Statistical Science

In Search of the Magic Lasso: The Truth About the Polygraph

Stephen E. Fienberg and Paul C. Stern

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In the wake of controversy over allegations of espionage by Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear scientist at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the department ordered that polygraph tests be given to scientists working in similar positions. Soon thereafter, at the request of Congress, the department asked the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a thorough study of polygraph testing’s ability to distinguish accurately between lying and truth-telling across a variety of settings and examinees, even in the face of countermeasures that may be employed to defeat the test. This paper tells some of the story of the work of the Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph, its report and the reception of that report by the U.S. government and Congress.

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Statist. Sci., Volume 20, Number 3 (2005), 249-260.

First available in Project Euclid: 24 August 2005

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Bayes theorem lie detector meta-analysis ROC curves sensitivity specificity tabular reporting


Fienberg, Stephen E.; Stern, Paul C. In Search of the Magic Lasso: The Truth About the Polygraph. Statist. Sci. 20 (2005), no. 3, 249--260. doi:10.1214/088342305000000223.

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