U.S. Customs and Border Protection Polygraph “Test for Espionage, Sabotage, and Corruption” Exposed

In 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, unable to fill available positions because of the agency’s roughly 70% pre-employment polygraph failure rate (1 MB PDF), began a “pilot program” whereby instead of using the probable-lie Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (1 MB PDF) technique used by other federal law enforcement agencies, CBP applicants would instead be subjected to a new directed-lie technique based on the Test for Espionage and Sabotage, which is used by the Departments of Defense and Energy for security screening.

CBP’s new polygraph screening technique is called the “Test for Espionage, Sabotage, and Corruption” or “TES-C.” AntiPolygraph.org has obtained, and is publishing, CBP documentation regarding this procedure, including the precise questions asked, and their order.

Those who face CBP pre-employment polygraph screening can familiarize themselves with this information to prepare and help protect themselves against a false positive outcome, which is common in this scientifically baseless procedure.

The TES-C consists of two main question series, “Sub-test A” and “Sub-test B.” These are XML files (originally with the LXQ file extension associated with the Lafayette Instrument Company’s LX Polygraph Software; AntiPolygraph.org has substituted the XML extension to make the files readable in web browsers).

The questions, in order, with types, on Sub-test A are:

X Start of Chart Please remain still, the test is about to begin.

I1 Irrelevant/Neutral Are the lights on in this room?

I2 Irrelevant/Neutral Are you now sitting down?

SRQ Sacrifice Relevant Concerning/Regarding the security issues we discussed, do you intend to answer each question truthfully?

1C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever commit a minor traffic violation?

1R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?

1R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?

1C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever take any (government/company) supplies for your personal use?

2R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?

2R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?

2C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever commit a minor traffic violation?

3R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?

3R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?

2C2 Did you ever take any (government/company) supplies for your personal use?

XX End of Chart This part of the test is now over, please remain still.

The questions, in order, with types, on Sub-test B are:

X Start of Chart Please remain still, the test is about to begin.

I1 Irrelevant Are the lights on in this room?

I2 Irrelevant Are you now sitting down?

SRQ Sacrifice Relevant Concerning / Regarding the security issues we discussed, do you intend to answer each question truthfully?

1C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything in anger that you later regretted?

1R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?

1R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?

1C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything derogatory about another person behind their back?

2R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?

2R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?

2C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything in anger that you later regretted?

3R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?

3R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?

2C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything derogatory about another person behind their back?

XX End of Chart This part of the test is now over, please remain still.

The scope of the relevant questions is outlined in a Suitability Scoping Guide (28 kb PDF). A PowerPoint presentation titled “CBP Route Maps” also shows the scope of the relevant questions, revealing, among other things, that the question about “serious criminal activity” includes a wide array of crimes ranging from, among other things, “viewing, downloading, searching, distributing, selling, [or] producing” child pornography, drug possession or use in the past three years, and drug transactions anytime.

A CBP Polygraph TES-C Pre-Test Outline lays out in detail the script to be followed by the polygraph operator administering the TES-C. Applicants are required to sign a CBP Applicant Release of Liability form (92 kb PDF) agreeing “not to sue CBP, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), and CBP’s and DHS’s employees, officers, and agents, their heirs, successors, or assigns (the “Released Parties”), and agree to hold the Released Parties harmless of and from any and all actions or omissions, rights or causes of actions, suits, damages, judgments, claims, and demands whatsoever, present or future, in law or in equity, whether known or unknown, which arise out of, result from, occur during, or are connected in any manner with my polygraph examination….”

What other pre-employment test requires such bureacratic CYA?

The pre-test outline also reflects CBP’s fear of polygraph countermeasures, which CBP and other federal agencies have no reliable means of detecting. Step 5 of the pre-test outline instructs the polygraph operator as follows:

5. Countermeasure Statement

  • Tell me what you know about Polygraph.
  • Have you conducted any research on Polygraph?
  • If the examinee answers “No”, let the examinee know that most information on the Internet is opinion based and often incorrect and misleading.
  • Tell the examinee that they should NOT do anything to alter their polygraph examination.
  • If the examinee says “Yes”, they have conducted polygraph research, ask them what information did they learn and where did they get the information.
  • Again, tell the examinee that “most information on the Internet is incorrect and misleading.”

Inform the examinee that they should NOT do anything to alter their polygraph examination.

Polygraph operators want their examinees to be ignorant about polygraphy. They are not nearly so much concerned about examinees getting “incorrect and misleading” information about polygraphy as they are about them getting factual and correct information about polygraphy and polygraph countermeasures. The polygraph operator will likely arbitrarily accuse any examinee who states that he or she has visited AntiPolygraph.org, or otherwise researched polygraphy, with having employed polygraph countermeasures.

Those facing CBP pre-employment polygraph screening will want to read the entire TES-C Pre-Test Outline and additional TES-C documentation available at the AntiPolygraph.org Reading Room. They will also want to read our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 MB PDF) to learn how to protect themselves against the high risk of a false positive outcome associated with this pseudoscientific procedure.

WikiLeaks CIA Vault 7 Leak and Child Pornography Suspect Joshua Adam Schulte Passed Multiple Polygraphs

Joshua Adam Schulte

On 23 August 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted former CIA employee Joshua Adam Schulte for receipt, possession, and transportation of child pornography dating back to 2009.

In 2010, Schulte sought and obtained employment with the CIA. All CIA applicants are required to pass a pre-employment polygraph as well as periodic polygraph screening after hire. The relevant questions asked typically include computer crimes including possession of child pornography. In a proceeding held on 24 August 2017, Schulte’s lawyer, Kenneth F. Smith, stated that Schulte had passed a CIA polygraph that addressed the issue of child pornography:

MR. SMITH: …Pursuant to his employment and his security clearances, he has undergone extensive and extreme vetting, including numerous polygraph examinations. He was subjected to polygraph examinations in the beginning, when he started, and continuing throughout his career. And, Judge, particularly I think it’s important to note  in those polygraph examinations and as a part of that vetting, he was asked specifically about this conduct, and he passed all of those polygraphs with flying colors.

Judge, it’s important because…

THE COURT: He was asked about child pornography in the polygraphs?

MR. SMITH: That’s correct, Judge.

On 18 June 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a superseding indictment additionally charging Schulte with, among other things, “illegal gathering of national defense information…for the purpose of providing it to, and causing it to be provided to, an organization that purports to publicly disseminate classified, sensitive, and confidential information (“Organization-1″), which posted the Classfied Information on the Internet.”

“Organization-1” is widely understood to be WikiLeaks, and the national defense information in question is widely understood to be WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7” release of CIA hacking tools, publication of which began in March 2017.

The indictment alleges that Schulte gathered this information in 2016, the year he left CIA employment. It is unknown whether Schulte was polygraphed after the time that he allegedly gathered information allegedly provided to WikiLeaks.

In any event, if the child pornography charges against Schulte, which again date to 2009, a year before the CIA hired him, are true, and if the polygraph is capable of detecting deception, as the CIA and other federal agencies claim, then the polygraph should have eliminated Schulte from consideration for CIA employment. But it didn’t.

NCCA Test Data Analysis Pamphlet

AntiPolygraph.org has today published the National Center for Credibility Assessment’s “Test Data Analysis: Numerical Scoring System Pamphlet” dated August 2017 (488 kb PDF). A note before the table of contents details the changes made over the years:

Note: The content and substance of this pamphlet was officially approved on 23 Aug 2006. In March 2011, this pamphlet was edited, but only for grammatical issues and curriculum style, format, and consistency of design factors, and no substantive changes to the content were made. In January 2012, content changes were made relative to requirements for two artifact free askings. In June, 2014, content changes were made effectively eliminating the 2:1 ratio from the EDA Ratio Scale. In Aug 2015, content changes were made changing the wording of “artifact free” to “valid asking”, as well as a definition added to App. G. Jan 2017: Changed EDA/CV ROW from “SO to EA” to “SO to 5 seconds beyond the EA”. The latency rule is effectively eliminated by the new ROW. Aug 2017: Updated the description of the 7-position scoring methods for the CV channel.

AntiPolygraph.org has previously published the August 2006 version of this document, which remains available (376 kb PDF).

NCCA Polygraph Countermeasure Course Files Leaked

AntiPolygraph.org has today published a collection of documents associated with the National Center for Credibility Assessment’s training courses on polygraph countermeasures. These documents, which date to circa 2013, describe the U.S. government’s best efforts to detect polygraph countermeasures. Key revelations include:

  • In a secret 1995 study, 80 percent of test subjects who were taught polygraph countermeasures succeeded in beating the U.S. government’s primary counterintelligence polygraph screening technique. The training took no more than an hour. NCCA officials have concealed this study from the National Academy of Sciences and the American public;
  • The federal government’s methods for attempting to detect polygraph countermeasures are conjectural in nature and were developed by two non-scientist polygraph operators at the federal polygraph school;
  • The U.S. government’s polygraph countermeasure detection training is centered on countering information found on two “anti-polygraph websites” (including this one) run by U.S. citizens (one of whom was entrapped and sent to prison and the other of whom was targeted for entrapment). Minimal attention is paid to foreign intelligence services.

The core of the U.S. government’s training for polygraph operators on how to detect countermeasures is a 40-hour “comprehensive” course taught by the National Center for Credibility Assessment’s Threat Assessment and Strategic Support Branch (TASS). The course, called “CE 839,” is restricted to federally certified polygraph operators. The NCCA website, which disappeared from the Internet shortly after the 2016 presidential election, described the course thus (PDD is short for “Psychophysiological Detection of Deception,” a buzzword for “polgyraphy”):

This 40-hour course prepares the PDD examiner to deter and detect employment of polygraph countermeasures in criminal and intelligence testing environments. The course presents background information for a foundation in concepts, theories, and research data related to polygraph countermeasures. Laboratory exercises are included to enhance skills and provide hands-on experience. Detailed discussion of numerous case studies involving examples of confirmed countermeasures. Law enforcement and intelligence PDD examinations are used to demonstrate methods of detecting and defeating this threat. Information provided includes discussion of threats posed by foreign intelligence services, terrorist organizations, and other criminal elements attempting to defeat law enforcement and intelligence PDD examinations. This course is intended as the primary polygraph countermeasures course for criminal and security screening PDD examiners or as a periodic refresher course for examiners supporting intelligence operations. The course included daily directed reading assignments followed by classroom discussions and quizzes.

The documents published today by AntiPolygraph.org include an instructor’s template as well as PowerPoint presentations (including presenter’s notes) for the course.

A note to slide 7 of the first block of instruction (18 MB PDF), dubbed “Back to Basics,” chides AntiPolygraph.org for publishing two Arabic-language jihadist documents on polygraph countermeasures with English translations, averring that “For the Anti-polygraph crowd the ‘end justifies the means’ – they are willing to compromise national security in their quest to rid the world of polygraph.”

No explanation is provided as to how AntiPolygraph.org’s documenting of jihadist literature on polygraph countermeasures (and in the process bringing it to the attention of the federal polygraph community) constitutes our compromising national security. We would counter that NCCA is compromising national security through its embrace of the pseudoscience of polygraphy and its mulish resistance to independent review of its “research” findings.

This “Back to Basics” presentation also includes a suggestion (at slide 22) to overinflate the blood pressure cuff (which causes pain) to punish examinees who breath more slowly than the polygraph operator would like:

Block 2 (11.4 MB PDF) of the comprehensive course (“Physiological Features”) is what NCCA considers to be the core of the course. It identifies features of polygraph tracings that NCCA believes are indicative of polygraph countermeasure use. Although none of the NCCA documents provided to AntiPolygraph.org are marked as being classified, the presenter’s notes for slide 5 state that the discussion will be classified “secret”:

The presenter’s notes for the concluding slide (52) bemoan the fact that “Today we have many performing high level CM. The average person can go on-line and find not only the test technique that will be used in their polygraph but the questions asked.”

You are at the right site to find that kind of information.

The presentation for the fourth block of instruction (4.5 MB PDF) includes some of the information we found most interesting. It documents a secret U.S.  government countermeasure study conducted by Gordon H. Barland circa 1995 in which (including inconclusive results) 80% of test subjects taught to beat the polygraph were successful in doing so. Countermeasure training lasted no more than an hour and consisted of telling the examinee, upon hearing a “control” question, to pick a number over 600 and count backwards by threes.

Slides 7-9, with presenter’s notes, are reproduced below (you can click on the images to view them in a larger size):

Barland’s study strongly suggested that polygraph screening is highly vulnerable to polygraph countermeasures. The U.S. government has concealed this study from the public, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council, which in 2001-2002 conducted a  review of the scientific evidence on the polygraph. In its report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection (10.3 MB PDF), the Council noted (at p. 118, emphasis added):

“…we were advised by officials from [the Department of Energy] and [the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, since renamed the National Center for Credibility Assessment] that there was information relevant to our work, classified at the secret level, particularly with regard to polygraph countermeasures. In order to review such information, several committee members and staff obtained national security clearances at the secret level. We were subsequently told by officials of the Central Intelligence Agency and DoDPI that there were no completed studies of polygraph countermeasures at the secret level; we do not know whether there are any such studies at a higher level of classification.”

NCCA deliberately misled, and concealed relevant documentation from, the National Research Council.

With respect to the mention of officials of the Central Intelligence Agency, note that the most influential person at DoDPI/NCCA at the time was Donald J. Krapohl, a career CIA agent and polygraph operator who for many years was the éminence grise at DoDPI/NCCA.

The presentation goes on to document how two non-scientist NCCA staff members, Paul M. Menges and Daniel V. Weatherman, devised a system that purports to identify those who employed countermeasures in Barland’s study by examining the polygraph tracings. Their scheme identifies a number of “physiological features” that are posited to be evidence of polygraph countermeasure use. The criteria are so broad that any polygraph operator could likely find indications of countermeasure use in any particular set of polygraph charts if he looks hard enough. Slide 13 notes that when Weatherman applied his “global scoring” approach to detect countermeasures, only 47% of the innocent were correctly identified.

The entire NCCA comprehensive countermeasure course is centered on these two non-scientists’ unpublished, un-peer-reviewed “research.”

Slide 36 notes: “Software unable to identify CM.” This is not surprising, given the conjectural, “I know them when I see them!” nature of Menges’ and Weatherman’s countermeasure “detection” methods.

It’s worth noting that around the time Menges and Weatherman were attempting to devise a technique for detecting polygraph countermeasures, Menges authored an article published in the American Polygraph Association quarterly, Polygraph, suggesting that teaching polygraph countermeasures to the public should be outlawed.

A decade later, Doug Williams, who runs Polygraph.com, which features prominently in NCCA’s polygraph countermeasure training, was targeted for entrapment in Operation Lie Busters and ultimately sentenced to two years in federal prison. He has since been released but is prohibited from providing in-person training on how to pass a polygraph “test” until July 2020. AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke was also targeted for entrapment during Operation Lie Busters but was not charged with any crime. Contemporaneous evidence suggests that AntiPolygraph.org was additionally targeted for surveillance by the NSA.

The fifth block of instruction (5.7 MB PDF) covers suggested supplemental polygraph counter-countermeasure techniques such as the “Repeat the Last Word Test,” the “Focused CM Technique,” the “Yes/No Test,” and the abandonment of the “control” question “test” (CQT) in favor of the Concealed Information Test.

On a final note, recall our 11 October 2014 blog post, “Senior Official at Federal Polygraph School Accused of Espionage.” Then recently-retired Defense Intelligence Agency counterintelligence investigator Scott W. Carmichael said this about these documents in an e-mail message to retired FBI polygrapher Robert Drdak:

The study conducted by Dan [Weatherman] and Paul [Menges] drew on raw data collected by Dr. Gordon H. Barland and the classified report of his earlier study of mental countermeasures dated in 1994. Dan, Paul and Dr. Senter performed their work as employees of DoDPI. Your old colleague and former business partner Don Krapohl provided oversight for their work and edited the report submitted by Dan and Paul back in CY2003. The entire effort was official, and it was based on a classified study.

Dan and Paul believed their findings constituted a new, reliable, and therefore extremely valuable diagnostic tool. Dr. Senter tested the tool and determined that, sure enough, the specific diagnostic features identified by Dan and Paul through their study correlated with a high degree of probability to the employment of countermeasures. As you may know, the U.S. government now requires all federal polygraph examiners to receive 40 hours of instruction on polygraph countermeasures to become certified as federal examiners; and, to receive 4 hours of polygraph countermeasures refresher training every year to maintain their certifications. DoDPI/DCCA [sic, correct NCCA] is so confident in the diagnostic tool developed by Dan and Paul, they decided to use the new tool as the very foundation for the 40-hour instruction and the annual 4-hour refresher training.

Again, Dr. Barland’s 1994 study, which formed the basis for Weatherman and Menges’s study, was classified. By definition, then, and by DoD Instruction, Weatherman and Menges’s study and findings, were therefore also classified.

But DoDPI did something stupid. They committed a security violation. In fact, they did so repeatedly. They found it inconvenient and unwieldy to carry classified briefing slides around with them as they traveled to various parts of the country to teach the diagnostic tool to examiners – and, when they found it necessary to brief uncleared personnel on the tool, rather than follow routine but bothersome administrative procedures which would have enabled them to do so, they elected to simply not stamp their briefing slides at all. Instead, they stamped their materials as Unclassified/FOUO – while handling and treating their materials as though they were classified, in order to ensure their tool did not fall into foreign hands. Why? Because anyone who learns how the entire US government now detects the employment of countermeasures, will be able to device [sic] methods to defeat the US government examination process.

Additional NCCA countermeasure training materials, with brief descriptions, are available for download here.


Gordon H. Barland on Polygraph Countermeasures

Gordon H. Barland, Ph.D. worked at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (now the National Center for Credibility Assessment) from 1986 until his retirement in 2000. During this period, he conducted research on polygraph countermeasures, and by his own estimation, “[p]rior to his retirement from DoDPI, he was the Federal Government’s primary authority on polygraph countermeasures.”

In July 2003, Dr. Barland presented a week-long course on polygraphy including polygraph countermeasures at the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Forenses in Mexico City. According to an NCCA timeline on polygraph countermeasures, “[t]he course was presented by Barland after being approved by the National Security Agency.”

AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a copy of the 397-slide PowerPoint file Dr. Barland used in this presentation, which we are also making available as a PDF file. All are invited to download the file and to review it slide by slide. We present here only a few highlights.

The title slide:

Slide 42 discusses common polygraph operator doctrine about countermeasures and admits that it only applies to “naïve” countermeasures, that is, the sort of thing that someone who doesn’t understand polygraph procedure might attempt. In this slide, “E” is shorthand for “examiner”:

In slide 54,  Dr. Barland’s mentions his fear, in the aftermath of the National Research Council’s damning 2003 report (10.3 mb PDF) and referencing a federal lawsuit that was ultimately dismissed on procedural grounds, that the United States Congress might outlaw polygraph screening:

Dr. Barland was particularly concerned with two websites that he said polygraph operators needed to monitor regularly: www.polygraph.com, run by former Oklahoma City Police Department polygrapher Doug Williams, who turned against polygraphy and began offering the public information about polygraphy’s shortcomings and how to pass or beat a polygraph “test,” and AntiPolygraph.org. The CAAWP listserv mentioned in the presentation is defunct:

The presentation devotes numerous slides to Doug Williams, including a biographical synopsis:

Regarding Williams’ motives, Barland paints a very different picture of Williams than did the federal officials behind Operation Lie Busters, who set out to entrap, arrest, and incarcerate him:

Barland goes on to discuss Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph, at length.

Slide 148 suggests interrogation approaches for getting a polygraph examinee to admit to having used countermeasures:Barland also addresses AntiPolygraph.org and characterized our book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector as “an excellent polygraph manual, with an extensive chapter on [countermeasures]”:

Numerous slides discuss conversations on the AntiPolygraph.org message board and the contents of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

Absent from the presentation is any clearly stated, effective method for reliably detecting the kinds of countermeasures outlined in How to Sting the Polygraph and The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

NCCA White Paper on Polygraph Countermeasure Detection Training

AntiPolygraph.org has received an archive of National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) documents about polygraph countermeasures.

We begin publication with an undated “white paper” titled “Timeline Detailing the Countermeasures Classification Issue” (288 kb PDF). Metadata in the Microsoft Word version (140 kb DOC) of the document indicates that it was created on 15 August 2012 by NCCA Quality Assurance Program chief Gary Light.

The white paper argues that “CM [countermeasure] detection information from its inception has been researched, developed and implemented in an unclassified environment. CM procedures were not, are not and need not be classified when teaching the detection process.”

In January 2014, McClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reported on efforts by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), NCCA’s parent agency since 2008, to classify certain information about polygraphy. (See AntiPolygraph.org’s commentary on her reporting here.) Gary Light’s white paper helps to shed light on the internal debate over whether information about polygraphy, including polygraph countermeasures, should be classified. Light appears to be firmly in the “no” camp.

The white paper includes an appendix documenting the publication and presentation of information about polygraph countermeasures “in an unclassified environment,” including, among other things, a 2005 class taught by former NCCA (then DoDPI) researcher Charles R. Honts in the People’s Republic of China.

Of particular note, the white paper also mentions a 2011 “Russian CM Policy Chapter #5 provided to the Department of Energy (DOE),” noting “DOE personnel were provided with a 125 page document describing the CM policy of a Russian government agency. The CM criteria described in the text were similar to those of DoD. Basically only the names of the criteria differed.”

On 25 April 2001, then Defense Security Service Deputy Director for Developmental Programs and former Department of Defense Polygraph Institute director Michael H. Capps testified to Congress that “[t]he U.S. government has supported the use of the polygraph among allied nations when mutual interests were at stake, such as when it supplied training and state-of-the-art polygraph equipment to Russia, to help them maintain security over their nuclear weaponry after the fall of Communism.” Perhaps the “Russian government agency” whose polygraph countermeasure policy chapter was provided to the U.S. Department of Energy is the same one to which NCCA (then DoDPI) provided “training and state-of-the-art polygraph equipment.”

In sum, this NCCA white paper acknowledges that information about polygraph countermeasures originated outside of the U.S. government, is widely available around the world, and should not be considered “classified.”

Light also writes that “[i]t should be … noted that since 2000 the federal government has conducted over 1,000,000,000 [sic] examinations.” It seems likely that this is a typographical error, and that the actual number is an order of magnitude lower, or over 1,000,000 polygraph examinations conducted between 2000 and 2012. This would average out to about >83,300 polygraph examinations per year across the federal government during the relevant time period. According to Department of Defense (DoD) polygraph operator Brian R. Morris, DoD alone has been conducting more than 129,000 polygraphs per year in the aftermath of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations.

Light concludes his white paper noting “In this time and after all of these examinations, not one example can be provided wherein NCCA procedures for the protection of CM protocols has [sic] failed.”

AntiPolygraph.org can attest that NCCA procedures for the protection of its polygraph countermeasure protocols have indeed failed. We have them and will be publishing them in due course. Watch this space.

Note also retired DIA counterintelligence officer Scott W. Carmichael’s 2014 claim that the then number two official at  NCCA, Donald Krapohl, violated the Espionage Act by funneling classified information about polygraph countermeasures to the government of Singapore.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin Hypocritically Embraces Polygraph “Testing”

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced Senate Bill 1560, which would expand polygraph screening at the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, the bill would block any exemptions to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) pre-employment polygraph requirement (as contemplated by House Resolution 2213) and mandate pre-employment polygraph screening at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In addition, the bill would mandate periodic and random polygraph screening of selected employees of both agencies. The bill has been co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

It would appear that Senator Durbin has introduced this legislation in a cynical ploy to attack Republicans from the right, that is, to appear “tougher on security” than them. House Resolution 2213, which was broadly supported by House Republicans, would allow CBP to waive its pre-employment polygraph requirement for some applicants with prior military or law enforcement experience, which would allow for a more rapid expansion of CBP’s workforce. In January 2017, President Trump signed executive orders mandating the hiring of an additional 5,000 CBP and 10,000 ICE agents.

In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences concluded 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.”

Despite this, in 2010, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, legislation introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) mandating polygraph screening of CBP applicants.

CBP has a pre-employment polygraph failure rate on the order of 60%, and many qualified applicants are falsely accused of lying and are blacklisted from CBP employment based on scientifically baseless polygraph results. If Senate Bill 1560 becomes law, we can expect a similar outcome at ICE.

Moreover, polygraph “testing” is easily beaten using simple countermeasures (PDF, see Chapter 4) that polygraph operators cannot detect.

Senator Durbin’s sponsoring of this legislation is hypocritical because he knows that polygraphy is unreliable. Speaking at a 2001 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Issues Surrounding the Use of Polygraphs,” Senator Durbin stated:

As an attorney, I never advised clients to take a polygraph. I just did not believe in them. I still do not. They are largely inadmissible in most courts of law. I think the Federal Supreme Court has ruled, and others have, as well, that they are not admissible. Perhaps State and local courts can reach other conclusions, and there are a variety of reasons for that.

I guess some feel that if a jury saw a polygraph test, they would think, well, that is really the good measure of truthfulness and we do not have to reach our own conclusion, and some who just question whether the science is reliable at all.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Sen. Durbin summarized his position on polygraph screening thus:

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for this hearing. I have not thought about this issue a lot since I practiced law, but it has come up more and more and I think part of it has to do with our concern over national security. I think part of it has to do with the fact that we are looking for a quick fix here. We are trying to find some machine that is going to solve our problem. I do not think this is the machine. Thank you.

With Senate Bill 1560, Sen. Durbin is hypocritically seeking a quick fix that he knows isn’t going to solve our problem.


Polygraph Critic Doug Williams Freed from Prison

Doug Williams upon release from the federal prison camp at Florence, Colorado

Polygraph critic Doug Williams, who was targeted for prosecution in Operation Lie Busters for teaching people how to pass or beat a polygraph “test,” was released this morning from the federal prison camp in Florence, Colorado and is now on his way back home to Oklahoma. We wish him Godspeed and look forward to his renewed participation in the public debate over polygraph policy!

DIA Video on Ana Belen Montes Espionage Case

AntiPolygraph.org has obtained and is publishing a copy of a “For Official Use Only” video produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2006 about the Ana Belen Montes espionage case. This never-before-published video, titled The Two Faces of Ana: Model Employee/Cuban Spy, includes interviews with Montes’ colleagues at DIA. The video mentions (at 16:31) that she used polygraph countermeasures to pass a 1994 DIA polygraph screening “test,” which facilitated her espionage:

The polygraph test in 1994 made her even more dangerous. By deflecting suspicion away from her, she was freer to pursue her espionage. And to pass the polygraph, she had used a countermeasure taught to her by the Cubans.

Regarding the significance of the Montes case for DIA polygraph policy, see Ignoring Science After Cuban Spy Ana Belen Montes Beat the Polygraph, DoD IG Recommended More Polygraphs. Regarding the ineffectiveness of DIA’s polygraph countermeasure detection efforts, see Leaked Documents Point to DIA’s Inability to Detect Sophisticated Polygraph Countermeasures.

You may also download this video as a 138 MB MKV file.