about your definition of "extreme right," or at least, how it is that you see me fitting into it. Anti-abortion, prayer-in-school types? Cannot abide them. Organized religion in general? I consider it humanity's greatest continuing social plague. "Intelligent design" proponents? Intellectually disengenuos self-destructive fools. Absurd pork spending by congress? Infuriating. Etc. Which "extreme right" are you lumping me in with, exactly?

Getting shivers from the thought of viewing the world as a huge liberal conspiracy?

Um, who sees it that way, exactly? A lot of people loosely holding some of the same loopy opinions about certain subjects doesn't exactly equal a conspiracy. On either end of the spectrum.

Reading a post by the aforementioned guy in which his beliefs dominate what he sees? Priceless.

Let's see... so, you think that it's "extreme right" to be uncomfortable about having, say, someone in IT (with access to your e-mail, your boss's e-mail, your payroll records, etc) exhibiting a clear problem with drug use? Is it "extreme right" to be slightly annoyed by someone who, say, drives a school bus or operates a forklift over your head using a meat computer that's clearly impaired? How do you twist that sort of thing into politics?

Re:Polygraphs ... (2, Funny)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425848)

Have I met, worked with, or been exposed to obvious stoners that are clearly and continually unfocused, un-energetic, bad on short-term memory...

Yes! I read and post on Slashdot.

Re:Polygraphs ... (1)

Pakaran2 (138209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425918)

I've never used marijuana. That said, from everything I've read, there's no *long term* lack of motivation. The people you're thinking of were likely under the influence *at the time*. Likely if someone had a long island iced tea on the way into work, they'd be acting the same. And at that point they should be disciplined for lack of productivity, or otherwise for fallings hort of expectations. What substance, if any, made them that way, or whether they simply didn't feel like being productive, is beside the point. And whether they're doing what they're being paid to do is what the employeer really should be thinking about.

Re:Polygraphs ... (5, Insightful)

ximenes (10) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425414)

I don't think this is about work performance at all, rather its about ferreting out people who are more susceptible to being forced into stealing government secrets or who might do so on their own without coercion.

If I have a serious heroin problem, I may get myself into so much debt and other trouble that I wind up being used by some foreign spy group or something (if I worked at Los Alamos of course). Or maybe I don't want my habit getting out and therefore can be blackmailed. That sort of thing. This is similar to how homosexual people have been targetted in prior decades; not because a gay person can't do the work, but because having this secret you really want to keep means you can be blackmailed with it.

Then again (1)

Rob Simpson (533360) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425688)

Wasn't one of the worst betrayals [wikipedia.org] caused by a CIA agent's wife spending all his money? (And he passed a couple polygraph tests, too...)

Re:Polygraphs ... (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425778)

Err, You must be new here!

Back to the topic, I remember reading in the biography of John Nash, that he was fired from RAND for his homosexual tendencies, along with some other people, while in fact some of those people were completely open about it. The policy was to get rid of homosexuals, but there was no proper risk assessment done, if there is any blackmail potential to it, etc. The McCarthy era witchhunts did more harm than good and same applies to not properly evaluating the risk of blackmail or ideological cooperation.

Compromised (1)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425948)

Exactly the point. You are susceptible to influence and may compromise national secrets. Blackmail, ideology, money, and thrill-seeking (I think there's one more) are the top reasons for why people sell out their country.

Supposedly money will get you info, but they won't put their necks out. Ideology gets you great info, but they're unstable. Thrill seekers are james-bond wannabees... and blackmail, well, people do things to protect their dirty secrets.

All I gotta say is "Tough Shit". If you want them to come up with a more reliable lie detector than a polygraph, then you certainly are encouraging them. Perhaps the one that monitors your brain waves when you're in a drugged state? I'll take the box over that any day.

Re:Polygraphs ... (2, Insightful)

Giometrix (932993) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425480)

"I guess I can understand polygraphy IF it's at all accurate. After all, they are dealing with dangerous (from a proliferation standpoint) materials and experiments critical to national security. As for drug testing, I think it should only happen if an employee is exhibiting other problems at work, if then. And it also depends what drug is being tested for. Is there any evidence that enjoying the occasional herbal treat harms work performance in any material way?"

They are NOT accurate. A friend of mine lied for a large number of questions (stupid stuff he did in college), and he passed with flying colors.

Is he the exception to the rule? Maybe, but I doubt it. I just think the polygraph "works" on psychological level rather than a physiological level, and that anybody that understands this can easily beat the test.

I don't even think that the employers even CARE if the test is accurate. First, it weeds out a lot of the types of people that the employer doesn't want, such as drug users. Many people won't apply for the job if they think they will fail the polygraph. Second, from my understanding, the person giving the polygraph tries to intimidate you, and I imagine a lot of people "crack" and tell the truth when being intimidated while strapped to a machine. So even though the test may not be so accurate, it still gives employers decent results (from their point of view).

I wouldn't be so adverse to these types of exams if they didn't categorize you as a criminal or drug addict because you did something stupid years ago. Instead of asking "Have you ever smoked marijuana?," wouldn't it be more fair (and relevant to the employer) to ask "have you smoked marijuana in the past 5 years?"

People do stupid things growing up; but most people DO grow up. Personally, I think we should judge people on the things they do as adults, not as teenagers or college students.

Re:Polygraphs ... (2, Interesting)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425498)

I don't even think that the employers even CARE if the test is accurate...

It also weeds out people that answers questions without thinking. From what I've heard, if you interview with the NSA or CIA and they ask "have you ever given money to a foreign organization?" and your answer is an unthinking "no", this weeds you out. After all, you buy stuff from foreign companies all of the time without even realizing it.

-b.

Re:Polygraphs ... (3, Insightful)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425554)

I guess I can understand polygraphy IF it's at all accurate. After all, they are dealing with dangerous (from a proliferation standpoint) materials and experiments critical to national security. As for drug testing, I think it should only happen if an employee is exhibiting other problems at work, if then. And it also depends what drug is being tested for. Is there any evidence that enjoying the occasional herbal treat harms work performance in any material way?

I think a drug test is meaningless. I know a significant numbe rof recreational pot and E users to function fine at work. I think a credit check is better. One check and it will tell you the likelyhood of Scientist x selling yoru secrets to the chinese/russians/islamists/EU. People who tend to do these things tend to have financial problems ot start with.

Re:Polygraphs ... (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425592)

I think a credit check is better.

Although still not perfect. Drug dealers and loan sharks would be unlikely to report outstanding debts. They tend to have other slightly more effective ways of dealing with the situation.

-b.

Re:Polygraphs ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17426056)

And why would a drug dealer or a loan shark need a regular job?

Re:Polygraphs ... (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426090)

And why would a drug dealer or a loan shark need a regular job?

They wouldn't. My point was that debts to certain people would be unlikely to show up on a credit report. And, breaking kneecaps is a far more effective threat to people than foreclosure or bad credit. So people with debts to criminals may well be *more* amenable to blackmail.

-b.

Richard Feynmann (4, Interesting)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425298)

I read his memoirs in high school. If half of what he claims that he did is true, I suspect that he'd have lasted about a day in the Los Alamos of today. Damn shame, really. A lot of the brightest people like to play with different consciousness states as well as being inveterate pranksters.

Cheers,
-b.

Re:Richard Feynmann (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17425366)

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but only drug-free mostly temparate white Christians from good universities ought to practice this 'Science'.

Re:Richard Feynmann (1)

Pakaran2 (138209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425880)

If I read the same book you're thinking of, what Feynmann did was LSD, sensory deprivation, and women. One of those can show up in urine for 72 hours (so take it on the friday before memorial day weekend - he never took it frequently - and the others not at all. Unless you read something different from what I'm thinking of?

Re:Richard Feynmann (2, Insightful)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426152)

His unauthorized tests of the security system (safe-cracking, letters to his wife) would have landed him in jail today.

I don't believe he his written any books about his youth. A non-scientist friend of his wrote

- Surely you are joking, mister Feynmann
- What do you care what other people think

based on conversation with Feynmann, those two books were very popular in college.

What a genius idea (4, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425344)

From the DOE [fas.org] :
I. Introduction

        DOE's existing counterintelligence polygraph regulations are set
forth at 10 CFR part 709. Under section 3152(a) of the National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, Pub. L. 107-107 (NDAA for FY
2002), DOE is obligated to prescribe revised regulations for a new
counterintelligence polygraph program the stated purpose of which is
``* * * to minimize the potential for release or disclosure of
classified data, materials, or information'' (42 U.S.C. 7383h-1(a).)
Section 3152(b) requires DOE to ``* * * take into account the results
of the Polygraph Review,'' which is defined by section 3152 (e) to mean
``* * * the review of the Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence
on the Polygraph of the National Academy of Sciences'' (42 U.S.C.
7383h-1(b), (e)).

So they attached this to one of those emergency defense appropriation bills:
SEC. 3152. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY COUNTERINTELLIGENCE POLYGRAPH PROGRAM.

(a) NEW COUNTERINTELLIGENCE POLYGRAPH PROGRAM REQUIRED.-The Secretary of Energy shall carry out, under regulations prescribed under this section, a new counterintelligence polygraph program for the Department of Energy. The purpose of the new program is to minimize the potential for release or disclosure of classified data, materials, or information.

(b) AUTHORITIES AND LIMITATIONS.-(1) The Secretary shall prescribe regulations for the new counterintelligence polygraph program required by subsection (a) in accordance with the provisions of subchapter II of

chapter 5 of title 5, United States Code (commonly referred to as the Administrative Procedures Act).

(2) In prescribing regulations for the new program, the Secretary shall take into account the results of the Polygraph Review.

(3) Not later than six months after obtaining the results of the Polygraph Review, the Secretary shall issue a notice of proposed rulemaking for the new program.

(c) REPEAL OF EXISTING POLYGRAPH PROGRAM.-Effective 30 days after the Secretary submits to the congressional defense committees the Secretarys certification that the final rule for the new counterintelligence

polygraph program required by subsection (a) has been fully implemented, section 3154 of the Department of Energy Facilities Safeguards, Security, and Counterintelligence Enhancement Act of 1999 (subtitle D of title XXI of Public Law 106-65; 42 U.S.C. 7383h) is repealed.

(d) REPORT ON FURTHER ENHANCEMENT OF PERSONNEL SECURITY PROGRAM.-(1) Not later than January 1, 2003, the Administrator for Nuclear Security shall submit to Congress a report setting forth the recommendations of the Administrator for any legislative action that the Administrator considers appropriate in order to enhance the personnel security program of the Department of Energy.

(2) Any recommendations under paragraph (1) regarding the use of polygraphs shall take into account the results of the Polygraph Review.

(e) POLYGRAPH REVIEW DEFINED.-In this section, the term "Polygraph Review" means the review of the Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph of the National Academy of Sciences.

Your Congress at work.

Bad Logic (1)

w3woody (44457) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425370)

Polygraphy is an insulting affront to scientists, since a committee of the National Academy of Sciences has declared that, beyond being inadmissible in court, there is no scientific basis for polygraphs. In my opinion, by agreeing to be polygraphed, one thereby seriously jeopardizes his or her claim to being a scientist, which is presumably the principal reason for employment for many scientists at Los Alamos.'
Le'me see: because there is no scientific basis for polygraphs (because they are not admissible in court--having nothing to do with the science of polygraphs, but because of court standards for admission of evidence), if you agree to something this unscientific, then you cannot possibly claim to be a scientist.

By that logic because religion has no scientific basis, anyone who is religious cannot also be a scientist. I'm sure this guy gets along real well with Richard Dawkins at parties. It's a standard fallacy: if you claim to be an 'X', you must do 'Y'--and if you don't do 'Y' (whatever I tell you 'Y' is), you cannot possibly be an 'X'. I can do without that sort of mind control, than you very much.

Of course this does not admit the possibility that there are other reasons why a scientist would agree to be polygraphed, including the possibility that someone working at a sensitive facility such as Los Alamos may just feel that it ain't worth the hassle to fight it.

And if you believe it is unscientific for someone to act apathetic rather than engage in advocacy by fighting polygraphs in the workplace, then you have obviously confused advocacy with discovery--a common enough disease in this day and age, I suppose, given the number of "scientific" papers which are little more than thinly veiled advocacy position papers against computer games and pornography.

Re:Bad Logic (4, Insightful)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425540)

Bad logic? Not quite. I understood this as "by agreeing to be polygraphed, one [endorses pseudoscience and] thereby seriously jeopardizes his or her claim to being a scientist" (insertion mine).

YOUR "logic" is NOT so consequent (1)

erlehmann (1045500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425542)

By that logic because religion has no scientific basis, anyone who is religious cannot also be a scientist. I'm sure this guy gets along real well with Richard Dawkins at parties. It's a standard fallacy: if you claim to be an 'X', you must do 'Y'--and if you don't do 'Y' (whatever I tell you 'Y' is), you cannot possibly be an 'X'. I can do without that sort of mind control, than you very much.
I believ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H know there are people who would argue like that - including myself. One cannot be both scientifically-minded AND a religious person, when he/or she is equally serious about science and religion. It is just not coherent.

However, I would accept someone who sees science [or religion, respectively] as a subset of religion [science], because such an opinion could be consequent. And I know people who do see science as subset of religion.

Depends on how you look at it (1)

Rob Simpson (533360) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425600)

It is one thing to show respect for someone's religious beliefs, but it is another thing to accept a paper with references such as "[1] Divine inspiration" and "[2] Genesis 1:2".

Double Bad Logic (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425710)

Le'me see: because there is no scientific basis for polygraphs (because they are not admissible in court--having nothing to do with the science of polygraphs, but because of court standards for admission of evidence), if you agree to something this unscientific, then you cannot possibly claim to be a scientist.

By that logic because religion has no scientific basis, anyone who is religious cannot also be a scientist. ....


Speaking of bad logic. Your argument is a straw man [wikipedia.org] , which is a logical fallacy.

Re:Bad Logic (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425786)

Of course this does not admit the possibility that there are other reasons why a scientist would agree to be polygraphed, including the possibility that someone working at a sensitive facility such as Los Alamos may just feel that it ain't worth the hassle to fight it.

That is, of course, the reason most people in such positions accept the insult. It is a game of chicken and usually the individual feels that they have more to lose. But not always.

I have a good friend who holds a handful of clearances. Part of the requirements for some of those clearances is an agreement to take a drug test if asked too. My friend is so straight, he rarely drinks and hasn't even smoked a single joint in his entire life. But he will never take a drug test because he feels they are insulting to him as a professional.

If it comes down to it and he is asked to take a test, he will refuse and accept revocation of his clearance and 'loss' of his job. In his case, the loss of a job is of little consequence, he's got enough money in the bank to retire permanently if he wanted to. The programs he works on would suffer more by his leaving than he would.

Unfortunately, most people are not in such a position, or at least don't feel like they are. So they cave to the pressure and accept the insult because they've got families to feed or careers they think will be ruined if they don't. In other words, freedom doesn't mean jackshit if you are afraid to exercise that freedom.

Re:Bad Logic (1)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425788)

You assume that he thinks that the inadmissability in court is why it is not scientific, as opposed to it not being admissable because it is unscientific. It is important to consider which is the cause and which is the effect.

The reality is that polygraphs are just a mixture of suggestion and stress as measured by a change in dielectric properties. If you are not particularly suggestible, if your stress levels remain constant, or if your physiology is such that the variation in sweat level from stress is not significantly greater than the normal background noise levels, then polygraphs will detect nothing. On the other hand, if you are extremely suggestible, if your stress levels fluctuate wildly, or if you are prone to second-guessing yourself, the polygraph will show you as lying no matter what you say.

This leaves aside the small problem of this "truth" thing. Scientists tend to be skeptical as to there being "a truth". They have opinions, which they test (if they're any good), but yes/no answers don't hold up to such folk. It is impossible to frame a general question that can only ever have a "yes" or "no" answer. 1+1=2 only for number bases strictly greater than 2, on a number line or ring in which a 2 exists and where the + operator maps 1+1 onto 2. So any mathematician who says "yes" to "does 1+1=2?" is either not a very good mathematician OR will be shown as lying, as they'll know damn well that it doesn't for all cases. (You seriously imagine that these tests produce questions formalized well enough that quibbling is impossible? Odds are, most are unimaginably wooly - "are you a Democrat?" could mean almost anything, depending on who is asking and who is being asked. "Do you know any foreign secret agents?" should always produce a "no", as if you know they are, they are no longer a secret to you.)

Re:Bad Logic (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425808)

You almost had it, but there really isn't much science to support polygraph tests as accurate.

To agree to this, the scientists would be agreeing to allow something to be admitted as scientific evidence that lacks any proof of it working through any sort of science you might want to try on -- it's guessed that it works this way, sometimes it does, and that's good enough?

It's a modern day trial by physical challenge. That's all it is. Junk.

Re:Bad Logic (3, Insightful)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425976)

a committee of the National Academy of Sciences has declared that, beyond being inadmissible in court, there is no scientific basis for polygraphs
Le'me see: because there is no scientific basis for polygraphs (because they are not admissible in court--having nothing to do with the science of polygraphs, but because of court standards for admission of evidence), if you agree to something this unscientific, then you cannot possibly claim to be a scientist.
Huh?

There is no scientific basis for polygraphs. Therefore they fail to meet court standards for admission of evidence. And therefore they are not admissable in court. This guy is formulating what is at least partially a legal argument as well as a scientific and political argument and so it is very relevant for him to point out the complete NAS opinion that polygraphs are not admissable in court, in addition to having no scientific basis. The NAS position he cites specifically says "beyond", not "because of". While the author does use established legal standards to support his argument in a rhetorical sense, he is not relying on them as proof of anything scientific.

I don't know where you divined the information that polygraphs fail to meet court standards for admission of evidence for any reason other than their lack of a scientific basis. Specifically, those standards keep polygraphs out of courtrooms because of their high error rate, as one would expect from a technology built on top of a pseudoscience.

As for the rest of your argument, the choice of whether or not to consent to a stupid polygraph is simply not on par with one's freedom of religion.

Spies Like us? (0, Flamebait)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425404)

From the amount of security breaches at Los Alamos I've read about, I figure anyone's pricipal reason for working there is to take secrets back to their Masters in China, France, Isreal, Russia....

As promoted by the FSB... (4, Informative)

hughk (248126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425432)

The FSB, the spun off domestic branch of the KGB like to promote the use of the polygraph amongst companies in russia to ensure employee lotyalty (Yes, I was at one of their presentations a few years back). The joke is that itt was revealed by Vasily Mitrokhin (the KGB Archivist and defector)that faking your way through a polygraph test was simply a matter of training. In other words, the polygraph may catch the person stealing paperclips but it probably won't find the trained spy.

Re:As promoted by the FSB... (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425526)

The FSB, the spun off domestic branch of the KGB like to promote the use of the polygraph amongst companies in russia to ensure employee lotyalty

Bah, that's so 1990s. Now they just provide free sample packets of polonium to bosses to help them deal with disloyal employees.

-b.

Re:As promoted by the FSB... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17426076)

...faking your way through a polygraph test was simply a matter of training.

Put a tack in your shoe and randomly step on it when answering questions. It'll jerk the pens around bigtime!

Source: petty criminal who learned it in jail.

Polygraphs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17425464)

Polygraphs do what they do quite well. They measure a number of physiological variables, and their changes over time. Some changes correlate well with certain emotional changes and states. They do not show whether someone is lying, or telling the truth. They do however show if someone is becoming stressed. They should not be relied upon, as some people can learn to control some of the variables at will.

What is it with Americans and drug tests (2, Insightful)

Mock (29603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425544)

I mean, really...

Isn't it kind of obvious when someone's personal life is interfering with their professional life?
Is it so hard to take the cue from the rest of the world, where such nonsense is not even considered (with no apparent ill effects)?

Re:What is it with Americans and drug tests (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425696)

In America, some jobs won't tolerate a personal life. When I was working in the video game industry, you didn't have a personal life since you worked 80+ hours a week. Since I was taking computer programming classes for a career change, going to church and dating girls, I was already in trouble at work even though I worked the required hours and was well respected by my peers. The final straw came when I took an ethics course and noticed something my boss was doing that was a no-no in the textbook. I informed HR and my boss was put on the spot. The next thing I knew I was being written up for insurbordination and given the famous "his way or the highway" speech. I resigned after that, took a year-and-a-half off from working, and got a help desk job that's making the same amount of money as my last job but for only 40 hours a week. I'm enjoying life now.

Re:What is it with Americans and drug tests (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425898)

What is it with Americans and drug tests
Three points not made in the thread above are:
  • The poly can have the effect of letting you know you're accountable (probably its least-worst feature)
  • The poly employs a bunch of people
  • The poly is a perfectly legal discriminatory tool
As seen in CivIV: "The bureaucracy is expanding to support the needs of an expanding bureaucracy."
Noise like the poly is merely a side effect of the kudzu-esque bureaucracy.

Management by chickens (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425912)

One would think that it was obvious that a scientist (or any other employee) who do a good job should keep his or her job, and someone who does a poor job should be fired. It is the responsibility of the management to determine who belong to each category. For small companies, where management is typically close to or equivalent with the owner, this is also how it works.

For large organizations, for some reason management is often afraid to fire people with the explanation that they do a poor job. They want some kind of objective criteria. This is why productivity in large organizations tend to suffer under all kinds of silly metrics, and why management there can think personality tests, drug testing, horoscopes, or polygraphs can be useful tools.

Re:What is it with Americans and drug tests (2, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425922)

Isn't it kind of obvious when someone's personal life is interfering with their professional life?

Not always, and, more importantly, not always soon enough.

The point of random drug testing in a facility like Los Almos is to identify the user before he becomes a security risk, before he becomes a danger to himself and others.

Re:What is it with Americans and drug tests (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426068)

Have you ever tried to fire someone from a government position? You need a really good reason, and a well documented case for dismissal. Otherwise you'll find yourself being forced by the courts or unions to re-hire them.

Re:What is it with Americans and drug tests (1)

venicebeach (702856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426084)

There is actually a law, the The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 [samhsa.gov] which requires recipients of federal grants to maintain a drug-free workplace. Part of the whole war on drugs nonsense.

Re:What is it with Americans and drug tests (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426194)

There is actually a law, the The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 which requires recipients of federal grants to maintain a drug-free workplace. Part of the whole war on drugs nonsense.

It doesn't require drug testing, however. This according to the Department of Labor site [dol.gov] and the text of the law itself. Basically, it requires employers and employees to sign statements that drug use in the workplace is forbidden and can result in loss of employment.

-b.

Re:What is it with Americans and drug tests (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17426258)

What is it with Americans and drug tests? I mean, really... Isn't it kind of obvious when someone's personal life is interfering with their professional life?

Not when they are being blackmailed by a DEA agent, who is in turn owned by Chinese working through poppy cultivators in the 'stans.

In high-end information security, at least 50% of the work is keeping people from being blackmailed over things that went into and/or out of body orifices. Of that fraction, at least 50% arises from the useless political pandering of your own government.

Nonsense (1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425560)

This strong sort of reaction should be saved for something important. Drug testing at LANL is not unreasonable. Every job I have considered over the last 15 years has required random drug testing.

Re:Nonsense (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425616)

Drug testing at LANL is not unreasonable. Every job I have considered over the last 15 years has required random drug testing.

That doesn't make it reasonable, just an unfortunate fact of life. BTW, drug testing by private employers has actually decreased slightly since the early 1990s, since some have figured out that it costs without helping the bottom line.

-b.

Maybe if (1)

TuballoyThunder (534063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425628)

LANL did not have so [cbsnews.com] many [newsmax.com] security [fas.org] gaffes [wikipedia.org] , the management would not feel the need for "demonstrating improved security."

That said, having taken a polygraph, I think the true value lies in the "good-cop/bad-cop" environment that it creates.

Who needs a polygraph anyway? (1)

compandsci (1045690) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425630)

In the movies, the smart guys can always reveal a liar by looking if the subjects eyes are directed "up left" when he/she says something...

Re:Who needs a polygraph anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17426196)

Don't be silly. You find out if they are lying by monitoring their facial muscles by IR laser mounted in the corner of the room. Less twiches means they are lying.
Also, subaudible dynamic harmonics in breathing and speaking patterns is a clear CLEAR givaway. You measure that with a simple torsion balance weight with the room isolated from the building vibrations by way of springs, cantalevers, and fiberglass "pink" insulation.

None of this unscientific polygraph stuff for me.

Re:Who needs a polygraph anyway? (1)

blakestah (91866) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426266)

More interesting is that Paul Ekman of UCSF can spot a liar over 99% of the time, even people trained to avoid it, and he routinely consults law enforcement to train them to do the same.

http://www.sciammind.com/print_version.cfm?article ID=0007F06E-B7AE-1522-B7AE83414B7F0182 [sciammind.com]

I worked with someone who was in one of his experiments. He was instructed to pick two of the many offered topics at random, and speak about each for a few minutes. One he was supposed to lie about, the other to tell the truth. And he was instructed to try to fool Ekman. Everyone got nailed.

Here's a simple question... (3, Insightful)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425634)

Name a spy caught after failing a polygraph test.

Neither can I. It never happened.

TFA is completely correct on polygraphs.

Wrong again.... (3, Informative)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426032)

Sharon Scranage - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharon_Scranage [wikipedia.org]
Jim Nicholson - convicted of spying for Russia

There's two. There's hundreds found... and even many more before they get off the ground- how many people could be compromised had they been given access?

It's necessary (2, Funny)

Marko DeBeeste (761376) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425692)

How else can we screen out subversives that believe in that evolution nonsense?

The lie behind the lie detector (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17425702)

Posting as AC because I have personal experience "cheating" a polygraph test I was compelled to undergo by my employer after reading the lie behind the lie detector [antipolygraph.org] .


Long story short: the polygraph is a pile of pseudo-scientific bullshit, that can be easily beaten by anyone that knows how it works. At its core, its basically just a non-standardized investigation protocol for extracting harmful confessions by deceiving the person being investigated.


After educating myself, I passed a polygraph easily the first time, without any preparation or practice, while directly lying to my investigator. For the record, what they were asking was none of my employer's business (in my opinion). I was previously warned that the average session takes an hour, and can sometimes run into 3-4 hours when there are "complications". However, by manipulating my physiological responses to a few critical control questions, and pretending to be appropriately intimidated and impressed by the investigator and his machine, I was out of there in 15 minutes, which I was later told was something of a record.


From http://antipolygraph.org/ [antipolygraph.org] :


The dirty little secret behind the polygraph is that the "test" depends on trickery, not science. The person being "tested" is not supposed to know that while the polygraph operator declares that all questions must be answered truthfully, warning that the slightest hint of deception will be detected, he secretly assumes that denials in response to certain questions -- called "control" questions -- will be less than truthful. An example of a commonly used control question is, "Did you ever lie to get out of trouble?" The polygrapher steers the examinee into a denial by warning, for example, that anyone who would do so is the same kind of person who would commit the kind of behavior that is under investigation and then lie about it. But secretly, it is assumed that everyone has lied to get out of trouble.


The polygraph pens don't do a special dance when a person lies. The polygrapher scores the test by comparing physiological responses (breathing, blood pressure, heart, and perspiration rates) to these probable-lie control questions with reactions to relevant questions such as, "Did you ever commit an act of espionage against the United States?" (commonly asked in security screening). If the former reactions are greater, the examinee passes; if the latter are greater, he fails. If responses to both "control" and relevant questions are about the same, the result is deemed inconclusive.


The test also includes irrelevant questions such as, "Are the lights on in this room?" The polygrapher falsely explains that such questions provide a "baseline for truth," because the true answer is obvious. But in reality, they are not scored at all! They merely serve as buffers between pairs of relevant and "control" questions.


The simplistic methodology used in polygraph testing has no grounding in the scientific method: it is no more scientific than astrology or tarot cards. Government agencies value it because people who don't realize it's a fraud sometimes make damaging admissions. But as a result of reliance on this voodoo science, the truthful are often falsely branded as liars while the deceptive pass through.


Perversely, the "test" is inherently biased against the truthful, because the more honestly one answers the "control" questions, and as a consequence feels less stress when answering them, the more likely one is to fail. Conversely, liars can beat the test by covertly augmenting their physiological reactions to the "control" questions. This can be done, for example, by doing mental arithmetic, thinking exciting thoughts, altering one's breathing pattern, or simply biting the side of the tongue. Truthful persons can also use these techniques to protect themselves against the risk of a false positive outcome. Although polygraphers frequently claim they can detect such countermeasures, no polygrapher has ever demonstrated any ability to do so, and peer-reviewed research suggests that they can't.


Educate yourself. Before playing Russian roulette with your reputation, learn how to protect yourself against this invalid test. Download AntiPolygraph.org's free book

so you're too good for national security? (0, Troll)

briancnorton (586947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425704)

Why is being a "scientist" held in such high regard. I'm a principal scientist on my project, but that doesn't make me too good to go through the same screening process as the "lowly technicians." I say good for him, stick it to the man, in the meantime ride your high horse somewhere else to find employment.

He has a right to be too good for nonsense (1)

Mutatis Mutandis (921530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425982)

He doesn't have to put up with upper management imposing nonsensical practices on their employees. Polygraph testing is just one of those things... I bet they have plenty of others. If you want to have a functional laboratory, or a productive company, or a working research team, then somebody has to fight (every day) to keep the bureaucracy under control. There will always be managers who firmly believe in an extra regulation, an extra test, an extra form, an extra meeting, an extra manager, to make things work better. Frankly, I have rarely met a manager who doesn't.

Somebody has to fight the bureaucratic ... --- Are impolite terms allowed on /.? And as a principal scientist, you ought to take up the fight for the lowly technicians, who don't have the clout to do so. And as a scientist, you are more or less expected to be eccentric and difficult, so you can get away with it... In the same way a beautiful woman can get away with awful gaffes for which a man would be crucified, just different :-)

And as an European (principal) scientist, I frankly don't understand at all why Americans put up with their employers imposing drug testing or polygraph detectors. "Over here" that would be downright illegal, in breach of every privacy law on the book.

But I know that there is a cultural difference as regarding personal freedom and privacy. On the whole Americans are willing sacrificing more of it, because they trust their government. That's why the US and EU always have such a difficult time agreeing on the exchange of personal data of airline passengers etc...

Re:so you're too good for national security? (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426030)

Why is being a "scientist" held in such high regard. I'm a principal scientist on my project, but that doesn't make me too good to go through the same screening process as the "lowly technicians."

Well, for one thing, a brilliant scientist is less easily replacable than a lowly technician, so you want him to stay with the "company."

-b.

Brilliant! (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425734)

>Holian writes: 'Polygraphy is an insulting affront to
>scientists, since a committee of the National Academy of
>Sciences has declared that, beyond being inadmissible in
>court, there is no scientific basis for polygraphs. In my
>opinion, by agreeing to be polygraphed, one thereby
>seriously jeopardizes his or her claim to being a
>scientist, which is presumably the principal reason for
>employment for many scientists at Los Alamos.'"

          I sure hope he tells them that one down at the unemployment office!

          Brett

Re:Brilliant! (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425866)

I sure hope he tells them that one down at the unemployment office!

I doubt that he'll stay unemployed long. There are always employers outside the US willing to pay for services. A pleasant thought for nuclear scientists, no doubt :/

-b.

National Security Needs Proctection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17425764)

With the recent events at Los Alamos such as classifed infromation being leaked [cbsnews.com] and other security problems [newsmax.com] . There needs to be some level of proection on our nations secrets - if scientists can't handle the pressure of a polygraph then what chance do they stand if they were kidnapped by a forigen entity. If polygraphs help expose leaks in the system, then they serve their purpose. Serving our country requires not only bright minds, but the ability to protect information that is vital to our national interests. There are plenty of other positions for scientists that don't require polygraphs - so, if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

How intereresting if they were 100% acccurate (4, Interesting)

Marrow (195242) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425858)

Considering the "brainscan" approach to polygraphs that the future may hold. I am kind of interested in
how a 100% accurate polygraph or lie-detector would affect civilization. How it would affect law enforcement
and judiciary. How would it affect business agreements and politics. If a really good lie detector were
readily available, then what would it do to society, government, economies, education, religion...

Its fun to imagine how the world would reshape itself. Would it be good, or a disaster.

Unionize (3, Interesting)

jimhill (7277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425868)

Quite simply, LANL employees' biggest problem is that we aren't unionized. We stand idly by and watch management (LANS/NNSA/DOE) hammer us again and again and again with policies that decrease the quality of workplace life (without adding jack to the real safety and security of the institution). The "substantially equivalent" requirement for benefits between the last contractor and the current contractor has been revealed to be a stinking pile of bullshit. With a strong collective bargaining agreement, there'd be some pushback against this unrelenting spiral into hell. There is none, however, because nearly everyone in Los Alamos County believes that unions are dues-sucking liberal plots that exist solely to protect the slackers and lackwits. Efforts to unionize have been and will continue to be fruitless. And so, things will get worse.

To specifically address the current outrage, Director Mike Anastasio's plan to expand random drug testing, one can say that it's true that LANL has had far, far too many security and safety incidents over the past decade. But I can't think of a single one in which the cause was traced back to drug use or alcohol overconsumption. This means we'll be spending money that the contractor doesn't have (they're facing a $150M + shortfall this year) to solve a problem that the lab doesn't have, and raping the Fourth Amendment in the process. (Yes, I know the workplace drug laws have been routinely upheld, but when the courts write that some things are too important for Constitutional protections to apply, what're you to think?) THIS is the kind of visionary thinking that made LANS the winning contractor?

/Pee in cups for LANL

//Take polygraphs for LANL

///Hates self for it

Re:Unionize (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426164)


stfu or take a stand. Don't just bitch about it.

Oh, and you don't have to be unionised to act. Or are you scared of losing your job? There's always another job.

Why does anyone accept drug testing? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425892)

I'd tell them to get stuffed (in exactly those words), if they implemented drug testing at my place of work. I do my job to the best of my ability. I know full well that my value to them is higher than the amount they pay me whether I take drugs or not. If they want to get rid of me, it will cost them more than it costs me. I really don't get it.

Re:Why does anyone accept drug testing? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#17425974)

I'd tell them to get stuffed (in exactly those words)

no one is indispensable.

Re:Why does anyone accept drug testing? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426096)

And neither is any job.

I find it very hard to respect anyone who submits to random drug tests.

You take the paycheck... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426038)

...you drink the KoolAid.

Don't like it? Show 'em you mean business and take your talents elsewhere. There are lots of places that need scientific expertise. And just think of all the cool gadgets the old people play with in the country just to the south of your new home.

No spy has ever been caught using a polygraph (1)

dfoulger (1044592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426128)

This isn't about religion and its relationship to science. Its about a test that doesn't do what its supposed to do but still identifies large numbers of people as having lied.

See http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2001/042501_iacono .html [fas.org] , where an expert tells the Senate judiciary committee that "No spy has ever been uncovered because of a failed polygraph test", that "can learn to defeat these tests", and that, when tested, "innocent people fare little better than chance on these tests, with 40% or more failing on average".

See http://www.fas.org/sgp/eprint/sullivan.html [fas.org] , where another expert indicates (after criticizing the first for hyperbole) that one particular spy had been given at least three polygraph tests, passed them all, and "did more than 90 percent of the damage he did in the interval between his first and second tests." The witness goes on the real that he knows "of no security procedure that would have stopped" the spy's "first venture into espionage."

Good security is based in good research rather than faulty methodologies.

Control, Control, We Must Have Control! (1)

OhCrap (652572) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426150)

I understand the scientist's difficulty with the issue. And, the blog is a funny way of approaching it. I just logged into Slashdot to make this post, and I was looking at my old comments, and it's quite telling. You can really learn a lot about me by looking at my old posts. You could probably learn more by what I am saying now, then by asking me direct questions in a polygraph test. However, the polygraph machine is a means of control. In any institution, there will be those on top making decisions and pushing the buttons. Control is inevitable. I understand his resistance to that control and am shocked if this is the first time he has felt it. I don't know how much they get paid at Los Alamos, but I imagine it's a decent salary and that they have opportunities that a lot of others would love to have. This guy has two options: Stay or quit. Stay and deal with a shitty administration that obviously doesn't care about the human behind the white coat, or quit and join a lab and do work for someone who you think cares about you. Trying to go against such a machine is not going to get you anywhere, unless you are above such things.

William Marston (1)

zakeria (1031430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17426230)

he was the creator of the polygraph and also Wonder Women.. i mean come on... another thing i've always wondered about the test, what if your nerves got the better of you when it came to answering a truthful question.. for example Im about to be asked a really serious question but im so nervous of my answer coming out as a lie surly this would make it look like i was hidding something?
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