John Dullahan, DIA Analyst Fired After Failing Polygraph, Profiled in Washington Post

Washington Post staff writer Peter Finn reports in an above-the-fold front page article on the case of retired army lieutenant colonel and Defense Intelligence Agency analyst John Dullahan, whose security clearance was suspended in February 2009 after he failed three polygraph “tests.” Then DIA director LTG Michael D. Maples fired Dullahan in March 2009 (his last month as director).

DIA refuses to state its reasons for terminating LTC Dullahan, averring that “the interests of the nation do not permit disclosure to the employee of specific information about the reasons for his removal from federal service,” and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has not responded to an appeal Dullahan submitted some 18 months ago.

Dullahan is suing DIA in federal court challenging “the actions of the U.S. Government to arbitrarily and unceremoniously remove him from civilian employment and brand him a risk to the national security interests of the United States without explanation and devoid of due process of law.” first reported on Dullahan’s case in January 2010. In his article published today, Finn reports new information on Dullahan’s polygraph experience:

In early 2008, with the permission of Dullahan’s DIA superiors, two FBI agents visited him at his office at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington and asked whether he would be willing to participate in a classified, black program. Dullahan, who cannot describe the FBI-DOD collaboration, readily accepted the offer.
But first he was asked to take a polygraph at an FBI facility in Baltimore.
“It was hooked up to everything,” recalled Dullahan, who said he had previously taken a couple of other polygraphs without incident. “Around my head, my chest, on each fingertip, underneath the seat, underneath my feet.” is not aware of any polygraph instrumentation that would be placed around a subject’s head. However, sensors around the chest and attached to two fingertips are standard, and sensor pads in the seat of the polygraph chair and underneath the subject’s feet are intended to detect and/or deter the use of physical countermeasures.

An hour or so into the examination, Dullahan was questioned about espionage and whether he had ever worked for another power.

The examiner said he was registering deception and left the room. Dullahan said he was left alone for 90 minutes, still hooked up to all the wires. The examiner returned and said, “Let’s run this again,” Dullahan recalled.

“He tells you the questions he is going to ask,” Dullahan said. “I am going to ask: Did you ever spy for the Irish government? Did you every spy for the Syrians? Did you ever spy for some other country? The last one was the good one. Did you ever spy for the Soviet Union? You know it’s coming and you know it’s the one you have to pass. And your heart starts pounding.”

The examiner said he registered deception again.

The polygraph technique that Dullahan describes here is the so-called “Searching Peak of Tension” (SPOT) test, which is documented in Chapter 11 of the federal polygraph handbook (964 kb PDF) and at pp. 116-17 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (4th ed.) (1 mb PDF). This technique is not routinely used by the FBI in screening situations. That the FBI used it in Dullahan’s case suggests that the FBI’s pitch about wanting Dullahan to work on a “black project” may have been a pretext to lure him into a pre-planned polygraph interrogation. Washington Post reporter Finn continues:

Dullahan was offered and apparently failed a second polygraph on the same set of questions. The DIA also organized its own polygraph, and Dullahan failed a third time, also apparently on the same set of espionage questions.

FBI “re-tests” virtually always produce the same outcome as the original “test,” that is, the subject “fails.” Feedback received by from numerous FBI applicants over the past decade indicates that “re-tests” are a sham, intended to produce only the appearance of fairness. In Dullahan’s case, a second polygraph was likely offered not to give Dullahan an opportunity to clear his name, but to give the FBI an opportunity to further interrogate him.

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