A recent tweet of mine attracted the attention of George Maschke, the well-known polygraph skeptic behind the website, AntiPolygraph.org. Needless to say, the virtual conversation that followed was interesting. At times, however, it left me scratching my head in disbelief and wondering if Maschke was against everything.
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The conversation-starting tweet, related to my latest nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, went public as follows at 2:05 p.m. Central Sunday:
As you read, forget that the polygraph is the only credibility assessment technology approved for use inside DoD. http://ow.ly/rMGeb.
The statement made in the tweet refers to the content of a 2007 memo issued by James R. Clapper Jr. that made the polygraph the Department of Defense‘s credibility assessment “tool of choice.” The link at the end of the tweet led to my then-latest piece, Man Confesses to Murder Days After Polygraph Exonerates Him, related to the book inspired by the memo — THE CLAPPER MEMO.
During the next 24 hours, more than 20 tweets were exchanged.
“Like polygraphy, CVSA is without scientific basis,” Maschke wrote in his first reply to my tweet, adding “Both are junk science developed by non-scientists.”
His criticism of CVSA®, short for Computer Voice Stress Analyzer®, was no surprise. Anyone who visits his website will see he bashes it as a credibility assessment technology as readily as he does polygraph. The second part of his tweet was a surprise.
Apparently, according to Maschke, a technology must be developed or invented by scientists in order to be legitimate. Embracing such a position requires one to conclude, for example, that Guglielmo Marconi‘s work in radio transmission is a scam, that Henry Ford’s mastery of the assembly line remains unproven and that Bill Gates’ little software enterprise stands as an unvalidated fad. Obviously, such conclusions would be ludicrous — as would any about CVSA® being “junk science” simply because it was developed by three retired Army intelligence officers instead of scientists.
Rather than express that opinion to Maschke, however, I told him something else.
“You make your living as a skeptic just like polygraph loyalists make their living off ‘junk science.’ I have no ‘dog’ in the fight.” [Note: I discovered later that he actually works a "day job" as a legal translator, so I retract that tweet here and now.]
In response, Maschke wrote that I should be more skeptical of CVSA®, because “It’s maker admitted in court that it can’t detect lies.”
In addition, Maschke included a link to a page on his website via which one can connect to an article that appears to have been lifted from the Nov. 7, 2004, edition of the Indianapolis Star.
“There’s nothing wrong with that admission,” I replied. “The makers of CVSA only claim that their technology detects stress indicating deception.”
I did not, however, mention the fact that John Tuohy, the writer of the aforementioned article, failed to include some key information — probably as a result of relying too heavily upon one source — that might cause a reader to pause.
That source was Frank Horvath. Tuohy described him as a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University but did not mention he had served a term (1991-92) as president of the — drumroll please — American Polygraph Association, the world’s largest association of polygraph professionals. Major omission.
Citing that article also made me wonder if Maschke was being honest in subsequent tweets when, among other things, he assured me he had read THE CLAPPER MEMO. But I digress.
Regarding admissions by the makers of CVSA® (i.e., the National Institute for Truth Verification), Maschke said they were “playing word games.”
When I asked Maschke if he thinks Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, GITMO interrogators and others — that is, people whose experiences appear in my book — were not telling the truth about CVSA®, he at first changed the subject.
“They haven’t done double-blind studies of CVSA, which would show it to be as unreliable, if not more so, than polygraphy,” he said, again seeming as if he had not read THE CLAPPER MEMO and, in particular, the CVSA®-focused research highlighted in Chapter 22.
Looking back, I should have asked Maschke to devise a legitimate double-blind study of CVSA® — but not an artificial, mock crime or “laboratory effort” — that features the real-life consequences/jeopardy required for a valid exam. Because I know he’ll read this, I’ll consider the question asked.
It wasn’t long before Maschke shot another tweet my way.
“CVSA operators may become convinced what they’re doing is valid based on confessions obtained. Happens with polygraphers, too.”
I fired back.
“The study of real-world cases highlighted in Chapter 22 of THE CLAPPER MEMO renders your argument moot,” I wrote, “but I’m sure you’ll disagree.”
Professor James Chapman
(7/04/1942 – 4/17/2012)
And he did.
In fact, he went on to besmirch the fact that the research — conducted by Professor James L. Chapman and research scientist Marigo Stathis, highlighted in Chapter 22 and, more recently, here — was published outside the United States. Strange for an expat living and working in The Hague, Netherlands. And odd that such a learned man — he has graduate and post-graduate degrees under his belt — was willing to ignore the credentials of the researchers.
Those credentials? Professor Chapman was a man who had some 15,000 CVSA® exams under his belt and was recognized as a leader in his field. And did I mention his background included service as a United States Marine and a police officer before he ascended the ranks of higher education as a professor? Well, it’s true! Stathis, meanwhile, is a woman who counts among her accomplishments more than two dozen published research papers.
Approaching the end of our virtual conversation, I tweeted to Maschke again:
“I think the avg American places more trust in the findings of a Marine turned cop turned university prof than in ivory tower types.”
Maschke ignored my tweet, opting instead to ask me if I could send him an electronic copy of the study by Professor Chapman and Stathis.
“I’m not in the business of doing legwork for others,” I replied. “The crux of the study is in Chapter 22 of THE CLAPPER MEMO. #TheClapperMemo”
Maschke ended his part of our conversation, tweeting, “Using confessions as the criterion for determining ground truth introduces a sampling bias inflating perceived accuracy.”
That statement, however, reveals Maschke either did not read THE CLAPPER MEMO or thinks himself better able to analyze statistics than the experts at Johns Hopkins University from whom Chapman and Stathis received assistance. Or, perhaps, he just didn’t make it to Chapter 22 where he would have seen the study’s authors explain CVSA® yielded a 96.4 percent-verified confession rate.
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My half of the conversation ended with me tweeting the message below at 10:47 a.m. Central Monday:
Gonna have to let readers of THE CLAPPER MEMO decide if they trust you, the skeptic, or me, the investigator seeking truth. Goodbye!
Want to find out what all of the fuss is about? Order a copy of my latest nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO.
The end product of an exhaustive four-year investigation, THE CLAPPER MEMO reveals the existence of a “turf war” that’s been raging for more than 40 years between polygraph loyalists and all challengers to their “bread and butter” technology, one of which is CVSA®. You’ll be shocked by what I reveal.
Available in paperback and ebook versions, the book has been endorsed by several high-profile Americans who understand the implications of my findings. Order your copy today!
Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct ’11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May ’13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.