There is a little known device used in interrogations in police departments throughout the country. The examiner attaches to the subject a microphone, which is connected to a laptop computer with special software. During the interrogation, the examiner charts on the computer the voice pattern of each answer. By the analyzing the patterns, the examiner can learn on which answers the subject was likely deceptive.
Seeking greater versatility in the field than the polygraph, retired Army officers developed voice stress analysis technology in the 1960s and 1970s. Like the polygraph, the newer Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) is based on the theory that a subject will exhibit stress when he’s deceptive. But proponents of the CVSA claim that it’s a more reliable truth verification system. With the cost of purchase and training at thousands of dollars less than the polygraph, it’s used by more than 1,000 domestic law enforcement agencies.
With the onset of the War on Terror and the high demand for quality intelligence and frequent interrogations, some military units desire access to this tool that their civilian counterparts so widely tout. The manufacturer of the CVSA, the National Institute for Truth Verification, is only too happy to oblige as it aggressively seeks new federal and military markets. A demand and a supply — simple enough, right?
Not in the bureaucratic world of military procurement. The United States Special Operations Command has pursued voice stress analysis technology over the last two years. Finding promise in the CVSA, SOCOM initiated research and development into a device that would miniaturize it into a handheld Field Interrogation Support Tool. SOCOM budgeted for the program and was ready to go, until the Pentagon halted it.
While it’s tarred as scientifically unproven and opposed by the Pentagon bureaucracy, two things are clear: cops stateside love it, and troops want it. From the Polygraph Institute to the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Stephen A. Cambone, the Department of Defense is denying our very best the equipment they want to pursue the War on Terror. Is a Pentagon turf war preventing troops from being better prepared?
THE EQUIPMENT’S UTILITY is self-evident, and its potential implications substantial: troops require quality intelligence in times of war. Defeating terrorists in Iraq and preventing future domestic attacks will require information from detainees at American facilities worldwide and at Guantanamo Bay.
A July 2003 Washington Times story detailed the perils of inadequate interrogation equipment, reporting that Saddam Hussein loyalists were thwarting polygraphs. In one reported case, the polygraph did not catch a detainee blatantly lying to interrogators about his involvement in weapons programs because he had been trained in countermeasures by the old Special Security Organization.
While the Pentagon has officially declared the CVSA off-limits and thus discouraged most units from using it, those who have tried it like what they see. After-action reviews and interviews with interrogation personnel show that special operations forces and counterintelligence units are eager to use it.
Three unclassified after-action reviews from the War on Terror, provided to TAS by the National Institute for Truth Verification (NITV), strongly recommend using the CVSA in detainee interrogations. The assessment by a Qatar counterintelligence staff sergeant found that the CVSA “can be a virtually irreplaceable tool at the field operator level….This is a system that can be integrated into operations at all echelons and will prove to be an invaluable addition to the Army inventory.” Similar test periods at Guantanamo Bay in 2003 and at Bagram Collection Point, Afghanistan, in June 2004 were also successful, deeming the CVSA an “invaluable tool” with “outstanding results.”
A military supervisor of interrogations at Guantanamo, who spoke with TAS on the condition of anonymity, called the CVSA “a useful tool in the interrogation of detainees.” Because it is more flexible, more precise, and less invasive, he said, “It was more useful than the polygraph.” As a result of using it, the supervisor said that interrogators obtained actionable intelligence from detainees, and now believes strongly that military personnel should have access to the CVSA. “We’ve got a global war on terrorism going on here, and the guys need all the tools they can get. There aren’t enough polygraphers to go around, and the system’s cumbersome,” he said. A contract CVSA examiner told TAS that the Southern Command has halted use of the devise at Guantanamo, but such reports could not be verified.
Bill Endler, a civilian CVSA examiner who was on contract with the military in Iraq through NITV, ran about 50 examinations from October 2003 to January 2004 at Camp Slayer, Abu Ghraib prison, and the Green Zone. When he first arrived, interrogators were reluctant to use Endler, “but once I showed them how much I could help,” they came around. Detainees came to call Endler “the truth man,” he said.
Among his interrogations, Endler noted two interviews with high value detainees. Taha Yasin Ramadan, Iraqi vice president and the “Ten of Diamonds” in the coalition’s deck of most wanted officials, broke down after Endler began the interview. He admitted plotting attacks on coalition forces. The CVSA succeeded, Endler said, “once I proved to him that it worked.” Endler said the only unsuccessful CVSA interrogation was of Tariq Aziz, who proved uncooperative. Endler has not been called back to Iraq. Since his August interview with TAS, Endler has become NITV’s director.
While military experience with the CVSA is limited, those who use it say it works. NITV exhibited dozens of letters of appreciation for the equipment from hundreds of law enforcement agencies. Agencies contacted by TAS shared this enthusiasm, touting the CVSA as a valuable tool. Detective Peter Rago, of the Schaumburg Police Department in Illinois, said the CVSA has been “extremely valuable.” Rago pointed to difficulties with the polygraph, including its high rate of inconclusive results and a lack of certified examiners in Illinois law enforcement. Detective Corporal Jeanne Landis of the Flathead County (Montana) Sheriff’s Office and Detective Bill Case, of the Reading (Pennsylvania) Police Department, echoed Rago’s success. Case mentioned its value in eliciting a recent confession from a man who raped his own stepdaughter. “I haven’t had anything where a person showed deceptive and then was exonerated or was found to be innocent,” Case said.
DESPITE THESE SUCCESSES domestically and abroad, there is skepticism in the scientific community concerning the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer. Critics, including those within the Department of Defense, dismiss the CVSA as scientifically unproven. Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone justified his decision to bar DoD use of the equipment in a letter last year to Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), citing studies that “…concluded there was little or no evidence, scientific or otherwise, for the applications of voice stress analysis….”
However, scientific studies of the CVSA are inconclusive. Various studies have confirmed the existence of voice stress. Whether the CVSA can accurately measure that stress and discern deception is another question. The National Institute for Truth Verification argues that no study has been performed using manufacturers’ protocols: the CVSA can only be accurately tested using real world scenarios and “known conclusion” cases. Without the stress of actual deception, study participants don’t fear the consequences of lying.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?