Vetting or a lie detector for politicians?

Vetting or a lie detector for politicians?
This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Eduard Zaloshnja

The vetting of judges and prosecutors aims at removing from the justice system all those people who have ties with crime, those who cannot justify their assets or those who are not professionally capable of doing their job. For the first two, authorities carry out a check by using different sources, while for the latter, they analyze the cases handled by each judge or prosecutor undergoing vetting.

The Democratic Party has deposited in parliament a constitutional draft amendment which proposes a vetting process for politicians, similar to the one taking place for judges and prosecutors. The only difference is that the Democratic Party is not seeking an assessment of politicians’ professional abilities and rightly so, because it’s the voters who give their verdict on this.

However, when it comes to investigating connections to the underworld or the assets that the families of politicians own, a lot of time and money is needed. The vetting of judges and prosecutors is certainly proving this. What’s more, it’s very hard to appoint an inquiry or appeal committee for politicians, which would be independent from politics. What politician could vote in favour of a commission member, if he suspects this member would vote for him to leave politics?!

Given that the professional criteria are not part of the package proposed by the DP for the vetting of politicians, it could propose a simpler mechanism and a less expensive one in order to screen politicians. It’s called lie detector.

Following the publication of an anonymous editorial in the New York Times, where a senior official of the Trump administration considered the president to be immoral and a leader who took hasty decisions, vice president Pence publicly declared that he was not the anonymous author of the editorial and that he was ready to undergo the lie detector. Pence issued this declaration because the media alluded that he was the anonymous author of the article, given that the article included a key word which had been often used in his articles and speeches.

If Pence passes the lie detector, it’s 99% certain that he’s not the author of the editorial in question. Only special and highly trained agents are able to pass the lie detector when they lie. Aldrich Ames, who had been working for 30 years in the CIA, was recruited at the end of his career by the KGB, to which he had supplied lots of highly sensitive material (which a senior CIA official has access to). The routine lie detectors (that CIA agents undergo each year) could not reveal his lies, because he had trained his subordinates to cheat such test should they be caught by the Russians. (We have a similar story with the FBI’s veteran, Robert Hanssen a few years after Ames).

In other words, the accuracy of the lie detector is very high and what’s more interesting is the fact that the lie detector machine only costs about 10 thousand USD.

The lie detector relies on several physical indicators such as heart beats, perspiration, body temperature, blood pressure, etc during the time the subject is answering with a simple “yes” or “no.

So, with 10 lie detectors (and 10 professionals who know how to use them), the vetting process proposed by the DP for politicians could be completed in 10 days, because they will not have to be assessed professionally, like judges and prosecutors do. The lie detector can only indicate if a politician has any ties with the underworld or if he or his family members have appropriated illegal assets.

But is there a risk that an innocent person could be penalized?

The percentage of false positive results for the lie detector is relatively high (around 5%). So, in 5% of the cases, someone may tell the truth, but due to the emotional state of the person being tested, the machine could register fluctuations. This is the reason why courts in western countries do not accept lie detector as an ultimate proof in convicting someone (someone is convicted he’s proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt).

In the case of our politicians, if they fall short only a few points from passing the test, then they could appeal. First, the lie detectors could be tested again and secondly, they could be analyzed by an appeal commission comprised of members of the current vetting commissions.

If the Democratic Party is serious about the vetting of Albanian politicians, then it should propose what the US vice president proposed for himself, a lie detector. Otherwise, the long process of vetting with the current method does not offer any hope that it will ever be realized.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy

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