NSA Aside, It’s Way Too Easy For Government to Snoop On You

Since Edward Snowden’s leaks, much attention has been paid to the domestic surveillance capabilities of the NSA, which have turned out to be more egregious than many predicted. But it’s worth remembering that the government has all kinds of ways to invade the privacy of innocent Americans.

McClatchy has a bombshell story up about a federal investigation into two men who had purportedly been teaching people how to beat the polygraph test, or “lie detector.” It should be noted that the polygraph is seen as “so unreliable that most courts don’t allow the results to be submitted as evidence against criminal suspects.”

Still, people applying for employment in federal agencies are often subjected to the polygraph. And in the governments latest effort to rout out potential “insider threats,” or employees they think may choose to blow the whistle, the polygraph is viewed as an important screening process.

In the course of investigating these two men for the high crime of teaching people how to pass polygraphs, federal agencies – including the CIA, NSA, IRS, FDA, and others – collected and retained the names and personal information of 4,904 people suspected of hearing the polygraph-cheating advice. McClatchy:

Federal officials gathered the information from the customer records of two men who were under criminal investigation for purportedly teaching people how to pass lie detector tests. The officials then distributed a list of 4,904 people – along with many of their Social Security numbers, addresses and professions – to nearly 30 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. Although the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven, authorities hoped to find government employees or applicants who might have tried to use them to lie during the tests required for security clearances. Officials with multiple agencies confirmed that they’d checked the names in their databases and planned to retain the list in case any of those named take polygraphs for federal jobs or criminal investigations.

It turned out, however, that many people on the list worked outside the federal government and lived across the country. Among the people whose personal details were collected were nurses, firefighters, police officers and private attorneys, McClatchy learned. Also included: a psychologist, a cancer researcher and employees of Rite Aid, Paramount Pictures, the American Red Cross and Georgetown University.

Moreover, many of them had only bought books or DVDs from one of the men being investigated and didn’t receive the one-on-one training that investigators had suspected. In one case, a Washington lawyer was listed even though he’d never contacted the instructors. Dozens of others had wanted to pass a polygraph not for a job, but for a personal reason: The test was demanded by spouses who suspected infidelity.

The unprecedented creation of such a list and decision to disseminate it widely demonstrate the ease with which the federal government can collect and share Americans’ personal information, even when there’s no clear reason for doing so.

So because two schmucks ran some infomercial-worthy scam telling people how to beat polygraphs, the government collected and stored information on almost 5,000 citizens, many of whom had no intention of applying for government jobs. If you bought a book from these two men, the CIA knows about it. If you cheated on your wife and wanted to beat a polygraph, the NSA knows about it. Hell, the Food and Drug Administration has a file on you if you happened to have watched a DVD about polygraphs.

The surveillance state comes in many forms. This scandal McClatchy has uncovered illustrates two things. First, the Obama administrations “Insider Threat Program,” also uncovered by McClatchy last June, has not only put a chill on investigative journalism that relies on leaks from government sources, but it has also expanded the federal government’s ability to spy on Americans in a flagrant invasion of privacy. Secondly, the story illustrates how easy it is for the government to target and track you, your family, your personal habits, your credit card history and a host of other personal attributes. That is less the result of a single anti-whistleblower crackdown program, but rather a result of Big Government and the surveillance state.

4 thoughts on “NSA Aside, It’s Way Too Easy For Government to Snoop On You”

  1. So, did CIA/NSA/FDA then pass this information on to their Israeli masters (oops, I mean Israeli “allies”).

  2. I am the only polygraph expert who has ever told the truth about the polygraph, and the truth is, the polygraph is not a "lie detector". I have been telling the truth about the scam called lie detection for almost forty years now in hopes of destroying the dangerous myth of "lie detection". Carl Sagan said, "If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth." I was instrumental in destroying a large part of the polygraph industry by getting most polygraph testing outlawed in the private sector. In 1988, with the passage of the EMPLOYEE POLYGRAPH PROTECTION ACT, administering polygraph tests actually became a federal crime! Even the U.S. Supreme Court refused to admit polygraph results into evidence, and ironically it was the U.S. Justice Department who argued that the polygraph results were not reliable and should not be admitted into evidence! I was a member of the Office of Technology Assessment, (an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress), studying the validity and reliability of the polygraph – our report basically said it was worthless as a "lie detector". I also testified in the U.S. Congress in support of the EPPA. Click here to read a transcript of my testimony: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.3901501… (My testimony begins on pg 275) Here is an interesting piece of historical trivia: When I testified in Congress, I put my manual, HOW TO STING THE POLYGRAPH into the Congressional Record, and the Senators and Representatives distributed more copies of my manual between 1984 and 1988 than anyone has ever distributed – including me! They sent them out by the tens of thousands in response to requests from constituents. But, there were exclusions written into the law that allowed the government – local state and federal – to continue to use the polygraph. They attempt to justify these exclusions on the grounds that the government needs this tool to protect national security and the law enforcement officials need it to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system. I have proved the polygraph is not a "lie detector" – the Congress, the Justice Department, the OTA, and all those with any scientific credibility agree with me – so there is no justification for the government to continue to use it on the pretext that it protects our national security or the integrity of the criminal justice system.

    It is FOOLISH and DANGEROUS to use the polygraph as "lie detector" – the theory of "lie detection" is nothing but junk science. It is based on a faulty scientific premise. The polygraph operators have the audacity to say that there is such a thing as a "reaction indicative of deception", when I can prove that "lying reaction" is simply a nervous reaction commonly referred to as the fight or flight syndrome. In fact, the polygraph is nothing but a psychological billy club that is used to coerce a person into making admissions or confessions. It is FOOLISH and DANGEROUS for government agencies to rely on the polygraph to "test" applicants, or to conduct any type of investigations relating to national security. It is FOOLISH and DANGEROUS for the criminal justice system to rely on an instrument that has been thoroughly discredited to determine whether or not a person is truthful or deceptive, or to use it to guide their investigations in any way – especially when the results cannot even be used as evidence in a court of law! And it is FOOLISH and DANGEROUS for anyone to believe they will pass their polygraph "test" if they just tell the truth! When you factor in all the damage done to people who are falsely branded as liars by these con men and their unconscionable conduct, this fraud of "lie detection" perpetrated by the polygraph industry should be a federal crime! The protection provided to some people by the EPPA should be extended to protect everyone from this insidious Orwellian instrument of torture! Shame on anyone who administers these "tests" – and shame on the government for continuing to allow this state sponsored sadism!

  3. Still, people applying for employment in federal agencies are often subjected to the polygraph. And in the governments latest effort to rout out potential “insider threats,” or employees they think may choose to blow the whistle, the polygraph is viewed as an important screening process.

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