Sacked U.S. Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Chief James F. Tomsheck Was Keynote Speaker at 2013 NCCA Graduation Ceremony

James F. Tomsheck

James F. Tomsheck

On Monday, 9 June 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Assistant Commissioner James F. Tomsheck, who headed CBP’s Internal Affairs unit, “was removed from his post…amid criticism that he failed to investigate hundreds of allegations of abuse and use of force by armed border agents.”

Tomsheck, himself a former polygraph operator, was ultimately responsible for Operation Lie Busters, an ongoing criminal investigation that attempted to entrap individuals who provide instruction in how to pass polygraph examinations.

In July 2013, Tomsheck was the commencement speaker at a National Center for Credibility Assessment graduation ceremony. Tomsheck’s speech was the top story in the August 2013 issue of the CBP-IA newsletter, Special Delivery, a copy of which (1.2 mb PDF) has been obtained by The full text of the article is reproduced below:


NCCA Commencement - July 2013On July 24, 2013, five CBP students received diplomas completing the masters-level curriculum in Forensic Psychophysiology at the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) commencement. The graduates are now assigned as intern Polygraph Examiners in the CBP-IA Credibility Assessment Division (CAD). After a successful six-month internship, the graduates will become federally certified polygraph examiners. Once certified, these new polygraph examiners will play an important role in the effort to conduct 100% screening of all law enforcement applicants before they are hired by CBP, as required by the Anti-Border Corruption Act.

NCCA Director William Norris introduced the Commencement Speaker as “one of us” and directed the attention of the audience to a highlighted photograph of the 1984 graduating class that included a young Secret Service Agent, now CBP IA Assistant Commissioner James Tomsheck. AC Tomsheck congratulated the 32 graduates representing numerous federal agencies and praised them for their diligent work in the classroom and laboratories. He emphasized their success could not have been possible without the support of their families and agencies, and the excellent instruction received by the NCCA faculty. Mr. Tomsheck advised the graduates that they were entering the profession at a time unparalleled in the government, when all agencies were relying more on the unique ability of polygraph to protect our National Security from Insider Threats, and provided the assemblage with examples of penetration attempts wherein polygraph developed critical information impossible to obtain through traditional vetting methods. He emphasized that the graduates must always maintain and follow the standards taught and endorsed by NCCA, and implemented through the policies of their respective agencies.

This semester’s CBP graduates and their future office assignments are: Michael Gonzalez, McAllen; Eric Modisett, San Diego; Michale Moylan, San Diego; David Pelfrey, Detroit; and Sapphia Small, Newark.

NCCA, the federal government’s polygraph school, turns out newly minted polygraphers in 14 weeks, less than half the length of a typical barber college.

DEA to Pay $500,000 to Settle Polygraph Lawsuit

dea-sealMcClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reports that the Drug Enforcement Agency has agreed to pay 14 contract translators $500,000 to settle a lawsuit brought under the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA).

While the EPPA includes exemptions that allow individuals under contract to the FBI, NSA, DIA, and CIA, among others, to be polygraphed, no such exemption exists for DEA contractors.

The translators also filed suit against their direct employer, Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators, Inc., and that legal action remains ongoing with respect to nine plaintiffs. An April 2012 statement of claim in that litigation may be downloaded here. One translator’s polygrapher asked her “if she had engaged in sexual activity with animals” and another’s polygraph examination “included a question regarding his sexual conduct and whether he cheated on his partner.”

Reason TV on U.S. Government Efforts to Criminalize the Teaching of Polygraph Countermeasures

Reason TV, in a report produced by Joshua Swain and published on 11 February 2014, spoke with McClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor and Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy about recent efforts by the federal government to criminalize the teaching of methods for passing or beating polygraph examinations. Also interviewed was  Darryl DeBow, director of the Virginia School of Polygraph.

Doug Williams Goes Public on Federal Agents’ Attempted Entrapment and Raid

2nd-ed-coverFormer Oklahoma City police polygraph examiner Doug Williams, who has campaigned against polygraphy since realizing in the 1970s that what he and fellow polygraphers were doing is a fraud, has for the first time told the story of how federal agents in February 2013 attempted to entrap him for teaching people how to pass polygraph examinations. The federal criminal investigation, called “Operation Lie Busters,” has been reported on at some length by McClatchy Newspapers investigative reporter Marisa Taylor, but Williams has previously declined comment except to say that he had done nothing wrong.

In a new edition of his book, From Cop to Crusader: The Story of My Fight Against the Dangerous Myth of “Lie Detection,” Williams tells the story of how an undercover federal agent came to his office on 21 February 2013 for instruction on how to pass a polygraph test. The agent placed a backpack in the corner of the office that likely contained video recording equipment. During the training session, the agent, who claimed to be a sheriff’s deputy seeking employment with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, made unsolicited admissions to having “smuggled drugs [into] the jail” and “got[ten] a blow job” from a female juvenile while taking her home in his official vehicle.

As soon as the undercover agent left Williams’ office, several federal agents in bulletproof vests stormed in and handcuffed Williams. The agent who seemed to be in charge of the raid was Special Agent Douglas Robbins of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Internal Affairs. Also present during  the raid was CBP Senior Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr., whom CBP polygraph unit chief John R. Schwartz  described as “the case agent and polygraph expert responsible for orchestrating and conducting the investigation” in a recent letter nominating Ball for an American Polygraph Association award. Trial Attorney Anthony J. Phillips of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section was also present.

The agents did not arrest Williams, but kept him handcuffed as they executed search warrants at his office and home, where they seized his paper and electronic records as well as his polygraph instrumentation. These were returned to Williams some two months later but were exploited by federal agents to create a polygraph watch list of 4,904 names that has been circulated among nearly 30 federal agencies.

To date, Williams has not been charged with any crime, but he remains in legal jeopardy. Operation Lie Busters, which has serious implications for freedom of speech in America, is ongoing, and Williams has “heard the FBI is still interviewing people from the list of customers they took from [his] computer.”

For the full story, pick up a copy of Williams’ From Cop to Crusader, which may be ordered from his website or on Williams’ account of the federal entrapment attempt and raid appears at Chapter 18.

CBP Polygraph Chief John R. Schwartz Claims “Sophisticated Countermeasures Can Be Routinely Identified”


U.S. Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Credibility Assessment Division Director John R. Schwartz (detail from organizational chart)

John R. Schwartz, who heads the U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph unit, claims that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures (the kind described in’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector), can be routinely identified “when all best practices are employed, including proper training of examiners and stringent Quality Control.” Schwartz made the claim in a January 2014 memorandum nominating his colleague and friend, Fred C. Ball, Jr., for the American Polygraph Association’s David L. Motsinger Horizon Award, which is presented annually “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).”

Schwartz bases his nomination of Ball on the latter’s role as case agent in Operation Lie Busters, a federal criminal investigation targeting individuals providing training in how to pass polygraph tests. A copy of Schwartz’s memo was made available to and is reproduced in full below:

David L. Motsinger Horizon Award
Nomination of Fred C. Ball, Jr.

This accomplishment arguably represents the single most significant development in our profession in many decades.  Its impact is profound and far reaching, and has already affected, or will affect, legal precedence, new polygraph case law, policies, scientific research, teaching, Quality Control, best practices and procedures, our view of polygraph validity, and many other aspects of forensic psychophysiology.

In 2011, a novel and complicated criminal investigation was initiated regarding the training of individuals in sophisticated polygraph countermeasures, and their effectiveness in defeating the polygraph protocols and procedures employed by federal, state, and local agencies including the court systems.  The investigation revealed that sophisticated countermeasures can be routinely identified when all best practices are employed, including proper training of examiners and stringent Quality Control, but failure to endorse and employ these best practices results in the unacceptable risk that such countermeasures could be effective.

Popularly known as Operation LieBusters, the investigation combined novel and precedent-setting legal strategies, lengthy and technical undercover operations, voluminous and complicated analytical methodologies, complex investigative procedures, esoteric technical knowledge of polygraph countermeasures and physiology, and extremely effective interview and elicitation skills to ensure confirmatory confessions.

A graduate of the National Center for Credibility Assessment on April 6, 2011, Senior Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr. of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Credibility Assessment Division was the case agent and polygraph expert responsible for orchestrating and conducting the investigation.  The three-year endeavor resulted in several arrests, convictions, and probation revocations at the federal, state, and local level.  Of even greater significance to our national security and the safety of our citizens, the investigation identified and thwarted Insider Threats and infiltration attempts as well as many convicted sex offenders who had been able to continue their offenses through the use of polygraph countermeasures.  The investigation also provides a unique data set, including ground truth data, which will be invaluable for scientific research and polygraph training, as well as an investigative blue print for future investigations.

Schwartz’s claim that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures can be routinely identified is noteworthy because to our knowledge, there is nothing in the polygraph literature that would support such a claim. On the contrary, polygraph countermeasure documentation published by in 2013 suggests that the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting countermeasures.

On Friday, 17 January 2014, e-mailed Schwartz seeking comment, noting that if he could provide evidence that sophisticated countermeasures can indeed be routinely identified, we are prepared to withdraw any suggestion that examinees consider using countermeasures and to instead expressly advise against any such use. Schwartz did not respond. makes information about polygraph countermeasures available to the public to provide truthful individuals with an option for protecting themselves against the significant risk of a false positive outcome. also e-mailed National Center for Credibility Assessment director William F. Norris and American Polygraph Association president Chuck Slupski seeking comment on Schwartz’s claim that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures can be routinely identified. Neither replied.

It seems to that if sophisticated polygraph countermeasures truly could be “routinely identified,” as Schwartz claims, that there would have been no need for for Fred Ball to concoct an elaborate scheme to entrap and imprison Chad Dixon, an electrician who taught fewer than 100 people how to pass polygraph tests in his spare time, or to attempt to entrap former police polygraphist Doug Williams, who has been teaching people how to pass polygraph examinations since 1979. Nor would there have been any need for a polygraph watch list of Williams’ customers to be circulated among federal agencies with polygraph programs. Nor would there have been any need for the attempted entrapment of co-founder George Maschke, evidently by a U.S. government employee or contractor. Nor would the NSA feel the need to target visitors to

Indeed, the very existence of Operation Lie Busters makes Schwartz’s claim that sophisticated countermeasures can be routinely identified difficult to believe. Who will polygraph the polygraphers?

Federal Polygraph School May Classify Training and Research Materials

NCCAMcClatchy Newspapers investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reports that the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA), which trains all federal polygraph operators, is proposing that certain training and research materials be classified or subjected to limited distribution. An NCCA internal draft memo dated 2 December 2013 obtained by McClatchy notes that “there is almost nothing about the polygraph, PCASS, and the emerging credibility assessment technologies that remains to be classified” but nonetheless proposes additional secrecy:

Proposal for the Protection of NCCA-unique Information

Tradecraft and technologies unique to the intelligence community (IC) must be shielded from disclosure to American adversaries, a stance recognized and strongly supported by the NCCA. NCCA  proposes that it consider the following categories of information classified:

  1. New countermeasure detection methods developed through classified projects by the NCCA or other government entities.
  2. Disclosure that particular US intelligence, counterintelligence or security programs use a specific type of polygraph technique.
  3. NCCA research on new credibility assessment technologies and analytical methods to be used solely by intelligence or security agencies.
  4. Information deemed classified by any NCCA customer agency, irrespective of recognition by DoD as being classified.
  5. Research into new technologies designed for covert applications.

There remains a category of information that is sensitive, but not classified. This type of information may be necessary for state and local law enforcement polygraph examiners serving, for example, on the Joint Terrorism Task Force where there are demonstrable US interests. However, disclosure of this same information to foreign governments or the media would still be prohibited except as approved through appropriate channels. Sensitive information of this type would include:

  1. Methods for detecting and thwarting countermeasures.
  2. Research into new polygraph testing methods.


Note that NCCA seems particularly keen on keeping anything about polygraph countermeasure detection a secret. Polygraph community documentation obtained by suggest that the polygraph community has no reliable methodology for detecting polygraph countermeasures, and that countermeasure “detection” consists largely of guesswork and badgering the examinee for an admission.

Professor Charles R. Honts indicates that one supposed countermeasure detection technique used by the federal government is invalid. The technique involves looking for the breathing reactions illustrated in former police polygraphist Doug Williams’ manual, “How to Sting the Polygraph.” In a laboratory experiment, Honts found that those same reactions are exhibited in roughly equal proportions by both truthful and deceptive examinees, including those with no knowledge of polygraph countermeasures.

By keeping supposed countermeasure detection techniques secret, NCCA would prevent the kind of scrutiny that Honts was able to bring. That might save NCCA embarrassment, but it’s hard to see how that’s in the interest of America’s national security or public safety.

NCCA also floats the idea of classifying the fact that a “particular US intelligence, counterintelligence or security programs use a specific type of polygraph technique.” This is a particularly bad idea. To the extent that polygraphs are administered to individuals without security clearances, for example, to job applicants, information about the polygraph techniques used by federal agencies cannot be kept secret. For example, knows, from examinee reporting, that the NSA and CIA persist in using the (thoroughly discredited) relevant/irrelevent technique for applicant screening (documented in Ch. 3 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector), while DoD and DOE use the directed-lie Test for Espionage and Sabotage and federal law enforcement agencies use the probable-lie Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (PDF). This kind of information simply cannot be kept secret, and it’s pointless to try.

In short, classifying polygraph training and research materials will simply serve to shield more bad science from critical review.

McClatchy has also published a bulletin dated 13 December 2013  from the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Director of Security, Stephen R. Norton, warning against the use of polygraph countermeasures. Norton writes:

13 December 2013

SUBJECT: Attempts to Undermine DIA Administered Polygraph Examinations

The Office of Security’s Credibility Assessment Program helps to protect national security through the use of the polygraph examination. The polygraph vetting process is a critical element in protecting the safety and security of this Agency and the United States of America. We have seen examples of when examinees attempt to employ tactics designed to undermine the polygraph. Attempts are not likely to be successful due to sophisticated detection devices. Any attempt to undermine a polygraph exam will be viewed — regardless of motivation — as a threat to this Agency and national security.

DIA employees or DIA-affiliated persons who engage in purposeful and deliberate tactics to alter the outcome of a polygraph examination will be the subject of administrative or disciplinary action. This can include suspension, loss of security clearance, or even removal from federal service. The same penalties may apply to any DIA or DIA-affiliated person who coaches or collaborates with others to deliberately undermine a polygraph examination. Contractors who undermine a polygraph examination place their livelihood in jeopardy.

Bottom line: It is a dangerous game to play with your career and with the national security of the country you serve.

Thank you for your cooperation and support of the Office of Security’s mission to protect the Agency’s people, property, and information.

Stephen R. Norton
Director of Security agrees with Norton that it is a dangerous game to play with national security. But it is DIA that is playing with national security by relying on scientifically baseless polygraph screening to assess the honesty and integrity of its employees. We note that Ana Belen Montes, the most notorious spy in DIA’s history, beat the polygraph. And in 2009,  DIA fired analyst John Dullahan after a (wrongly) failed polygraph.

We invite DIA employees, and all who may face polygraph screening, to educate themselves about this unreliable procedure and learn how to protect themselves against the risk of a false positive outcome. Our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF) is a good place to start.

U.S. Government Circulates Watch List of Buyers of Information on How to Pass a Polygraph Test

cbp-ia-emblemMcClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reports that a list of 4,904 individuals whose names were derived from the customer records of Doug Williams and Chad Dixon, both of whom were targeted in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection-led criminal investigation called Operation Lie Busters, has been circulated to nearly 30 federal agencies including the CIA, NSA, DIA, DOE, IRS, and FDA. Exerpt:

WASHINGTON — U.S. agencies collected and shared the personal information of thousands of Americans in an attempt to root out untrustworthy federal workers that ended up scrutinizing people who had no direct ties to the U.S. government and simply had purchased certain books.

Federal officials gathered the information from the customer records of two men who were under criminal investigation for purportedly teaching people how to pass lie detector tests. The officials then distributed a list of 4,904 people – along with many of their Social Security numbers, addresses and professions – to nearly 30 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

Although the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven, authorities hoped to find government employees or applicants who might have tried to use them to lie during the tests required for security clearances. Officials with multiple agencies confirmed that they’d checked the names in their databases and planned to retain the list in case any of those named take polygraphs for federal jobs or criminal investigations.

It turned out, however, that many people on the list worked outside the federal government and lived across the country. Among the people whose personal details were collected were nurses, firefighters, police officers and private attorneys, McClatchy learned. Also included: a psychologist, a cancer researcher and employees of Rite Aid, Paramount Pictures, the American Red Cross and Georgetown University.

Moreover, many of them had only bought books or DVDs from one of the men being investigated and didn’t receive the one-on-one training that investigators had suspected. In one case, a Washington lawyer was listed even though he’d never contacted the instructors. Dozens of others had wanted to pass a polygraph not for a job, but for a personal reason: The test was demanded by spouses who suspected infidelity.

The unprecedented creation of such a list and decision to disseminate it widely demonstrate the ease with which the federal government can collect and share Americans’ personal information, even when there’s no clear reason for doing so.

It’s well worth reading the rest of the story. In addition, a DoD response to a McClatchy Newspapers inquiry indicates that Operation Lie Busters remains an ongoing investigation. In declining to answer whether it had checked names on the list against its records, DoD wrote:
The Department of Defense (DoD) has an active criminal investigation, working with US Customs and Border Protection, into the potential training of DoD civilian polygraph examinees in the use of countermeasures and making false statements. Because this is an active criminal investigation, we cannot provide any further information at this time.
Taylor also reveals that NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden “underwent two polygraphs for his NSA job” and that “he wasn’t found to have used polygraph-beating techniques to pass them.” Of course, that’s hardly surprising. No polygraph operator has ever demonstrated any ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. A collection of polygraph community countermeasure training materials published by earlier this year documents that the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting the kind of countermeasures explained in Doug Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph, or in’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (PDF). Indeed, the very existence of Operation Lie Busters speaks to the federal government’s frustration in this regard. Taylor’s article does not mention whether Snowden’s polygraphs came before or after he began collecting the documents that he ultimately provided to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

Secret Service Supervisor Removed from Presidential Security Detail, Ignacio Zamora Jr., Is a Former Polygraph Operator

secret-serviceOn Thursday, 14 November 2013, the Washington Post reported that Ignacio Zamora Jr., a U.S. Secret Service senior supervisor who oversaw members of President Obama’s security detail, was removed from his assignment and is under investigation for alleged misconduct. Excerpt:

A call from the Hay-Adams hotel this past spring reporting that a Secret Service agent was trying to force his way into a woman’s room set in motion an internal investigation that has sent tremors through an agency still trying to restore its elite reputation.

The incident came a year after the agency was roiled by a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, prompting vows from senior officials to curb a male-dominated culture of hard partying and other excesses.

The service named its first female director, Julia Pierson, seven months ago, and an extensive inspector general report on the agency’s culture launched in the wake of the Car­tagena scandal is expected to be released in coming weeks.

The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.

In a follow-up investigation, agency officials also found that Zamora and another supervisor, Timothy Barraclough, had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to a female subordinate, according to those with knowledge of the case. Officials have removed Zamora from his position and moved Barraclough off the detail to a separate part of the division, people familiar with the case said.

Readers of may be familiar with the name Ignacio Zamora Jr. In 1998, Zamora subjected Bill Roche, a police officer who had applied to become a U.S. Secret Service special agent, to a harsh and demeaning polygraph interrogation, falsely accusing him of deception.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Chief John R. Schwartz on Interrogation has received a copy of a presentation (1.4 mb PDF) on interrogation given by John R. Schwartz, who now heads the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Credibility Assessment Division. In that capacity, Schwartz heads one of the federal government’s largest polygraph units, with some 71 polygraph examiners and a fiscal year 2012 budget of $11.4 million. Schwartz has previously worked as an instructor at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (since renamed the National Center for Credibility Assessment) and in 1995 served as its acting director. As such, his views on interrogation are presumably influential.

Schwartz gave the presentation, titled, “Interrogation Tips for Nerds Like Me” at an October 2007 seminar held by the California Association of Polygraph Examiners in Coronado. Among other things, the presentation brings home the point that polygraph “testing” is really all about interrogation. For example, slide 6 covers “internal pressure” in the polygraph examinee that can be exploited by the polygraph operator :

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p06The “cookie jar” story is a simplistic tale that polygraphers like to tell during the pre-test phase. Retired FBI polygrapher Jack Trimarco explained it this way in a 2007 radio interview:

Moms are the best polygraph examiners in the world because they know Little Johnny 24-hours-a-day, and when Mom tells Johnny, “Don’t take a cookie before dinner” and she walks into the kitchen and the cookie jar has the top off of it and there’s crumbs on the counter and crumbs, in fact, on little Johnny’s mouth, and she says, “Johnny, did you take a cookie?” and he goes into the fetal position and looks down and lowers his voice and says, “No, Mommy,” well Mommy knows immediately that Johnny did take the cookie.

The polygrapher attempts to convince the examinee that the polygraph results are like the cookie crumbs on Little Johnny’s mouth.

Slides 10 and 11 document a dangerous mindset prevalent among American interrogators: that their job is to extract confessions (as opposed to determining the truth). Federal polygraph operators are typically evaluated based on their post-test confession rates. Schwartz dismisses the possibility that the polygraph could be wrong and enumerates methods for overcoming objections. Yet a statistical analysis (255 kb PDF) by Dr. Alan P. Zelicoff of the best polygraph field studies suggests that “if a subject fails a polygraph, the probability that she is, in fact, being deceptive is little more than chance alone; that is, one could flip a coin and get virtually the same result for a positive test based on the published data.”

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p10schwartz-interrogation-2007-p11There is an inside joke among polygraphers that they are salesmen with a difficult job: selling jail time. In slide 13, urging the polygrapher to keep the interrogation going as long as possible, Schwartz describes the job a different way: “manure salesman”:

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p13In slide 14, Schwartz specifically mentions, suggesting that the polygrapher should “do the unexpected” if he or she believes that the examinee has read this site (or if the polygrapher has “the feeling” that the examinee “won’t confess”). It’s not clear what “unexpected” things Schwartz advocates polygraphers doing:

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p14In slides 20 and 21, Schwartz suggests a variety of polygraph techniques “if nothing else works,” including one of his own creation: “Schwartz’s Helpful Interrogation Test,” evidently an adaptation of the peak of tension test. This technique is not included in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph handbook (1.9 mb PDF), and it’s not clear if CBP polygraphers use it. Nonetheless, it is cause for concern that a federal polygrapher devised and advocated a “home brewed” polygraph technique:

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p20schwartz-interrogation-2007-p21It is absurd to ask a polygraph examinee why an invalid procedure (polygraphy) may have produced an inaccurate result. It’s like asking why a coin toss came out heads instead of tails. Schwartz’s home brewed “Helpful Interrogation Test” has one thing in common with the Backster Zone Comparison Test, the Reid Modified General Question Test, and the Keeler Relevant/Irrelevant Test: it is the brainchild of an interrogator, not a scientist. Beware of manure salesmen.

An Attempted Entrapment

bear-trapIn May 2013, I was the target of an attempted entrapment.1 Whether it was a federal agent attempting to entrap me on a contrived material support for terrorism charge or simply an individual’s attempt to embarrass me and discredit remains unclear. In this post, I will provide a full public accounting of the attempt, including the raw source of communications received and the IP addresses involved.

As background, it should be borne in mind that a federal criminal investigation into providers of information on polygraph countermeasures, dubbed “Operation Lie Busters,” has been underway since at least November 2011, when an undercover U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent, posing as a job applicant, contacted Chad Dixon of Marion, Indiana for help on passing the polygraph. In December, 2012, Dixon pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and obstruction of an agency proceeding, for which he has been sentenced to 8 months in federal prison.

Doug Williams of Norman, Oklahoma, a former police polygrapher who has been teaching people how to pass polygraph examinations for some three decades and operates the website, was also the target of a sting operation and in February 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection executed search warrants on his home and office, seizing business records. He has been threatened with prosecution but to date has not been charged with any crime.

With this in mind, I received a most curious unsolicited communication on Saturday, 18 May 2013 from <>. The message was sent to my e-mail address <> and was titled “help help help please” (155 kb EML file.) The message body was blank, but there was a PDF attachment with a short message written in Persian, the language of Iran:

I know Persian, a fact of which the writer was evidently cognizant. Here is a translation:

Greetings and respect to you, Mr. George Maschke,

I am Mohammad Aghazadeh and have been living in Iraq for five years. I am a member of an Islamic group that seeks to restore freedom to Iraq. Because the federal police are suspicious of me, they want to do a lie detector test on me. I ask that you send me a copy of your book about the lie behind the lie so that I can use it, or that you help me in any other way. I am very grateful to you.

The book to which the message refers is The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF),’s free e-book that, among other things, explains how to pass (or beat) a polygraph “test.” Factors that made me highly suspicious about this message include:

  • Why would someone who supposedly fears the police send an unencrypted e-mail acknowledging that he’s a member of an Islamic group that is trying to change the government of Iraq?
  • Why would such a person also provide his full name and how long he’s been in the country?
  • To my knowledge, there aren’t any Iranian-backed Islamic groups seeking to “restore freedom to Iraq.” In fact, Iran and Iraq have good diplomatic relations.
  • Why did this person ask me to send a book that is freely available on-line? Note that this message didn’t ask for a “Persian edition” of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

I suspected the message was a likely attempt to set me up for prosecution on charges of material support for terrorism (or something similar).2 It seemed highly unlikely that the message could be genuine. Nonetheless, about half an hour after receiving the message, I provided “Mohammad Aghazadeh” the same advice I would give to anyone accused of a crime who has been asked to take a polygraph test:

Dear Mr. Mohammad Aghazadeh,

Our advice to everyone under such circumstances is not to submit to the so-called “test” and to consult with a lawyer and comply with applicable laws.

George Maschke

Evidently, that response was not satisfactory, for the following day, Sunday, 19 May, about 24 hours after receipt of the first message, I received the following reply (11 kb EML file):

It reads:

Greetings and great respect, Mr. Maschke,
I am very grateful to you for your reply about the lie detector test.
I am not in circumstances where I can refrain from taking the test.
I saw your book on the Internet, but because I don’t know English, I wasn’t able to use it.
I will be very grateful to you if you would send me the Persian edition of it.
I don’t know how I will pass the test.
They have frightened me greatly. What am I to do????

I replied, “Unfortunately, said book has not been translated to Persian.” I have received no further communication from this person.

I Googled the e-mail address <> and found no mentions. Both e-mail messages originated from the same IP address:
This address traces to Arbil (also spelled Erbil), Iraq, where the United States has a consulate.

I checked’s server access log for the IP address, and here is what I found:

9 May 2013

08:24:48 (GMT), someone at this IP address landed on’s publications page after a search on (search terms unknown) using Google Chrome under Windows NT 6.1 (Windows 7).

08:24:59 lands on home page after searching for: george maschke antipolygraph.

08:25:37 downloads The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

10:09:15 fetches The Lie Behind the Lie Detector a second time after searching “george counter polygraph” but this time with Firefox under Windows NT 5.1 en-US (Windows XP 32-bit).

18 May 2013

07:04:18 Lands on home page after unknown search on using Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 under Windows NT 6.1 (Windows 7).

07:04:41 Fetches Federal Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Examiner’s Handbook.

07:05:46 Fetches The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

07:06:27 Fetches DoDPI  Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test Examiner’s Guide.

07:06:55 Fetches DoDPI Interview and Interrogation Handbook.

07:07:29 Fetches DoDPI Numerical Evaluation Scoring System.

11:07:04 Returns to home page using Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 under Windows NT 6.1.

11:07:08 Views recent message board posts. (Note: this action suggests the visitor is familiar with the site.)

11:08:10 Does a message board search (search terms not logged by server).

11:08:25 Searches message board again.

11:08:36 Searches message board again.

11:08:48 Searches message board again.

11:09:27 Searches Google (terms unknown) and lands on message board thread, Al-Qaeda Has Read The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

11:10:02 Gets message board thread, Al-Qaeda Documentation on Lie Detection (which is linked early in the previous thread).

Note that both of the foregoing message threads include accusations against me of disloyalty to the United States.

11:10:34 Gets document Al-Qaeda Documentation on Lie Detection.

11:10:41 Returns to message board thread, Al-Qaeda Documentation on Lie Detection.

11:30:20 Last load of any page.

The browsing behavior documented in the server log does not suggest to me an individual who doesn’t know English. Also, the use of different web browsers and operating systems suggests to me that the IP address might belong to an organization rather than an individual.

I also found a few other visits from other nearby IP addresses (first three numerical blocks of the IP addresses are the same):

On 3 May 2013 at 10:51:20, IP landed on an image of Tyler Buttle after searching with an iPhone for “photo+sebel+can+sex”.

On 7 May 2013 at 18:08:25, IP searched for unknown terms and landed on the blog post Is Patrick T. Coffey Fit to Be Screening Police Applicants? using Firefox 20 under Windows NT 5.1 (Windows XP).

Twenty-six seconds later, at 18:08:51, the same IP moved on to the blog post Polygrapher Patrick T. Coffey Threatens Lawsuit, Demands Retraction.

I can well understand why someone in Iraq might search for sexy pictures of Sibel Can, a Turkish singer. (The searcher, who misspelled “Sibel,” must have been disappointed to find a picture of Tyler Buttle instead.) But why would anyone in Iraq be interested in Patrick T. Coffey, a private polygraph examiner based in Burlingame, California?

Patrick T. Coffey in Iraq

Photograph posted by Patrick T. Coffey to Facebook on 1 May 2013. The Arabic caption under the American and Iraqi flags reads: “Together We Achieve Success”

Coffey has done contract work in the Middle East before, and I wondered whether he might have been on contract in Iraq during the relevant period. Coffey lost his contract for pre-employment polygraphs with the San Francisco Police Department in the aftermath of S.F. Weekly’s reporting about bigoted and intemperate remarks he made on Coffey clearly despises me, as you’ll observe from comments he posted under the nom de guerre TheNoLieGuy4U in the message thread Al-Qaeda Has Read The Lie Behind the Lie Detector. Those comments begin at page 2 and include a demand to know whether I have “personally ever translated or assisted any person in the translation of anti-polygraph materials or literature into Arabic, Farsi [Persian], or any other language?” (As if that were some sort of a crime. In fact, I haven’t.)

I was able to confirm that Coffey was indeed in Iraq for three weeks, including the relevant period when the visits to were made and the e-mails were sent. I called him on the morning of 26 May to ask whether he might have enlisted the aid of a Persian-speaking colleague while in Iraq in a personal effort to test and perhaps discredit me. Coffey denied any involvement with, or indeed, any knowledge of, the e-mails. He even refused to confirm that he had been in Iraq.

Coffey did volunteer that he understands from hearsay that the Department of Defense has an “open case” about me with respect to “the countermeasure question.” His implication was that it’s a criminal case. However, I have been out of the Army reserve for nine years and am not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

So was this attempted entrapment part of the U.S. government’s Operation Lie Busters, or the intrigue of a polygraph examiner with an axe to grind, or possibly a combination of both? I don’t know, but I welcome comment from any readers who might.

  1. McClatchy newspaper group investigative reporter Marisa Taylor first reported on this matter on 16 August 2013 in “Seeing threats, feds target instructors of polygraph-beating methods.” The present article explains this incident in fuller detail. []
  2. I should note that an “Islamic” group is not necessarily a terrorist group, or even a militant one, though I suspect that in the sender’s mind, they are the same thing. []