I am a big fan of CSI. I have always been fascinated with TV programs like Discovery Channel’s New Detectives which depict the amazing world of crime scene investigation, or CSI. When Jerry Bruckheimer launched CSI the TV series, I found myself transfixed by the fast-paced drama that was based on the real-life world of forensics science.
TV series CSI has become so successful it soon spun off CSI Miami and CSI New York, intended to capture the ethnic and cultural ambience that give a unique flavor to crime and detection. With a whole stable of retired CSI experts as consultants and with the use of state-of-the-art special effects, the TV series depicts the brave new world of criminal forensics with the accomplished flourish and zing only reality-based fiction can achieve. Forensics science, so it seems, has turned the term ‘perfect crime’ into a myth.
Voiceprint technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, thanks to anti-terrorism pressures to detect people behind phoned-in bomb threats and information technology’s drive to capitalize on voice recognition as identifier for security, voice command conveniences for the disabled, and other such business possibilities. The human voice is not only unique to every person – it is also electronically measurable on a graph. According to the US Constitutional Rights Foundation, our vocal chords process sounds differently from those of other persons depending upon the size and shape of vocal and nasal cavity and the way a person coordinates lips, jaw, tongue and soft palate to speak. This makes our voiceprint or spectrography unique enough to make personal identification possible.
According to the Foundation report, “Sound spectrography was developed during World War II to identify enemy radio operators. The modern spectrograph, used to make voiceprints, came out of the Bell Labs in the 1960s.”
“The spectrograph has a revolving cylinder with paper attached to it. As the cylinder revolves, a needle moves across the paper according to the recorded voice's frequency, time, and intensity. The resulting squiggles form a voiceprint, or spectrogram. An examiner can compare voiceprints to determine whether they come from the same speaker”, the report added.
“Comparing voiceprints is different from comparing fingerprints. Everyone's fingerprints remain the same. If Joe makes five prints of his right thumb, they will all be the same. But if Joe makes five voiceprints of him saying, "Put $100,000 in unmarked bills in a brown paper bag," each voiceprint will be different. But, according to the theory, they will resemble each other more than someone else's voiceprint saying the same words.
“In 1972, Oscar Tosi of Michigan State University conducted 34,000 tests of voiceprints using 250 male students and about 30 examiners. The examiners, who had only undergone a brief one-month training, were given 15 minutes to interpret each test. Tosi found that false identifications occurred in only about 6 percent of the tests.” (End of report quote) The Tosi tests having been conducted 33 years ago, the efficiency of Spectrography has been fine-tuned to address whatever small margin of error there was in 1972. From what I’ve learned, a voiceprint of an impersonator of George W. Bush’s voice will most definitely show wide disparity with that of the US President. Voiceprints have already been accepted in US courts as evidence and because of voiceprint technology, convictions were made possible.
More unique than others
Unfortunately for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her voice and that of her husband Mike are particularly unique. This makes voiceprint analysis less complicated. The very distinctive Macapagal-Arroyo voice and speech trademark convince many that she is the one on the tape.
Ate Glow, the impersonator, may seem to catch highly obvious peculiarities in Macapagal-Arroyo’s voice and speech which could help suggest and create the illusion that Ate Glow is the real thing. Research proved that people tend to taste what they expect to taste and hear what they expect to hear. If both Ate Glow and President Arroyo are subjected to voiceprint tests, I’m sure the difference will be quite obvious.
Another factor is the duration of the voice impersonation. A good mimic may be able to get away with a few short sentences. But the odds of escaping detection becomes virtually nil on voiceprints done on extended conversations, such as the one involving the female voice on the controversial Gloriagate tape.
A few days ago, former and active COPA members had dinner together. In the middle of gourmet food, we used the occasion to compare notes on the tape controversy. One of our most efficient information gatherers told us that when the opposition sent the Gloria-Garci tapes to the US and Australia to check its integrity against tampering, they also provided actual Gloria M. Arroyo and Virgilio Garcillano tapes to establish their respective voiceprints.
According to the information, the opposition sent voiceprint samples of the President delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and then a sample of COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano while conducting a press conference.
Thus, we were further informed that when the voiceprints from the SONA and the press conference were matched with the female and male voices on the Gloria-Garci controversial tapes – the result proved to be a match!
It appears that the opposition is deliberately withholding the information about the expert positive ID on the voiceprints in the tapes until such a time when Macapagal-Arroyo would have decided to come out with a denial – which she has not done as of this writing. Another possibility is that Macapagal-Arroyo has now chosen to just keep quiet rather than tell another lie, especially at this time when the whole country seems so convinced it knows the truth.
Alas, real life cop Reynaldo Wycoco and his attempts to refute the integrity of the Gloriagate tapes gives the CSI, the TV fiction series, more credit for credibility. Such is sorry state of the credibility of the Macapagal-Arroyo government.
You may email William M. Esposo at: firstname.lastname@example.org