DHS Officials Admit They Have Not Used ‘Deception Detection Technology’ to Screen Refugees

By Melanie Arter | September 14, 2016 | 3:00pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) – At a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday titled “Shutting Down Terrorist Pathways into America,” officials at the Department of Homeland Security admitted they have not explored the use of (invested in) “deception detection technology” for screening refugees and other visa applicants despite a law signed last year directing the agency to do so.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said the use of such technology was suggested as part of 32 recommendations by a bipartisan task force for identifying foreign fighters last year – recommendations that “have been working their way through Congress and being signed into law.”


“One I’d like to follow up on, which was actually in that law was directing DHS to review and consider investing in deception detection technology. The chairman brought this up. I feel a bit like a broken record. I bring this up at every hearing. I bring it up at every meeting. I bring it up at every classified discussion,” she said.

According to McSally, research has shown that “even the best most highly trained operatives can only detect deception in about 50 percent of the cases when a human being is lying to them.” She said there is “off-the-shelf” deception detection technology – some of which was developed at the University of Arizona and demonstrated to agencies within the DHS.

McSally said other such technology exists “that can very cheaply and easily help detect deception while you’re doing interviews overseas and other places and all the different ways that could be exploited, whether that’s filling out the ESTA form or doing the K1 interview process.”

ESTA stands for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. The form is found on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website and is required to be filled out by “eligible international travelers” who wish to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

The K1 visa is the fiancé non-immigrant visa for the foreign-citizen fiancé of a U.S. citizen.

Tashfeen Malik, the wife of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, traveled to the U.S. on a K1 visa as Farook’s fiancé. Malik and Farook killed 14 people when they opened fire on his co-workers on Dec. 2, 2015. They later died in a police shootout.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said in December 2015 that Malik’s visa application was not thoroughly vetted, because it did not “show sufficient evidence” that Malik and Farook met in person as was required on the visa application.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) (Screenshot)

“There’s technology out there, and … I feel like we are moving at the speed of bureaucracy while the bad guys are moving at the speed of broadband,” McSally said at Wednesday’s Homeland Security Committee hearing. “So I’m asking again what, since the law was signed last year directing DHS to investigate the use of deception detection technology, what has been done?”

“Congresswoman, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m not prepared to answer that question, but I will take it for the record in terms of where we are,” Francis Taylor, DHS under secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, testified.

“I’m familiar with the work we’ve been doing with the Office of Science and Technology in the pilot with the University of Arizona and others on this technology – something we’re very interested in, something we invest a lot in training our personnel on detecting deception, eliciting responses in their questioning, but you’re right,” Kevin McAleenan, deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection at DHS, testified.

“Anything that can enhance our capabilities we want, so that’s something that we’ll take back and continue to pursue,” McAleenan added.

“Thank you. I hear this every time I ask it, just to be frank with you, and I understand. I worked in the military. It’s a big bureaucracy. It doesn’t move quickly, but there— especially given the indications that we have with Tashfeen Malik and others that clearly are in interviews lying, I mean this stuff needs to be looked at and employed I think very quickly and thoughtfully,” McSally said.

“It’s a manpower intensive process that we’re trying to do to shore up these vulnerabilities. We get that, but if we can use the technologies to help, we’ll really be able to address these vulnerabilities, so I’m kind of a little bit tired of the ‘we’ll get back to you,’ and I really want to hear a report. Maybe we can have a follow-up meeting, seeing how we can push to implement this in a faster way. It’s in the law,” she added.

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