Lies about lie detectors

In a classic piece of knee jerk legislation, the UK government has announced that it will make a polygraph test part of the pre-release consideration process for terrorist prisoners. This website has repeatedly stressed what all spies know: polygraphs do not work. Their results are no better than chance. The reason the government has opted to choose this method is simply because it will produce good headlines as journalists jabber on excitedly about “lie detectors”. There is no such thing as a machine that can detect if you are lying. Even the BBC called them “lie detectors” despite also screening an interview with polygraph expert Professor Thomas Ormerod of the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex who described the use of polygraphs in this way as “deeply flawed and potentially dangerous”.

If the government really thinks that a machine with odds at evaluating the truth at little better than chance is a good basis for assessing public risk then they should also consider ouija boards, tarot cards, dowsing and rock, paper, scissors. The odds for some of these methods are actually better than for polygraphs and they would be a damned sight cheaper. The UK government is wasting its money and certain BBC journalists should know better.

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