Government-Funded Search for Polygraph Successor Continues Despite Fact It Already Exists

While investigating the federal government’s use of credibility-assessment technologies, including the polygraph, I found numerous individuals eager to disparage the idea that one can detect deception by measuring stress in the human voice.  Toward the end of my exhaustive four-year investigation, however, I learned about an effort to develop voice stress-based technology despite the fact that the technology already exists.

TheClapperMemoFrontCoverLR 6-5-13Slightly modified for stand-alone publication, details of my brief electronic exchanges with a man involved in the aforementioned research appear below, excerpted from my second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO:

If, as polygraph loyalists have claimed for decades, it is not possible to detect stress in the human voice, then why have so many taxpayer dollars been dedicated to pairing the study of the human voice with credibility-assessment technologies?

Seeking an answer to that question, I contacted Jay F. Nunamaker, Ph.D. and lead researcher at the National Center for Border Security and Immigration  (a.k.a., “BORDERS”) at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  In reply to my inquiry August 6, 2012, Dr. Nunamaker shared details about the project.

He began by explaining that the program has received funding from several sources, including — but not limited to — the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and no fewer than three branches of the U.S. military.

AVATAR Graphic

AVATAR – University of Arizona BORDERS Program

Next, he described the history of the project.

“We started down this path to develop a non-intrusive, non-invasive next-generation polygraph about 10 years ago with funding from the Polygraph Institute at Ft. Jackson,” he wrote.

Ten years?

If, per Dr. Nunamaker, the effort began 10 years ago at Polygraph Headquarters, that means it got its start at about the same time the 2003 National Research Council report, “The Polygraph and Lie Detection,” was published and offered, among other things, that the majority of 57 research studies touted by the American Polygraph Association were “unreliable, unscientific and biased.”

In a message August 31, 2012, Dr. Nunamaker offered more details about his research.

“The UA team has created an Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessment in Real-Time (AVATAR) that uses an embodied conversational agent–an animated human face backed by biometric sensors and intelligent agents–to conduct interviews,” he explained.  “It is currently being used at the Nogales, Mexico-U.S. border and is designed to detect changes in arousal, behavior and cognitive effort that may signal stress, risk or credibility.”

In the same message, Dr. Nunamaker pointed me to a then-recent article in which the AVATAR system was described as one that uses “speech recognition and voice-anomaly-detection software” to flag certain exchanges “as questionable and worthy of follow-up interrogation.”

Those exchanges, according to the article, “are color coded green, yellow or red to highlight the potential severity of questionable responses.”  Ring familiar?

Further into the article, reporter Larry Greenemeier relied upon Aaron Elkins, a post-doctoral researcher who helped develop the system, to provide an explanation of how anomaly detection is employed by AVATAR.

After stating that it is based on vocal characteristics, Elkins explained a number of ways in which a person’s voice might tip the program.  One of his explanations was particularly interesting.

“The kiosk’s speech recognition software monitors the content of an interviewee’s answers and can flag a response indicating when, for example, a person acknowledges having a criminal record.”

Elkins clarified his views further during an interview eight days later.

“I will stress that is a very large leap to say that they’re lying…or what they’re saying is untrue — but what it does is draw attention that there is something going on,” he said.  At the end of that statement, reporter Som Lisaius added seven words — precisely the intent behind any credibility assessment — with which I’m certain every [sic] Computer Voice Stress Analyzer® examiner I’ve interviews during the past four years would agree.

To even the most-impartial observer, Elkins’ explanations confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that BORDERS researchers believe stress can be detected in the voice utterances of individuals facing real-life jeopardy.

NOTE:  Though I tried twice between August 2012 and February 2013 to find out from officials at the BORDERS program how much funding they have received from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and all other sources since the inception of the program, I received no replies to my inquiries.

To learn more about why federal government agencies are funding this kind of research despite the fact a polygraph replacement already exists and has proven itself in a wide range of applications, one must understand that a technological “turf war” is to blame and has been raging silently for more than 40 years.  Details of that turf war can be found inside THE CLAPPER MEMO.

ORDER A COPY TODAY.  It comes highly recommended.

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.

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.

Have Wars Strengthened Iran?

While cognizant of the fact that the United States has spent much of the past 25 years engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some statistics I came across today about population migration left me dumbstruck.

PeopleMovin IraqThe United States has had troops in and around Iraq since the early 1990s when I was still wearing the uniform of an Air Force officer.  Since then, we’ve rid the country of an evil dictator and brought about something akin to democratic rule.  As a result, one might think the good ol’ USA a top choice among the 1.5 million Iraqi emigrants.

But it’s not.  Instead, Iran is the top migrant destination of Iraqis — 379,356 in fact!

Not far away, the U.S. has had troops in Afghanistan in a big way since just after Sept. 11, 2001.  Almost a dozen years!  During that time, we’ve purportedly made inroads toward ridding the country of evil Taliban fighters who oppress the Afghan citizenry.  As a result, one might think the good ol’ USA might be a top destination of Afghans opting to leave their war-torn country for better lives.

PeopleMovinAfghWrong again.  The leading designation of Afghan emigrants is, once again, Iran — to the tune of 1.7 million choosing to live there!

Makes one wonder if, by choosing to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we ended up strengthening Iran instead.

Just a thought as we enter another weekend.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is coming soon was released May 2013.


Order Books Graphic LR 6-15-13

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Yes, I Turned Down My First Offer From a Hollywood Filmmaker

Yes, you read that headline correctly!  This morning, I turned down a request from a major Hollywood filmmaker who wanted to use something I wrote in “Frontera,” a major motion picture in which five actors — Ed Harris, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Amy Madigan and Shea Whigham — will play lead roles.

Copyright © 2012 Bob McCarty, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

The request came from Frontera Productions via Ashley Kravitz at Cleared By Ashley, a company that, among other things, helps filmmakers obtain permission from owners of intellectual property to use that property in motion pictures.

Frontera Productions wanted permission to use my poster, “Top 5 Signs Your Neighbors Might Be Terrorists,” as set dressing in “Frontera,” a film about a sheriff in the U.S. who tries to track down an illegal alien involved with a robbery that killed his wife.  According to the film’s page at, it’s set for release in 2014.

Sadly, I had to turn down this, my first offer from Hollywood via Albuquerque.  Why?  Because, after I reviewed the proposed release agreement, I found that it included no compensation for the use of the poster that made its first public appearance in a post Aug. 14, 2007.  As a result, I simply had to decline the offer.

I did, however, leave the door open for the filmmaker to make an amended offer.  I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is set for release this fall.

CBP Officer: WMDs Have Been Detected in U.S. (Update)

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent in San Diego confirmed that weapons of mass effect (a.k.a., “WMDs”) had been found by U.S. officials, but not at the particular port where he was being interviewed by a reporter from ABC affiliate

The video below aired during the local newscast Feb. 9 and featured this “money quote” from Al Hallor, the assistant port director and CBP officer, during the interview:  “At the airport, seaport, at our port of entry we have not this past fiscal year, but our partner agencies have found those things.”

A second video (below) aired as an update to the story during the station’s 5 o’clock newscast Feb. 10:

Now, several questions remain:  Which of CBP’s partner agencies detected WMDs?  What weapons were found? How were the weapons found?  In whose possession were the weapons when found?  Did Hallor misspeak as his bosses in Washington, D.C., might have you believe?

As a former Air Force public affairs officer familiar with communications security issues related to nuclear materials and related subjects, I doubt the public will ever know the answers to the questions above.  National security concerns, you know.

FYI: At the time I published this post, it seemed as if none of the state-run media outside of San Diego had given the story any attention.  Please use the comments section to let me know if you’ve seen any news reports outside of San Diego.


UPDATE 2/12/11 at 7 p.m. Central: Link to 10 News story.

UPDATE 2/13/11 at 6:52 p.m. Central: Finally, a major media outletalbeit one outside the U.S. — has caught wind of the story.

UPDATE 2/14/11 at 7:24 a.m. Central: Cross-posted at

FYI: If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!

Sheriff Joe Blasts ABC Over Biased 20/20 Segment

Only hours before ABC is set to air a 20/20 story that portrays the Arizona immigration law as something it’s not, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio fired off a scathing letter to the man behind the segment, 20/20 correspondent John Quinones.

Watch the teaser for the “What Would You Do? segment below, then read Sheriff Arpaio’s objections to it which appear below the video.

The text of that letter, obtained by Bob McCarty Writes this afternoon, appears below:

Click image above to download copy of Sheriff Arpaio's letter (pdf).

Mr. John Quinones:

I have seen a portion of your piece set to air tonight on 20/20 which shows how you think SB 1070 (Arizona’s new immigration law) will be enforced in Arizona by law enforcement professionals. This “staged reporting” couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, your story is replete with untruths and conjecture and has several nefarious motives – to enflame the public – to embarrass the State of Arizona in front of a national audience not unlike what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did earlier this week- and to bring discredit to law enforcement professionals in general.

This staged and silly report depicts a security guard who walks into a Tucson taco house demanding to see proof of the patron’s citizen papers because some of the people there “look Mexican” and if they are in the U.S. illegally, your actor claims they “should be deported.”

No law enforcement officer properly trained in SB 1070 rules and regulations would ever conduct himself in such a manner. If there were proof that one of my deputies did what this story shows, he would be severely disciplined and would likely lose his/her job. Law enforcement professionals cannot inquire about someone’s immigration status simply because we think someone may be here illegally. That’s what your story leads your viewers to believe and it is summarily untrue.


Joseph M. Arpaio

If you’re still undecided after watching the teaser and reading the sheriff’s letter, watch the segment when it airs on ABC tonight at 9 Eastern/8 Central.

FYI: If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!

Border Fence Project Buried by Homeland Security

Having spent a number of years in the media relations business, I’m familiar with the concept of releasing “bad news” on Friday.  Yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano used that approach to share news about her decision to cancel the Secure Border Initiative (a.k.a., “electronic fence”) that was supposed to help safeguard the nation’s southern border.

Late Friday night, I came across a article about the cancellation of the project which, so far, has cost taxpayers more than $1 billion.  That article contained a reference to a written statement (below) that was attributed to “Big Sis” Napolitano:

“SBInet cannot meet its original objective of providing a single, integrated border-security technology solution.”

Hoping to read the official statement with my own eyes, I visited the DHS web site’s “Press Room.” There, however, I found nothing published.  In fact, the most-recent entry, as shown in the graphic below, was dated Jan. 8.

Next, I visited PRNewswire for Journalists where I have an account.  Again, nothing.

Growing frustrated, I visited the Customs & Border Patrol’s “National News Releases” and “Speeches and Statements” pages.   As shown in the screenshots below, I found nothing there.

Though doubtful I would find anything, I returned to the DHS web site and entered the phrase, “Border Fence,” in the site’s search box.  When the results appeared, I clicked on the link, DHS | Southwest Border Fence.  A new “rabbit chase” began.

I scrolled about halfway down the page and clicked on another link, “More on border fence. Again, nothing, so I scrolled down again until I saw a link to the SBInet program.  When I clicked on the link, a “404 – Page Not Found” error appeared before my eyes — a fitting description of a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

FYI: If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Thanks in advance for your support!

Congresswoman’s Shooting Raises Questions: Correction!

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords (D) of Arizona’s 8th Congressional District died is in critical condition, according to a Fox News Channel broadcast update at 1:47 p.m. Central numerous news reports, after being shot in the head at point blank range during a “Congress on the Corner” event she was holding in Tucson this morning.

Several others — including members of her staff — were shot as well.  While their conditions remain unknown at this point, the condition of our country — and how Americans will react to the news as more details begin to surface — becomes an even larger concern.

If the shooter turns out to be a right-wing conservative, I fully expect members of the liberal media to attempt to portray the shooter as a typical member of the Constitution-loving side of the political fence.  In addition, they will use the event as another reason to clamp down on gun rights.

If the shooter turns out to be an illegal immigrant, those same media outlets will paint the person as a victim of his circumstances and gloss over the “elephant in the room” that is the lack of real security at our nation’s borders.

If the shooter turns out to be an Islamic extremist, they will downplay his religious affiliations and spin the Muslim shooter’s actions as criminal but not an act of terrorism.

Of course, other possibilities exist.  Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE 1/8/11 at 2:44 p.m. Central: A state senator who is a friend of the congresswoman said the congresswoman is alive and responding to some commands of doctors.  The state senator also said that the shooter was — or claimed to be — a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.  Will seek to confirm.

UPDATE 1/8/11 at 2:56 p.m. Central: Fox News just reported that the shooter has been identified as a 22-year-old white male.  Nothing else until 6 p.m. Arizona time.

UPDATE 1/8/11 at 3:08 p.m. Central: News outlets have identified the alleged shooter as Jarod Laughner, but provided no more details.

UPDATE 1/8/11 at 5:48 p.m. Central: In the spirit of keeping an eye on the enemy, I watched ABC World News tonight at 5:30 p.m. Central.  During the coverage of the shooting, anchor David Muir mentioned the remark of Congresswoman Giffords’ father.  When asked if his daughter had any enemies, the father reportedly said, “Everyone in the Tea Party.”  It took the network a full 13 minutes to delve into the shooter’s background.

UPDATE 1/8/11 at 6:03 p.m. Central: Hat tip to Dana Loesch for saving me some research time to solidify the points I made about the liberal media’s “spin” about the alleged shooter:

Shooter’s favorite books: “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto.”  YouTube page:

Someone who knew him from high school: “Very liberal”:

Daily Kos writer said Giffords was “dead to me”:

Kos scrubbed his sites ASAP before Palin:×139805

Daily Kos had listed Giffords as a target:

Dems had listed Giffords as a target:

Judge killed was Bush appointee: