Polygraph Screening Prevents U.S. Customs and Border Protection from Meeting Hiring Goals

Customs and Border ProtectionAssociated Press reporter Elliot Spagat reports on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s pre-employment polygraph screening program:

SAN DIEGO (AP) — David Kirk was a career Marine pilot with a top-secret security clearance and a record of flying classified missions. He was in the cockpit when President George W. Bush and Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden traveled around the nation’s capital by helicopter.

With credentials like that, Kirk was stunned to fail a lie detector when he applied for a pilot’s job with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which guards 6,000 miles of border with Mexico and Canada. After two contentious polygraph sessions that lasted a combined eight hours, Kirk said, he drove home “with my tail between my legs,” wondering how things had gone so wrong.

Two out of three applicants to the CBP fail its polygraph, according to the agency — more than double the average rate of eight law enforcement agencies that provided data to The Associated Press under open-records requests.

Stories like David Kirk’s are common at CBP. See, for example, the dozens of comments on our 2010 blog post, Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Failure Rate Pegged at 60%.

It’s a big reason approximately 2,000 jobs at the nation’s largest law enforcement agency are empty, with the Border Patrol, a part of CBP, recently slipping below 20,000 agents for the first time since 2009. And it has raised questions of whether the lie detector tests are being properly administered.

CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said the failure rate is too high, but that it’s largely because the agency hasn’t attracted the applicants it wants. He and other law enforcement experts contend the polygraphs are generally working as intended at the agency, which has been trying to root out bribery and other corruption.

Gil Kerlikowske should be asked to document how he knows that the reason the CBP failure rate is so high is “largely because the agency hasn’t attracted the applicants it wants.” A more plausible explanation is that an invalid procedure (polygraph screening) is frequently and predictably producing invalid results.

But others, including lawmakers, union leaders and polygraph experts, contend that the use of lie detectors has gone awry and that many applicants are being subjected to unusually long and hostile interrogations, which some say can make people look deceptive even when they are telling the truth.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he suspects CBP examiners fail applicants to justify their own jobs. He said he worries applicants are being wrongly branded with a “scarlet letter” in the eyes of other potential government employers.

“There seems to be no good explanation, and when we hear so many anecdotal stories, it starts to look like a trend where they feel like they have to fail them, a certain number,” he said. “It makes you angry that people would be put through that.”

Senator Jeff Flake is likely correct. Polygraph operators’ pass/fail rates are compared, and it’s likely that polygraph they don’t want to appear to be “soft” compared to their peers. Sen. Flake raised concern about the level of false positives in the CBP polygraph program in a Judiciary Committee meeting held in June 2016.

In December, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said it was reviewing whether CBP’s polygraphs are effective in hiring. The hiring difficulties have become so acute that the Border Patrol recently took the unusual step of asking Congress to use money earmarked for 300 jobs for other purposes. That raises doubts about President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to add 5,000 agents.

Taking a polygraph became a hiring requirement at CBP in 2012 after a huge hiring surge led to more agents getting arrested for misconduct.

James Tomsheck said that when he was CBP’s chief of internal affairs from 2006 to 2014, about 30 applicants admitted during the lie detector test that they were sent by drug cartels; one said he killed his infant son.

One applicant revealed his brother-in-law wanted him to smuggle cocaine on the job, and another said he used marijuana 9,000 times, including the night before his test, according to the Government Accountability Office.

It is true, as James Tomsheck notes, that applicants sometimes admit to disqualifying behavior during pre-employment polygraph examinations.1 But only the most stupid of applicants make such admissions. Any person of reasonable intelligence seeking to infiltrate CBP on behalf of a drug cartel can pass the polygraph using simple countermeasures (see Chapter 4) that polygraph operators cannot detect.

Interviews with six applicants who failed to clear the polygraph fit a pattern: The examiner abruptly changes tone, leveling accusations of lying or holding something back. The job-seeker denies it and the questioning goes in circles for hours. Some are invited for a second visit, which ends no differently.

Luis Granado applied to the Border Patrol in 2014 with military experience and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. His father is an agent, and Granado used to proudly try on the badge as a boy.

“This was my dream job,” said Granado, 31, who is now a full-time Air Force reservist in Tucson, Arizona. “I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps forever.”

He said the examiner scolded him for answers that were “too emphatic, too fast” and told him to stop grinding his teeth.

Granado said the examiner was troubled by an admission that he cheated on a test in high school. When he denied ever belonging to a cartel or terrorist group, the examiner stopped and said, “Well, I think you’re being deceptive,” according to Granado. After two sessions that lasted a total of 12 hours, his conditional job offer was rescinded.

CBP declined to comment on individual cases.

Luis Granado’s experience is an all-too-common story, and it’s happening not only to CBP applicants, but also to applicants with other federal agencies with a polygraph screening requirement. See AntiPolygraph.org’s Personal Statements page for examples.

CBP’s Kerlikowske put the agency’s polygraph failure rate at about 65 percent. The AP asked law enforcement agencies across the country for two years of lie-detector data for job applicants, including police departments in the nation’s 10 largest cities and in major towns along the Mexican border. The eight that supplied numbers showed an average failure rate of 28 percent.

Tomsheck said that when he was CBP’s internal affairs chief, other federal agencies, including the FBI and Secret Service, had failure rates of less than 35 percent. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the only federal agency that supplied data to the AP, failed 36 percent in the last two years.

Mark Handler, editor in chief of the American Polygraph Association, said failure rates of about 30 percent are typical in law enforcement hiring.

Kerlikowske explained that the agency isn’t getting the applicants it wants because the relatively new CBP, created in 2003, “doesn’t have a brand” and is unfamiliar to some.

Among other possible reasons offered by some experts for the agency’s failure rate: CBP may have higher standards than local departments, and it get less-experienced applicants who have never taken a lie detector before.

Agencies can and do set their polygraph pass/fail rates as high or as low as they please. For example, in the late 1990s, the FBI had a pre-employment polygraph failure rate of 20%. But after 9/11, with a surge in the number of applicants, that failure rate more than doubled to 50% by 2002. It is not plausible that this rate increase had anything to do with the FBI having higher hiring standards (they didn’t change) or the fact that applicants had never been polygraphed before. Rather, with more applicants, the FBI felt it could afford to arbitrarily brand a higher percentage of applicants as liars and disqualify them.

The duration of CBP’s testing strikes some experts as unusual.

“If there’s an exam that lasts four to eight hours, your polygrapher is either incompetent or a fool or both,” said Capt. Alan Hamilton, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s recruitment and employment division. His department’s exams last no longer than 90 minutes.

Handler said prolonged, accusatory interviews can lead to failures for people who are telling the truth. Lie detectors measure blood pressure, sweating and breathing.

The relatively lengthy polygraph interrogations at CBP likely result from the fact that the CBP polygraph program was largely created and initially staffed with retired U.S. Secret Service polygraph operators, who could collect their pensions while receiving federal salaries with CBP (“double-dipping”). Lengthy, abusive interrogations have long been a hallmark of the USSS polygraph program. See, for example, the personal statement of Bill Roche.

Polygraphs are generally not admissible in court, and federal law bars private employers from using them to hire. The military doesn’t use them to screen enlistees, and some law enforcement agencies don’t use them in hiring, including the New York Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

CBP, under pressure to hire, recently loosened standards on previous marijuana use and, under a law that took effect in December, can waive polygraphs for veterans with top-secret clearances.

A better solution would be to scrap the polygraph program entirely. Given polygraphy’s lack of scientific underpinnings and vulnerability to simple, easily-learned countermeasures, CBP and other federal agencies should scrap their misplaced reliance on it. See AntiPolygraph.org’s proposed legislation for effecting this outcome.

Kirk, 47, of Friendswood, Texas, applied to CBP in 2013 after 20 years as a Marine officer and calls it one of the worst experiences of his life. In the Marines, “one of our biggest mantras is our honesty and integrity,” he said. “Someone calling me a liar, I take it very personally.”

During the 2013 polygraph exams, he said, he was accused of cheating on his wife and mishandling classified information and was told he acted like a drug trafficker trying to infiltrate the agency. Kirk vehemently denies the allegations.

The accusation of marital infidelity “almost made me want to jump across the desk,” said the father of four. He told the examiner that he tried marijuana in college and says the biggest mark on his record is a speeding ticket.

“They treated me like a criminal,” said Kirk, now a private pilot. “I don’t know who was better qualified than me to fill this position.”

See also this video report produced by the Associated Press, which includes an interview with David Kirk:

  1. AntiPolygraph.org is unaware of any instance where someone attempting to infiltrate CBP on behalf of a drug cartel was criminally prosecuted. []

Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker Scraps Polygraph Screening

Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker

Applicants for employment with the Pennsylvania State Police will no longer be required to submit to the pseudoscientific ritual of polygraph screening. Angela Couloumbis reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer:

HARRISBURG – In a move sparking controversy, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker has quietly scrapped the agency’s long-held practice of administering lie-detector tests to its recruits.

State Police officials confirmed this week that applicants vying to become state troopers will no longer undergo polygraph testing as part of an extensive background check that helps determine their acceptance into the State Police Academy.

A spokesman for the State Police would not say why Blocker ordered the change. The agency also could not immediately provide information on how many candidates fail the test annually, what kind of questions are asked, or whether it has been successful in the past in identifying red flags.

But two state officials familiar with the decision said Blocker told agency managers he believes the testing slows down the hiring process, leading the State Police to lose out on qualified candidates who end up taking jobs elsewhere. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

The fact that polygraphy has no scientific basis whatsoever is reason enough to scrap it. With respect to the Pennsylvania State Police polygraph program, AntiPolygraph.org has previously published documentation of its policies, including the specific questions asked of applicants.

Blocker is facing pushback from troopers who believe eliminating the polygraph takes away an important tool the agency has used to weed out unqualified applicants.

Joe Kovel, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, called it a “bad idea.”

“Right now, people in society want to know that we are doing everything we can to ensure that the men and women we hire are of the outmost integrity – and the polygraph test has proven to be an important tool in determining that,” said Kovel.

He said he had expressed the concerns of his union’s membership – more than 4,000 troopers – to Blocker.

Pennsylvania State Troopers Association president Joseph R. Kovel’s misgivings about the decision to scrap the polygraph are misplaced. There is no evidence that polygraph screening results in a more honest police force. For example, there is no documentation that police forces in Pennsylvania, where polygraph screening is generally permitted, are any less honest than police forces in the neighboring state of New Jersey, where state law prohibits polygraph screening of police applicants.

Moreover, as more and more people in society come to understand that polygraph “testing” is a pseudoscientific fraud, the fact that police agencies rely on it in the hiring process will increasingly inspire the opposite of confidence.

Despite debate over the effectiveness and reliability of lie-detector tests, most federal, state and local law enforcement agencies use them when screening applicants. Candidates may be asked, for instance, about sexual activity, employers, past drug use, contact with criminals or legal actions against them.

There are exceptions: the New York City Police Department and the New Jersey State Police, for instance, do not use polygraphs in pre-employment screening.

But particularly at the federal level, the results can automatically disqualify applicants, said George Maschke, a onetime U.S. Army reserve intelligence officer and co-founder of AntiPolygraph.org, a non-profit website that questions the reliability and effectiveness of polygraph testing, as well as the science behind them.

In an interview, Maschke called the State Police’s decision to scrap the test “a wise one.”

He called the science behind them “junk,” and said they can easily be manipulated by knowledgeable applicants. Conversely, he said, the tests can also produce faulty results because the things they measure – such as changes in breathing, perspiration and blood pressure – often occur for reasons other than lying.

“Resentment at being asked an accusatory question, fear of not being believed even though you are telling the truth, embarrassment over being asked a personal question – all sorts of things could cause those changes,” said Maschke. “Even the tone of voice of the interrogators can produce that change.”

Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker is to be commended for his decision to terminate the long-held but invalid practice of polygraph screening. It is inherently biased against the truthful, resulting in many false positives, while liars can easily fool the polygraph using simple countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect. Other law enforcement agency leaders should take note and follow Commissioner Blocker’s example.

Jailed Polygraph Critic Doug Williams Appeals Ban on Post-Release Participation “In Any Form of Polygraph-Related Activity”

On 22 September 2015, federal judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange sentenced Doug Williams to 24 months in prison following his guilty plea to charges connected with his having taught undercover federal agents how to pass or beat a polygraph “test.” Her sentencing order further instructs that upon release (scheduled for 26 July 2017), Williams will be subjected to three years’ “supervised release” during which time he “shall not participate in any form of polygraph-related activity.”

This prohibition on participation “in any form of polygraph-related activity” curtails Williams’ 1st Amendment right to free speech and severely limits the self-employed 71-year-old’s ability to earn a living.

On 21 November 2016, Williams filed a pro se motion (PDF) for modification of the terms of his supervised release. Citing relevant 10th Circuit Court of Appeals precedent, Williams asks the court to modify the conditions of his release to allow him to engage in polygraph-related activity to the extent that it is not “intended or part of a scheme to defraud the United States or tamper with witnesses.”

At the time of writing, the United States Attorney’s Office has not filed a response.

Do Polygraph Tests Actually Work?

In a well-researched article written for the website Priceonomics, Simon R. Gardner asks the question: “Do polygraph tests actually work?” and concludes that the answer is a definitive “No.” Excerpt:

You’ve been arrested for a brutal murder you didn’t commit. The evidence is circumstantial, but the police are convinced you’re the killer. The prosecutor offers you a deal. They’ll drop the charges, but only if you take a polygraph test to prove your innocence.

What would you do?

Unfortunately this is no hypothetical, but rather a scene from a real life nightmare.

In 1978, Fred Ery was working in his general store in Perrysberg, Ohio, when a masked assailant burst in and shot him. Before he died on the operating table, he was able to tell his wife the name of his killer, and even gave detectives his address. It seemed like an open-and-shut case, and police soon had Floyd “Buzz” Fay’s house surrounded.

Fay later failed a polygraph test not once but twice. With the results  admitted into evidence during his trial, he spent the next two and a half years in prison before he was exonerated when the mother of the real killer came forward. During this time, Fay became a vocal campaigner against the polygraph, even appearing on NBC’s “Today” show after his release to call for polygraph tests to be banned from criminal trials.

Nearly 40 years later, the polygraph still commands something of a towering cultural presence in modern day life. From Hollywood movies to infamous criminal cases to daytime television, it’s used as a definitive arbiter by both the justice system and entertainers.

But can a machine really detect lies?

Read the full article here.

DIA to Require All Contractors with SCI Access to Pass Polygraph

DIA sealOn 1 November 2016, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director of security Michael P. Londregan published a notice that beginning in 2017, all DIA contractors whose work requires access to sensitive compartmented information will be required to pass a polygraph “test.” Excerpt:

1 November 2016

Security Notice
(From the Director of Security)

Subject: Contractor Counterintelligence-Scope Polygraph Screening

On Jan. 1, 2017, DIA will begin implementing a phased change to its polygraph policy. All contractors or employees of contractors identified to perform work for DIA, and where the work requires access to sensitive compartmented information, must either successfully complete a counterintelligence-scope polygraph (CSP) examination (in accordance with Intelligence Community Policy Guidance 704.6 and Security Executive Agent Directive 2) or have on record a reciprocally acceptable polygraph examination from another federal agency prior to being granted unescorted access to DIA systems, facilities or information.

DIA will implement this policy change using the following schedule:

  • 1 January 2017: National Capital Region (NCR) approximately 50-mile radius extending outward to Ft Meade, MD and Charlottesville, VA
  • 1 April 2017: Continental United States (CONUS) including NCR contractors
  • 1 July 2017: Outside CONUS including CONUS contractors and NCR

Regardless of geographical assignment, all polygraph testing will be scheduled through the special security officer (SSO), unit security officer (USO) or your contracting officer representative (COR), respectively, to the DIA Central Processing Center, Reston, Virginia.

Refusal without reasonable cause (as determined by the Director of Security for DIA) to undergo polygraph examination; failure to cooperate during a polygraph examination; or purposeful noncooperation during a polygraph examination — including confirmed use of polygraph countermeasures — could result in additional review or an adverse security determination.

Individuals affected by this policy may wish to review “The Lying Game: National Security and the Test for Espionage and Sabotoge” for a critique of the completely invalid polygraph screening technique used by the U.S. Department of Defense. In the past, it appeared that one could pass the DoD counterintelligence-scope polygraph simply by not making any significant admissions. It is unclear to what extent this remains true.

It’s worth noting that the DIA polygraph screening program has never caught a spy. In 2001, DIA’s senior analyst for Cuban affairs, Ana Belen Montes, was arrested for, and ultimately pled guilty to, having been a Cuban spy. She had been trained by Cuban intelligence how to fool the polygraph, and she did precisely that throughout her DIA employment.

DIA contractors should pay special attention to the notice that “purposeful noncooperation during a polygraph examination — including confirmed use of polygraph countermeasures — could result in additional review or an adverse security determination. If, for example, you breath slowly and deeply during your polygraph “test” in an attempt to remain calm, your polygrapher may accuse you of attempting to use polygraph countermeasures. If you then acknowledge that you were breathing slowly and deeply in an attempt to remain calm so you could pass, that simple admission may be taken as “confirmed use of countermeasures.”

DIA polygraph case files leaked to AntiPolygraph.org suggest that DIA is unable to detect sophisticated polygraph countermeasures, that is, the kinds of things that an actual spy like Ana Belen Montes might be expected to employ. Instead, the “confirmed countermeasure cases” consist entirely of people doing things that no one who understands polygraph procedure would actually do.

For more on the pseudoscience of polygraphy, including tips on how to protect yourself against the random error associated with it, see our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

FBI Suspends Senior Analyst’s Security Clearance Over Alleged Polygraph Countermeasures

fbi-polygraphHuffington Post reporter Jessica Schulberg tells the story of a senior FBI intelligence analyst who lost his security clearance and his job over a polygraph operator’s accusation that he employed polygraph countermeasures. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON — Logan tried to stay calm as he boarded the subway to take the one-mile trip from his office at FBI headquarters to Patriots Plaza. He could have walked, but he didn’t want to risk getting sweaty or disheveled before his polygraph examination.

There was nothing to worry about, Logan told himself. During his 11 years as an FBI intelligence analyst, he had already passed two polygraphs — one when he was hired in 2003 and another in 2008. The bureau administers polygraphs to potential hires and then reinvestigates its employees every five years throughout their employment.

But as he headed to Patriots Plaza that morning in September 2014, Logan (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) couldn’t stop thinking about his polygraph results from the year before. His anxiety had taken over, and the test caught physiological reactions in response to national security questions. The examiner accused him of lying and attempting to cheat the polygraph. Logan denied both charges. The FBI scheduled a retest.

This time would be different. It had to be different, or he could lose his security clearance and his job.

But the 2014 retest got off to a bad start. Logan felt a panic attack set in as soon as the exam began. He focused on steadying his breathing and restoring his calm.

Logan’s attempts to quiet his nerves backfired. The polygrapher accused him of using a “countermeasure” ? a poorly defined term for deliberately altering one’s physiological state (by, say, sticking a thumbtack in one’s shoe) in order to hide lying on a polygraph. Logan denied the charge, but after several hours under pressure, he amended a written statement to include self-incriminating phrases he alleges were fed to him by the polygrapher. That statement was later used against him when the FBI revoked his security clearance, effectively putting him out of work. Logan appealed.

After nearly two years without pay, he is still trying to regain his clearance.

Read the rest of this important story here. In September 2105 the late Dr. Drew C. Richardson, a retired FBI scientist and polygraph critic, posted to AntiPolygraph.org the text of a declaration that he provided in support of the FBI employee in question.

John J. Furedy, RIP

John Furedy in 2014 (Photo by Renee Nowytarger, News Ltd.)

John J. Furedy at home in Sydney, Australia in 2014 (Photo by Renee Nowytarger, News Ltd.)

Longtime polygraph critic and friend to AntiPolygraph.org John J. Furedy died at his home in Sydney, Australia on 24 August 2016 following a long illness. He was 76 years old.

Dr. Furedy was a psychophysiologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. In 2000, he was among those who reviewed draft versions of AntiPolygraph.org’s book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector. His commentary was the most critical we received, and thus the most useful. We implemented all of his suggestions.

Professor Furedy frequently likened polygraphy to the ancient Roman divination ritual of entrails reading. See, for example, his essay, “The North American Polygraph as Entrails Reading: Truths and Practical Advice to Potential Users and Victims” on the Federation of American Scientists website.

In the 1990s, Professor Furedy served on the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute’s Curriculum and Research Guidance Committee, which was formed by then director William J. Yankee. The Committee advised against polygraph screening. Following Yankee’s retirement in 1995, the succeeding director, Michael H. Capps, promptly dissolved the Committee.

In 2003, Professor Furedy’s testimony in Mallard v. The Queen (PDF) helped persuade the Western Australia Court of Criminal Appeal, the highest Australian court to consider polygraphy, to reject the admission of polygraph chart readings as evidence.

In 2005, Professor Furedy retired and returned to Australia with his wife, Christine, who survives him.

Professor Furedy’s scholarly writings and commentaries on the pseudoscience of polygraphy (along with writings on his numerous other interests) remain available on his University of Toronto web page.

We are thankful to have counted John Furedy as a friend. We leave you with this TV Ontario interview in which he speaks about the psychology of lying and “lie detection”:

RCMP Applicant Read The Lie Behind the Lie Detector and Beat the Polygraph

the-lie-behind-the-lie-detector-4th-edition-coverAn article published in the French language newspaper Le Soleil in 2011 recounts the story of an applicant for employment with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who read AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, and used the countermeasure techniques provided therein to pass the RCMP’s pre-employment polygraph examination while lying about salient details of his history, including whether he intended to use polygraph countermeasures. An English translation of the article follows:

The Man Who Beat the Polygraph

Published 13 January 2011 at 0500 hours | Updated 13 January 2011 at 0842 hours

Le Soleil

(Québec) Anyone can beat the lie detector with a little preparation says Jean-François Courteau, who says he fooled that of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police without getting caught.

Jean-François Courteau, an information technology consultant from Québec, once was considering a career in the field of cybercrime. In 2006, he went through the entire selection process for the RCMP.

In his preparatory research, he quickly stumbled across the book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, a work that is offered for free on the Internet, that provides all the tricks for beating the polygraph.

Jean-François Courteau began by completing the RCMP questionnaire, whose hundred questions aim to bring out all the skeletons from the candidate’s closet.

Once connected to the polygraph, he says he lied on 3 of the 10 questions. “They asked me if I had omitted information about criminal acts I may have committed,” recounts Mr. Courteau. “I said no, but I knew that eight months previously, I had driven after drinking.”

The candidate says he also lied on the questions, “Do you intend to tell the truth?” and “Do you intend to use means to counter the polygraph?” “I replied no and yet that is what I was doing the whole time,” he summed up.

Jean-François Courteau says he was later eliminated because of a credit record that the RCMP deemed insufficient.

He draws from his experience the conclusion that the polygraph is partly based on chance. “It’s a random measure,” judges Jean-François Courteau. “Someone can arrive there totally dishonest, and he can pass anyway if he is well prepared.”

While it is not AntiPolygraph.org’s intention to help individuals obtain employment for which they are not qualified, Courteau’s experience underscores the folly of relying on the pseudoscience of polygraphy for personnel security screening.

Drew Richardson, RIP

Drew Richardson speaking at Georgetown University

Drew Richardson speaking at Georgetown University in 2013 (Georgetown University Journal of Health Sciences photograph)

It is with deep sadness that we report that retired FBI scientist and supervisory special agent Dr. Drew C. Richardson, who has for many years been a friend and mentor to AntiPolygraph.org’s co-founders, was killed in a tragic accident at his home in Greenville, Virginia on Thursday, 21 July 2016. He was 65 years old.

Dr. Richardson, who spent his FBI career in the Bureau’s laboratory division, was also a polygraph expert and the Bureau’s most outspoken internal critic of polygraphy. In 1997, speaking before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Dr. Richardson testified that “[polygraph screening] is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity” and that “anyone can be taught to beat this type of polygraph exam in a few minutes.”

In February 2001, after the arrest of FBI Robert P. Hanssen on espionage charges, Dr. Richardson sent a memorandum to then FBI Director Louis Free advising him that “there is NO evidence whatsoever that polygraph screening has any validity as a diagnostic tool” (original emphasis) and cautioning against any temptation to embrace polygraph screening. Director Free regrettably chose to ignore Dr. Richardson’s advice.

In October 2001, Dr. Richardson was an invited speaker at a public meeting of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph. The critique of polygraphy he provided then remains as pertinent today as it was fifteen years ago.

In 2002, Dr. Richardson issued his challenge to the polygraph community to prove their claimed ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. No polygraph operator ever exhibited the confidence to accept Dr. Richardson’s challenge.

We cherish Drew’s memory.

Among other pursuits, Dr. Richardson was an avid paraglider. We leave you with his most recent posting to his YouTube channel:

Update: A discussion thread has been started on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.

National Border Patrol Council Official Cites Polygraph Abuse

nbpcIn a report by Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco published 23 June 2016, National Border Patrol Council vice president and Tucson Local 2544 president Art Del Cueto criticized U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s polygraph practices. Excerpt:

The U.S. Border Patrol is facing criticism for the way it administers polygraph exams on would-be hires. The agency has fielded complaints from applicants, members of Congress and the agency’s union.

Customs and Border Protection was required to give polygraphs six years ago to all of its applicants for front-line jobs. That includes port inspectors and Border Patrol agents. Officials say the test was implemented to weed out corruption in the ranks.

The agency’s also under pressure by Congress to hire 1,300 more Border Patrol agents. Critics say what they see as a heavy-handed polygraph examination is hurting those recruitment efforts.

“They’re supposed to be doing the polygraph testing, doing the report and then they send it through, but that’s not what’s happening, at least not in Tucson sector,” said Art Del Cueto, president of the agency’s union in Tucson.

Rather than passing the results of the polygraph on, in the Tucson sector, Del Cueto says one person was made responsible for administering the lie detector test and deciding whether or not to fail an applicant.

“What’s been happening in Tucson sector, is that the individual who’s been doing the polygraph test, he’s acting like the judge, the jury and the executioner,” he said.

The issue has come up before. Republican Rep. Martha McSally chairs the House’s Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee and grilled CBP last April.

“We have heard several anecdotal horror stories of decorated combat veterans who, for some reason, were unable to pass this polygraph coupled with some bizarre-sounding behavior on behalf of some of the polygraph examiners,” McSally said.

A CBP official said their program follows federal standards and said polygraph examiners are monitored on a daily basis and their audio recordings are checked.

Del Cueto read from one complaint, a woman who recently failed her CBP polygraph exam and sent him an email about it.

“He told me that my readings were similar to that of a Russian spy. Or someone that had been very carefully trained. I asked him what was the cause of failure. And he stated I failed for drugs and for falsifying my application. He also told me that he knew I was lying as they already had information about me in the criminal database. He stated that this was known since I arrived at the office. I told him that was not accurate and he said it doesn’t matter,” he read from the email.

The writer of the email also said the examiner shared past lie detector stories with her.

“He then said he knew I manipulated the machine and there were so many ways I could have done it, like curl my toes, count backwards, etc., etc.,” Del Cueto said.

CBP declined an interview about the allegations made against its polygraph examiner in Tucson. A spokesman emailed a list of bullet points on the agency’s polygraph policies, but did not answer questions about those policies.

According to the union, 80 percent of those who fail polygraph exams in Tucson go to work for other law enforcement agencies who administer their own polygraph exams.

Art Del Cueto also spoke about CBP polygraph policy on Episode 84 of the NBPC’s Green Line podcast (beginning at about 12:40), which was released on 30 June 2016.

AntiPolygraph.org has also received numerous reports of abusive behavior by CBP polygraph operators, including both false accusations of deception and false accusations of polygraph countermeasure use. See, for example the many comments on our March 2010 post, Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Failure Rate Pegged at 60% (the failure rate has increased since then) and the message board discussion threads, CBP POLYGRAPH EXPERIENCE – FAILURE, Part of the 60% failed Border Patrol applicants, and CBP-BPA polygraph failed.

See also the 2015 statement of “Al,” who applied for CBP employment and was falsely accused of deception about having committed a serious crime.

We invite other CBP applicants wrongly accused of deception and/or countermeasure use to contact us.