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Man accused of teaching people to beat lie detector tests faces prison (washingtonpost.com)
236 points by oinksoft 1334 days ago | hide | past | web | 152 comments | favorite



"Whether the measures are effective is a matter of debate."

Less so after this prosecution. It would be pretty stupid for the government to send undercover agents after him if his techniques didn't work. He'd be helping the government if he taught ineffective techniques to people to who wanted to lie to it. So either the government is very stupid (a real possibility, I admit) or his techniques work.


Shutting this guy up via prison also provides some value in maintaining the fiction of the efficacy of polygraphs, so it may not necessarily be an endorsement of his methods.

It is my opinion that much of modern LEO's abilities to solve crimes are based on maintaining a facade of authority built up by the common perception of their methods. Specifically I mean the methods of analysis like hand-writing analysis, polygraphs, and even more "scientific" methods like finger-prints or DNA evidence. These methods of investigation are often portrayed in popular media as 100% effective in providing proof, however their real rates of effectiveness are quite a bit lower.

Much of these techniques are not as effective as claimed or perceived, but are used as a tool to bring pressure to bear on criminals to cause them to implicate themselves indirectly or confess completely to their crimes.

Much crime is solved merely by rounding up the "likely suspects" and tricking them into thinking that the case is already solved and the criminal just has a chance to admit and gain some sort of ameliorative to their sentence.


It is my opinion that much of modern LEO's abilities to solve crimes are based on maintaining a facade of authority built up by the common perception of their methods.

Only slightly removed from your point - FBI profilers are completely bogus, they employ the same techniques as fortune tellers.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/11/12/071112fa_fact_...

http://wordsofsocraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2007/11/fbi-crimin...


While it's obvious that most "forensic techniques" are at best pseudoscience or folk-knowledge[1], badly needed a lesson or ten in statistics[2], "cold reading" can be a surprisingly useful and powerful technique, when used appropriately.

Many "fortune tellers" often admit, when directly asked, that what they do is little more than basic psychology and counseling. Being able to "cold read" what someone is concerned about - and know the perfect "Barnum Statements"[3] to drop early on to get someone to reveal further key details - is something all psychologists tend to do, to various degrees.

Regarding the FBI and their "profilers"... isn't being able to read people very fast pretty much the very definition of the job? You don't wast time "profiling" someone if you have a mountain of obvious evidence you can use directly. You profile when there isn't sufficient evidence, and we need someone to make a guess on which of the various poor-quality leads should be investigated.

I would hope the FBI hires at least _some_ people with that kind of talent, and comparisons to psychics is likely a good thing, for once.

...

That said, this one decent idea by the FBI doesn't do much to offset all those unamerican "plea bargain" games, "asset forfeiture" thefts without a conviction, and countless other abuses of their power we've seen over the last few decades.

[1]: http://www.salon.com/2012/09/23/fingerprints_arent_proof/

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_Paradox (to name one example of many)

[3]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forer_effect


Regarding the FBI and their "profilers"... isn't being able to read people very fast pretty much the very definition of the job?

No. FBI profilers don't even interact with suspects - they examine crime scene details and then make up a profile of the perpetrator that other agents and police then try to use as a lead.


"Reading people" doesn't require interaction. They, as you say, apply cold-reading style techniques (and other techniques, of course) to the selection of evidence and testimony available in the case.

In the end, though, they are similar to the "psychics" and confidence men; they need to quickly discover some key insights into a person's personality from (often VERY) limited data.

Also note: the very best cold-reading grifters/con-men don't have to interact with the suspect ("mark") either, sy least initially. It's part of how the mark is selected in the first place.


I think you would be well served by actually reading the New Yorker article that I linked to instead of making up your own scenarios that are completely unrelated.


> but are used as a tool to bring pressure to bear on criminals to cause them to implicate themselves indirectly or confess completely to their crimes.

It should be noted especially loudly that the plea bargain is one of the most widely used (and most successful) technique of coercing an alleged criminal to implicate themselves, and that over 95% of federal court cases end as a result of a plea bargain.


It's also worth noting that a subject taking the plea bargain does not necessarily mean they got the right person who committed the crime. There are many documented cases where an innocent person was coerced in to taking a plea bargain to avoid a costly trial, because they were afraid of being found guilty regardless, and opt for the "lesser" sentence -- again for a crime they did not commit.

The gamification of justice, where the only score that matters is convictions.


>...a facade of authority built up by the common perception of their methods...

And a hell of a lot of force, backed by weapons and corrupt officials willing to "make an example" out of anyone who stands against their false authority.


Don't forget the plea bargain, where they threaten you with the death penalty and life in prison unless you confess.


Fun fact: NEVER defend yourself in court.

Iwas in divorce court with my ex. I was required to pay her attorney fees, as such - I could not afford my own attorney.

As I was talking to the judge, her attorney was balking, sniffling and laughing at the things I was saying.

I stopped, turned to her and said "Excuse me, you're not being very professional"

She physically recoiled, and said "what!"

The judge said "I am sorry, what did he say"

The attorney said "I don't know - he mumbled and threatened me under his breath!"

THe bailiff began to scream at me and get in my face threatening to take me to jail.

I turned back to the judge and said "No I did not! I told her she was being unprofessional for making snide comments and sounds while I was discussing my case with you. There is audio recording of everything in this room. Replay the recording."

The judge dismissed the whole event, as she knew it were shenanigans on the part of the lawyer.

The bailiff continued to glare at me.

I gave the law firm a poor review on Yelp, Sagaria Law in San Jose, ca. Yelp kept removing it as Sagaria law kept contacting them about the reviews.

I will never respect or trust a lawyer again. This is endemic in our society.


That sounds like a terrible attorney. There are lots of ambulance chasing shills that should be disbarred, but there are also many excellent highly ethical attorneys.

The problem is that those attorneys are typically reserved for the rich, so most people don't interact with them, with the exception of some truly excellent public defenders and prosecutors.

With regard to your experience, I can't imagine an attorney not respecting the decorum of a court room like that. If I were the judge, I would have issued a warning and held her in contempt if it continued.

Further, if I found out that an attorney made a false allegation of a threat in my court room, I would report them for an ethics violation for lack of candor to the tribunal instantly. There is no room for that type of nonsense in a court of law.

I'm sorry about your experience. That attorney, who does not deserve the title, is both a poor lawyer and a terrible excuse for a human being.


"The problem is that those attorneys are typically reserved for the rich, so most people don't interact with them, with the exception of some truly excellent public defenders and prosecutors."

In general, they are not reserved for anyone.

They just get tired of clients that won't pay, usually, after they told the client "it will cost 30k to do what you want, and you will lose anyway"

So they ask for larger and larger retainers, etc.


"I will never respect or trust a lawyer again. This is endemic in our society." You should totally make blanket statements based on a single experience.


Not a single experience. The most egregious. I do not have a singular happy experience with any lawyer where I felt, you know, actually represented.

If you have had the fortune of having a lawyer do you well, good for you. I have never once experienced this. I have many examples to draw from.

EDIT: well well well, you're actually a lawyer. No wonder your bias.

Many examples:

* Didn't read my filings prior to court

* Forgot our conversations, and misrepresented my statements

* charged thousands, never showed up in court

* threatening me

* accusing me of threatening them (example cited)

* charging many thousands of dollars for retainer, while never doing any hours of work aside from a 30-minute phone call

* charging me telling me they could achieve a certain outcome, then telling me that there was nothing they could do and it was out of their control.

Yeah - fuck that.


Genuine question - have you considered that the problem might be you?

Sure, there are bad lawyers like there are bad examples of anything else you care to name. It sucks that you've had a bad time of it, divorce court can't be fun.

But the fact that every interaction you've had seems negative - with your own lawyers, opposing lawyers, judges and even bailiffs (who are essentially non-legal admin/security staff) reveals a pattern. Eventually you have to ask: Is the whole world crazy, or just me?

Disclosure: I am a lawyer. I've had very difficult clients in the past. I generally get along well with clients, opposing counsel and even the opposing clients (to the extent we interact).


Sometimes people are just serially unlucky. The population of the US alone is large enough that 1-in-a-million coincidences could be happening over 300 times a day.


At least in the case where the opposing counsel was being rude, I could see that as someone that would respect another lawyer, but feels that they are superior (and therefore above) a person that is representing themselves.


Finding a good lawyer is difficult. I find the best thing to do to be to ask my friends about their lawyers ^_^


A bad lawyer is rarely bad in every single case. Going with the recommendations of friends is basically going with anecdotal evidence.

Most bar associations operate a referral service that weeds out lawyers with bad histories. You pay the bar ~$100 and they give you the contact info for the next lawyer in the queue who practices in the field you need.

At least this way you can be sure of getting a lawyer who does not have a history of screwing over any clients badly enough to get a complaint filed rather than a lawyer who did not screw over the one client who happens to be your friend.


I don't know why, but I've always had more luck asking people about lawyers than I have getting lists off of legal organisations. Perhaps because the interactions people have with lawyers are more refined than just whether they messed up the case completely or not?

That is good advice though ^_^


Are you trying to suggest that if I had a bad dating experience that I shouldn't write off an entire gender? Or that if I had a bad boss that I shouldn't tar all of management as useless? Or if I had a bad taxi-driver (or two or three) that I shouldn't suggests that "I will never respect or trust a taxi-driver again?"

On what basis are you suggesting that one or two anecdotes don't allow me to completely profile an entire population of millions (in the case of gender Billions) of people?


Generalizing an entire population based on a single experience just doesn't work. I did it once and I turned out to be completely wrong.


Sometimes, a single observation is enough to make generalizations. It depends on the context. For instance, dipping your toe into water before immersing yourself will give you an accurate enough idea of the temperature of the main body of water.

In this case, the wife's lawyer appeared to believe that she was in a cultural milieu where it was acceptable practice, not only to jeer and snort on the sidelines, but to lie to the judge about what the OP said.


Funny I was actually thinking the opposite, why in the world did you ever respect or trust a lawyer!?


The same reason you'd respect or trust anyone else?


Why did you file a Yelp Review and not a complaint with the Bar Association?

Further if the judge was ignoring you then file a complaint with chief judge.

Chances are nothing will come from a single complaint, but if a pattern emerges sanctions or even disbarment can be the result. I guarantee it will be more effective than a Yelp Review


...and even more "scientific" methods like finger-prints or DNA evidence. These methods of investigation are often portrayed in popular media as 100% effective in providing proof, however their real rates of effectiveness are quite a bit lower.

Is there hard data on the failure rate of fingerprint evidence? That's quite interesting.


Well, that's the thing, I don't think (to my knowledge, basically) that they even track such things. Finger-print analysis isn't even standardized, apparently.

Brandon Mayfield is one example of a high-level failure in such analysis. He was implicated in the Madrid bombings by a finger-print and thus faced serious international terrorism charges despite being completely innocent.

Here's an article that touches on some of the issues, and also mentions some of Brandon Mayfield's experience:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3445_162-4069140.html

A finger-print analyst in the linked article claims 98% efficacy, though there is no data to back up that number. With no standards and no apparent statistics to back up their successes and failures.


Please understand that there are much more relevant factors to the use of fingerprint to fingermark comparison evidence in court than their ability to discriminate under ideal laboratory conditions.

For some information see:

National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Institute of Justice, February 2012 report: "Latent Print Examination and Human Factors: Improving the Practice through a Systems Approach" (http://nij.gov/pubs-sum/latent-print-human-factors.htm)

In general there is a move towards probabilistic assessment of the strength of evidence (likelihood ratios), which offers a logically correct way of approaching problems in the forensic evaluation of evidence.


According to popular mechanics (http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/forensics/432...):

'No studies have proved definitively that fingerprints are unique. Likewise, it is unclear if prints change over time or vary depending on the amount of pressure applied. Statistical models and pattern-recognition software could go a long way toward answering these questions. Additionally, research is needed to expose error rates. The ACE-V method depends on two or more examiners reaching the same subjective conclusion, but doesn't require them to reach it the same way. In one recent experiment, veteran examiners looking twice at the same print came to different conclusions each time. "


> [...] the fiction of the efficacy of polygraphs

"Do they work?" is one question.

But if you apply for a job at any of the intelligence agencies (NSA, CIA, etc.), you'll have to pass this test. So be prepared.


Why do supposedly professional, competent organizations choose to use worthless voo-doo such as polygraphs for any reason whatsoever, let alone important functions such as hiring? Sounds to me like anybody helping illustrate their ineffectiveness is doing the world a favor.


Flawed, ostensibly objective tests for subjective, volatile, potentially unkowable information (ie polygraphs, job interviews, school aptitude tests, IQ tests, etc) adre all about passing the buck to the next guy. If it ever turns out that someone is an enemy spy, then the person who hired him can't be blamed, because he "passed the polygraph". It's about plausible deniabiltlity and CYA.


The most dangerous element that he, and several other, anti-polygraph coaches are teaching is that the polygraph itself isn't a very effective lie detector.

With proper sensors, a skilled technician, and good data analysis it's pretty accurate for specific questions (e.g. did you beat your wife), but terrible for general queries (e.g. do you have any desire to take any action which would cause damage to the United States, her government, or her interests.)

Soviet agents routinely beat the polygraph during the Cold War (see e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldrich_Ames, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Klingberg)

The usefulness of the polygraph for clearance purposes relies mainly upon the fact that people believe it works. Over 90% of information used to deny clearances is derived from voluntary admissions during the polygraph.

The truth is that Snowden used one of these services, and so now the government is shutting them all down. The particular company that investigated him for his clearance in Pennsylvania, which employs about 1,500 people, is also facing likely shutdown and serious charges.

Maybe, maybe, functional MRIs will give us real lie detectors, but until then it's really just a way to scare people while they're questioned by a skilled interrogator.

That said, definitely wouldn't recommend trying to lie. A good investigator is a pretty damn good lie detector all by him or herself.

Also, can we finally agree that wire-fraud, mail-fraud, and obstruction of justice are ridiculously overly broad statutes that basically make federal criminal jurisdiction universal?


>The most dangerous element that he, and several other, anti-polygraph coaches are teaching is that the polygraph itself isn't a very effective lie detector.

Dangerous for people taking the test or administering the test? Your comment seems ambivalent about the efficacy of tests.

>With proper sensors, a skilled technician, and good data analysis it's pretty accurate for specific questions... but terrible for general queries...

But is it accurate when used on people that have extensive training about how to beat the test?

>The usefulness of the polygraph for clearance purposes relies mainly upon the fact that people believe it works.

So why would telling people that it doesn't work be dangerous if it is "pretty accurate for specific questions?"

>That said, definitely wouldn't recommend trying to lie. A good investigator is a pretty damn good lie detector all by him or herself.

Good investigators have other skills use other things such as body language, speech patterns (e.g sudden shifts in tense when describing events), and facial micro-expressions (using systems such as FACS). So a good investigator wouldn't need a polygraph test.


>Dangerous for people taking the test or administering the test? Your comment seems ambivalent about the efficacy of tests.

Dangerous to the organizations that rely upon the test, in that lack of the belief in the efficacy of polygraphs decreases their usefulness as a screening tool.

>But is it accurate when used on people that have extensive training about how to beat the test?

No, its not particularly useful for any query if one has specific training in how to control one's physiological responses. The Soviets used general coaching, and I believe these modern firms are using biofeedback.

>So why would telling people that it doesn't work be dangerous if it is "pretty accurate for specific questions?"

The polygraph measures physiological indicators such as skin conductivity, heart rate, respiration, and muscle tension that are metrics of stress, stress being considered a proxy for deception.

The greatest effect of the polygraph coaching is that it reduces the subject's belief in the efficacy of the test, thereby reducing the stress response during the testing, which in turn makes untruthful responses appear truthful.

>Good investigators have other skills use other things such as body language, speech patterns (e.g sudden shifts in tense when describing events), and facial micro-expressions (using systems such as FACS). So a good investigator wouldn't need a polygraph test.

All of those are useful techniques, as is voice stress analysis which is supplanting polygraph in corporate security, but all can be fooled.

The biggest added advantage of all "objective" deception tests is that they increase stress on the subject, causing more indications of deception to leak through the facade. When people believe the tests aren't very effective, their efficacy decreases.

The future is in functional MRI technology. Memory and fabrication are two very different mental tasks, and I would imagine the difference should be detectable with current technology, although I'm certainly no expert.

The two firms I've seen in the space are Cephos and No Lie MRI, which are claiming ~97% accuracy (a useless number I realize, but the best I can find from their public information.)


>it's pretty accurate for specific questions (e.g. did you beat your wife)

Funny that you would use that gender-specific example. As if women didn't beat their husbands/boyfriends.


You're right.

A fairly large statistical portion of domestic violence is female to male, and the stereotype of the wife-beater has certainly led to a lot of false prosecutions against men (falsely accused of being the aggressor) and situations that police ignored until a female assailant escalated to deadly force.

I used it because it's the standard placeholder of an unwitnessed violent crime in law enforcement discussions.

Perpetuating harmful stereotypes is not cool in any case. Sincere apologies. I lieu of editing, since the time's elapsed, have some karma :)


Prison seems like a good place to have those skills and pass them along.


I sometimes think of prisons as of wolf-farms. Place where wolves get trained and where they go to rest to come back even stronger. Coursera of criminal world.


There is something theater of the absurd about forcing large numbers of people with criminal tendencies to spend long periods of time together and then releasing them into society.

The line from the movie Blow comes to mind:

Danbury wasn't a prison. It was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of Marijuana. Came out with a Doctorate of Cocaine.


Letting the guy go because his techniques are ineffective only guarantees that everyone will sit up and take notice when they do prosecute someone.

IMO, a better strategy would be to prosecute everyone, including and preferably starting with those whose techniques are _not_ effective.

Following that line of logic, if we believe the government to be clever, then we can't draw conclusions as to the efficacy of his techniques, but if we believe the government to be naive or reactionary, then we should conclude that his techniques work.

Either way, the real method will find its way into the public domain sooner or later, and the only question is how easily accessible it'll be to the average joe.


Of course, it could also be an elaborate scheme on the part of the government to convince people his techniques work, precisely because they don't!


Hardly a possibility. More of a reality.


If I were to hypothetically send two FBI agents to your door, you'd probably take the situation very seriously. I don't see why you have trouble taking the people you don't see seriously. This isn't the DMV.


Just because it is serious doesn't mean the government isn't stupid. That is why they are dangerous, because they are violent, stupid, and very serious.


Don't forget the most scary of all, well meaning.

http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/C..S..Lewis.Quote.E...


Michael Shermer of "Skeptic" magazine covered how easy lie detectors are to game here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLL3wtgBiFA

In the video, a former Polygraph Examiner, Doug Williams coaches him on how to beat the test. Then they test Mr Shermer and he defeats the test easily.

Polygraphs are so prone to bad data, they should be retired ASAP. They're slightly more effective than dowsing rods. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowsing

In related news, Iraq spent $38 million on dowsing rods to "detect" bombs: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-11/in-iraq-the-...

How many lives have been lost or ruined due to lack of basic understanding of available science?


http://www.wikihow.com/Cheat-a-Polygraph-Test-(Lie-Detector)

has several good tips on how to cheat polygraph tests. I actually strongly encourage everyone to read up on polygraph tests and how to cheat them, here's why: they've been wrong again and again, they've gotten innocent men in trouble. There's a very real probability that the polygraph can say you're lying even when you're not lying. To save yourself from getting caught by these pseduo-scientific tests if ever you're in the position, prepare yourself now, learn about the polygraph tests and how you can use them to your benefit.


> they've gotten innocent men in trouble. There's a very real probability that the polygraph can say you're lying even when you're not lying.

This is because the polygraph doesn't measure incidents of lies, but it measures fear. Fear of wrongful conviction can be interpreted as lying, which is how it has gotten innocent people (not just men!) in trouble.


Probably the mere fact that you've spent a lot of money on anti-polygraph training does a lot to reduce that fear, regardless of what techniques you were taught.


On antipolygraph.org, there is a free download of a much more in depth (and apparently well-researched) analysis and description of techniques called The Lie Behind The Lie Detector. Note that they very reasonably advise that unless there's pretty much no other choice, the best way not to fail a polygraph is not to take one at all.


I don't know about you, but my programs never compile the first time I write them. I wouldn't recommend anyone using these techniques on the internet unless you can test them out on a real polygraph.


The bad news is that replicating an actual polygraph scenario is basically impossible. Even if you go in for a real polygraph, it won't be the same as having something riding on it.

The good news is twofold:

1. It's seems not to be as difficult to fool a polygraph as it is to get code to compile.

2. You can measure some of the factors they look at. A heart rate monitor, for example, can aid in practicing raising your pulse.


You can replicate a real test, but it requires considerable effort:

First, you need someone capable of imitating a trained polygrapher. The simplest option is to hire one, but from what I know of polygraphy I'm pretty sure that a magician could do the job with a few hours study.

Second, you need an accurate simulation of real polygraphy equipment. Again, you can just pay for a test, or you can rig something up with a galvanometer, heart rate monitor, and spirometer.

Thirdly, as you said, you see to have "something riding on it." Hand a trusted confidant a quarter of your monthly income and tell them to give it to a charity antithetical to your beliefs if you fail the test.


An interesting idea. Actually, since various sources have gotten ahold of standard scripts, you could probably have a friend of a friend (you need someone unfamiliar) do the administration, although that won't help with the "trained interrogator" factor.

Amazon carries a $100 USB polygraph machine, but most of the reviews say it gives the same readings regardless of whether you attach it to a person. Assembling your own stuff might make more sense.


The problem is it's very hard to test even with a real polygraph. You'd have to somehow induce real fear. It's not just about lying, in of itself.


>they've been wrong again and again...

So how can you know how to cheat them?

But if they are any good, then surely the technicians recognize false negatives. "Hah! You're trying to cheat the polygraph! That's a crime!"

It ain't Kafka anymore. It's USA. I can't believe I used to worry about redneck country cops and a few days taking it in the pokey. Might as well just take your chances with a RND function if you're detained now. Of course, if you're a young black male the algo is weighed heavily against you. Money buys a lot of decimal places.


>So how can you know how to cheat them?

I don't understand the basis of your question. To say "this test does not correlate with the phenomenon it purports to measure" is not the same as to say "this test is completely random".

Counting how many times a person says the word "baby" during an answer is a piss-poor way to tell if they're lying, in large part because that factor won't correlate strongly with deception. It would also be extremely easy to fool, by simply controlling how many times you say "baby".


Didn't mean to say polygraphs are random, but that the US jusice system is so out whack that once someone is under suspicion, conviction (for something) has little to do with guilt or innocence on initial grounds.


Note this detail from the article:

“Teaching about the flaws of polygraph testing is not inherently illegal. […] Dixon was charged after he helped undercover agents learn to cheat the test after they told him specifically that they intended to lie as they applied for federal jobs.”

So Dixon’s charge isn’t simply helping people beat a government test. It’s aiding candidates in gaining government jobs, even though he knows that those candidates are unqualified for those jobs (according to official measures). I think that makes Dixon’s charging more understandable.

Now, one may disagree that the questions they ask in such tests are an accurate way of finding good candidates. I don’t know what sorts of questions they ask. But the government’s response is understable, because they believe that the tests really do qualify one for the job.


You're probably going to be voted down for saying that, even though you are right. It's like loaning or selling a felon a gun - if I know they are a felon, I'm breaking the law.

A bunch of sanctimonious posters on here will scream out the first amendment and the erosion of our rights but won't bother actually seeing this story for what it really is.


Polygraphs are such bullshit, that I still think this was a case of governmental insanity.


The article never actually connects the conviction with the story, so we have to speculate I suppose.

> even though he knows that those candidates are unqualified for those jobs

How would he know that? Is he familiar with the hiring criteria of every government agency?


Was it actually confirmed that he was actually told that?

Seems like a good story to justify shutting him down.


Is it a crime to lie on a resume then? Is it a crime for me to explain how to lie to you on a resume?

Is it cool to throw someone in jail for explaining the best way to lie?

Every thing is a nail to you people, waiting to be solved with the hammer of violence.


From reading the article, the crucial point is that Dixon's clients told him they were going to use his training to do illegal stuff. Up to that point, Dixon's teachings were protected by the First Amendment. He should have told them to get lost and reported them to the appropriate authorities.

E.g., it's perfectly legal to write articles and teach classes and post YouTube videos on picking locks. Even if the knowledge you spread causes lock makers to lose money and their employees to lose jobs. Indeed, your teachings help society by exposing false security.

However, if someone tells you they are planning a burglary spree and tries to engage you to give a seminar on unusual locks, then you better tell them to take a hike, or you are prosecutable.


I am not arguing whether or not it is prosecutable, I am arguing whether or not it is fucking stupid.

Criminalizing knowledge is bullshit. Why should the burden of ratting people out be placed on this dude? It is such bullshit.

Should it be illegal to tell people how to make meth? What about making alcohol? Should it have been illegal to teach people to make liquor in 1919? What about December 31st 11:59 PM 1918?

This whole thing is fucking stupid and the feds have way more interesting things to do than harass people for telling people how to cheat tests.

Its the same line of thought as suing gun manufacturers for murders or alcohol companies for drunk driving. It removes responsibility from the individual.

Not to mention this was a fucking manufactured crime. Glad every serious crime has been solved so we can bust a dude for teaching people to pass lie detector tests, which are unscientific pieces of garbage to begin with.


>Not to mention this was a fucking manufactured crime.

Absolutely.

Dixon was obviously entrapped. That is to say, the feds threw a bunch of shills at him, who said basically, "teach me how to beat the machine so I can do something wrong". Dixon fell for it, pleaded guilty, and now is awaiting sentencing.

The interesting question is, what did Dixon do that caused the feds to go to such lengths to railroad him?


"entrapment" is such a diluted phrase these days. What entrapment really means is that a law enforcement officer encouraged someone to do something that they wouldn't have done otherwise. If an undercover cop asks a drug dealer for drugs, this is not entrapment.

Entrapment would be like if an undercover officer put a gun to someone's head and told them to steal something, then arrested them for stealing. Or if an undercover officer became the leader of a peaceful activist movement, and then started preaching that they should get violent; then arrested all of the protesters that got violent.

It gets a little sticky in some cases, like the Portland bomber case. The undercover FBI agents kept asking him if he really wanted to do it. Looking at it one way you could say that they were discouraging him from doing it. On the other hand, he thought that they were terrorists, so even if he found himself in over his head, he would be unlikely to feel like he could back out at any time. Saying, "You can back out at any time," could just as easily be a ruse to test his resolve.


There is a difference between imparting knowledge and aiding the commission of a crime. Do you think the guy that plans a bank robbery, telling the grunts how to get in and get out, is guilty of a crime? Well that's just knowledge after all...

Again, the knowledge here isn't criminalized. What's criminalized is helping someone commit a crime. That makes you an accomplice. You cross that line from passing knowledge to participating and helping when you give knowledge knowing that the person intends to use it to commit a crime.

Knowledge isn't treated any differently than other kinds of help. E.g. Selling a gun isn't illegal. Selling a gun to someone who says he's going to murder his wife with it is illegal.


"Is it a crime to lie on a resume then? " Yes, in some cases, it is :) It depends on the job you are applying for, and what the lie is.


It shouldn't be a criminal offense. It should be a civil tort.

Please explain the rationale of using jail to punish someone for lying on a resume. How does that make the world a better place?


Surgeon and civil engineer come to mind as rofessions where you can be criminally incompetent.


Again, surgeons and engineers have to take certifications to prove they have the credentials they speak of.

They would have to forge documents on top of lying on their resumes.

You're really drifting from lying to fraud.


People can have certificates and be incompetent, and lie to get a job. See http://www.texasobserver.org/anatomy-tragedy/ (discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6306289) for an example of a surgeon who lied about the cause of medical complications.


Hold on though, are we talking about "should be legal" now or "is legal"? If we're talking about "should" then the answer to every question is that anything to nullify the credibility of the polygraph is good, and anything that strengthens its credibility is bad, assuming all other factors are equal.


Possibly because you can put lives at risk by lying.

Suppose I falsely claim I know CPR. My employer is now not liable if I fail to perform CPR correctly and kill somebody, since my fraud was criminal.


You don't check a resume to see if someone is able to perform a task, especially CPR. There are certifications for that.

Pretty much anything remotely safety critical these days relies on some sort of licensing, so you would have to create a fake document certifying yourself.

Your example is so fucking contrived it isn't funny.


>Please explain the rationale of using jail to punish someone for lying on a resume.

MS lobbying in WA.


It's less teaching them to lie, and more aiding them in defrauding the state. If he didn't know their purpose it wouldn't be a problem.


Is it a crime to lie on a resume then?

Yes, that's called fraud.


There's degrees of fraud. I have never met another human being who wasen't a fraud. It's how much of a fraud they are? I don't trust anyone who claims they never lie, or broke the law. Excuse the bad grammer; I'm tired.


The Anderson Report[1] into scientology stated that the E-meter[2] is used:

"...to assume, intensify and retain control over the minds and wills of preclears. Fears of its abilities keep them in constant subjection. Its use can be so manipulated by cunningly phrased questions that almost any desired result can be obtained, and it is used unscrupulously to dominate students and staff alike. All the evil features of scientology are intensified where the E-meter is involved. When used in conjunction with hypnotic techniques, its evil impact is greatly increased. This simple electrical device is not, of course, the sole basis for the condemnation of scientology, but without the E-meter scientology would be partly disarmed."

The use of psychological manipulation[3] tools works well for scientology. Polygraphy works better because it is backed by a larger community of supporters that are just as deceived as the subjects. Polygraphy has also benefited from decades of use in movies--ensuring much of the world's population now believes in the deception.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anderson_Report

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-meter

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_manipulation


It should be noted that both Scientology and the variety of government intelligence agencies (CIA, NSA, etc) have an obsession with berating examinees accusatory and spurious questions and claims, the goal being to get the examinees to incriminate themselves.

Famously (or infamously), a Scientologist examiner's opening question is usually "What are your lies? Everybody has lies, tell me about yours."


In general, teaching which is not intended to facilitate crime is protected speech. (Beating a polygraph isn't inherently, a crime. It depends on the context.) But, if you know or reasonably should know that you're aiding in the commission of crime, then you have committed a crime. You needn't be explicitly informed of criminal intentions by your students. Willful ignorance will not protect you from prosecution.

So, for example, mere publication of a book on polygraph countermeasures is probably protected speech, particularly if the information is presented as valuable data for public debate, rather than instructions for would-be criminals. (Don't take my word for it, and remember I said "probably.") But, if a person coaches individuals, and a reasonable person in the same position would suspect criminal intentions, then the coach is probably no longer engaging in protected speech.

One wonders, then, where the line is drawn. How much does one have to know about his students before it becomes actual knowledge of willful ignorance, both of which can result in conviction? One can reasonably assume that at least some percentage of all polygraph evaders do so in a context where it's criminal. How does this affect the legality of teaching countermeasures in a one-on-one context?

It turns out that the distinctions are subtle, and the case law complex. I would recommend the following read if you're interested in the finer points:

http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/facilitating.pdf

The above article doesn't provide a clear answer about teaching polygraph countermeasures, specifically. If anything, it shows that the outcome will depend on a lot of particulars of the case. I don't think one can answer the question in a general sense.


The government is abusing the justice system to imprison anyone that represents even a low level threat to it. That is a hallmark of some of the worst regimes in the history of the world. Regardless of his sentence, they have achieved their purpose: to make sure that Americans believe, incorrectly, that it is illegal to protect their rights when the government wants to encroach them.

They convicted this guy largely on a technicality - that they happened to mention that they would be using the knowledge he was teaching them illegally. Even that is a stretch of the law. Next we'll have DEA agents walking into 7-11's buying skittles and Arizona watermelon fruit juice, saying the word "lean" to the checkout person, then indicting the 7-11 organization for complicity in illegal drug manufacturing if they sell the items.


What are the legalities in the US with respect to teaching people?

If I'm teaching something and a student says they intend to use what I'm teaching to commit a crime am I legally required to do anything at that point?

Is it different if the student says they're going to use the education to cheat a background test as opposed to some other bad activity?

Is it different if the skills are generally considered more harmful (martial arts, lock picking) versus less harmful (bike riding, painting, gymnastics)?


> am I legally required to do anything at that point?

No, but if you continue you become an accomplice.


Before people get too carried away, the reason why he's in trouble isn't that he was teaching people to beat the lie detector.

This bit is very important: It's because he was teaching it with knowledge that the techniques would be used for nefarious and illegal things. This is arguably aiding criminal intent. IANAL, but that itself carries a very different connotation with his actions. If he was objectively teaching this to highlight the failures of the detector and showing that it can be beaten, but not directly aiding any criminal activity, it would have been different.

The moment he knew the "clients" were engaging in or about to engage in something illegal or legally dubious, he should have distanced himself.

And for proof, the article itself mentions that many others who do the same thing, highlight the inadequacies and teach ways to circumvent it, have thus far not been prosecuted.


I can't help but feel that there is something one-sided & missing from this story.

Two questions (one being discussed already):

"pleaded guilty in December to wire fraud and obstruction of an agency proceeding"

1) I didn't see any mention of the wire fraud charges - can anyone clarify that part? (Over the phone or mail, but that would have to be fraud - in which case, they are saying his technique doesn't work. Which opens a different problem)

2) There are laws against aiding & abetting. If I teach you to crack a safe, it's freedom of speech. If you tell me, "teach me how to crack a safe because I'm planning to rob 1st National", I am absolutely an accomplice & will be charged

The story tries to paint this as a man being prosecuted for teaching a technique, but I don't see that at all.


It's probably just because he got paid to do it.


In a way then, why aren't lawyers under the same kind of threat? Don't they advise people in order to avoid incriminating themselves?


This should absolutely not be illegal.


It's not. The part that is illegal is encouraging people to lie to the government. They're two different things.


The fact that you must take a polygraph test to join the government is ridiculous on its face. I cannot believe it... For some stupid reason I thought governments were better than believing obviously pseudo-scientific bullshit. Sigh :(


Encouraging people to lie to the government shouldn't be illegal either. Lying to the government perhaps should be (though that's debatable), but encouraging or teaching how should not.


Aye, and I can't find the relevant statute.


How so?


Considering that polygraphs give false positives quite frequently, and polygraph tests are inadmissible as evidence in the US, I can't see how teaching someone to manipulate one should be illegal...

Of course, the guy didn't just teach people how to manipulate them, he taught people who intended to defraud the state (in a manner of soaking). If he had just not cared about their intent, he wouldn't have a problem.


Yeah, that was my line of reasoning.

EDIT: Oh, sorry, I misread the original comment.


I'd like to be outraged, but it does seem like he deserves to serve time.

He's not being prosecuted for providing information generally on how to cheat a polygraph. He committed a crime when he willingly and knowingly aided actual criminals. (Ex. a federal agent with drug cartel ties.)

That's absolutely a crime. Just like it's legal to sell thallium, but it's certainly not legal to sell it to someone who tells me they intend to kill with it.

And it seems he didn't maintain plausible deniability.

(Bring on the downvotes.)


>I'd like to be outraged, but it does seem like he deserves to serve time.

"Deserves"? Do you assign this moral priority only to the current snapshot of American law, or do you apply it to American law in general, or do you apply it to the laws of whatever country a person resides in?

>(Bring on the downvotes.)

I wouldn't have if you hadn't said that.


> "Deserves"? Do you assign this moral priority only to the current snapshot of American law, or do you apply it to American law in general, or do you apply it to the laws of whatever country a person resides in?

I actually think this moral judgement is irrespective of the legal environment. He knowingly, though not directly, aided a ruthless criminal organization. To me, that's immoral regardless of what country you reside in.


So the prosecutor alleges. The problem I have with this is that it doesn't make sense. Why would he tell him to refer to his brother as a "distant relative"? This doesn't seem like remotely sound advice for fooling a polygraph. Better advice would be "lie and pretend you don't know anyone who is into anything like that, and then use countermeasures on the control questions so that they don't know you're lying".

I mean, what scenario could they have been talking about where that advice would make the slightest bit of sense? Had he mentioned his brother before, and Dixon was advising him to backtrack ("My mistake, I thought he was my brother, but he's actually my fourth cousin twice removed")? Did CBP already independently know about him, and that they were related but somehow not know they were brothers?

I get that this was a sting, so the scenario in question was fictitious, but I cannot fathom a story the agent could have told Dixon where that would have been good advice. The only vaguely plausible explanation I can think of is that Dixon was trying to subtly trick the guy into getting caught by volunteering the connection unnecessarily.


> aided actual criminals

Could you be more specific in what crimes he aided in? Falsifying polygraph test results isn't a crime, since the test results are inadmissible in court cases.


> Falsifying polygraph test results isn't a crime

Yes it is: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1505


>any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act

IANAL but that appears only to deal with the stuff dealt with here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1312 . That only applies to antitrust investigations.


I think you're right! My mistake, thank you for correcting me.

So maybe that's not relevant statute in this case? What else could "obstruction of an agency proceeding" refer to?


> Falsifying polygraph test results isn't a crime, since the test results are inadmissible in court cases. True. But it is an obstruction of justice, and it seems pretty clear that some people were soliciting his services to cover up non-polygraph crimes.

For example, providing false identification to members of the Zetas drug cartel is definitely a crime (and, considering their penchant for bloodshed, a pretty despicable one). It's also whether the "convicted sex offenders" used his training to avoid capture for additional crimes (which would make him something of an accomplice).

Just not clear how we could defend a man who knowingly trained people doing some pretty nefarious things.


The emperor does NOT like being told he is naked.


I'm completely confused as to how teaching someone techniques for thwarting lie detectors are "wire fraud and obstruction of an agency proceeding".

Obstruction of agency proceedings is (per 18 USC c 1505) "Whoever, with intent to avoid, evade, prevent, or obstruct compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act, willfully withholds, misrepresents, removes from any place, conceals, covers up, destroys, mutilates, alters, or by other means falsifies any documentary material, answers to written interrogatories, or oral testimony, which is the subject of such demand; or attempts to do so or solicits another to do so".

I'm no lawyer, but that sounds to me like you would have to materially intervene in the actual agency proceedings not merely arm people with knowledge of things like breathing techniques. This strikes me as the same nonsense that used to be used against people that taught lockpicking.


He plead to 18 USC § 1505 "Obstruction of proceedings".

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1505

Seems he was party to an evading an investigation by misrepresenting testimony. That is, knowingly helping somebody lie.

This reminds me of 18 USC § 1001, "Making false statements".

This could be used to go after other "polygraph countermeasure" purveyors. You would have to never advise clients to lie. "Don't lie, try to evade the question, etc."


mistercow points out that this statute only applies to antitrust investigations, I don't see how it could apply in this case.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6309891


Congress shall make no law ...


Penn and Teller did an episode of bullshit on this. The key is to clench your anus muscles. Immediately spikes the charts. Just keep doing that to every question and all of their data is invalid.


That is not quite a nuanced enough approach to be effective.

First of all, what you have to do is determine which questions are "control" questions. These are questions where the interregator expects less than 100% honesty, and they use responses to these questions as a comparison when asking you the "relevant" questions. For example, they might ask "Have you ever lied to get out of trouble?", or "Have you ever revealed a secret told to you by a friend?" You use your false-positive triggers on these questions, exaggerating the response the interrogator will associate with deception. [Edit: To clarify, the point here is that you don't want to give the interrogator a high entropy data set; that would just lead to them thinking you were lying at random. You want their data to give a very specific indication: that you have been truthful on all relevant questions]

Secondly, the latest edition of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector[1] notes that examiners have begun using sensors to attempt detect physical countermeasures, such as sensors to detect changes in weight distribution. It has not been determined if they are able to detect intentional anus constriction, but in the interest of caution, they advise sticking to mental countermeasures and tongue-biting, which definitely cannot be detected (although I would expect some attempt to detect the latter in the future).

Finally, it's really important to remember that these examiners are interrogators. The lie detector is a tool that they use, and in many ways it is a misdirection. One of its key purposes is to make you feel that they have an edge. Knowing that you can fool it is an important piece of the puzzle, but you must always remember that their bottom line is to get you to make damaging admissions. They are well-trained at this, and they will certainly use other techniques besides their toys.

[1] https://antipolygraph.org/lie-behind-the-lie-detector.pdf


Those control questions don't even make sense to me because I don't see how you would expect dishonesty in answering those questions. The answer is yes for every human on this planet so why would I try and lie about something that I also have in common with the person interrogating me.


Yes, quite.


Ah, the Kegel defense.


As a Lie Detector Antidetection Instructor – a "Lie Instructor", essentially – any prospective student who tells you their illegal plans is either an undercover agent, or has so little natural talent for lying they should be rejected from further instruction in any case.


Could you tell people something like "If you did intend to lie on the polygraph test, you should by no means tell anyone that, including me"? Or would that be too legally risky.

It seems like otherwise you have something of a moral quandry. The lie detector is ineffective, so without instruction in countermeasures, a person guilty of one thing could still end up accused of another based on their performance. Whatever they're actually guilty of, that scenario is negative utility for everyone.


The man committed a horrible deed - he helped likely criminals escape the reach of justice. But the terrible truth here is that interpreting the squiggles of a lie-detector test is not science. Perhaps we as a society rely to much on this "so called" technology.


This man did not commit any terrible deed. Instructors teach people how to use guns every day. Some of these people go on to kill people and commit crimes, but no one would suggest you prosecute the firearms instructors.

All this case does is point out how stupid polygraph tests are. Nothing more.

If, as the government claims, Chad Dixon taught methods that allow subjects of polygraphs to effectively cheat them, then polygraphs can easily be cheated. If polygraphs can be easily cheated then why is anyone relying on polygraphs for anything.

Polygraphs are part operational security theatre and part invasive intrusion on someone's personal life. As this sad story proves they offer little more.


Instructors teach people how to use guns every day. Some of these people go on to kill people and commit crimes, but no one would suggest you prosecute the firearms instructors.

Unless the students being taught told the instructors in advance that they were going to use the education to kill people and commit crimes, which is exactly what happened here.

That being said, I agree with everything else you said.


The difference between Dixon’s case and the gun instructor case is that, to use your analogy, the students on gun use actually told the instructor that they planned to go out and shoot someone. That is, people told Dixon that they were going to lie on these tests (rather than just prevent the test giving them a false negative).

Now, getting a government job you’re unqualified for isn’t as bad as murdering someone, but it’s still a bad thing for society. Unqualified people in government jobs would presumably make the government run less efficiently with respect to taxpayer money, and less effectively, which could be especially bad if these government jobs help people.


>he helped likely criminals escape the reach of justice

The lie detector is ineffective, and "catching" someone based on it is not justice, regardless of their guilt.

Consider a thought experiment (which is admittedly loaded, but instructive, I think): suppose that the government is institutionally anti-Irish. During their interrogations, they routinely ask for documentation of family history, and if they find that you have Irish ancestry, that weighs heavily against you.

As an objector to this unjust state of affairs, you specialize in falsification of documents to obscure Irish ancestry. Some of your clients admit to you that they have in fact committed crimes, but you help them anyway. Have you "committed a horrible deed" in ensuring that their fate is not decided by non-evidence?

>Perhaps we as a society rely to much on this "so called" technology

Perhaps?


We normally call the people who committ this 'horrible deed', defense attorneys.


Teaching a gardening class, kick out the pot smoker else you may be aiding future drug production. Easy for law enforcement to frame people and jail them for aiding and abetting a possible future criminal. That's right, not a current criminal, but hypothetical possible future intent by an individual. And we can extend that to negligence. The karate instructor better kick out the grade school student who says they want to punch the bully at school. People have to be paranoid about who they interact with and by law we must watch out for the governments interests, disassociate with those the State may label criminal for some possible crime in the future.


> Dixon was charged after he helped undercover agents learn to cheat the test after they told him specifically that they intended to lie as they applied for federal jobs.

I think that might just be the reason why they are going after this guy and not the rest.

It's one thing to talk about bank robberies, it's another thing to provide bank-robbery consultation services to bank robbers.


Does anyone know what "wire fraud" has to do with this?

That charge has been used in a number of recent "hacking" cases, where it makes a bit more sense (though still over blown), but I can't quite figure out what it has to do with teaching people how to remain calm while being questioned.


There was a wire and some fraud? Prosecutors love to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks, it also helps them extort a plea bargain when the choice is between argue your way out of 1000 years in prison or take 5.


Does it occur to anyone here that he is set up and put in prison to teach someone in prison working for some shady agency how he can deal with his next interrogation and be set free of guilt? Would be a great movie script, though.


I was under the impression that polygraph results were inadmissible as evidence in court proceedings, and if so, of what importance is teaching people how to beat "lie detector" tests?


They are essentially inadmissible as evidence (this is apparently not quite that clear cut, but as far as I can tell, it'll do for our discussion) but it is not disallowed as a post-conviction measure. Apparently, once you've been convicted, the laws of logic magically stop applying to your situation.


They are used widely in employment screenings at the NSA, CIA, etc.


That is utterly stupid...


Lie detector tests are mainly used as a prop for an interrogator to convince you to tell them things.


Indeed. And the fact the government must "interrogate" you before they'll let you join the FBI, NSA, etc. is mind boggling.


These tests should be administered on top politicians from time to time, and only would they consider banning them.

Like, along with an oath, let a President take a lie-detector test.


No, the polygraph examination is a psychologically manipulative torture technique meant to intimidate the subject into submission. The main goal of the polygraph examination is to get the examinee to incriminate themselves through a verbal confession.

Nobody should be subject to it, and its use should be banned. It should be no surprise that the widespread use of this technique has attracted sadists and other predatory individuals.


Would you believe such a test?


Probably more than I'd believe a politician directly.


Interesting strategy, to prosecute, as the publicity will only raise awareness of lie detector beating techniques.

Better to research new mind reading style lie detection systems.


It serves far more than to simply raise awareness of the techniques for beating it, namely to deter other would-be teachers.

The government's hounding of him -- like their current hounding of Edward Snowden and their previous hounding of Aaron Schwartz -- is a naked assertion of dominance.


What the actual fuck. Polygraphs are unscientific bullshit snake oil anyway and I can't believe America still uses and believes in them.


The next time someone asks you why privacy matters, you can remind them that the government is now prosecuting speech as thoughtcrime.


So detector tests are basically "security by obscurity"?


This is BS.


The end of freedom.




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