Lie Detector, a Silent Talker

PRAVDA.Ru correspondent talked to reserve intelligence colonel Vladimir Galkin.
Vladimir Vladimirovich, is it right to allow fiscal police or special services to use a lie detector at interrogations? Could you please describe the device? How is it used in western countries?

I studied this problem when I worked in a commercial institution. The device itself and methods of work with a lie detector appeared rather long ago. The lie detector was developed by an American leading company specializing in equipment production about 50 years ago.

The device is a register defining deviations of several psychophysical parameters in human health; it doesn’t measure anything, it just registers. The parameters are heartbeat frequency, arterial blood pressure, changes in skin conduction, changes in breath intensity and respiration rate; deviation of these parameters are registered by the device.

Somehow or other, human beings react to those questions that cause irritation in the brain. Brain activity in the subcortex is practically uncontrolled by people. If a man tested in a lie detector is asked this or that question, and the question causes irritation in his subcortex, it may cause changes in his respiration rate, in skin conduction, pulse rate and arterial blood pressure. Deviations of these psychophysical parameters on such irritating questions are registered in a lie detector.

Traditionally lie detectors registered deviations on self-recorders consisting of four or five channels. Sensors were fixed in several places on the human body. Questions were asked to tune the device to zero parameters before the testing itself, after that an operator asked the tested person some questions in some order. Judging by reaction of the tested person, the operator drew conclusions concerning connection of the man with the problem in question.

The method is traditionally used in the USA for crime disclosing as well as for proving that this or that person is connected with a crime. The device is legally admitted in several American states. Results of tests held on a lie detector are used as proofs in the process of investigation.

It is important that the device can be used not only for demonstrative base formation but also at a preliminary investigation stage. In 90% of cases, the device is used in order to persuade a suspect who committed some crime of the necessity of frank confession. If a suspect is involved in a crime, he cannot hide his physiological reactions. Brain excitation occurs in the subcortex which activity is practically uncontrolled by humans themselves.

People can be subject to tests on a lie detector only on their one free will. Tests can be held in a quiet atmosphere. Before the test begins, the operator and the suspect discuss those questions that will be further asked. It is very important for making objective conclusions after the test.

If a suspect refuses to undergo a lie detector test, it gives investigators food for reflection. If a suspect agrees to undergo testing, he will get either a positive or a negative conclusion. When lie detector tests are used at a preliminary investigation, the operator can persuade the tested to confess his part in a crime.

During tests an experienced operator can reconstruct the pattern of the crime, get necessary information and find missing proofs. It is not ruled out that lie detector tests may help find instruments of a crime or find traces of the weapon.

It is a rather disputable question whether legislation on lie detector usage must be adopted or not. My opinion is that usage of a lie detector doesn’t infringe upon human rights, as I have already mentioned that all tests with the device can be done only on free will of the tested. There are no laws prohibiting to use a lie detector at a preliminary stage of the investigation; this measure certainly has nothing to do with electroshock or psychotropic substances. Fiscal police raises much ado about nothing simply because journalists reporting about usage of a lie detector don’t understand the issue at all. At present, a lie detector is an improved device that allows to process results of the tests on a computer rather quickly and to scheme diagrams.

Would it make sense to take a decision to oblige Kremlin officials to undergo lie detector tests?

First of all, we must clearly understand what purpose we pursue by organizing such tests. As experience of American special services shows, lie detector tests are obligatory for executives in the CIA, the FBI, in the Foreign Ministry and other departments, in other words, for employees who are directly or indirectly connected with state secrets.

In these cases, lie detector tests are held with a view to reveal possible contacts of such employees with criminals and the possibility of their connection with espionage. Lie detectors are widely used in US’s private sector for employment. And this is not prohibited, as employment contracts contain an item saying that people employed for work must agree for a lie detector test.

All employees working at jeweller's and at enterprises connected with production of precious goods undergo lie detector tests. This is done only with one purpose to find out whether people contacted with law enforcement authorities, no matter is the contacts were positive or negative. The very fact that people try to keep back their contacts with police is registered with the lie detector rather quickly; and this certainly influences decision of employers concerning employment of such people.

Did Ames undergo a lie detector test?

Yes, he underwent the test, but probably the operator was not experiences enough; what is more, as history reveals, Ames’ preliminary lie detector test was positive, but the operator was pressed to declare the test invalid. They considered that such a man like Ames couldn’t be connected with espionage. These facts arose later, after Ames was denounced for espionage in favor of the Soviet Union.

Do you think that Russian agents arriving from abroad must also undergo lie detector tests?

Yes, I think they should. What is more, some methods closely connected with the principles of lie detector tests are used for admission of students to the Foreign Intelligence Academy. This is done to find out professional qualifications of candidates for intelligence work.

How can this be discovered?

There is a chair of psychology in the Academy; it has methods and equipment which functional capabilities are similar to functions of a lie detector.

So, in this situation you support usage of a lie detector?

I don’t object.

Could you now undergo a lie detector test youself?

Sure. No problem.

Vladimir Galkin was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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