Polygraph “Testing” Part of Hanssen Plea Bargain

In an article titled “Plea Bargain is Planned in FBI Spy Case,” Washington Post staff writers Brooke A. Masters and Dan Eggen report that Robert P. Hanssen will plead guilty to espionage charges. Excerpt:

The government has dropped its demand for the death penalty and Hanssen, 57, has agreed to sit for extensive debriefings and polygraph tests with FBI, CIA and other U.S. counterintelligence agents, sources said. Hanssen’s family will receive benefits through his government pension, they said.

“For the government, this is an excellent outcome,” said former federal prosecutor Joseph DiGenova. “You’ll be able to polygraph him and find out if he is telling the truth about what he says he did not compromise.”

DiGenova’s credulous belief in polygraphy is disturbing. Before counterintelligence officials attempt to dupe Hanssen (himself a senior counterintelligence officer) with a polygraph “test,” they might ask him whether he knows how to beat the polygraph (see Chapter 4 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector to find out how).

The damage done by Hanssen to U.S. security interests may be compounded by our counterintelligence community’s superstitious belief in polygraphy.

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