Columbia_U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan are getting portable detectors aimed to help determine whether suspects in roadside bombings or people looking to enter military bases are telling the truth about their intentions.
The devices, which each cost $7,500, are not full-blown polygraphs - or lie detectors, said Donald Krapohl, special assistant to the director at the Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment, the Fort Jackson-based agency that helped design the devices.
The Preliminary Credibility Assessment Screening Systems will be among several tests the Army uses to decide if a person is truthful, Krapohl said. He said the Army has bought 94.
The use of the devices was first reported by MSNBC.com, which also raised questions about the Army's test of their reliability.
Krapohl said the defense academy was sending a team to train soldiers in Afghanistan how to use the devices in the next few weeks.
"The role of the PCASS (device) was as a screening thing at the front of the pipeline," he told The Associated Press.
The device connects sensors placed on an interviewee's hand that measure stress and heart rate to a pocket-sized computer about the size of an old handheld video game player.
After a questioner queries a subject and punches in his answers, the device shows a green light if it determines the person is truthful, red if not and yellow if its results are inconclusive.
Krapohl said a field test at Fort Jackson with soldiers who planted fake bombs and then were interviewed about it produced an 80 percent success rate, after setting aside inconclusive results. A second, independent test returned correct results 92 percent of the time, he said.
"We found the accuracies are suitable to the role which it was intended," he said.
Not everyone agrees.
Carnegie Mellon University Professor Stephen E. Fienberg told MSNBC.com that the military's studies did not properly simulate the stresses that would be seen during combat.
He also raised doubts over the dismissal of the inconclusive results. Including those results drops the efficacy of the devices as low as 63 percent, MSNBC.com reported.