If you’ve ever trained to be a better liar—or more specifically inquired about how to lie well enough to beat a polygraph test—numerous federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the IRS, or the FBI, may just have their eye on you.
“Though nowhere near as massive as the NSA programs, the polygraph inquiry is another example of the federal government’s vast appetite for Americans’ personal information and the sweeping legal authority it wields in the name of national security.” –McClatchy
According to an investigative report published by McClatchy on Thursday, that’s because a list generated by the Customs and Border Protection agency containing the names and detailed personal information of more than 5,000 individuals who may have done nothing more than purchase a book has been widely circulated among dozens of other government agencies in an effort to flush out federal employees who may have been interested (for any number of reasons, it turns out) in trumping a polygraph machine.
According to McClatchy:
Though the list of people on the list is relatively small compared the many millions of people in the U.S. who have had their personal information monitored, tracked, collected, and otherwise nabbed by the various domestic surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency, the revelations raise serious legal and privacy questions, according to experts made aware of the case.
“This is increasingly happening – data is being collected by the federal government for one use and then being entirely repurposed for other uses and shared,” said Fred Cate, an Indiana University-Bloomington law professor who specializes in information privacy and national security.
And Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, said, “It doesn’t seem right to tar people and give them what is a scarlet letter of being likely liars just because they’ve been reading or thinking about beating lie detector tests.”
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The troubling fact, Tien added, is that “government agencies have an enormous free zone when collecting and sharing data.”
As McClatchy reports:
But why? According to their reporting, McClatchy discovered that the government’s approach was fueled by a deepening paranoia—in the wake of the devastating revelations made possible by Edward Snowden at the NSA—about federal employees who might turn whistleblowers.
According to McClatchy:
So what were all these people scheming to lie about anyway, if they weren’t involved in the government in the first place or not interesting in infiltrating the bureaucratic echelons of the Department of Education or National Parks Service?
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It’s hard to know, of course—not to mention none of our business—but according to some of the dozens contacted by McClatchy the answer centered around a more sacred and personal institution that was on the possible verge of collapse from an insider threat: “The test was demanded by spouses who suspected infidelity.”