An article about Jill Lepore’s recently-released book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, caught my attention today for two reasons: first, I was a teenage boy when the “Wonder Woman” television series launched; and, second, I developed more than a passing interest in a technology, still in use today, that was developed by the same man who created the fictional superhero.
Again, why did it catch my attention? Because it mentions the fact that the creator of the Wonder Woman character is none other than William Moulton Marston, the same man credited with developing the now-century-old polygraph machine.
One paragraph in the article, in particular, caught my eye:
Coincidentally I was reading a book called Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit when this hefty tome rocked up, and was just embarking on the section about Marston himself. Describing him as ‘irrepressibly optimistic’, it goes on to claim that the lie detector, or ‘polygraph machine’ as it was more pompously known, was so useless that in 1986 when Aldrich Ames, a CIA operative spying for the USSR, informed his paymasters that the government intended to give him a routine polygraph test, they simply advised him to get a good night’s sleep and relax. He did so and passed — and passed again, in 1991, when the CIA were carrying out a search for an internal mole (i.e. Ames himself).
Writer Julie Burchill’s explanation above of how the polygraph was a colossal failure, especially when it comes to catching people like notorious CIA spy Aldrich Ames, jives with what I shared in both a previous article and in my second nonfiction book, The Clapper Memo, which is based upon four years of exhaustive investigative work. Her mention of Marston’s name in the next paragraph, along with the phrase, “snake-oil salesman,” surely made me laugh.
Despite facts like the one involving Aldrich, the Department of Defense continues to rely on the polygraph as its only credibility assessment technology authorized for use by its employees. Why? Because, as I explained in a piece three days ago, people like Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. worked hard — and went against the advice and counsel of military and intelligence experts on the ground — to ban the use of a more-reliable and more-effective credibility assessment technology.
To learn more about this non-polygraph technology, order a copy of The Clapper Memo.
To learn what others think about the book, read some of the high-profile endorsements it has received.
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