Doug Williams Case Update

The federal trial of Doug Williams for teaching people how to pass a polygraph, which had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday, 14 April 2015, has been moved to Tuesday, 12 May 2015. Williams’ attorney, Stephen H. Buzin, requested the continuance, citing among other things the receipt of 425 pages of new discovery materials from the U.S. government and the expectation that additional discovery materials would be delivered in coming weeks. In an order dated 25 March 2015, Chief United States District Judge Vicki Miles LaGrange issued an order granting the request, which was unopposed by the U.S. government.

Williams is featured prominently in two recent news columns. In “Insidious Orwellian Machines,” VICE Magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes, who met with Williams last August, writes about his interactions with Williams, his success in beating the polygraph for a television pilot, and his concern about the civil liberties aspect of the upcoming trial.

And in “How to Beat a Polygraph Test,” published in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Malia Wollan succinctly explains how to do precisely that, based on Doug Williams’ instructions.

Kansas Judge Rejects Polygraph “Evidence” in Murder Case

leigh-hood

Kansas District Judge E. Leigh Hood

Kansas District Judge E. Leigh Hood has deemed polygraph results proffered by the defendant in a murder trial to be inadmissible. Vincent Marshall reports for the Dodge City Daily Globe:

Judge denies polygraph tests as evidence

By Vincent Marshall/Dodge City Daily Globe
Posted Feb. 13, 2015 at 1:01 AM

Dodge City, Kan.Judge Leigh Hood has denied the motion to admit polygraph evidence in the Brock Cunningham case of the death of 3-year-old Natalie Pickle.

Cunningham was charged with first-degree murder and child abuse after the death of Pickle who was under the care of Cunningham when she supposedly jumped off a bed and sustained head injuries that ultimately led to her death. Doctors later deemed her injuries to possibly have been caused by blunt force trauma to the head.

In his ruling Hood said, “In Kansas and elsewhere, one of the primary functions a jury is tasked with is to listen to live witnesses evaluate the credibility of their testimony. Since the jury trial system was implemented in our country, the courts have entrusted juries with the responsibility to make credibility determinations. It is a well-known rule in Kansas that a witness cannot testify or express an opinion about the credibility of another witness.”

The ruling comes from the court case State v. Elnicki where the Kansas Supreme Court said; “We start our analysis with the well-known rule that a witness may not express an opinion on the credibility of another witness, State v. Jackson (1986). This is because the determination of the truthfulness of a witness is for the jury.”

The Elnicki case did not deal with a polygraph test as evidence but with the rule of law being that a witness cannot express opinions another witness, that was how Hood came to make his decision.”

It appears to this Court that to allow a polygrapher to testify in a criminal jury trial,” Hood said, “would be to allow one witness to testify about the credibility of another witness, which in the present case is the defendant.

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that determining the weight and credibility of witness testimony is the role of the jury. To allow the polygraph evidence will clearly usurp this role. For this reason alone, the defendant’s motion to admit polygraph evidence must be denied.”

Defense attorneys, Daniel Monnat and Trevor Riddle, had presented testimony from Dr. David Raskin and Gary Davis who used computerized polygraph tests when administering it to Cunningham.

Cunningham had scored very high and passed both tests.

Prosecuting attorney Natalie Randall then presented testimony from Roger Butler with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, who when reviewing the tests done by Raskin and Davis deemed the outcome of the results to be inconclusive.

Yet, despite the polygraph tests claiming that Cunningham was being honest in terms of his innocence, allowing those tests to be admitted would take away the job for the jury to decide.

For related commentary, see University of South Carolina law professor Colin Miller’s 27 January 2015 blog post, “Liar, Liar: Will Kansas Now Allow for Polygraph Evidence to be Admitted?”

Sheriff’s Deputy Indicted for Falsifying Timesheets Starts Polygraph Business

Withrow "Herb" Wiggins, Jr. (Twitter portrait)

Withrow “Herb” Wiggins, Jr.
(Twitter portrait)

Jacob Pucci reports for Syracuse.com:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — An Onondaga County sheriff’s deputy charged with falsifying timesheets is opening a polygraph exam business in downtown Syracuse.

Withro “Herb” Wiggins Jr. began doing business as CNY Polygraph on Jan. 23. The business is located at 499 S. Warren St., across the street from the Galleries of Syracuse building.

Reached by phone, Wiggins declined comment under advice of legal counsel.

Wiggins is offering a range of exams, from those preparing for a polygraph for future employment or criminal accusatory reasons, to “just for fun” exams for people to learn about the process. Exams start at $99.

Wiggins, along with deputies Crayg Dykes and George Buckton, were charged with falsifying Centro timesheets for bus security work they didn’t perform. The indictment accuses Dykes of receiving $1,732.50, Wiggins of $1,347.50 and Buckton of $770 as a result of the fraudulent timesheets.

All three remain with the sheriff’s office, but now serve in a paid administrative duty, Sheriff Gene Conway said in an email.

In a Twitter post dated 28 April 2014, Wiggins mentioned that he would be teaching for a week at the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center Polygraph Institute.

 

Indiana State Police Video Discourages Applicants from Researching Polygraphs

earnest-pageThe Indiana State Police have produced a video that discourages applicants from educating themselves about polygraphy. The video quotes new recruit Earnest Page stating:

You learn that you do not believe that everything is [sic] posted on the Internet, so the best thing for me is to keep my mind free because when you think of that stuff, that can cloud your mind and also, you know, can alter your test scores, so I just stayed away from anything like that.

Grammar issues aside, the intended point is that applicants should be leery of information about polygraphy that is available “on the Internet” (as if the Internet were a monolithic source of information about polygraphy, all of which is wrong).

But a polygraph community presentation on countermeasures describes the information provided by AntiPolygraph.org as “accurate,” and polygraph operator Louis I. Rovner, Ph.D., testified in court that “He [AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George W. Maschke] has provided a sophisticated and accurate account of what goes on in a polygraph test, essentially what I did in my research, but his is so thorough and complete it’s just breathtaking how good and accurate the information is.”

paul-hansard

The video also quotes Indiana State Police polygraph examiner Sgt. Paul Hansard saying:

That would be one of the important things, is to make sure that they don’t look up or research anything on polygraph as well.

Why would it be “one of the important things” to make sure that an applicant hasn’t done their homework on polygraphy? And what does Hansard propose to do with honest applicants who admit to having researched polygraphy? The video doesn’t say.

To drive home the point that applicants shouldn’t educate themselves about polygraphy, the video cites probationary trooper Earnest Page once more (emphasis added):

I would just come early, get a good night’s rest before, clear your mind, stay away from the things on the Internet, be willing to answer all questions, don’t be afraid to ask questions, or to explain your answers. So after that I think you’ll be fine.

When an amplified voice tells you to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, perhaps you should investigate.

NPR on Upcoming Trial of Polygraph Critic Doug Williams

On Friday, 2 January 2015, National Public Radio aired a report by Martin Kaste on the upcoming trial of polygraph critic Doug Williams, who was targeted in a February 2014 sting operation led by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph unit. While the NPR report is titled, “Trial of Polygraph Critic Renews Debate Over Tests’ Accuracy,” there is broad consensus among scientists that polygraphy is pseudoscience. Professor Stephen Fienberg, who headed the National Research Council’s Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph, who was interviewed for this report, has it quite right when he states, “My personal conclusion is that [the polygraph] has no place in government’s dealings with its citizens.”

Comments on Kaste’s report posted to the NPR website are running heavily against the government’s prosecution of Williams and its reliance on polygraphy.

Trial Date Set in U.S. v. Doug Williams

At a 15-minute arraignment hearing (258 kb PDF) held on Tuesday, 18 November 2014, Doug Williams of Norman, Oklahama, who was indicted last week in connection with his business teaching people how to pass polygraph tests, pled  not guilty, was released on his own recognizance, and a trial date of Tuesday, 13 January 2015 was set. The case is to be heard before Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Williams is represented by attorneys Chris H. Eulberg and Stephen H. Buzin.

Doug Williams Indicted for Teaching How to Pass a Polygraph Test

Doug Williams

Doug Williams in August 2013 News9.com Interview

On the afternoon of Friday, 14 November 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment (the day before) of Douglas Gene Williams, a former Oklahoma City police polygraphist and the proprietor of Polygraph.com, who has been teaching individuals how to pass polygraph “tests” since 1979. The 21-page five-count indictment accuses Williams of two counts of mail fraud for having received payment for his services through the U.S. Postal Service and three counts of witness tampering for allegedly “persuad[ing] or attempting to persuade” two undercover agents posing as customers “to conceal material facts and make false statements with the intent to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony” of the undercover agents “in an official proceeding….”

Williams is not charged with any alleged crime not involving an undercover agent posing as a customer. Whatever the legal merits of the government’s case against Williams, it seems clear that the overarching motivation of the criminal investigation against him is to suppress speech that the government dislikes. U.S. v. Doug Williams has serious implications for free speech in the United States.

For the time being, Williams is limiting his public comments based on legal counsel. However, he has previously described the February 2013 entrapment operation and raid that federal agents conducted on his home and office. Using business records seized during the raid, federal officials compiled an inter-agency watch list comprising the names and personal details of thousands of Williams’ customers, as well as a lesser number of customers of a second man, Chad Dixon, who was also targeted for prosecution.

The indictment (2.6 mb PDF) of Doug Williams is an implicit admission by the U.S. government that 1) polygraph countermeasures work,  2) it has no effective means of detecting them, 3) it is deeply concerned about polygraph countermeasures.

A decade ago, an instructor at the federal government’s polygraph school suggested in a polygraph trade journal that providing information about polygraph countermeasures to the public should be outlawed. AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke posted a public response, never thinking that the U.S. government would actually pursue such a radical plan. But it appears to be happening.

Recommended reading:

Also, for discussion of the indictment from the time it was first made public, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread Doug Williams of Polygraph.com Indicted. Comments may also be posted here. Registration is not required.

 

NSA Director Mike Rogers on Polygraph Screening

mike-rogers-on-polygraph-screening

NSA Director Mike Rogers Speaking on Polygraph Screening

NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers says that he hates polygraphs but nonetheless considers them “a good tool for us.”

Rogers made the remark during an appearance on Monday, 3 November 2014 at Stanford University in response to a question by professor of political science Scott Sagan, who asked what Rogers has done in terms of background checks, security clearances, and personnel reliability programs to preclude another security breach like Edward Snowden’s.

The first specific measure Rogers mentioned was polygraph screening, replying in relevant part (at 1:09:09 in the webcast):

So, I remind the workforce, we all signed up to a higher level of scrutiny and a higher level of security. We all know that that’s part of the job. We all agree to that. Whether it’s polygraphs, whole lots of other things that we do–I mean, I can’t stand ‘em. I’ll be the first to admit I hate ‘em, but it is as…but I acknowledge that it’s a good tool for us, and if I’m gonna do this, I go into it with my eyes open even though part of me goes, “Oh man, I’ve got to sit down and get wired to a machine.” ‘Cause we have one standard for all of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re the four-star running the organization, or you’re a junior individual. I’ve got one standard for all of us when it comes to the security framework.

Rogers seemingly ignores the fact that polygraph screening is completely without scientific basis and disregards the National Research Council’s conclusion that “[polygraph testing’s] accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies.”

Rogers also seems to suggest that he’s setting an example for his employees: everyone from the highest to the lowest ranking at NSA has to take the polygraph. But it’s not really the same. When the director of the NSA sits for a polygraph “test,” it’s the polygrapher’s job that’s on the line. No director of the NSA need fear failing a polygraph. The same is not true for those further down the food-chain, for whom a false-positive outcome is a serious risk.

Of course, polygraph screening is not a policy instituted by NSA in response to Edward Snowden’s disclosures. NSA has been (mis-)relying on polygraphy for almost its entire history. It may be the case, however, that NSA has increased the frequency of polygraph screenings. In December 2013, Daniel W. Drezner, writing for Foreign Policy magazine, reported following a visit to NSA headquarters:

Snowden has also changed the way the NSA is doing business. Analysts have gone from being polygraphed once every five years to once every quarter.

Update: While DIRNSA Mike Rogers says he goes into polygraphs “with [his] eyes open,” the NSA has produced a video for employees and contractors that attempts to mislead them about key aspects of polygraph screening. And NSA-affiliated personnel who attempt to open their eyes about polygraphy by researching it online may have their web browsing history intercepted and presented to them during their polygraph sessions.

DEA Contractor Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators Found Liable for Breach of Anti-Polygraph Law

metlang-logoMcClatchy reporter Marisa Taylor reports that a federal judge has found Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators liable for violation of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, which restricts the use of polygraphs and other purported “lie detectors” by non-governmental employers. Excerpt:

— At the behest of the Drug Enforcement Administration, a leading court translation service forced its employees to take lie-detector tests in violation of federal law, a federal judge has found.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller concluded that the New York-based company, Metropolitan Interpreters and Translators Inc., was liable for requiring nine translators in San Diego to take what they described as highly invasive polygraph tests to keep their jobs as contractors with the DEA.

The ruling paves the way for a trial in which a jury will determine how much the company will have to pay in damages. Miller also found the company’s vice president, Joseph Citrano, liable. Five other translators already have settled with the company.

The decision, which was issued Oct. 24, comes after the DEA agreed to pay the 14 plaintiffs a total of $500,000 to settle the lawsuit. The contract employees translated Spanish conversations collected during court-authorized wiretapping of the DEA’s criminal suspects. Metropolitan fired the employees after they failed or refused to take the polygraphs.

A 1988 law banned most private employers from polygraphing their workers because of scientific questions about the technique’s reliability and after accounts of employer abuses.

“This ruling shows companies are responsible for their own actions when they violate the law,” said San Diego lawyer Gene Iredale, who represented the plaintiffs. “It also shows courts are ready, willing and able to enforce this law.”

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 still allowed the federal government to polygraph its employees and applicants. It also lists certain intelligence and law enforcement agencies as permitted to test their contractors. However, it does not list the DEA.

Read the rest of the story here.