So warns National Public Radio senior news editor Daniel Schorr in this commentary published in The Christian Science Monitor, noting that “often leaks are acts of whistle-blowing done in the public’s interest.”
The latest issue of the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board publication, Integrity Bulletin (Vol. No. 25) includes mention of a cadet who beat the polygraph:
CASE NO. 18 FALSE INTO [sic] TO OBTAIN CERT
Cadet R informed his fellow cadets that he beat the polygraph test and had passed it even though he lied when asked about cheating on his taxes. Following an investigation, his agency terminated his employment and the Board denied him certification for providing false information in connection with obtaining certified status.
WOOD TV news reporter Brad Edwards reports on the case of Jason Burns, who reports that he was punched on the campus of Hope College in Holland, Michigan by two men who taunted him because he is homosexual. After he reported the attack, Holland police asked Burns to submit to a lie detector “test.” See, “Alleged hate crime victim talks about incident.”
It appears that CIA officer Mary McCarthy was not the source of Washington Post reporter Dana Priest’s information on the CIA’s secret prisons. In “Dismissed CIA Officer Denies Leak Role,” Post staff writers R. Jeffrey Smith and Dafna Linzer report that she denies it, and the CIA is not alleging it. Excerpt:
A lawyer representing fired CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy said yesterday that his client did not leak any classified information and did not disclose to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest the existence of secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe for suspected terrorists.
The statement by Ty Cobb, a lawyer in the Washington office of Hogan & Hartson who said he was speaking for McCarthy, came on the same day that a senior intelligence official said the agency is not asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest’s award-winning articles last year disclosing the agency’s secret prisons.
McCarthy was fired because the CIA concluded that she had undisclosed contacts with journalists, including Priest, in violation of a security agreement. That does not mean she revealed the existence of the prisons to Priest, Cobb said.
Cobb said that McCarthy, who worked in the CIA inspector general’s office, “did not have access to the information she is accused of leaking,” namely the classified information about any secret detention centers in Europe. Having unreported media contacts is not unheard of at the CIA but is a violation of the agency’s rules.
In a statement last Friday, the agency said it had fired one of its officers for having unauthorized conversations with journalists in which the person “knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence.” Intelligence officials subsequently acknowledged that the official was McCarthy and said that Priest is among the journalists with whom she acknowledged sharing information.
Priest won the Pulitzer Prize this month for a series of articles she wrote last year about the intelligence community, including the revelation of the existence of CIA-run prisons in East European countries. The Post withheld the names of the countries at the Bush administration’s request, and it attributed the information to current and former intelligence officials from three continents.
The articles sparked a wide-ranging CIA investigation that included polygraphing scores of officials who worked in offices privy to information about the secret prisons, including McCarthy and her boss, CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson. Nowhere in the CIA statement last week was McCarthy accused of leaking information on the prisons, although some news accounts suggested that the CIA had made that claim.
Though McCarthy acknowledged having contact with reporters, a senior intelligence official confirmed yesterday that she is not believed to have played a central role in The Post’s reporting on the secret prisons. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing personnel matters.
Smith and Linzer also note that the polygraphing of a CIA Inspector General is not unprecedented:
Fredrick P. Hitz, who was inspector general at the CIA from 1990 to 1998, said his office was the subject of a leak inquiry after The Post wrote about a classified report he submitted to Congress on the Aldrich H. Ames espionage case. “I was polygraphed several times, as were some of my staff,” Hitz said in an interview. No source for the leak was found and the investigation was terminated.
For discussion, see The Polygraph and the Mary McCarthy Case on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.
In “Moves Signal Tighter Secrecy Within C.I.A.,” New York Times reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti write that CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson is among the employees polygraphed in the Agency’s ongoing leak hunt. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON, April 23 — The crackdown on leaks at the Central Intelligence Agency that led to the dismissal of a veteran intelligence officer last week included a highly unusual polygraph examination for the agency’s independent watchdog, Inspector General John L. Helgerson, intelligence officials with knowledge of the investigation said Sunday.
The special polygraphs, which have been given to dozens of employees since January, are part of a broader effort by Porter J. Goss, the director of the C.I.A., to re-emphasize a culture of secrecy that has included a marked tightening of the review process for books and articles by former agency employees.
As the inspector general, Mr. Helgerson was the supervisor of Mary O. McCarthy, who was fired Thursday after admitting she had leaked classified information to reporters about secret C.I.A. detention centers and other subjects, agency officials said.
Mr. Goss and the C.I.A.’s deputy director, Vice Adm. Albert M. Calland III, voluntarily submitted to polygraph tests during the leak investigation to show they were willing to experience the same scrutiny they were asking other employees to undergo, agency officials said. Mr. Helgerson likewise submitted to the lie-detector test, they said.
But Mr. Helgerson’s status as the independent inspector general — a post to which he was appointed by the president and from which only the president can remove him — makes his submission to a polygraph even more unusual.
L. Britt Snider, who served as inspector general from 1998 to 2001, said in an interview on Sunday night that he had not been given a polygraph in that position, though he said he was given an initial polygraph when he arrived at the agency in 1997 as special counsel to the director.
“I’ve never heard of it, and it’s certainly unusual,” Mr. Snider said. He called it “awkward” for the inspector general to be, in effect, investigated by the agency he ordinarily investigates.
But Mr. Snider and another former senior intelligence official said that it would not be improper if Mr. Helgerson had volunteered for the polygraph to set an example for others.
Reached by telephone on Sunday, Mr. Helgerson declined to comment and referred a reporter to a C.I.A. spokesman, who said he could not comment on any aspect of the leak investigation.
Further details about the inspector general’s polygraph test could not be determined.
Mr. Goss has repeatedly expressed unhappiness with what he sees as the laxity of C.I.A. employees and retirees in discussing agency matters. He has taken up the cause of tightening information controls across the board, partly in response to calls from the White House, the Congressional intelligence committees and the presidential commission on weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Helgerson’s office, which investigates accusations of lapses in the ethics or performance of agency employees, has investigated some of the most serious controversies of recent years, including cases involving accusations of detainee abuse.
Since a 1989 change following the Iran-contra scandal, the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog has been confirmed by the Senate and has reported to the Congressional intelligence committees as well as to the C.I.A. director, a shift intended to assure the position’s independence.
Among the subjects handled by Mr. Helgerson’s office was a report completed last year that faulted senior C.I.A. officials for lapses in the failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But Mr. Goss kept the report classified and did not punish any of those named.
Former officials say the inspector general’s office has also referred more than half a dozen cases of detainee abuse to the Department of Justice, but officials there have taken no action, except for a pending prosecution of one agency contract employee charged with beating an Afghan prisoner who later died.
The “single-issue” polygraphs, which are distinct from the routine polygraphs given to agency employees at least every five years, have been conducted by the C.I.A. Security Center but with close supervision from Mr. Goss’s office, one official said. Like other current and former intelligence officials, he was granted anonymity to discuss classified events at the agency without fear of retribution.
It should be noted that CIA director Porter Goss and deputy director VADM Albert M. Calland III’s “volunteering” to be polygraphed to “show they were willing to experience the same scrutiny they were asking other employees to undergo” was political theater. They both ran zero risk of failing the polygraph. No CIA polygrapher would be so stupid as to flunk the director or deputy director. Those who polygraphed Goss and Calland would have known that it was their own jobs that were on the line.
While there is broad agreement amongst scientists that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis, and the National Academy of Sciences has recently confirmed that polygraph screening is completely invalid, there is no question that the polygraph can be useful for getting admissions from those who can still be convinced that the polygrapher can see their soul. While such duping is becoming increasingly difficult as knowledge of “the lie behind the lie detector” spreads, it appears to have succeeded in the CIA’s polygraph dragnet aimed at identifying employees who have made unauthorized media contacts.
In an article titled “C.I.A. Fires Senior Officer Over Leaks,” New York Times reporters David Johnston and Scott Shane mention, among other things, the role of the polygraph in the firing of CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON, April 21 — The Central Intelligence Agency has dismissed a senior career officer for disclosing classified information to reporters, including material for Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in The Washington Post about the agency’s secret overseas prisons for terror suspects, intelligence officials said Friday.
The C.I.A. would not identify the officer, but several government officials said it was Mary O. McCarthy, a veteran intelligence analyst who until 2001 was senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, where she served under President Bill Clinton and into the Bush administration.
At the time of her dismissal, Ms. McCarthy was working in the agency’s inspector general’s office, after a stint at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an organization in Washington that examines global security issues.
The dismissal of Ms. McCarthy provided fresh evidence of the Bush administration’s determined efforts to stanch leaks of classified information. The Justice Department has separately opened preliminary investigations into the disclosure of information to The Post, for its articles about secret prisons, as well as to The New York Times, for articles last fall that disclosed the existence of a program of domestic eavesdropping without warrants supervised by the National Security Agency. Those articles were also recognized this week with a Pulitzer Prize.
Several former veteran C.I.A. officials said the dismissal of an agency employee over a leak was rare and perhaps unprecedented. One official recalled the firing of a small number of agency contractors, including retirees, for leaking several years ago.
The dismissal was announced Thursday at the C.I.A. in an e-mail message sent by Porter J. Goss, the agency’s director, who has made the effort to stop unauthorized disclosure of secrets a priority. News of the dismissal was first reported Friday by MSNBC.
Ms. McCarthy’s departure followed an internal investigation by the C.I.A.’s Security Center, as part of an intensified effort that began in January to scrutinize employees who had access to particularly classified information. She was given a polygraph examination, confronted about answers given to the polygraph examiner and confessed, the government officials said. On Thursday, she was stripped of her security clearance and escorted out of C.I.A. headquarters. Ms. McCarthy did not reply Friday evening to messages left by e-mail and telephone.
In January, current and former government officials said, Mr. Goss ordered polygraphs for intelligence officers who knew about certain “compartmented” programs, including the secret detention centers for terrorist suspects. Polygraphs are routinely given to agency employees at least every five years, but special polygraphs can be ordered when a security breach is suspected.
The results of such exams are regarded as important indicators of deception among some intelligence officials. But they are not admissible as evidence in court — and the C.I.A.’s reliance on the polygraph in Ms. McCarthy’s case could make it more difficult for the government to prosecute her.
And in “CIA Officer Is Fired for Media Leaks,” Washington Post reporter Dafna Linzer mentions that “CIA officials said the career intelligence officer failed more than one polygraph test and acknowledged unauthorized contacts with reporters.”
Polygraph advocates will point to this case as a success for the polygraph. And in terms of obtaining Ms. McCarthy’s admission(s), they may well be correct. However, it remains doubtful whether the polygraph can be credited for having “detected” a leaker. One would have to ask, how many other CIA employees who did not speak with the media failed polygraphs on this topic? And how many who did speak with the media nonetheless passed their polygraphs?
In addition, McCarthy may have been identified prior to the polygraph by other means, such as the NSA’s ongoing illegal domestic surveillance program. On 28 December 2005, independent journalist Wayne Madsen reported:
NSA spied on its own employees, other U.S. intelligence personnel, and their journalist and congressional contacts. WMR has learned that the National Security Agency (NSA), on the orders of the Bush administration, eavesdropped on the private conversations and e-mail of its own employees, employees of other U.S. intelligence agencies — including the CIA and DIA — and their contacts in the media, Congress, and oversight agencies and offices.
If a leaker within the CIA were actually identified through such illegal means, a “failed polygraph” would provide the perfect cover.
To discuss this story, see The Polygraph and the McCarthy Case on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.Â
Greensboro, North Carolina News Record staff writer Eric Swensen reports in a 19 April article titled, “Council Says Yes to Polygraphs” that with a lone dissenting vote, the Greensboro City Council has voted to voluntary subject itself to lie detector testing in an effort to determine who amongst them leaked a police report to the News Record. Excerpt:
GREENSBORO — The City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday night to ask itself to voluntarily take lie-detector tests on whether a council member leaked an investigative report on former police Chief David Wray to the News & Record.
Dianne Bellamy-Small cast the lone no vote. Bellamy-Small said she didn’t appreciate having her integrity questioned and is offended that people may think she was involved in leaking the report.
“It’s divisive,” she said.
If the council is focused on infighting, she said, “we’re not going to get the focus on cleaning up the Greensboro Police Department.”
She declined to comment further after the meeting.
Sandy Carmany, who has been the most outspoken critic of the leak among council members, said her decision to volunteer for a lie-detector test isn’t meant to point fingers at other council members, “but to confirm my own integrity.” Carmany said in March that “we’re 95 percent sure” that a council member leaked the report to the newspaper.
Tom Phillips, who entered the motion to conduct the tests, said the uncertainty over who leaked the report “has really strained the ability of the (city) manager to work with council dealing with sensitive information.”
Yvonne Johnson echoed that notion.
“It’s important that the manager be able to trust the council,” she said.
But Mayor Keith Holliday and other council members said the request for lie-detector tests came from council members, not from City Manager Mitchell Johnson.
Each lie-detector test will cost about $500. Councilman Mike Barber suggested the cost of the tests be taken from council members’ travel budgets; no other council members objected.
Kudos to Greensboro Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small for being a lone voice of reason on a ship of fools. The Greensboro News-Record editorial staff skewers the City Council for its polygraph vote in today’s editorial, aptly titled “Exercise in Incredulity.”
AntiPolygraph.org’s George Maschke has sent theÂ following e-mail to the entire Greensboro City Council:
The Greensboro News-Record reports that the City Council has voted to subject itself to lie detector testing regarding the leak of a police document.
I’m a co-founder of AntiPolygraph.org, a non-profit, public interest website dedicated to exposing and ending waste, fraud, and abuse associated with the use of lie detectors. As you have foolishly decided to subject yourselves to this procedure, you should be aware that there is consensus amongst scientists that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis:
You should also be aware that polygraphy has an inherent bias against the truthful, and yet the “test” can be easily passed by liars employing simple countermeasures that polygraph examiners cannot detect. You’ll find polygraph procedure and countermeasures explained in AntiPolygraph.org’s free e-book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, which may be downloaded here:
I would be happy to address any questions you may have in this regard.
George W. Maschke
PS:A copy of this e-mail will be forwarded to the News-Record.
Los Angeles Chief of Police William J. Bratton this week stated that 40% of LAPD applicants who are disqualified are eliminated because of the polygraph. Bratton spoke on the 17 April 2006 installment of 89.3 KPCC radio’s Patt Morrison show, which features a regular “Ask the Chief” session in which Chief Bratton addresses questions by host Patt Morrison as well as members of the public who call in. One topic addressed was the LAPD’s recruiting difficulties (Hat tip to Kevin Roderick who mentioned this in his LA Observed blog):
Patt Morrison: A propos of recruiting, is there just a different population pool out there than there was maybe when you started policing? Is it because people have tattoos or they’ve had drug experiments? In the 1940s, if you had an overdue library book, Bill Parker would not hire you for the LAPD.
Bill Bratton: No, I think the issue’s different here than East Coast. East Coast, Massachusetts, New York, you cannot use polygraphs as part of your background screening. Here we use polygraphs. That accounts for about 40% of the failures of personnel.
The audio stream is available on-line here. The above exchange begins at about 23 minutes and 10 seconds into the segment.
While the polygraph may account for 40% of total disqualifications, it should also be noted that approximately 50% percent of LAPD applicants who make it as far along in the hiring process as the polygraph are branded as liars and disqualified. But as the National Academy of Sciences recently concluded, polygraph screening is completely invalid. AntiPolygraph.org hears regularly from LAPD applicants who report having been the victim of false positive polygraph outcomes. It is clear that many qualified applicants are being wrongly rejected. LAPD could and should alleviate its recruiting difficulties by scrapping the polygraph. As Chief Bratton noted, it’s not used in his home state of Massachusetts (where it is wisely prohibited by law).
It should also be noted that in 2004, Chief Bratton denied a California Public Records Act request for documentation concerning specific and credible allegations of corruption involving the head of LAPD’s polygraph unit, Mr. Roy Ortiz, who is also a member of the American Polygraph Association’s Board of Directors.
For related reading on the LAPD polygraph program, see George Maschke’s 2001 Los Angeles Daily News op-ed piece, LAPD Polygraphs Don’t Tell Full Truth. A list of the questions asked on the LAPD’s pre-employment polygraph examination is available here.
Thumbs down to California Court of Appeal Associate Justice Franklin D. Elia, who yesterday suggested that Apple Computer, which is seeking access to e-mail archives that could help identify an employee believed to have leaked trade secrets, should have done due diligence by subjecting its employees to lie detector testing to find the leaker.
Matthew Honan reports in Macworld:
Noting that Apple had neither subjected its employees to a lie detector test, nor had them deposed under oath in order to find the guilty party, Elia also speculated as to the courtâ€™s role in the case.
â€œAll you want is the name of the–excuse me–the snitch,â€ said Elia. â€œWe are not here to be the super personnel committee for your company.â€
To begin with, lie detectors don’t work.Â Moreover, under the federal Employee Polygraph Protection Act, private employers, like Apple Computer, may not compel their employees to submit to such pseudoscientific nonsense. Judge Elia should know better.
On 11 April 2006, AntiPolygraph.org posted the U.S. federal government’s official polygraph handbook, formally titled the Federal Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Examiner Handbook (1mb PDF) dated 1 March 2004. A discussion of this document is available on the AntiPolygraph.org message board here.
In addition, we also made available a Department of Defense Polygraph Institute instructional document dated August 2004 outlining DoDPI’s “Numerical Evaluation Scoring System” (188kb PDF). A discussion of this document is available on the AntiPolygraph.org message board here.