AntiPolygraph.org has obtained and published two previously unavailable Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) polygraph unit policy documents.
The LAPD Polygraph Unit Examiner Reference Guide dated November 2018 and marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive” includes rules for scoring polygraph charts as well as question sequences for the various polygraph techniques used by the LAPD polygraph unit, including the Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test format used for screening applicants.
In a 19 May 2020 ruling, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the suppression of a post-polygraph confession in the child molestation case of Wisconsin v. Adam W. Vice (2018AP2220-CR).
In 2016, Vice was accused of sexually molesting a four-year-old girl. Questioned by Washburn County Sheriff’s Department investigator William Fisher, Vice “denied any wrongdoing and asked Fisher if there was anything he could do to clear his name.”
Fisher arranged for Vice to submit to a polygraph “test” conducted by Ryan Lambeseder of the Eau Claire Police Department. Vice “failed” the polygraph and ultimately confessed during a post-polygraph interrogation jointly conducted by Lambeseder and Fisher.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals concluded (at para. 72 of its decision) that:
…the totality of the circumstances here evidences that the officers improperly used coercive methods and strategies to overcome Vice’s ability to resist including: (1) making numerous, repeated references to the polygraph results throughout the entire course of the post-polygraph interview; (2) repeatedly asserting that those results showed Vice—who claimed not to remember the assault—did remember it; (3) failing to correct Vice’s statement that he must have assaulted the victim because the test said he did; and (4) failing to inform Vice that the test results would be inadmissible in any criminal proceedings against him.
The court goes on to state (at para. 81): “…we caution law enforcement officers that if they plan to rely on polygraph results in order to elicit a defendant’s confession, they need to inform the defendant that those results are inadmissible in court.”
The 1991 Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI) interrogation manual, Interview & Interrogation (PDF) is among the first documents published by AntiPolygraph.org nearly 20 years ago.
Since then, DoDPI has undergone two name changes and is now called the “National Center for Credibility Assessment” (NCCA). AntiPolygraph.org has obtained and now made available the November 2013 NCCA version of Interview & Interrogation (PDF). This document is also available in Microsoft Word format.
Both of these documents are marked “For Official Use Only” and include the admonition, “No part of this handbook may be reproduced or distributed in any form or stored in a database or retrieval system without the written permission of the Director of NCCA.”
These documents make it clear that polygraph “tests” are actually interrogations in disguise and will be of interest to all who may face polygraph “testing.”
In an interview with Tara Reade, who has accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993, Megyn Kelly asked Reade (at 37:37) if she would be willing to take a polygraph “test”:
Kelly: If I can just go back for one second to Blasey Ford. Reade: Yes. Kelly: Because we mentioned her— Reade: Yes. Kelly: —and we were talking about Believe All Women. Some of those who supported her, but have now found a reason not to support you say well, she was under oath. Would you go under oath? Reade: Absolutely. Kelly: They say, “well she subjected herself to cross examination.” Would you do that? Reade: Absolutely. Kelly: They also point out that she took a polygraph, controlled by someone on her team. Is that something you wanna do? Reade: I’m not a criminal. Joe Biden should take the polygraph. What I would say is that they’re not admissible into court, one. Two, Blasey Ford sup— took one? Is that true, I believe? That’s what I understand. But what kind of precedent does that set for survivors of violence? Does that mean we’re presumed guilty, and we all have to take polygraphs? So I’m just putting it out there. So I will take one, if Joe Biden takes one. But I’m not a criminal.
Megyn Kelly, a graduate of Albany Law School, should know that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis and that polygraph chart readings are without evidentiary value, yet she used the question about the polygraph to tease the interview.
Tara Reade, a graduate of the Seattle University School of Law should also (and evidently does, at least to some extent) understand that polygraphs are bogus. Joe Biden, a graduate of the Syracuse University College of Law, should also understand this.
Rather than suggesting that Joe Biden should take a polygraph, it would have been better if Reade had simply stated “No. No one should have their candor assessed by pseudoscientific means.”
Kelly made reference to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s polygraph concerning her sexual assault allegation against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. As a psychologist, Blasey Ford should have well understood that polygraphy is pseudoscience. Her pro bono lawyers, who urged her to sit for the polygraph and arranged it, should also have understood this.
It can be reasonably inferred that Blasey Ford’s polygraph was conducted as a public relations move: because the U.S. public has for many decades been conditioned by popular media and government agencies to believe that the polygraph is capable of detecting lies, a passed polygraph “test” can help to bolster one’s credibility with those who don’t understand that it’s junk science.
In the end, however, Blasey Ford’s polygraph did not significantly help her credibility and instead likely hurt it. Her lawyers refused to release her polygraph charts or a recording of her polygraph session so that it could be independently reviewed, raising questions. Moreover, it led to her being questioned under oath about whether she had ever given anyone tips or advice on taking a polygraph. She denied having done so, but her denial was contradicted by an ex-boyfriend who stated that he saw her coach a friend about what to expect during an FBI pre-employment polygraph.
Joe Biden’s legal team could, like Blasey Ford’s, arrange for him to take a polygraph “test,” perhaps even employing the same polygraph operator (retired FBI special agent Jeremiah Hanafin). As with Blasey Ford, the outcome would only be made public if he passed.
But who would find that convincing? Questions would immediately (and appropriately) be raised about polygraphy’s lack of scientific underpinnings, about the fact that polygraphy is vulnerable to simple, effective countermeasures, and about the polygraph operator having been hand-picked by Joe Biden’s team. The same kinds of questions would also arise were Tara Reade to take a polygraph.
In the nearly two decades that AntiPolygraph.org has been online, we have not come across a single instance where an important public question was solved by dueling polygraphs.
Both Joe Biden and Tara Reade are well-advised to unapologetically reject any demand for a polygraph.
On Monday, 7 May 1984, polygraph operator Norman R. “Norm” Matzke of the King County, Washington Sheriff’s Office conducted a polygraph “test” of Gary Leon Ridgway regarding the deaths of prostitutes whose bodies had been dumped in or near the Green River beginning in 1982.
After passing the polygraph, Ridgway, who had been arrested on a prostitution-related charge in 1982, was discounted as a suspect. At the time of Ridway’s polygraph, investigators were primarily focused on an innocent suspect, Melvyn Wayne Foster, who had failed a polygraph “test” administered by Matzke on 20 September 1982.
In 2003, Ridgway, who had been identified as the perpetrator through DNA evidence, was convicted for the murders of 48 women, 42 of whom had disappeared prior to Ridgway’s 1984 polygraph session.
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained copies of Ridgway’s polygraph charts and is making them publicly available for the first time. The first chart is for what polygraph operators call a stimulation or “stim” test. Typically, the examinee is asked to write a number and to deny having selected it as the operator reads off a series of numbers including the number chosen. The operator then tells the subject that he reacted strongly when he denied having written the chosen number. This ploy is intended to convince the subject that the polygraph can read his mind.
AntiPolygraph.org has not received information regarding the number that Ridgway chose for the stim test.
Next, Ridgway was twice asked a series of nine questions, which are listed below, followed by his answers:
Gary, you have heard all the questions on this test, are there any you are going to lie to? NO
Regarding the deaths of prostitutes, have you told the police the complete truth about that? YES
Is your true last name Ridgway? YES
Have you ever caused the death of a prostitute? NO
Before you were 30 years old, did you ever physically injure anyone without provocation? NO
Were you born in the state of Utah? YES
Do you know of anyone who has killed a prostitute? NO
Before you were 30 years old, did you ever lie about someone to get them into serious trouble? NO
Have you taken any illegal drug or narcotic in the last 48 hours? NO
Questions 1 and 2 appear to be so-called “sacrifice relevant” questions. That is, although they are relevant, they are not scored.
Questions 3 and 6 are irrelevant questions that also are not scored. They serve as “buffers” between sets of relevant and so-called “control” or comparison questions.
Questions 4 and 7 are the relevant questions: they directly concern the matter under investigation.
Questions 5 and 8 are probable-lie “control” questions, to which the subject is secretly expected to lie. Ridgway passed the polygraph because his reactions to these “control” questions were deemed stronger than his reactions to the relevant questions (4 and 7). For more about how polygraph charts are scored, see Chapter 3 of our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.
It is not clear what purpose question 9, which was not scored, was intended to serve.
The above question list is included in a training document (PDF) prepared by polygraph operator Bob Littlejohn. The document also includes the following notes:
At the time of the polygraph, the subject was a single, 35 year old male. He denied any recent medication or surgery. He denied any nervous disorder or having ever been confined to an Institution. Ridgway denied any “experimentation” with marijuana; speed; LSD; narcotic; or, hallucinogen. He also denied any recent alcohol use.
Ridgway stated his health was, “good”, and denied any history of ulcers; heart condition; emphysema; asthma; tuberculosis; hay fever; breathing problems; diabetes; epilepsy; and, blackouts.
The charts below are from the first and second askings of the above list of questions:
The case of Green River Killer Gary Leon Ridgway is a tragic example of how misplaced faith in the pseudoscience of polygraphy can lead to investigative misdirection, with deadly consequences. A similar case is that of suspected serial killer John Arthur Ackroyd, who in 1977 escaped accountability when a woman he raped failed a police-administered polygraph “test,” while Ackroyd passed one.
In 2011, AntiPolygraph.org reported that a consortium of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies had created a “Polygraph Law Enforcement Accreditation” (PLEA) program and had in 2010 promulgated a 65-page “Polygraph Guide for Standards and Practices,” a copy of which we obtained and published (1.9 MB PDF).
The PLEA consortium continues to function and by 2018 included the Greenville, South Carolina Police Department, the Houston Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the North Carolina Bureau of Investigations, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Virginia State Police, and a federal representative from the National Center for Credibility Assessment.
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a newer, 78-page copy (1 MB PDF) of the PLEA Polygraph Guide for Standards and Practices dated 25 October 2018. Like the 2010 edition, it is marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive” on each page, with an additional caveat: “Do Not Copy.” Oh well.
The 2018 edition of the guide includes three new chapters covering, respectively, the Directed Lie Comparison Test (Ch. 11), the Directed Lie Screening Test (Ch. 12), and the Concealed Information Test (Ch. 13).
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained an unredacted copy of the regulation governing the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) polygraph program. The document, marked “For Official Use Only” and titled “Credibility Assessment Program” is DIA Instruction 5200.002 dated 3 July 2014. Of special note is Section 4.22, which seemingly provides for the possible removal of DIA personnel based solely on failure to pass a polygraph screening “test.”
To our knowledge, this policy document has not previously been made public.
An exhibit (PDF) submitted by prosecutors in the Espionage Act trial of Joshua Adam Schulte for allegedly providing a collection of CIA hacking tools dubbed “Vault 7” to WikiLeaks shows that Schulte understood that polygraph “testing” is bogus. AntiPolygraph.org has previously reported that Schulte passed multiple CIA polygraphs despite having allegedly downloaded child pornography before seeking CIA employment.
The exhibit, which appears to be an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) transcript, begins with “John” sending “Josh” (Schulte) a link to AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, noting that he was reading it and that it “seems kind of interesting.”
John asks Schulte for his opinion on polygraphs, and he responds that “they’re a means of social engineering” and provides a (no-longer available) link to video of the Penn & Teller Bullshit! documentary series episode on lie detectors.
The chat, which took place over the course of about 11 minutes on January 15th of an unspecified year, concludes with Schulte pasting the following selection from The Lie Behind the Lie Detector and remarking “rofl”:
On Monday, 21 February 1994—just seven days before the Joint Security Commission issued its report—the FBI arrested CIA counterintelligence officer Aldrich Hazen Ames and charged him with spying for the former Soviet Union and later, Russia. Since beginning his betrayal in 1985, Ames had passed two CIA polygraph “tests” during which he falsely denied having committed espionage, first on 2 May 1986 and again on 12 and 16 April 1991.
(In the chat log, the numerals do not appear as a result of the formatting of earlier editions of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.)
It is not clear what legal argument the chat log is intended to support, but it does help to document the growing understanding of those who are subject to polygraph screening that it is, as Penn and Teller put it, bullshit.
Jan 15 13:18:05 <John> i'm reading this: https://antipolygraph.org/lie-behind-the-lie-detector.pdf Jan 15 13:18:09 <John> seems kind of interesting Jan 15 13:18:29 <John> what's your opinion on polygraphs Jan 15 13:19:03 <Josh> they're a means of social engineering Jan 15 13:19:16 <Josh> Penn and Teller did a good episode of Bullshit! about polygraphs Jan 15 13:19:39 <John> yeah Jan 15 13:20:03 <Josh> https://cryptm.org/data/shows/Bullshit!/Season%207/S07E05%20-%20Lie%20Detectors.avi Jan 15 13:20:06 <Josh> :) Jan 15 13:20:09 <Josh> you? Jan 15 13:20:23 <John> yeah that's basically my opinion too Jan 15 13:20:26 <Josh> the dude was right, it's the polygraphers who are complete douchebags Jan 15 13:20:41 <John> i just wonder how hard it is for say a spy to get through an nsa polygraph Jan 15 13:21:00 <John> like i'd imagine the background checks do a lot more to keep out spies than the polygraph Jan 15 13:21:21 <Josh> the problem is once someone is in, then the background checks do very little Jan 15 13:21:32 <Josh> Like, as long as you believe in your lie then you can pass it pretty easily Jan 15 13:21:44 <Josh> Also, I hear that a lot of people go "inconclusive" in polygraphs Jan 15 13:21:58 <Josh> meaning there is no clear indicator to the polygraphers Jan 15 13:22:07 <John> but "inconclusive" means you don't get the clearance Jan 15 13:22:18 <Josh> nope Jan 15 13:22:21 <Josh> you can still get it Jan 15 13:22:24 <John> wtf Jan 15 13:22:24 <Josh> and you can maintain it Jan 15 13:22:27 <John> here you don't Jan 15 13:22:32 <Josh> even if you fail it, you get many more chances to re-take it... Jan 15 13:22:36 <Josh> says who Jan 15 13:22:52 <John> i forget Jan 15 13:22:58 <Josh> I bet it's the same because I know NSA trains your polygraphers Jan 15 13:23:07 <John> hmmm Jan 15 13:23:33 <Josh> I mean, it's about the polygraphers and what kind of shit they can get out of you Jan 15 13:23:38 <Josh> not really about the test itself Jan 15 13:24:31 <Josh> you can still fail it though, I've heard of some people who dont get a clearance because they outright fail the polygraph Jan 15 13:24:54 <Josh> and that can be for a number of reasons from nervousness to simple physiology Jan 15 13:25:21 <John> i heard that a lot of co-ops failed to get their clearance because they lied about not having done weed Jan 15 13:25:33 <Josh> heh Jan 15 13:25:46 <Josh> that's actually the question I had the most trouble with Jan 15 13:25:52 <Josh> and apparently I kept failing it Jan 15 13:25:58 <Josh> even though I've never done drugs... Jan 15 13:26:02 <John> lol Jan 15 13:26:20 <Josh> I think the guy was just phishing because he didn't think a college kid had never even tried drugs before :P Jan 15 13:26:26 <John> haha Jan 15 13:26:32 <Josh> so fuck that guy Jan 15 13:26:46 <Josh> he was such a fucking dick Jan 15 13:27:06 <Josh> he told me, well, you'll probably be on your way back to texas wish you hadnt lied here Jan 15 13:27:14 <Josh> I was like wtf Jan 15 13:27:31 <Josh> I even decided if I had to retake it that I'd just tell them to forget it Jan 15 13:28:16 <Josh> dude there were some people in my access class that failed it like 4-5 times... Jan 15 13:28:23 <Josh> and others who took 6 years to get cleared Jan 15 13:28:26 <Josh> I was like, jesus Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> "On Monday, February —just seven days before the Joint Se- Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> curity Commission issued its report—the FBI arrested CIA counter- Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> intelligence officer Aldrich Hazen Ames and charged him with spying Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> for the former Soviet Union and later, Russia. Since beginning his Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> betrayal in , Ames had passed two CIA polygraph "tests" during Jan 15 13:32:17 <Josh> which he falsely denied having committed espionage, first on Jan 15 13:32:19 <Josh> May and again on and April . Jan 15 13:32:21 <Josh> " Jan 15 13:32:47 <Josh> he went inconclusive Jan 15 13:39:20 <Josh> hmmm Jan 15 13:39:25 <Josh> rofl:
On Tuesday, 10 December 2019, Anca Pennington, 30, of Omaha, Nebraska purchased three bottles of Tylenol, each containing 24 pills, after passing through security at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. She then proceeded to a restroom stall, swallowed all of the pills, and laid down to die.
Earlier that day Pennington, a single mother of four, had appeared on the set of the Comcast-owned, NBCUniversal Television Distribution-produced Steve Wilkos Show in Stamford, Connecticut, where host Steve Wilkos had announced that she had miserably failed a polygraph test regarding whether she had burned her infant daughter with cigarettes. The show’s in-house polygraph operator, Daniel D. Ribacoff, had come on stage to support his polygraph results.
Ribacoff, a member of the American Polygraph Association, has previously claimed on the show, “We have tests that are 99.4% accurate, which is way more accurate than most medical tests, and way more accurate than any jury trial.”
And in a 2016 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread, in response to a question Steve Wilkos averred, “The lie detector tests are like 99% accurate.”
In fact, however, polygraph “testing” has not been shown through peer-reviewed research to reliably work at better-than-chance levels of accuracy under field conditions. Alan P. Zelicoff and Steven E. Rigdon have conducted a peer-reviewed statistical analysis of the best available field studies of polygraphy. Based on that analysis, Dr. Zelicoff opines that “if a subject fails a polygraph, the probability that she is, in fact, being deceptive is little more than chance alone; that is, one could flip a coin and get virtually the same result for a positive test based on the published data.”
As Pennington recalls, Wilkos told her on stage that she was disgusting, that she was never going to see her kids again, and that she was going to go to jail. The audience booed her.
Pennington recounts that she had looked up to Steve Wilkos as a father figure and had never questioned polygraphs. Afraid that no one would believe her and that she would lose her children, Pennington made the decision to end her life during the ride to the airport for her flight home, writing a suicide note on the sheet of paper with her flight information that was given to her by the show’s producers.
Lying on the airport restroom stall floor after consuming the Tylenol, whose active ingredient, acetaminophen, can cause fatal liver damage in sufficiently large doses, Pennington began to feel warm, and her heart started racing. She became scared, thought of her children, and called 911. An ambulance came. After nearly a week of hospitalization, she was released and returned home to Omaha, having escaped any permanent liver damage.
While in hospital, Pennington showed nurses pictures of lesions on her infant daughter’s leg: lesions that she had suspected were pinch marks or cigarette burns inflicted by the daughter’s father, who had left them, or by the father’s new girlfriend, both of whom also appeared as guests on The Steve Wilkos Show and passed polygraphs. As Pennington recalls, the nurses immediately recognized the lesions as ringworm, a common fungal infection that is easily treated.
Later in December 2019, lesions reappeared on the infant’s leg, and a medical examination confirmed a ringworm infection, for which clotrimazole, an antifungal medication, was prescribed.
Before contacting The Steve Wilkos Show, Pennington had also contacted the Nebraska Division of Family Services regarding her suspicion that her daughter had been abused. In a letter dated 3 December 2019, a full week before her appearance on the show, but which Pennington states she received only after her return to Omaha, Children and Family Services specialist Nicole Powers reported, “Based on the information obtained during this investigation, it has been determined that the allegation will be listed as ‘Unfounded.'”
Pennington reports that on Wednesday, 22 January 2020, The Steve Wilkos Show contacted her and told her that the episode in which she appeared will air in February. Pennington stated that she was “devastated and traumatized.”
AntiPolygraph.org has written to Steve Wilkos Show producer Jillian Calandra, who coordinated Pennington’s appearance on the show, and polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff seeking comment. At the time of writing, no replies have been received.
In May 2019, the long-running British tabloid television program The Jeremy Kyle Show, which bears similarities to The Steve Wilkos Show, was abruptly canceled after Steve Dymond, who “failed” a polygraph “test” conducted for the show, committed suicide.
In December 2019, Pennington shared her story in a series of video clips that AntiPolygraph.org has assembled as a YouTube playlist:
Update (28 January 2020): On 26 January 2020, The Steve Wilkos Show released a 30-second video clip titled “THE COLD HARD TRUTH…ALL NEW…ALL FEBRUARY LONG!” with snippets of episodes to be aired in February 2020:
At 22 seconds into the video, a few seconds of the as-yet-unaired episode in which Anca Pennington appeared are shown. Steve Wilkos is seen gesticulating at her and shouting, “You’re the one burning your children!”
Pennington replies, “I did not do that!”
The Steve Wilkos Show‘s apparent decision to air this episode, despite compelling evidence that no one burned her child, may be explained by the fact that February 2020 is a Nielsen “sweeps” period during which audience measurements are taken.
AntiPolygraph.org’s inquiries to Steve Wilkos Show producer Jillian Calandra and polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff remain unanswered.
The “Test for Espionage and Sabotage” is the primary counterintelligence-scope polygraph screening format employed by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy. The procedure is described in detail in a 2016 National Center for Credibility Assessment administration guide (1.2 MB PDF) obtained by AntiPolygraph.org.
The guide, marked “For Official Use Only,” sets forth the relevant, “control”/comparison, and irrelevant questions asked. Appendix A (“Scoping Guide for Relevant Questions”) provides detailed information about the topics covered by the relevant questions.
Topics that are off-limits (“unless these issues are revealed by the examinee as having relevance to responses or admissions made in connection with counterintelligence questions posed during the examination”) include:
Religious beliefs or affiliations
Beliefs and opinions regarding racial matters
Political beliefs and affiliations
Opinions regarding the constitutionality of legislative policy
Use of drugs or alcohol (except for purposes of assessing suitability)
Affiliation with labor unions
In other words, if the examinee doesn’t bring up these topics, the polygraph operator is not supposed to do so. AntiPolygraph.org has nonetheless heard reports of some polygraph operators ignoring these restrictions, and we invite any readers with knowledge of such practices to privately contact us.
Appendix F (“TES Outline”) will be of special interest, as it provides the basic script for conduct of the Test for Espionage and Sabotage. It is essentially a synopsis of the entire monkey drill.
There is no documented instance of the Test for Espionage and Sabotage ever catching a spy or saboteur.
The polygraph community is quite concerned about polygraphy’s vulnerability to simple, effective countermeasures that they cannot detect, and the TES therefore includes a “Countermeasures statement,” which the guide explains thus:
10.2. Countermeasures statement: It is important to provide some form of countermeasures statement to make the examinee aware that non-cooperation or deliberate efforts to influence testing will adversely affect the examination process. There are a number of approaches to this issue. The following is one such approach:
10.2.1. “It is not uncommon for people who have to take a polygraph examination to research information on the topic. Often, they come across sites or read articles that suggest they have to perform some activity to help them through their polygraph examination. Such sites and articles often provide bogus information. In fact, when people attempt to influence the outcome of their polygraph examination in various ways, such activity reveals that they have abdicated their responsibility to tell the truth and are being non-cooperative. Can I count on you not to involve yourself in such activity?”
It is ironic (and hypocritical) for polygraph operators, whose techniques require that they lie to and attempt to deceive those whom they “test,” to speak of any “responsibility to tell the truth.” For discussion of the trickery behind the Test for Espionage and Sabotage, see AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke’s article, “The Lying Game: National Security and the Test for Espionage and Sabotage.”
Those who wish to learn more about polygraphy’s scientific shortcomings—and what can be done to mitigate the risk of a false positive outcome—will want to download a copy of AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.