August 17, 2013

IT’S COME TO THIS: Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service. “It sounds like the feds were asking for a full on backdoor on the system, not unlike some previous reports of ISPs who have received surprise visits from the NSA.” And apparently you have a duty to stay in business to help them spy or something. Weak threat, but I’m not terribly surprised.

Somewhat related: Seeing threats, feds target instructors of polygraph-beating methods.

Federal agents have launched a criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie detector tests as part of the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on security violators and leakers.

The criminal inquiry, which hasn’t been acknowledged publicly, is aimed at discouraging criminals and spies from infiltrating the U.S. government by using the polygraph-beating techniques, which are said to include controlled breathing, muscle tensing, tongue biting and mental arithmetic.

So far, authorities have targeted at least two instructors, one of whom has pleaded guilty to federal charges, several people familiar with the investigation told McClatchy. Investigators confiscated business records from the two men, which included the names of as many as 5,000 people who’d sought polygraph-beating advice. U.S. agencies have determined that at least 20 of them applied for government and federal contracting jobs, and at least half of that group was hired, including by the National Security Agency.

By attempting to prosecute the instructors, federal officials are adopting a controversial legal stance that sharing such information should be treated as a crime and isn’t protected under the First Amendment in some circumstances.

This is a disgrace. First, it’s a clear First Amendment violation. Second “lie detectors” are bits of lame pseudoscience that don’t work anyway. The feds’ heavy reliance on them in security cases is just further evidence of their incompetence and unseriousness here. Also, if you read the creative charges the feds are using here, it’s just more evidence that we need to rein in prosecutorial discretion.

And boy, doesn’t this Administration act like it’s got a lot to hide?

Related: NSA Whistleblower Reveals How To Beat A Polygraph Test.

The federal government currently administers polygraphs to government employees in a number of agencies, including the NSA and CIA. The polygraphs work by measuring and recording a person’s physiological responses—changes in a person’s pulse, breathing and blood pressure—to lying versus telling the truth.

Tice, who is now working on a Ph.D. in global security studies, says the NSA “routinely uses polygraphs to terrorize the rank and file of NSA employees” and to “gather very personal information on them that they can use to blackmail them into participating in illegal and unethical conduct.”

Not very impressive.