John R. Schwartz, who heads the U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph unit, claims that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures (the kind described in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector), can be routinely identified “when all best practices are employed, including proper training of examiners and stringent Quality Control.” Schwartz made the claim in a January 2014 memorandum nominating his colleague and friend, Fred C. Ball, Jr., for the American Polygraph Association’s David L. Motsinger Horizon Award, which is presented annually “in recognition of a new shining star in the profession or association who early in their career demonstrates loyalty, professionalism and dedication to the polygraph profession (less than 10 years).”
Schwartz bases his nomination of Ball on the latter’s role as case agent in Operation Lie Busters, a federal criminal investigation targeting individuals providing training in how to pass polygraph tests. A copy of Schwartz’s memo was made available to AntiPolygraph.org and is reproduced in full below:
David L. Motsinger Horizon Award
Nomination of Fred C. Ball, Jr.
This accomplishment arguably represents the single most significant development in our profession in many decades. Its impact is profound and far reaching, and has already affected, or will affect, legal precedence, new polygraph case law, policies, scientific research, teaching, Quality Control, best practices and procedures, our view of polygraph validity, and many other aspects of forensic psychophysiology.
In 2011, a novel and complicated criminal investigation was initiated regarding the training of individuals in sophisticated polygraph countermeasures, and their effectiveness in defeating the polygraph protocols and procedures employed by federal, state, and local agencies including the court systems. The investigation revealed that sophisticated countermeasures can be routinely identified when all best practices are employed, including proper training of examiners and stringent Quality Control, but failure to endorse and employ these best practices results in the unacceptable risk that such countermeasures could be effective.
Popularly known as Operation LieBusters, the investigation combined novel and precedent-setting legal strategies, lengthy and technical undercover operations, voluminous and complicated analytical methodologies, complex investigative procedures, esoteric technical knowledge of polygraph countermeasures and physiology, and extremely effective interview and elicitation skills to ensure confirmatory confessions.
A graduate of the National Center for Credibility Assessment on April 6, 2011, Senior Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr. of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Credibility Assessment Division was the case agent and polygraph expert responsible for orchestrating and conducting the investigation. The three-year endeavor resulted in several arrests, convictions, and probation revocations at the federal, state, and local level. Of even greater significance to our national security and the safety of our citizens, the investigation identified and thwarted Insider Threats and infiltration attempts as well as many convicted sex offenders who had been able to continue their offenses through the use of polygraph countermeasures. The investigation also provides a unique data set, including ground truth data, which will be invaluable for scientific research and polygraph training, as well as an investigative blue print for future investigations.
Schwartz’s claim that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures can be routinely identified is noteworthy because to our knowledge, there is nothing in the polygraph literature that would support such a claim. On the contrary, polygraph countermeasure documentation published by AntiPolygraph.org in 2013 suggests that the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting countermeasures.
On Friday, 17 January 2014, AntiPolygraph.org e-mailed Schwartz seeking comment, noting that if he could provide evidence that sophisticated countermeasures can indeed be routinely identified, we are prepared to withdraw any suggestion that examinees consider using countermeasures and to instead expressly advise against any such use. Schwartz did not respond.
AntiPolygraph.org makes information about polygraph countermeasures available to the public to provide truthful individuals with an option for protecting themselves against the significant risk of a false positive outcome.
AntiPolygraph.org also e-mailed National Center for Credibility Assessment director William F. Norris and American Polygraph Association president Chuck Slupski seeking comment on Schwartz’s claim that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures can be routinely identified. Neither replied.
It seems to AntiPolygraph.org that if sophisticated polygraph countermeasures truly could be “routinely identified,” as Schwartz claims, that there would have been no need for for Fred Ball to concoct an elaborate scheme to entrap and imprison Chad Dixon, an electrician who taught fewer than 100 people how to pass polygraph tests in his spare time, or to attempt to entrap former police polygraphist Doug Williams, who has been teaching people how to pass polygraph examinations since 1979. Nor would there have been any need for a polygraph watch list of Williams’ customers to be circulated among federal agencies with polygraph programs. Nor would there have been any need for the attempted entrapment of AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke, evidently by a U.S. government employee or contractor. Nor would the NSA feel the need to target visitors to AntiPolygraph.org.
Indeed, the very existence of Operation Lie Busters makes Schwartz’s claim that sophisticated countermeasures can be routinely identified difficult to believe. Who will polygraph the polygraphers?