On the Origins of the NSA Polygraph Program

In 1951, the NSA’s forerunner organization, the Armed Forces Security Agency, began “voluntary” polygraph screening of civilian applicants for employment. On 6 December 1953, the National Security Agency (NSA) made pre-employment polygraph screening mandatory for civilian applicants.

Stephen Budiansky

Writer Stephen Budiansky describes the origins of the NSA’s polygraph program at pp. 163-65 of his 2016 history, Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union (New York: Vintage Books) (footnotes omitted):

Lieutenant General Ralph Julian Canine, director of the Armed Forces Security Agency which in 1952 became the NSA

To keep up with the thousands of clearances that needed to be processed during the rapid expansion of NSA during the Korean War, [NSA director Ralph] Canine took a fateful misstep that even more deeply confused the illusion of security with genuine security. The polygraph, or so-called lie detector, was one of those quack effusions of American turn-of-the-twentieth-century inventors that might understandably have suckered a gullible public in an earlier era of electrical wonders, but that by 1952 was obviously pure bunkum to anyone with even a modicum of scientific knowledge. J. Edgar Hoover refused to allow the machine to be used in FBI investigations, noting its complete unreliability in detecting truth or falsehood. (Repeated studies since, including a review by the National Academy of Sciences, have affirmed the elementary fact that there is no physiologic response unique to lying and that for all of their pseudoscientific poring over squiggly traces recording pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and skin conductivity, polygraphers did little better than flipping a coin in concluding when a subject had been “deceptive.”)

But the CIA had already become enamored of the polygraph—the agency would also invest embarrassing sums in mediums and clairvoyants who claimed to be able to locate Soviet missile sites by telepathy—and since 1948 had been administering the tests to investigate “major loyalty or security risk matters” in COMINT-cleared personnel. In late 1950, CIA began asking all new job applicants to “volunteer” for a polygraph interview. It was as voluntary as anything else in such a coercive situation: by 1955 only six of the agency’s twenty thousand applicants had declined to submit to the test. The CIA’s arguments for the polygraph were based not on any scientific proof of its validity—there weren’t any—but rather that it was an “extremely valuable aid to any investigation.” That was a roundabout way of saying that people who were wired up to a machine and told by an examiner with a persuasive manner that it had shown they were lying sometimes could be pressured into revealing something they had been concealing.

Canine became equally captivated by the notion that a gadget could solve NSA’s security problems. The immediate problem was that conducting a thorough background investigation took time: it required sending agents out to interview neighbors and associates and investigate financial records and employment histories. By December 1950, 39 percent of AFSA’s [the Armed Forces Security Agency, the NSA forerunner’s] employees were waiting for their clearances, new hires left to cool their heels for months at the agency’s training school, located in a former warehouse at 1436 U Street, NW, in Washington, or perform make-work tasks to fill their time. In January 1951, Canine decided that new employees who passed a polygraph interview would be given an “interim” security clearance that would allow them to start work immediately on classified projects, pending completion of their full background check.

Canine’s faith in the magical device had all the blindness of a true believer. In December 1953 he ordered that all new civilian employees submit to polygraph testing as a mandatory condition for employment at NSA. “The Director has repeatedly emphasized his firm conviction that the polygraph is more reliable and more protective of security than the background investigation,” his deputy for administration wrote in a 1956 memorandum that argued for periodically polygraphing existing civilian employees as well, to probe for “membership in subversive organizations,” “association with known or suspected subversives,” and unauthorized disclosure of classified information. (The military wisely used its authority at this time to bar the administration of the test to any service personnel.)

The trouble, aside from the abuse of privacy and due process inherent in the whole business, was that conscientious but perfectly innocent people tended to show a “deceptive” response in the standard polygraph examination, while pathological liars sailed through. In their zeal to clear the initial backlog of pending clearances, NSA scoured police departments and private detective agencies around the country to hire supposed polygraph experts to administer the tests, which took place in hastily erected soundproof rooms at the U Street building. NSA examiners frequently asked intrusive or embarrassing personal and political questions—”Did you sleep with your husband before you married?” “Are you now or have you ever been in sympathy with leftist ideas?”—and while the process was certainly speedy for those who “passed,” it became an Orwellian nightmare for the 25 percent whose clearances were held up because of their “unresolved” polygraph results.

NSA Chief Cryptologist William Friedman

Some of the more scientifically knowledgeable NSA officials tried in vain to halt the program. [Senior cryptologist] Howard Campaigne warned that it was sure to “get out of hand,” provide a false assurance of security, and “disclose information the Agency does not want to have,” tarnishing the records of capable employees with “minor derogatory data” that had nothing to do with their performance or loyalty. [NSA chief cryptologist] William Friedman‘s disdain for the polygraph was apparent in a critical article he clipped and placed in his private files: an investigative reporter who had interviewed several employees about their experiences with “the NSA Chamber of Horrors” quoted a victim of the process saying, “Halfway through, I felt like someone being tried in a Moscow purge.” The article drily observed that the polygraphing unit was located in a “heavily guarded building between a gas station and an undertaker’s parlor”; perhaps the more apropos geographical fact was that the U Street building had begun its life at the turn of the century as the factory for a famous quack patent medicine of the day.

As subsequent events would make all too clear, the touching faith that a piece of Edwardian pseudoscientific electrical gadgetry could safeguard the nation’s most important secrets would prove farcically mistaken, for almost every one of the real spies to betray NSA in the ensuing years passed a polygraph interview with flying colors, while obvious signs that in retrospect should have set off alarm bells about their behavior were blithely ignored, largely due to such misplaced confidence in hocus-pocus.

Dwight Macdonald

The investigative article that NSA chief cryptologist William F. Friedman clipped was Dwight Macdonald‘s “The Lie-Detector Era,” which was published in two installments in the 8 June 1954 and 22 June 1954 issues of The Reporter. The portion directly pertaining to the NSA polygraph program appeared in the latter installment and is excerpted below:

The NSA Chamber of Horrors

The methods used in the ORO [Operations Research Office] and CIA lie-detection programs, so far as can be established, have evoked little objection from the “subjects.” (Some, of course, may have objected to the whole idea of such tests.) The case is far otherwise with the National Security Agency, whose polygraphists have in a relatively short time aroused more distrust and hatred of their trade than all their colleagues put together.

The NSA, known until recently as the Armed Forces Security Agency, is a highly secretive outfit—”the most silent of the intelligence agencies.” It is believed to have somewhere between four and eight thousand employees, engage, it has been said, in breaking foreign codes.

The M.A. Winter Building at 1436 U Street NW in Washington, DC. The four-story brick building, erected in 1908-09, originally housed the quack patent medicine business of Mahlon Adolphus Winter. It later served as an NSA training center and was the polygraph unit’s early home.

(Although NSA carries secretiveness so far that it warns its employees not even to speak its awesome name outside the premises, the exact locations of the latter—4000 Arlington Hall, 3801 Nebraska Avenue, and 1436 “U” Street, N.W.—as well as the names of all its key employees may be found quite easily in the Pentagon’s telephone directory.)

The NSA lie-detection program was begun early in 1951 by hiring, at salaries of $6,400 a year, six examiners, none of whom, it is said, had more training than a six weeks’ course at the Keeler school in Chicago, which had fallen into disrepute after the death of its founder in 1949. These alleged examiners proceeded to test every NSA employee, and they or their successors have tested every new employee taken on since then. Their methods have been, to put it mildly, appalling.

“If they think they are getting information, they are mistaken,” a former employee has observed. “Maybe they’re testing for emotional stability.” Another theory is that the tests are a kind of hazing, designed not to find out anything about security risks but to intimidate the newcomers and break them to harness. A third theory—since the tests make no sense in terms of their ostensible purpose, such theories are necessary—is that the tests are really nothing but fishing expeditions, especially during the “discussion period” before the machine is started, to see what dirt can be turned up on the subjects and their friends.

Two case histories may give an idea of what has been going on at NSA. The names are fictitious because, although neither Jane Doe nor Richard Roe is still in government service, both were warned, like all who took the NSA tests, never to mention the fact that they had done so. One was even threatened with the Espionage Acton the absurd ground that the very act of undergoing the test was “classified” information.

Jane Doe, daughter of a Pennsylvania Republican, got a job with NSA in the spring of 1952 after her graduation from a Midwestern women’s college. That fall, while she was still waiting for her security clearance, she and some twenty other “unclear persons” were called to a meeting at which an Army captain asked them to agree to take lie-detector tests in order to speed up their clearances. It was entirely voluntary, he explained, adding, however, that he really couldn’t say when or if those who refused to take the tests would get their clearances. The group “volunteered” unanimously to take the tests.

A few days later, Miss Doe was shown into a small bare-walled room and seated in front of a desk behind which were a polygraph and a beefy individual whom she classified as an ex-cop from his aggressive manner and his recessive grammar.

His opening remarks were to the point: “If you’re lying, we’re going to find you out.” (“The examiner by his friendly attitude undertakes to reassure the suspect and put him at his ease,” writes Clarence D. Lee in The Instrumental Detection of Deception. But of course Captain Lee was describing the examination of criminals, not college girls.) The examiner handed Miss Doe a mimeographed list of questions which included some “neutral” ones like “Is your name Jane Doe?” and “Did you eat breakfast today?” mixed in with some “crucial” ones like “Have you ever associated with Communists?,” Are you an alcoholic?,” “Are you a dope addict?,” “Are you a homosexual?,” and “Are you in any way subject to blackmail?” He explained that she must answer Yes or No to each question.

At this point Miss Doe began to get a little annoyed. After a “dry run” through the questions and an inconclusive fencing match as to how to tell who is a Communist and who isn’t, the examiner wrapped the blood-pressure gadget around her arm, hooked the pneumograph around her chest, and attached the galvanic electrode to her hand. The machine was started, the pens began to trace their lines on the graph paper, and the examiner began to ask the questions again. The whole test took about ten minutes, she thinks, or rather would have if she had not had a bad case of hay fever that day, so that every time she sneezed a cataclysm appeared on the graph and the process had to be begun all over again. By the time the test was over, she felt that she had won the slight consolation of having irritated the examiner almost as much as he had irritated her. “Looking back on it,” Miss Doe has said, “it’s not the results of the test I object to—I must have passed because I got a top secret clearance—but the humiliation of being treated as a suspected liar and criminal.”

The Ordeal of Richard Roe

Richard Roe took his test in the fall of 1951. Like Miss Doe, he had been working for several months at NSA but had not yet been cleared. Also like her, he is a college graduate—a political science major—and was interrogated by an examiner who may or may not have gone to high school. (The work at NSA demands people of high intellectual qualifications, a fact hopelessly in collision with the personnel chief’s yearnings for innocents unexposed to “radical” ideas; the polygraph staff meets that officer’s standards, but this very fact makes it difficult for them to communicate with the people they are supposed to test.) “I was willing, even eager, to take the test because I believed in its scientific reliability,” says Richard Roe. “But halfway through, I felt like someone being tried in a Moscow purge.”

The third-degree atmosphere was established the minute he entered the room. “My examiner looked and acted like a desk sergeant. He fixed me with a suspicious stare, didn’t shake hands, smile, or even introduce himself.” (“An examiner…must be an intelligence person with a reasonably good educational background, preferably college training. He should have…general ability to ‘get along’ with people and to be well liked…”—Lie Detection and Criminal Interrogation, by Inbau and Reid.)

One of the questions on the list the examiner presented to Mr. Roe was, “Have you ever been sympathetic to Communism?” It caused a good deal of grief to both of them. Mr. Roe explained, or rather tried to—”there was a total lack of empathy”—that he had studied Marxism in college and consequently found it difficult to answer this with a simple Yes or No. If by “Communism” the examiner meant Marx’s doctrines, then he could only say he was sympathetic to some and unsympathetic to others. If the term was to be taken in its Russian context, then he felt obliged to say that he had once felt sympathetic to the Mensheviks but had never been sympathetic to the Bolsheviks. All of this passed over the inquisitor’s head with a heavy, soughing sound like wind in the branches of a rain-soaked tree. “I got the impression that he considered anyone who had studied Marx to be ipso facto a security risk and also that he personally wanted me to fail.”

The results were inconclusive, and Mr. Roe, a rather high-strung type, had to take the test three more times, each time with ambiguous results. After each test, his security officer tried to persuade him to resign quietly, thus avoiding the possible stigma of being fired. The security officer also seemed anxious to save the security division a lot of trouble and possibly to add a scalp to be displayed to inquiring McCarthys later on. Mr. Roe was finally dropped, much to everyone’s relief, including his own.

Peeping Tom And His Polygraph

Other veterans of the polygraph wars at NSA tell stories similar to Miss Doe’s and Mr. Roe’s. The examiners seem to have violated just about every rule of proper polygraph technique. The questions were often extremely vague—”Have you ever done anything you were ashamed of?” “Are you now or have you ever been in sympathy with leftist ideas?” (“The preparation of test questions is an extremely important aspect of the examination. The question must be unambiguous, unequivocal and thoroughly understandable to the subject.”—Inbau and Reid, op. cit.)

When a psychology major in college who is working on his doctorate in history got the one about “leftist ideas,” he asked to have the question reformulated. “But the examiner refused—he couldn’t see why if I was ‘innocent’ I found it hard to answer. We just weren’t en rapport at all.” Another NSA subject—or victim—has reported that at one point his examiner shouted at him, “Goddammit, you’re lying! I know you’re lying, the machine tells me so!” (“The cross-examiner must remember at all times that he is not seeking to browbeat, trip or confuse his witness, as is a cross-examining attorney in court…. Such conflict reactions only make the blood pressure record harder to read.”—William Moulton Marston, op. cit.)

Look Out for the EPQ!

Although all the manuals urge the examiner to try to reduce rather than increase emotional tension, so that significant reactions are not masked by irrelevant ones, the NSA gang relied heavily on what is known unfavorably in the trade as the EPQ (Embarrassing Personal Question) technique. EPQs are generally directed to the more intimate aspects of the subject’s sex life. Women are apt to resent being asked, by a strange man, questions like (to unmarried girls) “Have you ever slept with a man?”—at least one is reported to have walked out at this point—and (to married women) “Did you sleep with your husband before you were married?” Reaction to EPQs, Inbau and Reid have written, “is not significant for any practical useful purpose. Moreover, it can be misleading…. The factors of surprise, anticipation, embarrassment, etc., which constitute the stimulating effect of a ‘personal embarrassing’ question, are totally different and unrelated to those involved about a question about the offense (e.g. burglary) under investigation. For control purposes the examiner might just as well set off a firecracker….”

The folklore of NSA is full of stories about these tests: the office belle, an innocent young thing who was asked if she liked girls and got into trouble when she said of course she did; the married woman who got one examiner fired because after he had asked her “Have you ever cheated on your husband?” he told her she was lying when she said No and later called her up to ask her for a date; and the leering assumption on the part of the examiners that anyone who had spent much time abroad, especially in Paris, was a Don Juan, a pervert, or both.

These stories may well be apocryphal; the point is that they are told—and believed—throughout the agency. Horror tales about the polygraph department at 1436 “U” Street (a heavily guarded building between a gas station and an undertaker’s parlor) are a staple of conversation. There are rumors every now and then that all employees are going to be retested annually, but, although this was done at Oak Ridge and is done at CIA and ORO, it has never been tried at NSA. It is generally felt that an attempt to rerun the old employees would be likely to provoke a mass exodus. Most of the employees resent bitterly the fact that they were bamboozled into taking a test, represented as a routine scientific process, that turned out to be a third degree.

Resentment over the tests ha become so articulate within a few months of their inception—probably nothing has caused so much loose talk among NSA personnel as the tests that were supposed to tighten up security there—that in the fall of 1951 three leading professionals (Russell Chatham, John Reid, and George Haney) met in Chicago to discuss the problem. “It was decided that Mr. Chatham would go to Washington and express their displeasure and concern at the manner in which these tests were being handled,” one of them has since written. “It was our information that the men conducting some of these examinations had little or no experience…. also that the polygraph tests were being used conclusively in determining whether or not an applicant would be employed. Mr. Chatham called on interested officers and pointed out those things which were felt to be a reflection on the polygraph field…. It was his feeling when he left that the situation would be corrected or stopped. Evidently such was not the case, as the practice was continued and perhaps many people have been unnecessarily harmed as a result.”

The foregoing was written early in 1952. Whether or to what extent NSA has mended its polygraph manners since then is as murky as most other aspects of the Most Silent Agency. Some reports say that the EPQ flourishes there as always. Others, including Mr. Chatham, believe the situation has at least been cleaned up. NSA itself, answering questions put to it on behalf of this magazine by a defense department security officer, who says he himself has never been able to get any further inside NSA than the reception room, states that its examiners are now “required…to conduct themselves in an objective and professional manner,” that they are given lie tests themselves by independent firms before being hired and are periodically retested (embittered NSA émigrés claim this is a desperate attempt to reduce the incidence of blackmailing and Peeping Tom questioning), and concludes, “Changes have been made in personnel, method and machinery, based on latest developments in the field”—a reassuring but somewhat vague reply.

In 2022, some seventy years after the NSA first began polygraph screening of applicants, its misplaced reliance on this thoroughly discredited, fraudulent pseudoscience remains stronger than ever. The NSA polygraph program has expanded to include post-hire periodic polygraph screening of employees as well as the polygraph “testing” of military personnel. The NSA polygraph program has yet to catch a spy.

Former San Jose Police Polygraph Operator Robert E. Foster Pleads No Contest to Fraud Charges, Faces Three Years in Jail

Robert E. Foster

In July 2020, the Santa Clara County, California District Attorney’s Office charged Robert E. Foster, then a polygraph operator with the San Jose Police Department, “with using his private security company to commit insurance fraud, tax evasion, wage theft, and about $18 million in money laundering.”

On Friday, 14 January 2022, the Santa Clara County, California District Attorney’s Office issued a press release announcing that Foster, who is now retired from the San Jose Police Department, has “pleaded no contest to a series of felony fraud charges and will be sentenced to three years in county jail and two years of mandatory supervision.”

Foster’s wife, Mikaila Foster, has “also pleaded no contest to a variety of related fraud charges” and will face one year in the county jail and five years of probation.

Foster, now a convicted felon, continues to offer polygraph services to the public through his security company, Genesis Private Security (formerly known as Atlas Private Security).

Robert Foster’s listing on California Association of Polygraph Examiners website

As of this writing, Foster continues to be listed as a “certified polygraph examiner” (a legally meaningless term) by the California Association of Polygraph Examiners.

For further reporting on this case, see Bay Area News Group reporter Robert Salonga’s article, “Ex-San Jose cop pleads no contest to worker exploitation with side security business.”

The case against Foster (and a number of co-defendants) is Criminal Case No. C2010222 in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara.

Once Secret CIA Report Reveals Derogatory Information on Polygraph Luminaries Gugas, Barefoot, and Harrelson

A formerly secret CIA report (PDF) provides derogatory information about three prominent polygraph operators of the mid-20th century. The report was declassified and publicly released pursuant to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.

Chris Gugas

The subject of the two-page report, dated 14 August 1968, is Chris Gugas (1921-2007), a former CIA intelligence officer and staff agent. According to the document, during an undercover assignment in Turkey from 1951-1952 in connection with a secret program called Project Endomorph, Gugas “was a source of constant embarrassment in his contacts with Turkish police officials,” adding that “[h]e was boastful, indiscreet, lacking in sound judgment, knew little or nothing in the fields in which he was self-professedly an expert and was guilty of security breaches in failing to maintain his cover.”

The CIA report also alleges that Gugas misrepresented his qualifications, stating:

Subject professed to be an expert in his knowledge of the polygraph machine and claimed he had two years’ experience with the Los Angeles Police Department prior to his employment with the Agency. However, it was developed that instead of this claimed experience, he had actually spent one or two weeks in a detective school connected with the Los Angeles Police Department where he received below average grades.

The CIA report goes on to detail additional indiscretions by Gugas and notes that after a 1953 assessment by a CIA psychologist, he

…was found to be egotistical, emotionally unstable, possessed of a need to build himself up in the eyes of others and gave either exaggerated or completely erroneous information as to his past positions. His intelligence quotient was found to be comparatively low in relation to those of other Agency employees.

The report notes that Gugas’ termination was recommended, and that he resigned from the CIA on 29 April 1953.

Gugas would go on to become a founding member and eventual president of the American Polygraph Association.

J. Kirk Barefoot

The CIA’s Gugas report goes on to note that J. Kirk Barefoot (1927-2017), another founder of the American Polygraph Association—and its first president—in April 1964

…informed the [Central Intelligence] Agency he had been a witness to unauthorized disclosures of classified information made by a group in a cocktail lounge in Omaha, Nebraska. The individual making the disclosures about ENDOMORPH activities abroad under Agency sponsorship was identified as Leonard HARRELSON. Subject [Chris Gugas], who was then Director of Public Safety for the City of Omaha, Nebraska, was one of the group and it was believed that he was responsible for supplying the classified information to HARRELSON about ENDOMORPH activities.

The report notes that the informant, J. Kirk Barefoot, “was disapproved for Agency employment in 1951 because of falsification of his [Personal History Statement], and questionable maturity, judgment, discretion and honesty.”

Barefoot won the American Polygraph Association’s Alec E. Greene Award in 1973 and its John E. Reid Award (“for distinguished achievements in polygraph research, teaching, or writing”) in 1985.

Leonard H. “Len” Harrelson

Leonard H. Harrelson (1924-2004), whom Barefoot alleged disclosed classified information, ran the now defunct Keeler Polygraph Institute in Chicago—the first polygraph school ever—from 1955 until his retirement.

Regarding Harrelson, the CIA report notes:

Leonard HARRELSON is a private investigator specializing in hypnotism and the use of the polygraph machine. In 1964 he was employed by the Keeler Polygraph Company in Chicago, Illinois. In 1954 HARRELSON was in partnership with Lloyd B. FURR in a private detective agency known as the American Bureau of Investigation, Tower Building, Washington, D.C….

HARRELSON is believed to be a person of poor morals. He was given a medical discharge from the Army as a psychoneurotic in 1949 and had been court-martialed twice for impersonating non-commissioned officers of a rank higher than he possessed. In his business partnership with FURR, HARRELSON would misrepresent himself as being with the FBI by covering the word “American” when presenting his credentials and just showing “Bureau of Investigation”.

Harrelson won the American Polygraph Association’s David L. Motsinger Award in 2000, its Al & Dorothea Clinchard Award in 2002, and its Leonarde Keeler Award (“for long and distinguished service to the polygraph profession”) in 2003.

A cover note to the CIA report wryly observes, “These undesirables all seem to make each other’s acquaintance in some way or other.”

American Polygraph Association Declines Comment as More Racist Text Messages by Member Daniel Ribacoff Surface

Polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff on the set of the Steve Wilcos Show, which cut ties with him after racist text messages came to light

Dirty Cops & PIs blog founder and editor Jeffrey Augustine reports on newly discovered racist text messages attributed to disgraced polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff in an article titled, “Trouble for Polygraph Expert Dan Ribacoff as More Racist Texts Surface.”

Both AntiPolygraph.org and Dirty Cops & PIs previously reported on a different set of racist text messages sent by Ribacoff.

The new racist text messages are associated with Ribacoff’s business’s California telephone number, +13105920027.

One of the newly reported racist text messages associated with Daniel Ribacoff’s California cell phone number (Dirty Cops & PIs blog image)

For his report, Augustine contacted the American Polygraph Association—of which Ribacoff is an associate member—”for comment regarding Ribacoff’s alleged racist text messages and their implications for the polygraph industry.”

American Polygraph Association President Roy Ortiz (APA photo)

In reply, American Polygraph Association president Roy Ortiz “stated that the APA does not comment on matters involving litigation.” It is noteworthy 1) that Augustine’s inquiry was not limited to litigation that Ribacoff faces, 2) that the American Polygraph Association is not a party to that litigation, and 3) that the American Polygraph Association bylaws include no such restriction on commentary.

In 2003, American Polygraph Association president Roy Ortiz, then an APA director and the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department’s polygraph unit, was the subject of specific and credible allegations of corruption.

American Polygraph Association Director Lisa Ribacoff (APA photo)

Augustine also notes that Daniel Ribacoff’s daughter and business associate, Lisa Ribacoff, is a director of the American Polygraph Association:

In the course of our research, we discovered that Dan Ribacoff’s daughter, Lisa Ribacoff, is a current director and board member of the American Polygraph Association. Given the serious implications of the racist messages allegedly sent by the father and CEO of Lisa Ribacoff’s company, and in order to maintain a minimal level of integrity, the APA should require Ms. Ribacoff to recuse herself from participating as a Director of their organization.

Augustine’s article may be read in full here.

In PR Scramble, New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Abruptly Terminates Business With Fraud-Tainted Polygraph Operator Daniel Ribacoff

On the morning of Friday, 12 November 2021, the New York Daily News published online news of Long Island polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff’s racist text messages, which were first reported by AntiPolygraph.org in early October and later that month by Jeffrey Augustine on his Dirty Cops and PIs blog.

As reported by AntiPolygraph.org in April 2021, Ribacoff’s family-owned company, International Investigative Group, which includes the subsidiary InDepthPolygraphs, held a contract with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department (MTAPD) to conduct polygraph screening of applicants for employment. At that time, the MTA’s media relations department did not reply to an inquiry from AntiPolygraph.org regarding whether the MTA was aware that International Investigative Group was the defendant in a civil lawsuit credibly alleging billing fraud in the millions of dollars.

Daniel David Ribacoff

The MTA had known of Ribacoff’s racist text messages as early as 29 September 2021, when they were mentioned in a legal brief filed in support of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint brought by Jonathan Carter, a black NYPD officer in connection with a polygraph “test” administered by Ribacoff’s daughter, Lisa, as part of his 2020 application for employment with the MTAPD. Despite knowing of the racist text messages, the MTA did took no action.

However, it appears that reporting of Ribacoff’s racist text messages in a major newspaper was something the MTA could not sweep under the rug. Within hours of the New York Daily News’ Friday morning online report, the article was updated, noting:

After the Daily News published this exclusive report online, the MTA said the agency has canceled all remaining polygraphs that were scheduled to be given by Ribacoff’s company until his contract expires in early 2022.

The Daily News article, by reporters Clayton Guse and Noah Goldberg and titled “Accusations of ‘Racial Gatekeeping’ at MTA Police Department,” is well-worth reading in its entirety.

Daniel Ribacoff’s racist text messages have cost him not only his business with the MTAPD: in late October, NBCUniversal’s Steve Wilkos Show, for which Ribacoff had conducted polygraph “tests” since 2009, quietly gave him the boot. Neither NBCUniversal nor the Steve Wilkos Show producers have made any public statement regarding their firing of Ribacoff.

Upon losing his gig with the Steve Wilkos Show, Ribacoff made his Twitter profile, with over 5,000 tweets and 9,000 followers, private.

Daniel Ribacoff’s Twitter profile on 28 October 2021

Later, but prior to the Daily News’ reporting on his racist text messages, Ribacoff appeared to have deleted his Twitter account entirely.

Daniel Ribacoff’s Twitter profile on 9 November 2021

Update 15 November 2021: Daniel Ribacoff did not in fact delete his Twitter account, as originally reported in this article. Instead, he changed his Twitter handle from @DanielRibacoff to @DiamondsGG78 and removed his photograph from the profile. He also purports his location to be “England, United Kingdom.” His tweets, some 186 of which have evidently been deleted, remain private.

Daniel Ribacoff’s Twitter profile on 15 November 2021

Oklahoma Polygraph Board Absolves Lying Polygraph Operator of Wrongdoing

James R. Kelly (LinkedIn profile)

James R. Kelly appears to have lied for the purpose of concealing evidence in a judicial proceeding. The Oklahoma Polygraph Examiners Board seems not to have a problem with that.

On 5 July 2021, AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George W. Maschke filed a complaint (PDF) with the Oklahoma Polygraph Examiners Board against James R. Kelly of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma concerning two polygraph examinations that Kelly administered to Benjamin Lawrence Petty.

Petty, who was on probation, in 2020 had his probation revoked and was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment largely on the strength of the two polygraph examinations at issue in the complaint. Kelly refused to provide Petty or his public defender with the computerized data associated with his polygraph examinations, with an audio or video recording, or with a printout of the charts. When asked for this documentation, Kelly claimed that he did not possess and did not keep such records.

Maschke, who conducted a pro bono critique and review of Kelly’s polygraph examinations of Petty, filed the complaint on the ground that, by not keeping such records, Kelly was in violation of Title 560, Chapter 10 of the Oklahoma Administrative Code, which requires at para. 1-7 that “[t]he examiner shall maintain on file for at least two (2) years all physical and/or electronic records, including audio and video tapes, papers, discs, polygraph charts, consent to examination forms, notes, question lists and reports of polygraph examinations conducted.”

Despite this requirement, Kathy Karmid, an investigator with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System working on behalf of Petty’s public defender, stated in an affidavit that Kelly told her that “he does not make recordings or videos of his polygraphs, does not keep any clinical/therapeutic records, computerized data, notes, hand scoring or any other documentation beyond his report, and does not even retain the list of questions he asked when conducting an examination.”

The Polygraph Board assigned Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent and polygrapher Jonathan Santiago to investigate the complaint. Santiago served as part of a three-person review panel that also included Polygraph Board secretary Shawn Ward and Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Thomas R. Schneider.

Oklahoma Polygraph Examiners Board, 15 October 2021
From left to right: Jason Holt (chairman), David Otwell, Shawn Ward, Joel Franks

On Friday, 15 October 2021, the Polygraph Board considered the complaint against James Kelly at its regularly-scheduled quarterly meeting in Edmond. Assistant Attorney General Amanda Everett, standing in for Thomas Schneider, read out a summary of the review panel’s findings.

Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Amanda Everett

The report stated:

On July 19th 2021, OSBI Special Agent and licensee of the board Jonathan Santiago was tasked with investigating the complaint. On September 15th 2021, the review panel, comprising of [sic] Special Agent Santiago, Special Agent Sean Ward, and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Schneider met and discussed Special Agent Santiago’s investigation pursuant to Oklahoma Administrative Code Section 560 10-1-13.1 subsection g.

The review panel did not find any violations of the Polygraph Examiners Act or its rules and regulations found in Title 560 of the Oklahoma Administrative Code. Accordingly, the review panel recommends that the state Polygraph Examiners’ Board dismiss the complaint without further action.

The report further noted that Kelly “responded to the investigation by providing Special Agent Santiago all requested materials and proof that records were retained for longer than two years.”

However, the report did not specify what materials Special Agent Santiago requested. This is a glaring omission, because the scope of records maintained by Kelly is the crux of the complaint.

Following the reading of the report, the Polygraph Board voted unanimously to dismiss the complaint.

Randy Bauman

During a public comment period at the end of the meeting, observer Randy Bauman, who is of counsel with the Oklahoma ACLU, noted:

…[i]t’s my understanding that this examiner told two or three people—I think it was at least three—that he did not have his charts, records, et cetera, when they wanted to look at them as an expert for the defense, but then when he got in a little bit of a spot because he—that would be against the Polygraph Rules—apparently, he then told investigator Santiago that he did have them.

And that —with the result that, that the defense expert did not get to review them. And I just wanted to say—and I’ll say it very respectfully, that doesn’t seem to me a good look at all for the polygraph world, and not really a very good look for the Board either.

Frankly, it doesn’t seem to me—I agree with what Chairman Holt said, that these things should be on the up and up, but that doesn’t seem on—qualified—for that aspiration. So with that, I just wanted to make sure that the board was aware that there apparently was this allegation, it’s my understanding that, um, the records weren’t there, and then they were….

Lynette Clower (Twitter profile)

Benjamin Petty’s disability assistant, Lynette Clower, also commented, asking what the process for contesting the Board’s decision is. Chairman Holt told her that any questions regarding the complaint should be addressed to Thomas Schneider at the Attorney General’s office.

Clower also noted:

I actually have documented proof and a recording of him refusing to provide Mr. Petty the information when requested, and saying that the only thing he had to keep was that paper copy. And when looking at the code and the policy, it does state that there are other records that are supposed to be kept—heart rate, all of these things—not just a paper printout saying that this is a question that was asked and the determination that the polygrapher had. There are an entire list of things that are to be kept.

Are you all saying that those things are not—are you all saying that he has met the requirements and he has actually provided all of those records, not just one little paper printout saying what his opinion is—are you saying that you have received all of those reports, that he has provided all of those reports?

Chairman Holt did not answer Clower’s question and instead referred her to the Attorney General’s Office.

Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General
Thomas R. Schneider
(Twitter profile)

On 16 October 2021, George Maschke emailed Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Thomas R. Schneider, writing:

Dear Mr. Schneider,

At yesterday’s meeting of the polygraph board, Chairman Jason Holt directed any question regarding Complaint 2021-02 to you.

I have a question. Your colleague, Amanda Everett, apparently reading from a written report, stated, “the licensee responded to the investigation by providing Special Agent Santiago all requested materials and proof that records were retained for longer than two years.”

The report Ms. Everett read did not mention specifically what records Special Agent Santiago requested. This is a regrettable omission, because it invites doubt about the thoroughness of the investigation.

Could you let me know what materials Special Agent Santiago requested and received from Mr. Kelly?

Sincerely,

George W. Maschke, Ph.D.
AntiPolygraph.org

On Monday, 18 October, Assistant Attorney General Thomas R. Schneider replied, writing:

Good morning Dr. Maschke,

The Polygraph Examiners Board considers all investigations into its licensees confidential. Without going into the details of the investigation, the Review Panel determined that the licensee did not violate his retention duties under Oklahoma law. All records that the Board’s investigator requested to inspect during its investigation were made available to him.

Respectfully,

Thomas R. Schneider, LL.M. | Assistant Attorney General

It should be noted that nothing in the Oklahoma Polygraph Rules (PDF) makes complaint investigations confidential. On the contrary, the Rules explicitly state at Section 560:10-1-13.1(g)(4) that questions regarding complaints “may be submitted in writing to the Assistant Attorney General representing the Board following the Board meeting.” It logically follows that Schneider was authorized to answer the question put to him, but chose not to.

While searching online for Schneider’s email address (thomas.schneider@oag.ok.gov), Maschke found Schneider’s Twitter profile (@TSchneiderOK) and followed him on that website. Maschke later discovered that Schneider had blocked him.

Under Title 21, Section 21-540 of the Oklahoma Statutes, “Any person who willfully delays or obstructs any public officer in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his office, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

If Oklahoma Indigent Defense Service investigator Kathy Karmid is a “public officer” within the meaning of this statute, and James Kelly did in fact possess the records that Oklahoma law requires him to keep, then it would appear that he committed a misdemeanor (and crime of moral turpitude) when he denied possessing any data regarding his polygraph examinations beyond his written reports, all for the purpose of concealing evidence in a judicial proceeding.

We can only concur with Randy Bauman’s observation that this is not a good look, either for the polygraph world or for the Oklahoma Board of Polygraph Examiners.

Discussion of complaint against James R. Kelly by Oklahoma Polygraph Examiners Board

For discussion of this complaint, see the message board post, Complaint Against Polygraph Operator James R. Kelly.

Steve Wilkos Show Kicks Polygraph Operator Dan Ribacoff Off Team

Celebrity polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff, who has been with the NBCUniversal tabloid television talk program, The Steve Wilkos Show, since 2009, is evidently no longer on the “team.” Until recently, Ribacoff was one of four people included on the show’s Team” webpage:

Steve Wilkos Show Team, 6 October 2021

But as of today, 28 October 2021, Ribacoff appears to be off the team:

Steve Wilkos Show Team, 28 October 2021

In December 2019, Ribacoff falsely accused innocent Steve Wilkos Show guest Anca Pennington of burning her infant daughter with cigarettes, leading to her attempted suicide. That didn’t get him kicked off the team.

In lawsuits filed in 2019 and 2020, Ribacoff was credibly accused of bilking a client of his private investigative firm out of millions of dollars. That didn’t get him kicked off the team.

In May 2021, Jesse Wayne Perkins, who passed a lie detector test on the Steve Wilkos Show, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a 15-month-old girl. The Steve Wilkos Show deleted video of that episode from its YouTube channel (we have a copy), but that didn’t get Ribacoff kicked off the team.

On 9 October 2021, AntiPolygraph.org published racist text messages Ribacoff sent to an employee of his private investigative company. This appears to be what got him kicked off the team.

Investigative journalist and California-based licensed private investigator Jeffrey Augustine reports on Ribacoff’s racist text messages and their implications for a racial discrimination case against the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department in an article titled, “Racist Texts Allegedly Sent by Dan Ribacoff, Polygraph Expert at Steve Wilkos Show, IIGPI, Appear to Support Discrimination Accusations Against NY MTA.”

Correction: The original version of this article stated that Daniel Ribacoff had been with the Steve Wilkos Show since its 2007 debut. This is not correct. According to Ribacoff’s now deleted profile on the Steve Wilkos Show website, he “has been conducting lie detector tests for The Steve Wilkos Show since 2009.”

Celebrity Polygraph Operator Dan Ribacoff Sent Racist Text Messages

Daniel D. Ribacoff at the set of the Steve Wilkos Show

AntiPolygraph.org has obtained copies of text messages sent by polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff of New York that, while intended to be humorous, evince a deep-seated contempt of, and disdain for, black people.

Ribacoff, a member of the American Polygraph Association, performs polygraph examinations for the NBCUniversal tabloid television talk program, The Steve Wilkos Show, many of whose guests are African American.

Ribacoff sent the texts to an employee of his private investigative firm, International Investigative Group, in 2017 and 2018. Both Ribacoff and the employee are middle-aged Jewish white males.

As previously reported on AntiPolygraph.org, Ribacoff’s company, International Investigative Group, which stands accused of defrauding a client out of millions of dollars, holds a contract with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department (MTAPD) to conduct pre-employment polygraph screening of applicants.

A complaint currently pending before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges racial discrimination in connection with a polygraph examination conducted by Ribacoff’s company on Jonathan Kyle Carter, a black New York Police Department (NYPD) officer who in 2020 sought to transfer to the MTAPD.

The racist texts Ribacoff sent include:

An image with the caption, “When your GPS says ‘turn right on to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd'” depicting locking car doors, raising windows, and loading a revolver. (Sent on 16 June 2017 at 1:29:56 PM EDT.)

An image of a black man carrying a white man with the caption, “When you can’t carry a gun because of a felony… but you found a loophole.” (Sent on 24 June 2017 at 9:59:48 AM EDT.)

An image of the Disney version of the Winnie-the-Pooh character Tigger on top of the head of a black boy with the caption, “You’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf, now get ready for.” (Sent on 15 September 2017 at 12:18:24 PM EDT.)

An image of a black man in a cardboard box with the caption, “When you’ve got $9.34 left in your bank account and you have to start practicing being homeless.” (Sent on 7 February 2018 at 8:26:27 PM EST.)

An image of a “Black Monopoly” board where apart from “Jail,” every square reads “Go to Jail.” (Sent on 18 February 2018 at 12:46:51 PM EST.)

An image of a blonde white woman pointing a pistol with the caption, “THE UNITED STATES IS THIRD IN MURDERS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. BUT IF YOU DISCOUNT CHICAGO, DETROIT, WASHINGTON, AND NEW ORLEANS, THE UNITED STATES DROPS TO FOURTH FROM THE BOTTOM ON THE SAME LIST. COINCIDENTALLY, THESE FOUR CITIES ALSO HAVE THE TOUGHEST GUN LAWS IN THE UNITED STATES.” The fact-checking website Snopes rates these claims as “mostly false.” (Sent on 20 February 2018 at 1:04:23 PM EST.)

Immediately following this, Ribacoff texted, “What do those 4 cities have in common? A high concentration of Rachet Schvartzas!” “Schvartza” is a Yiddish pejorative term for black people. (Sent on 20 February 2018 at 1:04:24 PM EST.)

Another image Ribacoff sent suggests an anti-Mexican bias. It depicts former U.S. president Donald Trump placing his hand in a crevice at the Western Wall in Jerusalem with the caption, “No, this is no good. You could fit a Mexican child through here.” (Sent on 7 February 2018 at 1:14:02 PM EST.)

Ribacoff also expressed a pro-Jewish bias, writing to his Jewish employee, “👌🏻jews stick together.” (Sent on 31 March 2018 at 2:42:43 PM EDT.)

The attitudes displayed in these messages call into question Ribacoff’s suitability to be responsible for the polygraph screening of MTAPD applicants or indeed, of anyone. (Not that anyone should be subjected to polygraph screening. As we explain in our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, polygraphy is a pseudoscientific fraud that is inherently biased against the truthful, yet easy for liars to beat.)

In response to a request for comment e-mailed to Daniel Ribacoff, his attorney, Michael D. Cassell of Hogan & Cassell LLP, replied:

This Firm represents Mr. Ribacoff. I am in receipt of your October 2, 2021 email to him regarding text messages that Mr. Ribacoff supposedly sent. Mr. Ribacoff has absolutely no recollection of sending the text messages referenced in your email. In addition, it is my understanding that the messages were obtained by you from individuals with whom Mr. Ribacoff is presently engaged in litigation. Significantly, Mr. Ribacoff vehemently disputes the veracity of any and all claims by these individuals, seriously undermining the authenticity and legitimacy of the referenced emails.

Email from Michael D. Cassell dated 3 October 2021

AntiPolygraph.org is confident of the authenticity of each of the text messages reproduced in this article and notes that Daniel Ribacoff did not deny having sent them.

The Steve Wilkos Show did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

As previously reported on AntiPolygraph.org, in 2019, Steve Wilkos Show guest Anca Pennington attempted suicide after Dan Ribacoff falsely accused her of lying when she denied having burned her infant daughter with cigarettes. When confronted on Facebook with documentation that the child had not in fact been burned but had a ringworm infection, Ribacoff at first defended his polygraph results, but later deleted his remarks.

In 2018, Steve Wilkos Show guest Jesse Wayne Perkins passed a polygraph “test,” presumably administered by Dan Ribacoff, in which he denied having killed a 15-month-old child. But Perkins later confessed to the killing and is currently serving a life sentence. The Steve Wilkos Show responded by removing video of this episode from its YouTube channel.

Steve Wilkos himself has publicly stated that he would never take a lie detector test.

Texas Deregulates Polygraph Trade

Effective today, Wednesday, 1 September 2021, polygraph operators need no longer be licensed in the state of Texas. A notice on the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation website advises:

Effective September 1, 2021, Polygraph Examiners are no longer required to be licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).

Texas House Bill 1560, passed during the 87th Regular Legislative Session (2021), ended licensure for Polygraph Examiners. TDLR will stop accepting new and renewal license applications effective immediately.

A currently valid license will not expire until September 1, 2021.

Other states with no polygraph licensing requirement include California and New York.

Light ‘Em Up Podcast Interviews AntiPolygraph.org Co-Founder George Maschke

Phillip L. Rizzo
(Facebook profile)

In the 29th episode of his true crime Light ‘Em Up podcast, host Phillip L. Rizzo speaks with AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke. Topics discussed include Maschke’s personal experience with the polygraph, the scientific shortcomings of polygraphy, polygraph policy, and countermeasures.

George W. Maschke

The 56-minute edited interview may be listened to on Pandora. The episode is also available on Spotify and via Apple Podcasts.

Previously, Rizzo interviewed polygraph operators Holly Niotti-Soltesz (Episode 27) of Canfield, Ohio and Gil Witte (Episode 28) of San Diego, California.