Volume 24, Number 3 July 1995


A Dissent on Preserving OTA

The three Comments on why the OTA should be preserved (April) are very general, and tell us nothing about the views of those who want to abolish it. Since only 22 million dollars are involved, surely there must be reasons other than money.

The fact is the Heritage Foundation, one of the major conservative think tanks in Washington, has long been critical of the left-leaning tendencies of OTA. I have interacted with personnel of OTA on only one issue -- the use of lie detectors -- and concluded the agency had prejudged the issue at the instigation of a liberal Democratic Congressman, Jack Brooks, and then contrived a show of evidence that was hollow and lacking in good faith to the effect that the polygraph is worthless and should be severely limited in its use.

The outcome was favorable to AFL-CIO bureaucrats and to Brooks who were trying to curry favor with their trade union constituents by eliminating use of the polygraph in employment situations, and adverse to business interests who valued the polygraph to protect their revenues and trade secrets. In fact public opinion strongly supports use of the polygraph, and the opinions of rank-and field trade union members were never solicited. Fortunately the military and law enforcement agencies were able to limit the restrictions on polygraph use that would have resulted from OTA's strongly adverse recommendations.

I observed events closely from outside and had close communication with an eminent member of the panel created to advise OTA. That member was acutely dissatisfied with the way the panel was effectively ignored, but at the same time was exploited to seem to have fully endorsed the pre-arranged outcome, and he strongly expressed his dissenting views in correspondence with Acting OTA Director John Gibbons. I have copies.

The major document produced by OTA, dated November 1982 and titled "Scientific Validity of Polygraph Testing," is a classic example of disingenuous question-begging that gives away the prejudgments of its authors. The true issue is credibility assessment and the best means by which it can be achieved. Such a study could have made a genuine contribution to a major issue in law, criminal and security investigations, and indeed in everyday life. It could have exposed the follies of judging credibility by "demeanor," a practice I call Demeanorology, which is worthless yet commonplace in courts which bar polygraph evidence. But OTA was obviously out to "get" the polygraph, and even succeeded in preventing me from testifying to present my views based on personal experience with the issues in a courtroom setting.

Since that experience, I have been skeptical of the political independence and scientific integrity of OTA, and will not be sorry to see it terminated.

Lawrence Cranberg
1205 Constant Springs Drive
Austin, Texas 78746

The Fulbright Scholars Program

During the 1992-93 academic year, I had the opportunity to serve as a Fulbright Scholar in India (P&S April 1993). I found the experience to be one of the most extraordinary and enriching of my career, both professionally and culturally. As the Fulbright program approaches its 50th anniversary in 1996, overseas universities, particularly in South Asia, are expanding the development of new academic relationships among scholars and institutions, in which the Fulbright Program plays a central role with lecturing awards in almost every discipline. The Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES), which administers the Fulbright Scholar Program, invites inquiries and applications. Few other opportunities can enrich one's personal and professional life as does a Fulbright award. I can speak from experience -- the Fulbright experience.

Please feel free to contact me for further information, or contact CIES directly at CIES, 3007 Tilden Street, NW, Suite 5M, Box GBRO, Washington, DC 20008-3009, phone 202-686-4000, email info@ciesnet.cies.org.

Bernard Hoop, Ph.D
Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit
Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts 02114

[Editor's Note: I cannot refrain from adding that I proudly serve with the University of Arkansas' Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, named in honor of Senator J. William Fulbright, former President of our University, whose home was here in Fayetteville.]