Jul 23, 2007

Polygraphs in Korea

Politicians and the Polygraph Machine

▶In 1999, the New York Times carried a headline story that said blueprints for a miniaturized nuclear warhead had been leaked to China. Eight months later, Lee Wen Ho, a Taiwanese-American senior researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory was arrested on charges of having smuggled the blueprints out. In the face of cries of racial discrimination, the FBI claimed that Lee had revealed himself the culprit in a polygraph test. Lee, however, was found not guilty and released 17 months later. The New York Times, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for its coverage of the spy story, had to issue an apology.

▶The lie detector was invented by Italian physiologist Cesare Lombroso in 1885. When a subject is asked difficult questions, the machine measures signs of stress in body movements, breathing, sweat, blood pressure and heartbeat. John Larson, a senior police inspector in California, used the machine for real investigations in 1921. He later confessed, "If you gathered them together, five experts wouldn't be able to reach an agreement on how to interpret the results of a polygraph test." Essentially, he was saying, the lie detector is unreliable.

▶The only territories where courts accept the results of polygraph tests as evidence are Israel, Japan and the U.S. state of New Mexico. In 2005, the Korean Supreme Court denied the use of prosecutors' evidence based on polygraph tests in an automobile hit-and-run case. The court ruled, "If a person experiences a consistent, 100-percent psychological change when he or she lies, if the psychological change causes 100-percent physiological responses, and if you can be definitely sure, based on such physiological responses, that the suspect has lied, then we can accept it as evidence. But we don't think it possible to expect such results with the current level of technology."

▶Prosecutors are reportedly considering using a polygraph machine in their investigation of Grand National Party presidential contender Lee Myung-bak for his suspected possession of property in Dogok-dong, Seoul under borrowed names. Ex-GNP chairman Suh Chung-won claimed that former chairman of POSCO Kim Man-je said that the property in question actually belonged to Lee. Kim has denied having said this. It's quite a challenge for prosecutors. Even if they do use the polygraph machine on the politicians, it would be difficult to judge the results. Regardless of what the machine shows, the event will surely be permanently recorded in the history of Korean politics.

This column was contributed by Chosun Ilbo in-house columnist Moon Gab-sik.


Mike Anastasio said...

That's good enough for me! Bring on the polygraph testing, we have too many staff and not enough budget.


Anonymous said...

The reason we don't polygraph politicians in the US is that ours never been suspected of telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

Those who are afraid of the polygraph obviously must be hiding something. Wire them up and find out what it is that they are holding back. Then fire them for not being forthright in exposing their souls. Sound like a winning plan to me. DOE should get right to it. It will make Congress very happy, and isn't that all that is really important these days? Good workforce morale is a very over-rated concept, as LANS well knows.

Anonymous said...

Whats to fear with the polygraph, its just another tool for the management to get rid of good people around here. All that will be left for employees are those who have no ability to think outside the box, or even how to get out of the box, for that matter. I think its getting time to look elsewhere for a real scientific research lab. So many great minds have already departed.
I wonder what Oppy would say if he was still around, to this polygraph nonsense.