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Mike Kemp, Snitch Detector

This article was written for the Loompanics Unlimited fall 1998 catalog supplement. Some people will be skeptical about the technology covered here. So was I -- until I saw Mike Kemp in action. Following the article, you'll find instructions for contacting Mike and preparing a tape or digital wave file for analysis.

Mike Kemp went to jail because of a snitch. If he gets busted again, it just might be because he's found a way to challenge - and defeat - the whole snitch system. Cops have ways of punishing people who compromise their power. Not so good for Mike. But then, he's been in government's face so long he doesn't expect anything but trouble.

For the rest of us, Mike's discovery could be a pure blessing. The "discovery" is actually 30 years old. It's a technology that's been around and been praised, debunked and used since 1971 - voice stress analysis (VSA). What's new is the way Mike's using it - on behalf of peaceful, politically incorrect people, rather than against them.

Cops, the military and CIA spooks have been using VSA for years - sometimes for legitimate purposes, sometimes not so legit. Now Mike's on a crusade to let freedom lovers, citizen activists, drug users, gun owners and, above all, militia members, turn the table on government agents.

What is VSA?

Simply put, VSA is lie detection technology that measures vibrations in the human voice. As with all lie detection technologies, its part science, part art. The science is fairly straightforward. As Paul B. Dennis, developer of the TVSA3 software Mike uses, writes:[Note A]

All muscles in the body, including the vocal chords, vibrate in the 8 to 12 Hz range....This is known to be caused by the production and release of a chemical, as explained in the Scientific American Article "Psychological Tremor" Vol. 224, No. 3, 1971. In moments of stress, like when you tell a lie that you dare not get caught at, the body prepares for fight or flight by increasing the readiness of its muscles to spring into action. Their vibration increases from the relaxed 8 to 9 Hz, to the stressful 11 to 12 Hz range.

...Some people have high average stress levels, and some have low, and averages change from day to day along with mood. What all people have in common is that their stress levels are constantly changing within their current range, changes which indicate the "perceived jeopardy" or "danger" of statements being made. A lie is often dangerous, humiliating, or injurious to get caught at, so lies tend to stand out on stress measurements.

Why it matters to Mike

Mike stumbled across TVSA3 while doing research for a political novel. "I was looking for a plausible, fictional means of verifying loyalty and I was directed to this technology," he says. "I thought, 'Boy, this is interesting.' I downloaded the software from the net and started playing with it. That's when it dawned on me that this was more than a fictional device. I put aside the book and I've been doing this ever since."

He's now marketing voice analysis, offering a free trial run to anyone in the freedom movement.

Why is a self-proclaimed redneck, a chemical and electrical engineer, interested in voice stress analysis, or for that matter, in the whole question of loyalty? That goes back to 1992.

That was the year Mike sued to stop the state of Louisiana using illegal roadblocks as an excuse to confiscate uninsured vehicles. He lost. But he drew attention to himself as a troublemaker.

Shortly after, a grass fire mysteriously ignited on a pasture he'd burned off weeks earlier. It gave firefighters an excuse to enter his house while he was away, and that gave the cops evidence he'd been growing cannabis. (Mike, a lifelong diabetic and epileptic, uses cannabis for medicine and pleasure). Mike went to jail, where he almost died. He eventually forfeited his house and land in order to buy off the Law before trial.

Back at the family home in Alabama, his jail experience inspired him to form the Gadsden Minutemen - which rapidly inflicted national embarrassment on one of the federal government's most brutal agencies, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The media likes to recite a false credo of militia racism. But in 1995, Mike and his militia friends "got the goods" showing the BATF - and some VIP politicians - to be as racist as any gang of Klansmen.

The Minutemen handed the media videotape and photographs of racist antics at the BATF's annual Good O' Boys rally. At the rally, federal agents and their guests set up "nigger check points," offered "nigger-hunting licenses" and staged playlets showing God creating the black race out of a watermelon. Nobody knew how much hard evidence of racism the Minutemen actually possessed - or whom it implicated.

Within weeks, Mike was arrested in a warrantless raid - again for cannabis. Again he almost died in jail. But by now, Mike had friends around the country and he was released following a barrage of letters, calls and faxes - including a call from a CBS News producer inquiring about his health.

His Louisiana bust might have resulted from a fishing expedition. Or maybe the fire really was an accident. But the second bust was the work of a snitch. And Mike knew it.

Lying in jail with dangerous illnesses raging out of control gives you time to think. Mike thought about loyalty. And honesty. VSA was a natural.

The not-so-natural natural

At first, Mike thought it was going to be easy.

To test the system, he converted existing audiotapes of known truth or lies into digital wave files, then ran the waves through TVSA3 software. The software adds beeps of varying frequency and duration where it finds stress above a baseline stress level. So far, so good.

Next, Mike began analyzing statements whose truthfulness he didn't know, provided by friends who did know. He learned he could usually recognize a true statement, even when the speaker carried a lot of stressful baggage that showed up in the analysis. He could detect a false statement almost flawlessly. Mike was becoming confident when he ran afoul of Internet journalist and self-described brat, Patricia Neill. One night, Neill got on the phone with Mike and casually recorded a series of lies like, "I'm wearing purple underwear" and "I'm a member of the Soviet Politburo."

No matter how she lied, the VSA software read her statements as blandly true.

Could the machine be fooled? Some sociopaths and highly trained subjects can baffle other forms of lie detector. Is VSA vulnerable? If so, was Neill simply an exceptionally cool liar?

However, as she continued to talk about more serious matters, with the recorder running, Mike got what he needed to figure it out. It's not the lie itself, but fear, unease or other emotional stress about the lie, that puts the bleeps in the VSA. A person with no compunction could tell casual lies to the machine all day. But when the same person talks of significant matters, VSA detects the stress.

On the other hand, as Mike also discovered, someone who's exceptionally scrupulous about truth often shows signs of stress that - to an inexperienced or prejudiced operator - might sound like lies. Similarly, someone who's rapidly thinking ahead to his next statement might show spikes of stress that reflect his thoughts, rather than the words emerging from his mouth. Anger and fear also set off VSA stress reactions. This is where the art comes in; the operator has to learn to recognize patterns of stress and has to know something about the psychology of honest and dishonest people to read VSA results accurately. Although TVSA3 is freeware and anyone with a properly equipped computer can use it, it's not a tool for the inexperienced, judgmental or sloppy.

Mike concludes, "It's been alleged people can be trained to beat this, and that doesn't surprise me. But trained, professional agents are rare birds. Most people being used by the government as informants are simply criminals, snitches, people without any sort of morality. Them I can detect."

Putting it to the real test

And he has detected them. He has also cleared people who've been wrongly accused.

Around the time Mike completed his initial tests, he heard from Dave Rydel, a Michigan businessman better known among militia members as "Eagleflt," national coordinator of the u. S Theater Command (u.S.T.C.).

Rydel had been accused of being a snitch -- the plague of the militias. The militia movement started in the early 90s in response to the Brady Law and the so-called "assault weapons" ban. Growth was spurred by Ruby Ridge and Waco. For a while, the movement was strong. Then group after group blew apart under the influence of agents provocateur. Leaders were entrapped, framed and arrested, usually on vague statutory charges like "possession of..." or "conspiracy to..." Members were jailed or scared off. Much of the remaining movement went underground.

Today, although the movement is growing once again, trust is shaky. Anyone who comes forward with an idea or assumes a leadership role is likely to be accused of being an agent or informant. Routine disagreements rage into he-said/she-said sessions about who's a snitch.

Before he ever learned about Mike's discovery, Rydel had been looking for a way to end destructive dissension, "The real snitches are hiding among us doing their work," he observes, "while we're accusing each other."

He asked for a VSA analysis, opening himself to any questions Mike wished to pose. Mike grilled him on a variety of subjects, including whether Rydel worked or informed for any government agency. Mike's verdict: "He came through with flying colors. He's not a fed."

And how can Mike be sure Rydel isn't simply one of those trained liars? Rydel laughs, "When we were just talking, Mike said to me, 'I sent you an article. Did you read it?' I didn't want to disappoint him, so I said, 'Yeah,' when I'd only skimmed it. He caught me."

A more serious "catch" came when the snitch who'd helped engineer Mike's arrest came to his door. The man swore he'd seen the error of his ways and offered to act as a double agent on Mike's behalf. Mike was taping. The snitch was lying. VSA analysis showed screams of stress on key words.

Rydel says, "I want to make a recommendation. Every patriot who's going to deal nationally should have this test done every three months to make sure their heart is in the right place. I don't want to infringe on rights, but a security clearance is done on everyone who's in the military. We can't do that because the government alters records and makes false histories of its agents and informants. VSA is a way of absolutely getting to what is in the individual's heart. Right now there are a lot of people who are considered agitators and no one will listen to them because they speak loudly. If we know they're true blue, we can trust each other more."

Caution is still in order. Even with the most accurate analysis, someone who's not a snitch today may become one tomorrow (which is why Rydel recommends analysis be done repeatedly). Weak people will cave if the government threatens them with prison. Some agencies, rich from civil forfeiture, now offer snitches serious money to betray their friends. And unfortunately, a person can be completely honest, yet still attract the attention of law enforcement if he behaves idiotically.

Nevertheless, periodic checks might indeed help restore some confidence to a battered movement. Just knowing VSA is out there might be enough to keep some people from turning.

Honest politicians?

Paul Dennis, the developer of TVSA3, has another purpose in mind for his baby. He wants it used by citizen activists to detect lies uttered by politicians, judges and bureaucrats, in hopes of forcing reform upon the government.

Some readers might think reforming government is as futile as reforming a cesspool. Others object that, even if reform is worthy, politicians are such conscienceless liars they could fool any machine. But in fact, politicians can be caught - emphatically and revealingly.

Listen to a VSA-processed recording of Bill Clinton proclaiming the glories of another expansion of federal government and (with asterisks indicating stress beeps) you'll hear:

It's to empower people to make the most of *their* own lives, to enhance *their* security and the help* create opportunity as a partner.

In other words, the statement is dead, flat true - except that Clinton, in his secret heart, believes the new power and security actually work to benefit someone other than the people of the United States.

Mike also analyzed taped statements made by Janet Reno and FBI spokesmen at the Branch Davidian siege. When Reno makes her famous remark about the tanks that smashed holes in the church, enabling the spread of the fatal fire:

...these pieces of equipment were unarmed as I understand it...and it was like a good rent-a-car...

TVSA3 reveals almost a steady squeal of stress, particularly over the word "unarmed."

Near-steady beeps also scream above the words of an FBI spokesman, who said:

Dozens and dozens of rounds have been fired at FBI agents. The FBI, in an effort to demonstrate its extraordinary restraint, has not returned fire, thus far.

Legal? Accurate?

The federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 prevents most private-sector employers from using truth detection on employees or applicants. And, like polygraph results, VSA analysis isn't admissible in court. Otherwise, laws on use of voice stress analysis vary from state to state.

California Penal Code section 637.3 rules so strictly against VSA that you could be arrested for analyzing the above Clinton statement in the privacy of your own home. (Cops exempted, of course; they always have special privileges.) In most states, including California, you can record and analyze people as long as they give consent. Elsewhere, its legal to run an analysis if only one party to a conversation - you, rather than your subject - consents to the taping.

But how accurate is VSA, objectively? No one really knows. After early interest, scientific attention died down, and little serious study has been done.

In February 1998, the American Polygraph Association stated it "does not endorse the use of voice stress analysis." On September 11, 1996, the U.S. Department of Defense Polygraph Institute flatly decreed VSA technology to be ineffective. However, neither organization cited any supporting data for its assertion, and each has a vested interest in a competing technology, the polygraph.

On the other hand, the Diogenes Group, a vendor of VSA technology, notes that its system is built to specifications put forth by the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps - which tends to give the lie to the DoD's statement.

California thinks enough of VSA to list it as one of many tests prospective police or highway patrol officers may be required to take. The CIA uses it on agents, contacts and (probably) citizens. VSA has also been used by police departments around the world. Diogenes Group notes one instance:

During a live police interrogation, a witness was shown a photo line-up and asked to pick which subject shot the bartender during a drug-related robbery/homicide. Her response, which took only 1.01 seconds, was captured real-time and immediately analyzed by the police examiner. The examiner graded the overall narrative response with a 92.5% abnormal stress pattern, indicative of deception.

When confronted with the obvious deceptive response, the subject readily admitted that she was trying to cover for a friend who had actually shot the bartender, then identified the correct suspect....The suspect's information was later corroborated by another eyewitness leading to the killer's arrest.

It's clear that some debunking of VSA may merely be turf-protection or misdirection by agencies wishing to keep the technology to themselves. However, it is true that no large-scale, controlled, scientific study of VSA exists. The first Justice Department evaluation of VSA technology just got underway in September 1997.

Without solid study results, it's probably safest to say that the effectiveness of VSA depends largely upon the skill of the operator. Engineer, "gadget person," long-time computer user, and observer of human nature both inside and outside of jail, Mike Kemp understands the technology and the psychology of VSA.

Rydel adds, "He's got an ability to think. He plans, analyzes and re-analyzes. Mike also has good character and ethics. I don't think he would speak behind someone's back unprofessionally or make snap judgments." Getting the snitches out of peaceful lives

"Once upon a time," Mike says, "if there was a crime, there was either a victim who could complain or a dead body. Nowadays, nobody's complaining, so they have to send people flying false colors to find out if I'm committing a crime. Or they have to send those people to try to get me to commit a crime. I want to get the snitches out.

"This technology could be used by anybody who operates clandestinely. I don't care if it's Hamas. I don't care if its the mob. I don't care if it's the Colombian cartel. On the other hand, the big boys are going to get their own people to do this sort of work. I don't have any credibility with the Colombian cartel. I do with the militia movement."

"I'm hoping all of the freedom movement - or any association of people who have doubts about their membership, leadership or whatever, would voluntarily vet themselves. I'd like to see them make tapes just for the comfort of their fellows. I'd like to see disputes 'taken to the box.' I'd like to see public officials terrified that a big light would go on over their heads every time they told a lie. I would like those who think they'd rather snitch than go to prison learn that there's no protection in a lie."

In short: "I want to balance the scales up some."

But why take the risk of embarrassing cops when your health is a mess and you've already got half the Law in the region itching to shut you up?

"My grandmother's grandfather is buried under a Confederate monument 10 or 12 miles from here. He was a small farmer with a mule and a few acres. He was severely wounded in the arm with a lead ball. He had been captured and it was presumed he was dying, so he was paroled on condition that he go home to die. He went back to his unit and did everything a one-armed man could do. "Like him, I am motivated by sheer, redneck mule-headedness.

Want to see for yourself if it works?

  1. Make a cassette tape or digital wave file containing 5-10 brief, to-the-point statements (mono, 16-bit, 11025 bps sampling rate).
  2. You can record yourself or another subject.
  3. When taping a second party, a recording made candidly is most effective. Next best is a staged question-and-answer session, similar to a polygraph examination. Good questions include: "Is it moral to allow criminals to escape their punishment by infiltrating the citizenry in search of some statutory violation?" "Do you or have you passed information to governmental entities against the interests of your trusted associates?" or "Is there any reason for your associates to fear your allegiance?" Avoid long, rambling statements.
  4. If possible, include at least one known lie. It should be one that evokes an emotional reaction in the speaker (not, "I'm wearing purple underwear.")
  5. Include brief information about how the tape was made and why you want the analysis.
  6. E-mail wave files to:
    You may send recordings in your own name or anonymously, as long as you give enough information for Mike to return the results. You can request Mike's PGP key via the above address. For more detailed instructions, see the article on VSA at: http://www.eagleflt.com.
  7. Mail tapes or diskettes to:
    Mike Kemp
    P.O. Box 873
    Attalla, Alabama, 35954

    Be sure to include an address to which Mike can return the results.
  8. The fee is $20, payable in cash or money order with the "to" line left blank. First analysis free if you're a member of the freedom movement.
  9. ALWAYS be aware of the law in your own state. Mike will presume all recordings have been made legally.

NOTE A: http://www.4bypass.com/truthvsa.html

(Update: July 30, 1998. Although the truthvsa site is still "live," the download link and the e-mail link to Paul Dennis have gone inactive. I don't know how to reach Dennis, but the software can be found at http://www.involved.com/ewolfe/vsa/. If you download the program, please recall that a lot of experimenting and testing is needed for accurate analysis. Don't just assume every bleep or squeal you hear indicates a lie!)



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