U.S. v. Doug Williams Recap

AntiPolygraph.org has followed the case of U.S. v. Doug Williams with interest, from the raid on his office and home on 21 February 2013, to the indictment handed down on 13 November 2014, to the trial held 12-13 May 2015 (see our on-location reporting on day one and day two of the proceedings). On the second day of the trial, Williams changed his plea from not guilty to guilty with respect to all counts. There was no plea agreement with prosecutors. Later on the evening of 13 May, the content of Williams’ website, Polygraph.com, was removed from the Internet, and a WHOIS search suggests that the site is no longer registered in his name. Williams’ Twitter account, @PolygraphCom, was deleted the same evening. To date, Williams has not spoken publicly about why he changed his plea.

Just prior to the trial, the Guardian published a noteworthy article by Jessica Glenza about the case. After Williams’ guilty plea, the Department of Justice issued a press release that formed the basis for much of the national reporting on the case.

Ars Technica published a story by David Kravets that engendered a good many thoughtful comments, and Slashdot also posted the news, along with numerous comments. See also the relevant discussion thread on the AntiPolygraph.org message board, which covers the period from the indictment through the trial.

U.S. v. Doug Williams Day 2: Doug Williams Pleads Guilty

Summary: On the afternoon of Wednesday, 13 May 2015, Doug Williams changed his plea from not guilty to guilty with respect to all charges. The jury was dismissed and proceedings were suspended pending a sentencing date to be determined. Williams remains free on bond.

Proceedings began at 09:15. The jury entered the court room and Special Agent Robbins re-took the witness stand. Robbins testified that on 17 October 2012, Doug Williams e-mailed Special Agent J.D. Castillo (who was working under cover), stating that he (Williams) worked under the assumption that he was telling the truth. Williams said that the fact of Castillo’s being trained by Williams  should be held in confidence. Robbins read out the text of an e-mail from Castillo to Williams in which Castillo said he needed to lie. In consequence of that, Doug Williams via e-mail cancelled the plan to train Castillo.

On 17 October 2012, Castillo called Williams. The entire phone conversation, about 20 minutes long, was played in court. Williams indicated numerous times that he suspected that Castillo was an undercover agent. He suggested that Castillo could read his manual and take a private polygraph exam. Castillo continually pressed Williams, saying that he needed his help, and flattering him, saying that he had confidence in him and trusted him. Williams repeatedly said he was unwilling to train him, using terms including “I’m out” and “Save your money for the lawyer.” Each time Williams refused, Castillo played on Williams’ sympathy. Finally, Williams asked Castillo to let him sleep on it.

Robbins testified that after this phone call, he had no intention to call back.

The government then presented an e-mail message from Williams to Castillo sent later the same day using the address theparanoidchicken@hotmail.com, telling Castillo that he could recontact him under a different identity. Eventually, Williams again communicated directly with Castillo, without requiring him to create a new identity, and they spoke by phone. Williams told Castillo that he should send a money order, to avoid a paper trail, for $4,500. Williams would purchase a plane ticket himself. Williams told Castillo, “I know you’re a believer” (the implication being that he was a fellow Christian).

SA Robbins testified that a mail cover was in place for Williams’ post office box at this time. That is, the U.S. Postal Service would send Robbins images of the front and back of each piece of mail Williams received. A copy of the envelope used to send the $4,500 payment via the U.S. Postal Service was shown to the jury, as was the cashier’s check (and not a money order) it had contained, which was endorsed by Williams on the reverse.

An e-mail message dated 20 October 2012 from Williams to Castillo confirmed receipt of the money and flight details. Williams asked Castillo to make hotel arrangements.

SA Robbins testified that a Secret Service agent placed a microphone in the Virginia hotel room where Williams was to train Castillo. Robbins monitored events from an adjacent hotel room.

The prosecution then played an edited audio recording of the training session (Government Exhibit 120) that was about 55 minutes long. Castillo told Williams that he was under investigation because a person named Marcos whom he had allowed to bring cocaine into the country had been arrested and had named him as an accomplice. Castillo told Williams that the Department of Homeland Security wanted to polygraph him about the allegation. Among other things, Castillo mentioned to Williams that he (Castillo) had the option of declining to take the polygraph.

Williams emphasized that the polygraph is an interrogation and that one shouldn’t spill the beans on oneself, and shouldn’t mention the training.

Williams told Castillo that there were only two kinds of questions on the polygraph, “control” and “relevant.” Castillo had earlier been instructed to memorize a list of 33 control questions listed in Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph. Williams told Castillo that all other questions were relevant. (This is actually a simplification, other kinds of questions include not just relevant ones, but also irrelevant, sacrifice relevant, and symptomatic questions. For an explanation of these question types and their functions, see Chapter 3 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.)

Castillo suggested to Williams that the relevant questions would be things like “Have you ever made a profit from illegal proceeds?” and “Are you allowing narcotics into the country at this time?” Williams suggested “Did you know Marcos was bringing in narcotics?” as a relevant question.

Williams then presented his hypnosis training, in which he instructed Castillo to imagine himself relaxing on a beach, listening to the waves roll in, wave after wave. This mental imagery was to be applied during the asking of relevant questions (that is, all non-control questions). During the asking of control questions, Castillo was to think scary thoughts, such as being arrested, perp-walked, and thrown into a prison cell.

Williams then ran three practice polygraph question series on Castillo. The audio of one of these was played for the jury. At the conclusion, Castillo’s polygraph chart was scored “No Deception Indicated.”

The prosecution then showed two Twitter posts made by Williams under the ID @PolygraphCom that made reference to his training session with Castillo.

After the training session with Castillo in Virginia, SA Robbins decided to do a second in-person meeting that was held with a different undercover agent on 21 February 2013. In this case, a money order for $750 was sent to Williams through the U.S. Postal Service. After  the second in-person training session, federal agents executed search warrants on Williams’ office and home. Charles Porth seized two cell phones and a laptop computer from Williams’ office and a second computer from his home, and conducted a forensic analysis on each device.

In addition, subpoenas were issued to SolidSpace, the company that hosted Polygraph.com, for data associated with the site, including e-mail sent to Williams’ e-mail address, doug@polygraph.com, and to Microsoft for data associated with the e-mail address theparanoidchicken@hotmail.com.

SolidSpace provided e-mails associated with Williams’ account. One of these, Government Exhibit 301, was shown to  the jury. It was from Hayleigh[redacted]@gmail.com. She said she wanted a fresh start, had to take a polygraph, and needed to lie. Williams replied to her that he could help and suggested that she purchase his manual and DVD. SA Robbins testified that this e-mail exchange was not initiated by an undercover agent.

SA Robbins testified that after the 21 February 2013 raid, Williams made changes to his website, including removal of the claim that he could teach a person to pass the polygraph “lying or not” and the addition of a “terms of service” statement clarifying that he would not train anyone who told him that they intended to lie, and that any in-person training customer who made such a statement would forfeit the fee and not receive training.

At 12:11, a stipulation by the prosecution and defense was read out loud in court. The parties stipulated that:

  1. At all times www.polygraph.com was solely owned and operated by Williams.
  2. The e-mail address doug@polygraph.com was only used by Williams.
  3. The e-mail address theparanoidchicken@hotmail.com was only used by Williams.
  4. The phone number listed on Williams’ website belonged to and was used by Williams.

At 12:14 Proceedings adjourned until 13:30 for a lunch break.

At 13:40, the DOJ trial attorneys and Williams’ defense lawyers met to confer in the corridor outside the courtroom.

At 14:05, the attorneys moved to Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange’s chambers, returning to the courtroom at 14:33. The jury had not returned from the lunch break. At 14:40, the attorneys again went to the judge’s chambers, and at 14:41, the jury re-entered the courtroom. At 15:10 heavy rain began pounding on the dome lights of the courtroom. At 15:13, the attorneys re-entered the courtroom, the prosecutors smiling. Attorneys for both parties reviewed paperwork.

At 15:18, the judge entered the courtroom. Doug Williams announced his intention to change his plea from not guilty to guilty with respect to each of the five charges against him. There was no plea agreement. The maximum punishment for each count, read aloud by DOJ trial attorney Heidi Boutros Gesch, was 20 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and a special assessment fee of $100. Williams stated that he understood that he was waiving the right to a jury or bench trial, and that he could receive the same punishment as if found guilty at trial. Williams stated that he was satisfied with the services of his counsel, Mr. Buzin. Judge Miles-LaGrange twice erroneously referred to Williams as “Mr. Smith.”

At 16:35, the judge stated that to accept Williams’ guilty plea, the court needed a factual basis and asked Williams to describe his crimes. Williams read out language that closely (perhaps precisely) tracked the language of the indictment. The court found factual basis for the guilty plea and referred the case to the Probation Office. Williams will be notified of the sentencing date by his counsel, Mr. Buzin. Detention was not required, and Williams remains free on bond, with the added condition that he not possess a firearm. Williams stated that he had already disposed of his firearms.

Judge Miles-LaGrange asked the prosecutors to withdraw their exhibits because of space constraints in the court, but added that they probably won’t, owing to appeal (perhaps referring to the possibility of the appeal of any sentence).

At 17:00, Judge Miles-LaGrange announced that the court was in recess.

U.S. v. Doug Williams Day 1

Proceedings in United States of America v. Douglas Gene Williams began this morning in Room 301 of the Federal District Court building in Oklahoma City. Williams is charged with two counts of mail fraud and three counts of witness tampering in connection with his training two undercover agents how to pass polygraph tests.

Trial attorneys for the United States Government Brian K. Kidd and Heidi Boutros Gesch met with Williams’ attorneys, Stephen H. Buzin and Chase A. O’Brien in pre-trial conference from about 9:20 to 10:40 AM.

Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange entered the courtroom at 10:55 and shortly thereafter swore in the prospective jurors. Voir-dire, or the questioning of potential jurors, began at 11:07. No prospective jurors knew the prosecutors, the defendant, or any of the witnesses who are to testify. Potential jurors were asked whether they had served on juries before, and if so, if they ever served as a foreman, and if they had ever been ever been called as witnesses. In response to additional questions, a couple several prospective jurors acknowledged having been polygraphed before, but none expressed any concerns about the use of polygraph examinations or undercover or sting operations.

At 11:53, the court adjourned for lunch until 1:15, when voire dire resumed. Potential jurors were asked about their occupations, their families, their hobbies, and whether they had any bumper stickers. Then, after a sidebar, some 18 prospective jurors were excused, and at 2:18 the jury, composed of 7 men and 5 women, was sworn in. There are also two alternate jurors, a man and a woman.

At 14:35, trial attorney Brian Kidd delivered the prosecution’s opening statement. His remarks were briefly interrupted as witness sequestration was invoked, meaning that anyone who might testify later in the trial could not be present in the courtroom. Kidd’s opening statement summarized the charges in the indictment and among other things, made clear the identities of undercover agents 1 and 2. UC1 is Javier Domingo “J.D.” Castillo and UC2 is Brian Luley, both of whom are on the prosecution’s witness list.

At 14:50, Stephen Buzin delivered the defense’s opening statement, mentioning Doug Williams’ work to protect peoples’ rights. There will be testimony on how Williams became an opponent of polygraphy, and mentioned that he had worked in the White House. Buzin also referenced Williams’ involvement in the passage of the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act. Buzin said the government didn’t like Williams’ business and decided to make him a scapegoat, noting that he has been doing what he does for 35 years. Williams will take the witness stand. Buzin said the government wasn’t happy with Williams because he had shown that the polygraph was a fraud, and that taking a practice polygraph test is not illegal and that Williams did not defraud the government. Buzin contended that the evidence does not support the allegations. Buzin stated that they made him a target; they wanted Doug Williams. “They wanted to make Mr. Williams at any cost, a scapegoat.”

After opening statements, a decision was announced that all uncontested government exhibits would be entered into evidence. These were government exhibits 1-300 and 302-304.

At 15:02 the prosecution called CBP Special Agent Jeffrey Michael Bartlett as its first witness. He testified about an “exploratory call” he made to Doug Williams on 25 September 2012 “to determine if he would teach people to pass [the polygraph] who he knew were lying.” Bartlett made just this one phone call and had no other involvement in Operation Lie Busters, the criminal investigation that targeted Williams. The audio of the phone conversation was played in the courtroom. On cross-examination, Bartlett acknowledged that he had no knowledge that Williams had committed any criminal offense before calling, stating that the “exploratory call” was based on information on Williams’ website, Polygraph.com. Asked by Williams’ attorney Buzin, “Is it normal procedure to make exploratory calls to people who have committed no criminal offense?” Bartlett answered “No.” Bartlett never heard of Operation Lie Busters and did not himself have to take a polygraph to be hired.

At 15:32, the prosecution called CBP Special Agent Doug Robbins as a witness. Robbins testified that in June 2012 he was assigned to determine whether Doug Williams was teaching people “how to lie on polygraphs” after he knew they were going to lie, stating that a complaint had been made to the Joint Intake Center based on an examinee who failed a polygraph.

The text of Polygraph.com as it appeared on 5 March 2013 was displayed on a projector screen, and prosecutor Heidi Gesch asked Robbins to read portions of it.

In a seeming concession that polygraph countermeasures work, Robbins stated that Williams’ training poses a problem for CBP’s polygraph requirement. Robbins made the decision for an “exploratory” or “predicate” phone call to be made.

Government exhibit 100, a recording of a phone call placed by SA J.D. Castillo to Doug Williams on 15 October 2012 was played in its entirety. Castillo called to arrange polygraph training, and Williams had the impression that he was facing a polygraph screening test. Audio of a second call Castillo placed to Williams later the same day was also played, in which Castillo clarified that the polygraph examination was not for employee screening, but associated with an accusation of wrongdoing. Castillo was emphatic that he could not travel to Oklahoma for this training, and that Williams must come to Alexandria, Virginia to provide the training. Although not addressed in court, it seems clear that this was an attempt to establish grounds for possible prosecution of Williams in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Chad Dixon, who was also targeted in Operation Lie Busters, was prosecuted.

At 4:48 PM, Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange adjourned proceedings until 9:00 the following morning.

Doug Williams Interviewed on the Peter B. Collins Show

peterbcollinsnewFormer police polygraphist Doug Williams, who was targeted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph unit in Operation Lie Busters, was a guest on the Peter B. Collins Show, during which he spoke about his entrapment and the upcoming trial scheduled to begin in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, 12 May 2015. An audio clip and written summary of the interview are available online. The full 33-minute podcast may be downloaded as an MP3 file with a $1 day pass.

Award-Winning Polygraph Examiner Terminated for Expressing Negative Opinions of Specific Polygraph Techniques

jennifer-tooker

Jennifer L. Tooker (LinkedIn Profile Picture)

Michael Braun reports for the Fort Myers, Florida News-Press that the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has fired polygraph examiner Jennifer L. Tooker, who won the American Polygraph Association’s 2014 David L. Motsinger Horizon Award, which is presented “in recognition of a new shining star in the profession or association who early in their career demonstrates loyalty, professionalism and dedication to the polygraph profession (less than 10 years).”

In selecting Tooker for the award, the APA passed over U.S. Customs and Border Protection Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr., who was nominated for the same award by John R. Schwartz, the head of the CBP polygraph unit. Schwartz based his nomination of Ball on the latter’s role as case agent in Operation Lie Busters, which targeted individuals providing polygraph countermeasure training to the public.

According to the News-Press:

The case against Tooker involved explicit instructions given to her by several officers and a human resources manager ordering her not to inject negative opinions in official documents about specific polygraph techniques.

A internal affairs investigation found Tooker violated those orders in January 2015. Tooker was fired effective April 21.

On Eve of Polygraph Trial, Leaked Case Files Contradict CBP Polygraph Chief’s Countermeasure Detection Claim

cbp-ia-emblemIn a memo nominating his friend and colleague Special Agent Fred C. Ball for a polygraph association award, U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph unit chief John R. Schwartz claimed that “[Operation Lie Busters] revealed that sophisticated countermeasures can be routinely identified when all best practices are employed, including proper training of examiners and stringent Quality Control.” Operation Lie Busters is a criminal investigation initiated by the CBP polygraph unit that sought to entrap individuals offering instruction to the public on how to pass or beat a polygraph test.

Case files (104 MB ZIP archive) leaked to AntiPolygraph.org1 contradict Schwartz’s sophisticated countermeasure detection claim. AntiPolygraph.org’s review of the representative sample comprising 65 CBP “confirmed countermeasure cases” from August 2013 to January 2014, that is, the period leading up to Schwartz’s January 2014 memorandum, reveals that not a single case involved sophisticated countermeasures such as those delineated in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 MB PDF) or in Doug Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph.

On the contrary, in each of the 65 confirmed countermeasure cases, the examinee admitted to or engaged in activity indicating that he or she lacked a sophisticated grasp of polygraph procedure, such as dissociation, moving arms, legs, or hands, taking deep breaths, or targeting irrelevant questions. In one particularly egregious case (13-11886), an applicant who stated that he “thought of a ‘positive image’ such as his daughter’s face after answering questions and while awaiting the next question” was chalked up as a “confirmed countermeasure case” (and presumably barred from CBP employment).

The evidence of these case files is entirely consistent with the statement in a 2010 polygraph community training presentation that the notion that polygraph countermeasures are easy to detect and ineffective against an experienced examiner is fiction, and that it is a fact that “[i]t is easy to make realistic reactions” and that “[i]t is difficult to detect [countermeasures] when skillfully applied by trained subjects”:

handler-countermeasures-2009-slide-104

handler-countermeasures-2009-slide-105

Among the 65 CBP “confirmed countermeasure” cases, not one can credibly be described as having been skillfully applied by a trained subject. Eighteen previously published Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed countermeasure cases similarly suggest that DIA has no ability to detect sophisticated polygraph countermeasures. Because CBP and DIA, like all federal agencies with polygraph programs, use methodologies taught by the National Center for Credibility Assessment (the federal polygraph school), it is unlikely that any other federal agency is any more capable of countermeasure detection.

There is no evidence that Operation Lie Busters has resulted in any increased ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. Indeed, if sophisticated countermeasures could be routinely identified, there would have been no need for federal investigators to construct and circulate a polygraph watch list based on customer records seized from Doug Williams and Chad Dixon, an Indiana electrician also targeted in the investigation. Indeed, there would have been no perceived need for Operation Lie Busters at all.

The federal government’s inability to detect sophisticated countermeasures helps to explain its decision to target Williams, a former police polygraph examiner who has been teaching individuals how to pass or beat the polygraph since 1979, for entrapment and prosecution. Jury selection in his trial is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, 6 Tuesday, 12 May 2015.

Instead of seeking to suppress the public’s knowledge and understanding of polygraph procedure and countermeasures, and to imprison those who make such knowledge available, the United States Government should terminate its misplaced reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy. Make-believe science yields make believe security.

  1. Expand the ZIP archive to review the CBP confirmed countermeasure case files. The files associated with each case are organized in separate folders, each of which includes the charts associated with the case (in a folder titled “Documents”), the examinee’s statement admitting to countermeasure use, and the text of an e-mail message from the CBP polygraph unit transmitting the files to the National Center for Credibility Assessment. In a handful of cases, one of these — charts, statement, or cover message — is not available. You will also find a tab-delimited text file with an overview of each case and the countermeasures employed. []

In Polygraph Trial, Prosecution Seeks to Exclude Those With Polygraph Experience or Concerns From Jury

raymond-hulser

U.S. Department of Justice Public Integrity Section Acting Chief Raymond N. Hulser

In a court document (PDF) filed on Monday, 4 May 2015, Raymond Hulser, Acting Chief of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section asked, among other things, that potential jurors in U.S. v. Doug Williams be asked whether they or a family member has ever taken a polygraph examination, and if so, whether they did anything to prepare for it. In addition, Hulser requests that potential jurors be asked whether they have concerns about the use of polygraph examinations, and if so, that they explain such concerns. Of course, anyone who understands polygraphy’s complete lack of scientific underpinnings will have concerns about the use of polygraph examinations. It appears DOJ wishes to ensure that anyone who has been polygraphed, who has researched polygraphy, or who knows of its shortcomings isn’t seated on the jury.

Doug Williams, who has been teaching people how to pass (or beat) polygraph “tests” since 1979, was targeted for entrapment in Operation Lie Busters, an undercover investigation conceived and executed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph examiners. In June 2013, during a presentation on Operation Lie Busters, CBP polygraph chief John R. Schwartz told an audience of fellow polygraph operators that those who protest “the loudest and the longest” against polygraph testing “are the ones that I believe we need to focus our attention on.” It seems clear that Williams was targeted because Schwartz and others were upset with Williams’ exercise of his First Amendment rights.

Jury selection begins on Wednesday, 6 Tuesday, 12 May 2015.

Oklahoma Skeptics in the Pub Meetup on the Pseudoscience of Polygraphy, 11May

oklahoma-sitpOn Monday, 11 May 2015, AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke will be speaking at the Oklahoma Skeptics in the Pub meetup about the pseudoscience of polygraphy, the U.S. government’s misplaced on it, and the upcoming trial of Doug Williams, whom the U.S. government targeted for entrapment in a sting operation dubbed Operation Lie Busters. Williams, a former police polygraph examiner, has been teaching people how to pass or beat polygraph “tests” since 1979. The trial begins the following day, 12 May 2015, at the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City.

Doug Williams Interviewed by Scott Horton

On Thursday, 30 April 2015, former police polygraph examiner Doug Williams, who faces trial on 12 May for teaching two undercover federal agents how to pass polygraph “tests,” was a guest on the Scott Horton Show. Williams discussed why polygraph “testing” is unreliable and the  criminal charges pending against him after his entrapment in Operation Lie Busters. The full interview is available online.

DEA Contractors Forced to Take Polygraphs Awarded $4,000,000

Marisa Taylor reports for McClatchy DC that a federal jury has awarded $4,000,000 to nine former employees of Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators, a Drug Enforcement Agency contractor, who were compelled to take lie detector tests in violation of the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act. Excerpt:

— A federal jury awarded $4 million to nine former translators after they were forced at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Administration to undergo illegal lie-detector tests.

The San Diego jury determined that a DEA contractor, Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators Inc., should be required to pay damages to its former translators in a rare rebuke of the federal government’s reliance on lie-detector tests. The verdict on Tuesday comes after a federal judge determined the tests violated federal law and the DEA separately agreed to pay $500,000 to settle the lawsuit, although the translators were contract workers.

“This case showed that the polygraph is unreliable, especially when it’s administered in this way,” said Gene Iredale, the attorney for the plaintiffs. “The case also suggested discrepancies in how the DEA relied on polygraph.”

The jury was only determining whether Metropolitan should be required to pay damages, not the DEA. Even so, the jurors concluded that 40 percent of the “non-economic” damages was caused by the DEA and 60 percent by the company. As a result of the shared liability, the translators may only be entitled to less than the $4 million. The jury also considered adding to the award by levying punitive damages, which it declined to do on Thursday.

An employee who answered the phone but declined to identify herself said Metropolitan would not be commenting. The company provides translation services to private companies, law enforcement and government agencies. It has offices in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta and Washington.

The contract employees had translated Spanish conversations collected during court-authorized wiretapping of the DEA’s criminal suspects. Metropolitan fired them after they failed or refused to take the polygraphs that the DEA had demanded.

Last October, however, a federal judge ruled that by mandating the tests the company violated a 1988 law banning most private employers from requiring polygraphs.

Requiring employees or job applicants to take lie-detector tests is controversial because of scientific questions about the reliability of the technique and complaints that it’s too invasive. Most criminal courts do not permit polygraph results to be used as evidence against criminal suspects because of doubts about whether the tests can actually determine if someone is lying.

Read the rest of the story here, and see also San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Greg Moran’s article, “DEA wiretap translators win $4M.”