Desperate Trump Wants To Use Polygraphs, Probably Divining Rods, To Find White House Leakers
Donald Trump is fed up with all the leaks occurring in the criminal enterprise he calls an administration. The Constitution that Trump's theoretically supposed to uphold forbids him from fitting anyone who betrays him with concrete galoshes. What's worse, though, is he doesn't even know who's ratting him out so he can at least suspend their vending machine privileges.
The president has reportedly discussed subjecting White House staffers to polygraphs -- also known as "lie detector tests" or "complete bullshit" -- whenever embarrassing information is leaked, which is a daily occurrence. A former official said an irate Trump wanted to "polygraph every employee in the building to unearth who it was who spoke to the press." Is it really so bad that they need to test everyone -- even the janitor? If the custodial staff is hanging out during the president's shakedown calls with Ukraine, there are larger security concerns. Hilariously, the official admits that Trump is especially annoyed about leaks when they're true.
Trump's creeping paranoia is a mixture of Nixon's last days in office and the climax of Scarface. It's not surprising that he only trusts a machine to tell him who he can trust. However, it's frustrating that Politico would report this without once mentioning that polygraphs are junk science. Imagine if Trump suggested dunking employees to determine if they were witches or, worse, Democrats, and the press just wondered where the White House would set up the indoor pool.
Basic instinct, Rain car scenewww.youtube.com
This is a common problem. Mike Pence
offered to take a polygraph to prove he wasn't the "anonymous" op-ed author. His interviewer should've told him he was full of crap, but the interview took place on Fox News, the International House of Crap. Journalist Claire Berlinski declared in an article last year that polygraphs are "no more reliable than a pack of Tarot cards."
BERLINSKI: A polygraph measures your heart rate, breathing, and galvanic skin response. There is no evidence that any pattern of physiological responses is unique to deception. [...] The only value of a lie-detector test is as an interrogation tool—if you're dealing with someone who believes in it. But it's insanity to rely on it. People can be trained not to crack upon interrogation. If the polygraph is administered by someone friendly, there will be no interrogation. Anyone whom Mike Pence or Christine Ford hires to administer a lie-detector test will "discover" that he or she is telling the truth.
Trump is a stupid man who believes stupid things. Unfortunately, way too many senior-level White House staffers have watched Meet the Parents on an airplane and think a polygraph is an effective tool to ferret out squealers. Former attorney general Jeff Sessions reportedly considered administering polygraph exams to the entire National Security Council staff. Talk about desperate. When someone straps you to a lie detector, it's a good sign they have no actionable, non-crystal-based evidence.
Meet the Parents (3/10) Movie CLIP - Lie Detector Test (2000) HDwww.youtube.com
However, misplaced faith in polygraphs predates Trump. Barack Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, threatened polygraphs as a way to stop leaks. Back in the 1980s, when people thought diet soda was a health food, Ronald Reagan's secretary of State George Shultz had the foresight to call BS on the polygraph.
"From what I've seen, it [the polygraph] is hardly a scientific instrument. It tends to identify quite a few people who are innocent as guilty, and it misses at least some fraction of people who are guilty of lying. And it is, I think, pretty well demonstrated that a professional--that is, say, a professional spy or a professional leaker--can probably train himself or herself not to be caught by the test."
Sharon Stone's character in Basic Instinct famously beat a lie detector test. This plays on the common trope in movies and TV that sociopaths can lie without hesitation or remorse. You only really catch honest people with a polygraph, and how many honest people work that closely with Donald Trump? If there are some lingering patriots in the White House, they probably equate blowing the whistle on Trump with saving the nation. They could easily "beat" a polygraph without guilt or shame. Sorry, Mr. President, but not even crackpot technology can save you now.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."