The US government’s obsession with secrecy has once again ensnared innocent Americans. In a probe to discover untrustworthy federal workers the government ended up investigating people who had no connections to the government but had simply purchased books that were deemed suspicious.
The books were on how to beat a polygraph test and the information from the investigation was shared with various government agencies from the CIA to the IRS.
Federal officials gathered the information from the customer records of two men who were under criminal investigation for purportedly teaching people how to pass lie detector tests. The officials then distributed a list of 4,904 people – along with many of their Social Security numbers, addresses and professions – to nearly 30 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.
Although the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven, authorities hoped to find government employees or applicants who might have tried to use them to lie during the tests required for security clearances. Officials with multiple agencies confirmed that they’d checked the names in their databases and planned to retain the list in case any of those named take polygraphs for federal jobs or criminal investigations.
But many of those customers had received no one on one training on how to beat a polygraph nor did they work for the government. They bought a book or DVD, that’s it.
Since when is buying a book worthy of investigation?
It turned out, however, that many people on the list worked outside the federal government and lived across the country. Among the people whose personal details were collected were nurses, firefighters, police officers and private attorneys, McClatchy learned. Also included: a psychologist, a cancer researcher and employees of Rite Aid, Paramount Pictures, the American Red Cross and Georgetown University.
Clearly these people needed to be watched. How dare they try to learn something. Can America survive if a Rite Aid employee learns about polygraph tests?
So buying books now leads to an investigation and your information being stored by multiple intelligence agencies. But this isn’t a police state because you voted for this. Well, not you but your representatives. Well, maybe they didn’t read the bill exactly but the intelligence agencies assured them it was the right move. So there.