U.S. Government Circulates Watch List of Buyers of Information on How to Pass a Polygraph Test

cbp-ia-emblemMcClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reports that a list of 4,904 individuals whose names were derived from the customer records of Doug Williams and Chad Dixon, both of whom were targeted in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection-led criminal investigation called Operation Lie Busters, has been circulated to nearly 30 federal agencies including the CIA, NSA, DIA, DOE, IRS, and FDA. Exerpt:

WASHINGTON — U.S. agencies collected and shared the personal information of thousands of Americans in an attempt to root out untrustworthy federal workers that ended up scrutinizing people who had no direct ties to the U.S. government and simply had purchased certain books.

Federal officials gathered the information from the customer records of two men who were under criminal investigation for purportedly teaching people how to pass lie detector tests. The officials then distributed a list of 4,904 people – along with many of their Social Security numbers, addresses and professions – to nearly 30 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

Although the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven, authorities hoped to find government employees or applicants who might have tried to use them to lie during the tests required for security clearances. Officials with multiple agencies confirmed that they’d checked the names in their databases and planned to retain the list in case any of those named take polygraphs for federal jobs or criminal investigations.

It turned out, however, that many people on the list worked outside the federal government and lived across the country. Among the people whose personal details were collected were nurses, firefighters, police officers and private attorneys, McClatchy learned. Also included: a psychologist, a cancer researcher and employees of Rite Aid, Paramount Pictures, the American Red Cross and Georgetown University.

Moreover, many of them had only bought books or DVDs from one of the men being investigated and didn’t receive the one-on-one training that investigators had suspected. In one case, a Washington lawyer was listed even though he’d never contacted the instructors. Dozens of others had wanted to pass a polygraph not for a job, but for a personal reason: The test was demanded by spouses who suspected infidelity.

The unprecedented creation of such a list and decision to disseminate it widely demonstrate the ease with which the federal government can collect and share Americans’ personal information, even when there’s no clear reason for doing so.

It’s well worth reading the rest of the story. In addition, a DoD response to a McClatchy Newspapers inquiry indicates that Operation Lie Busters remains an ongoing investigation. In declining to answer whether it had checked names on the list against its records, DoD wrote:
The Department of Defense (DoD) has an active criminal investigation, working with US Customs and Border Protection, into the potential training of DoD civilian polygraph examinees in the use of countermeasures and making false statements. Because this is an active criminal investigation, we cannot provide any further information at this time.
Taylor also reveals that NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden “underwent two polygraphs for his NSA job” and that “he wasn’t found to have used polygraph-beating techniques to pass them.” Of course, that’s hardly surprising. No polygraph operator has ever demonstrated any ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. A collection of polygraph community countermeasure training materials published by AntiPolygraph.org earlier this year documents that the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting the kind of countermeasures explained in Doug Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph, or in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (PDF). Indeed, the very existence of Operation Lie Busters speaks to the federal government’s frustration in this regard. Taylor’s article does not mention whether Snowden’s polygraphs came before or after he began collecting the documents that he ultimately provided to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

1 thought on “U.S. Government Circulates Watch List of Buyers of Information on How to Pass a Polygraph Test”

  1. They haven’t demonstrated the ability to detect “deception”. What reason is there to believe they are able to detect countermeasures? What next? So-called psychics claiming they have the ability to detect countermeasures being used by people whose minds they trying to read?

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