Publicly, polygraph operators claim that countermeasures are ineffective and that they can easily detect them. But documents provided to AntiPolygraph.org reveal that behind closed doors, they admit that countermeasures can indeed be effective and that they are difficult to detect.
The most informative of these is by Mark D. Handler, who at the time of writing is the American Association of Police Polygraphists’ Research & Information Chairman. In 2009, Handler gave a PowerPoint presentation (55 mb PDF | 19 mb PPT) to the Kentucky Polygraph Association titled “Countermeasures: What every examiner should know.” According to the file’s metadata,1 it was created by Captain (then Lieutenant) Walt Goodson of the Texas Department of Public Safety, who at the time of writing is the American Polygraph Association’s Vice-President for law enforcement matters and has served as director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Polygraph School.
In addition to Goodson, Handler thanks Professor Charles R. Honts of Boise State University (who has conducted peer-reviewed research into polygraph countermeasures), Raymond Nelson of the Lafayette Instrument Company, who at the time of writing is also a director of the American Polygraph Association, and Charles E. Slupski, a former instructor at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute who now runs the American International Institute of Polygraph and who, at the time of writing, is the American Polygraph Association’s President-Elect.
In his presentation, Handler characterizes sources of countermeasure information, including AntiPolygraph.org co-founders George Maschke and Gino Scalabrini, as “threats” (slide 26):
Discussion of AntiPolygraph.org begins at slide 67 and continues to slide 94. The presentation characterizes AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF), as an “[e]xcellent polygraph manual with extensive chapter on CMs [countermeasures]:
A biographical sketch follows, which appears to be based on Maschke’s public statement, “Too Hot of a Potato: A Citizen-Soldier’s Encounter with the Polygraph.” Slide 97 acknowledges that AntiPolygraph.org’s book provides “accurate information about how polygraph tests work and about possible countermeasures”:
Handler attempts to show that merely providing information about polygraphy to examinees has no effect on accuracy cites several laboratory studies in support of that view.2 However, it should be borne in mind that such studies were conducted in situations where the examinees had very little incentive to apply themselves to the task of mastering polygraph countermeasures.3
Contradicting the public proclamations of numerous polygraph operators, Handler characterizes as “fiction” the notions that “[countermeasures] are easy to detect” and that “countermeasures are not effective against [an] experienced examiner” (slide 104):
Handler also states it to be a “fact” that “[i]t is easy to make realistic reactions” and that “[i]t is difficult to detect [countermeasures] when skillfully applied by trained subjects” (slide 105):
Dismissing countermeasure classes that purport to “provide ways for examiners to detect countermeasures,” Handler notes that they are inappropriately based on a “case study approach” (slide 110):
Handler observes that some polygraph “experts” have claimed based on case study data that they “can determine when subjects are attempting countermeasure[s]” and that “if a subject is attempting countermeasures the test should be considered unreliable and not admitted as evidence”4 (slide 113):
Handler further notes that “[n]o published scientific study shows that [sic] any person to be better than chance at detecting countermeasures, either from watching the subject or from analyzing the charts.” (Slide 114):5
Paraphrasing Carl Sagan, Handler concludes, “Extraordinary claims of ability, require extraordinary evidence of performance.” Who can argue with that?