Clearer Than Truth
The Polygraph and the American Cold War
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
In this first comprehensive history of the polygraph as a tool and symbol of American Cold War policies, John Philipp Baesler tells the story of a technology with weak scientific credentials that was nevertheless celebrated as a device that could expose both internal and external enemies. Considered the go-to technology to test agents' and employees' loyalty, the polygraph's true power was to expose deep ideological and political fault lines. While advocates praised it as America's hard-nosed yet fair answer to communist brainwashing, critics claimed that its use undermined the very values of justice, equality, and the presumption of innocence for which the nation stood.
Clearer Than Truth demonstrates that what began as quick-fix technology promising a precise test of honesty and allegiance eventually came to embody tensions in American Cold War culture between security and freedom, concerns that reach deep into the present day.
"Baesler's exploration of the polygraph as a quintessential Cold War technology offers a fresh addition to the vast literature on U.S. culture and politics of the postwar era."—Susan L. Carruthers, authorof Cold War Captives: Imprisonment, Escape, and Brainwashing
"Clearer Than Truth charts the complex relationship between lie detection technologies and U.S. national security policies during and after the Cold War. Through a wide array of archival source materials, Baesler illuminates the contradictions inherent in the American government's adoption of lie detection instrumentation."—Melissa M. Littlefield, author of The Lying Brain: Lie Detection in Science and Science Fiction
"[T]his thoroughly researched and eloquently written monograph will inspire future studies into the relationships among power, technology, human subjectivity, and the dilemmas of Cold War governance."—Journal of American History
"Baesler breaks new ground . . . This is a well-researched book that uses the history of the lie detector to explore how America tangled with the relationship between security and freedom during the Cold War."—American Historical Review
"This work successfully blends diplomatic, political, and intellectual history with histories of science and technology . . . This is a creative work that will appeal to a variety of historians."—Diplomatic History