Despite decades of criticism, the lie detector won’t die, says the Wall Street Journal. Polygraphy long has long been derided as “voodoo science.” Confessions made under polygraph aren’t admitted as evidence in most U.S. courts without the consent of the accused. The National Academy of Sciences says the technology isn’t accurate enough to be used for employee security screening. Yet polygraph use is at the highest level in two decades, the Journal says. Government agencies from local police departments to the CIA are increasingly using the technology for job interviews. In U.S. courts, judges have expanded the instances in which polygraph testing is mandated or admitted as evidence.
Polygraphy is a centerpiece in an expanding range of parole and probation programs that are designed to dissuade sex offenders and other felons from committing more crimes. A dozen convicted sex offenders told the Journal that lie-detector sessions exposed their parole violations. They say the threat of future tests serves as a deterrent to new crimes. Polygraph proponents argue that this is a benefit the ongoing polygraphy debate misses: The question shouldn’t be whether the technology is always accurate, they say, but whether it is useful. Polygraph testing “will become a standard for supervising probationers of all kinds,” says Eric Holden of Dallas, who was one of the first to use polygraphy with sex offenders in the early 1980s. The number of federal polygraph programs has grown 53% in the past decade, according to the Defense Academy of Credibility Assessment, which trains polygraph examiners for the government.