Preface: Mass use of “lie detectors” goes on now under conditions of legal vacuum. In 2001 a group of specialists was formed under the State Duma Security Committee which started preparing the new Federal Law “On polygraph use”. This law is supposed to establish rights and duties of parties of questioning with such equipment use.
Most of us have learned about polygraph, merely named “lie detector”, from American films. Finally this wizardry has reached our neck of the woods.
On January, 19, 2007 I was driven to the Murmansk detention centre operative unit chief Gonchar who informed me I had been preventively registered as a person inclined to escape from places of confinement. As there were not enough grounds for it - while having been released on bail I had left to Moscow for Anticapitalism march by the court’s permission for leaving - the cops decided to confirm their conjecture with polygraph test results. Certainly, Gonchar said the test was conducted in order to strike off my register and that procedure would thereafter become obligatory at registering and striking off the registers in prisons and camps. But I am not a child and don’t believe in tales. I agreed out of curiosity.
A small legal reference. Results of polygraph testing are null and void, they don’t give a deep-dyed answer if a person tells lie or not. Its results look like the following: it is 40 (or 60)% probable that the answer to the question was true or false. It is impossible to carry out the test forcibly. First, you get familiar with the test conditions, then you sign your consent for it. At any moment it is possible to refuse the further test procedure.
The polygraph poses a computer (in my case it was a notebook) with sensors connected to it - emotive background, pulse, upper and lower breathing, body vibrations and something else are being measured.
The main for polygraph is the person working with it, i.e. the psychologist. The computer generates digits, and the person makes up his/her conclusion. That is why it is important to produce a good impression upon him/her: to look straightly into his/her eyes when talking, not to raise your voice, not to be anxious, not to make fuss, to bend your brows, smile or look surprised depending on situation. Shortly, to portray yourself as a common person who has nothing to hide.
The first psychologist’s task is to persuade the tested person that there is no more accurate machine than the polygraph, that lie is senseless, etc. While demonstrating it he asks questions: “Is your name…?” and lists names one of which is mine. I should reply “No” to all the questions. Aftermath the psychologist turns around the monitor with a graph like an electrocardiogram, he explains willingly the prescription of each curve on the graph and asks to show the point at which my name was pronounced, i.e. I told a lie. I found this point easily. “Indeed, - the psychologist says, - all the criteria changed their values as you pronounced a lie. Now I see you are a common person, i.e. your organism responds to a lie pronounced, and it is possible to work with you”.
The next stage.
- I will ask you only 8 questions, I will ask each of them several times and in different order to avoid possible error. Before we’ll discuss all of the questions with you. The first question reads the following: Would you answer true to all the questions I will ask you during this test? What answer would I hear from you?
- Certainly yes! - I answer.
- Well! The second question is: Are you a cruel person?
- Under some conditions I am capable of cruelty, so, I might say yes, I am a cruel person.
The psychologist began to explore under which conditions I was capable of cruelty, and, having learned that it was exclusively in case of a danger for me and my nearest and dearest, hurried over to calm me down:
- You are not cruel at all, answer “No” to this question. Let’s go on.
- Are you an honest person?
- Certainly not!
The psychologist is astonished for a couple of minutes - he didn’t expect such honesty of me.
- Why do you think so?
- In all my born days I told lie to a lot of people: to my teachers, parents, wife, friends, not to mention state officials.
After a ten-minutes-long dialogue I let him convince me I was an honest person. In any case, a more honest person than many others.
- What would you answer to the question: Are you performing any actions directed at preparing an escapade?
- No, I am not! (it came out a little pathetically)
We discussed the essence of this question in details: i.e., what actions people perform while preparing an escapade. Once more I assured the psychologist I did not perform any such actions.
- Do you plan to commit an escapade under lucky set of circumstances?
- No, I don’t.
We discuss the circumstances the set of which is necessary for committing an escapade.
- Could anybody or anything make you commit an escapade?
The psychologist describes different life situations to me. For example, my wife informs my child is severely ill, and a large sum of money or my donor’s blood is necessary for treatment. I want to proclaim: “I don’t care for my wife, I don’t care for my child, as the Russian law is above all!” But I restrain my temper hardly smothering a smile. I explain:
- I would appeal to my friends, they will help my family.
- I.e. is your answer unambiguous “No”?
- Surely it is!
The remaining two questions - “Is your name Ruslan?” and “Do you live in the city of Murmansk?” are rhetoric and play a role of some kind of background on which true and false are clearer distinguished at answers to other questions.
After we had discussed all the questions the very testing goes. It is not difficult to disorient the devil’s equipment. When answering “Yes” to the question “Is your name Ruslan?” you may think: “My name is Tamerlanych and nothing else”. While answering “Yes” to the question “Do you live in Murmansk?” you may think “I live in Russia!” The polygraph would certainly note this discordance. At repeated asking the same questions you may agree with your answers in your mind.
Answers to other questions are the same thing. Values depend on strength of your self-suggestion, on your ability to concentrate. Naturally, it is impossible to control your pulse, emotive background, etc., but it is possible to control your thinking.
For example, while answering “No” to the question “Are you a cruel person?” you may think: “If you might know the amount of noses and limbs broken by me you would not ask me so silly questions!!!” or you may think” I haven’t killed those I was obliged to yet. So I am a pacifist”.
Else, while answering “Yes” to the question “Are you an honest person?” you may think: “There are no honest persons, everyone tells lie, including you and me” or you may think: “I haven’t stolen a million, so I am honest”.
After the end of the testing the psychologist stated he would process the results and give a conclusion which I would be informed of. But, although the conclusion was positive for me, I was not stricken off the “red strip” register whereof I reported to the regional prosecutor office immediately. Of course, it had no effect.
On August, 7, 2007 the same psychologist visited me in the high security colony where I had been driven two months earlier. Preliminarily the operative officers “cheered” me with preventive registering as a person inclined to distribution and using of drugs. The ground for it was my criminal article (by the way, nearly a half of the prisoners in the colony were sentenced by the Article 228).
Having given me a nod as an old friend the psychologist offered me to undergo a test for complicacy to drug distribution at the colony territory. Certainly, I advised him acidly to test the staff and administration but agreed. And it was worthy as I had a possibility to check my conclusions and abilities. Characteristic it is, I was not stricken off the register again notwithstanding the specialist’s conclusion. You may draw your own conclusions.
P.S. When I referred to the polygraph results at the attendance of deputy chief on security and operative unit, demanding to strike me off the preventive register, he answered to me: “That is nothing but a single person’s opinion”. When I pointed at absence of any actions directed at commitment or preparation of an escapade from my party, his answer was the following: “You haven’t done but you have thought, maybe even aloud”.
George Orwell thought it was fantastic.