In a well-researched article written for the website Priceonomics, Simon R. Gardner asks the question: “Do polygraph tests actually work?” and concludes that the answer is a definitive “No.” Excerpt:
You’ve been arrested for a brutal murder you didn’t commit. The evidence is circumstantial, but the police are convinced you’re the killer. The prosecutor offers you a deal. They’ll drop the charges, but only if you take a polygraph test to prove your innocence.
What would you do?
Unfortunately this is no hypothetical, but rather a scene from a real life nightmare.
In 1978, Fred Ery was working in his general store in Perrysberg, Ohio, when a masked assailant burst in and shot him. Before he died on the operating table, he was able to tell his wife the name of his killer, and even gave detectives his address. It seemed like an open-and-shut case, and police soon had Floyd “Buzz” Fay’s house surrounded.
Fay later failed a polygraph test not once but twice. With the results admitted into evidence during his trial, he spent the next two and a half years in prison before he was exonerated when the mother of the real killer came forward. During this time, Fay became a vocal campaigner against the polygraph, even appearing on NBC’s “Today” show after his release to call for polygraph tests to be banned from criminal trials.
Nearly 40 years later, the polygraph still commands something of a towering cultural presence in modern day life. From Hollywood movies to infamous criminal cases to daytime television, it’s used as a definitive arbiter by both the justice system and entertainers.
On 1 November 2016, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director of security Michael P. Londregan published a notice that beginning in 2017, all DIA contractors whose work requires access to sensitive compartmented information will be required to pass a polygraph “test.” Excerpt:
On Jan. 1, 2017, DIA will begin implementing a phased change to its polygraph policy. All contractors or employees of contractors identified to perform work for DIA, and where the work requires access to sensitive compartmented information, must either successfully complete a counterintelligence-scope polygraph (CSP) examination (in accordance with Intelligence Community Policy Guidance 704.6 and Security Executive Agent Directive 2) or have on record a reciprocally acceptable polygraph examination from another federal agency priorto being granted unescorted access to DIA systems, facilities or information.
DIA will implement this policy change using the following schedule:
1 January 2017: National Capital Region (NCR) approximately 50-mile radius extending outward to Ft Meade, MD and Charlottesville, VA
1 April 2017: Continental United States (CONUS) including NCR contractors
1 July 2017: Outside CONUS including CONUS contractors and NCR
Regardless of geographical assignment, all polygraph testing will be scheduled through the special security officer (SSO), unit security officer (USO) or your contracting officer representative (COR), respectively, to the DIA Central Processing Center, Reston, Virginia.
Refusal without reasonable cause (as determined by the Director of Security for DIA) to undergo polygraph examination; failure to cooperate during a polygraph examination; or purposeful noncooperation during a polygraph examination — including confirmed use of polygraph countermeasures — could result in additional review or an adverse security determination.
It’s worth noting that the DIA polygraph screening program has never caught a spy. In 2001, DIA’s senior analyst for Cuban affairs, Ana Belen Montes, was arrested for, and ultimately pled guilty to, having been a Cuban spy. She had been trained by Cuban intelligence how to fool the polygraph, and she did precisely that throughout her DIA employment.
DIA contractors should pay special attention to the notice that “purposeful noncooperation during a polygraph examination — including confirmed use of polygraph countermeasures — could result in additional review or an adverse security determination. If, for example, you breath slowly and deeply during your polygraph “test” in an attempt to remain calm, your polygrapher may accuse you of attempting to use polygraph countermeasures. If you then acknowledge that you were breathing slowly and deeply in an attempt to remain calm so you could pass, that simple admission may be taken as “confirmed use of countermeasures.”
DIA polygraph case files leaked to AntiPolygraph.org suggest that DIA is unable to detect sophisticated polygraph countermeasures, that is, the kinds of things that an actual spy like Ana Belen Montes might be expected to employ. Instead, the “confirmed countermeasure cases” consist entirely of people doing things that no one who understands polygraph procedure would actually do.
For more on the pseudoscience of polygraphy, including tips on how to protect yourself against the random error associated with it, see our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.
Huffington Post reporter Jessica Schulberg tells the story of a senior FBI intelligence analyst who lost his security clearance and his job over a polygraph operator’s accusation that he employed polygraph countermeasures. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON — Logan tried to stay calm as he boarded the subway to take the one-mile trip from his office at FBI headquarters to Patriots Plaza. He could have walked, but he didn’t want to risk getting sweaty or disheveled before his polygraph examination.
There was nothing to worry about, Logan told himself. During his 11 years as an FBI intelligence analyst, he had already passed two polygraphs — one when he was hired in 2003 and another in 2008. The bureau administers polygraphs to potential hires and then reinvestigates its employees every five years throughout their employment.
But as he headed to Patriots Plaza that morning in September 2014, Logan (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) couldn’t stop thinking about his polygraph results from the year before. His anxiety had taken over, and the test caught physiological reactions in response to national security questions. The examiner accused him of lying and attempting to cheat the polygraph. Logan denied both charges. The FBI scheduled a retest.
This time would be different. It had to be different, or he could lose his security clearance and his job.
But the 2014 retest got off to a bad start. Logan felt a panic attack set in as soon as the exam began. He focused on steadying his breathing and restoring his calm.
Logan’s attempts to quiet his nerves backfired. The polygrapher accused him of using a “countermeasure” ? a poorly defined term for deliberately altering one’s physiological state (by, say, sticking a thumbtack in one’s shoe) in order to hide lying on a polygraph. Logan denied the charge, but after several hours under pressure, he amended a written statement to include self-incriminating phrases he alleges were fed to him by the polygrapher. That statement was later used against him when the FBI revoked his security clearance, effectively putting him out of work. Logan appealed.
After nearly two years without pay, he is still trying to regain his clearance.
Read the rest of this important story here. In September 2105 the late Dr. Drew C. Richardson, a retired FBI scientist and polygraph critic, posted to AntiPolygraph.org the text of a declaration that he provided in support of the FBI employee in question.
Longtime polygraph critic and friend to AntiPolygraph.org John J. Furedy died at his home in Sydney, Australia on 24 August 2016 following a long illness. He was 76 years old.
Dr. Furedy was a psychophysiologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. In 2000, he was among those who reviewed draft versions of AntiPolygraph.org’s book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector. His commentary was the most critical we received, and thus the most useful. We implemented all of his suggestions.
In the 1990s, Professor Furedy served on the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute’s Curriculum and Research Guidance Committee, which was formed by then director William J. Yankee. The Committee advised against polygraph screening. Following Yankee’s retirement in 1995, the succeeding director, Michael H. Capps, promptly dissolved the Committee.
In 2003, Professor Furedy’s testimony in Mallard v. The Queen (PDF) helped persuade the Western Australia Court of Criminal Appeal, the highest Australian court to consider polygraphy, to reject the admission of polygraph chart readings as evidence.
In 2005, Professor Furedy retired and returned to Australia with his wife, Christine, who survives him.
Professor Furedy’s scholarly writings and commentaries on the pseudoscience of polygraphy (along with writings on his numerous other interests) remain available on his University of Toronto web page.
We are thankful to have counted John Furedy as a friend. We leave you with this TV Ontario interview in which he speaks about the psychology of lying and “lie detection”:
An article published in the French language newspaper Le Soleil in 2011 recounts the story of an applicant for employment with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who read AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, and used the countermeasure techniques provided therein to pass the RCMP’s pre-employment polygraph examination while lying about salient details of his history, including whether he intended to use polygraph countermeasures. An English translation of the article follows:
The Man Who Beat the Polygraph
Published 13 January 2011 at 0500 hours | Updated 13 January 2011 at 0842 hours
(Québec) Anyone can beat the lie detector with a little preparation says Jean-François Courteau, who says he fooled that of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police without getting caught.
Jean-François Courteau, an information technology consultant from Québec, once was considering a career in the field of cybercrime. In 2006, he went through the entire selection process for the RCMP.
In his preparatory research, he quickly stumbled across the book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, a work that is offered for free on the Internet, that provides all the tricks for beating the polygraph.
Jean-François Courteau began by completing the RCMP questionnaire, whose hundred questions aim to bring out all the skeletons from the candidate’s closet.
Once connected to the polygraph, he says he lied on 3 of the 10 questions. “They asked me if I had omitted information about criminal acts I may have committed,” recounts Mr. Courteau. “I said no, but I knew that eight months previously, I had driven after drinking.”
The candidate says he also lied on the questions, “Do you intend to tell the truth?” and “Do you intend to use means to counter the polygraph?” “I replied no and yet that is what I was doing the whole time,” he summed up.
Jean-François Courteau says he was later eliminated because of a credit record that the RCMP deemed insufficient.
He draws from his experience the conclusion that the polygraph is partly based on chance. “It’s a random measure,” judges Jean-François Courteau. “Someone can arrive there totally dishonest, and he can pass anyway if he is well prepared.”
While it is not AntiPolygraph.org’s intention to help individuals obtain employment for which they are not qualified, Courteau’s experience underscores the folly of relying on the pseudoscience of polygraphy for personnel security screening.
It is with deep sadness that we report that retired FBI scientist and supervisory special agent Dr. Drew C. Richardson, who has for many years been a friend and mentor to AntiPolygraph.org’s co-founders, was killed in a tragic accident at his home in Greenville, Virginia on Thursday, 21 July 2016. He was 65 years old.
Dr. Richardson, who spent his FBI career in the Bureau’s laboratory division, was also a polygraph expert and the Bureau’s most outspoken internal critic of polygraphy. In 1997, speaking before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Dr. Richardson testified that “[polygraph screening] is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity” and that “anyone can be taught to beat this type of polygraph exam in a few minutes.”
In February 2001, after the arrest of FBI Robert P. Hanssen on espionage charges, Dr. Richardson sent a memorandum to then FBI Director Louis Free advising him that “there is NO evidence whatsoever that polygraph screening has any validity as a diagnostic tool” (original emphasis) and cautioning against any temptation to embrace polygraph screening. Director Free regrettably chose to ignore Dr. Richardson’s advice.
In October 2001, Dr. Richardson was an invited speaker at a public meeting of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph. The critique of polygraphy he provided then remains as pertinent today as it was fifteen years ago.
In 2002, Dr. Richardson issued his challenge to the polygraph community to prove their claimed ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. No polygraph operator ever exhibited the confidence to accept Dr. Richardson’s challenge.
We cherish Drew’s memory.
Among other pursuits, Dr. Richardson was an avid paraglider. We leave you with his most recent posting to his YouTube channel:
The U.S. Border Patrol is facing criticism for the way it administers polygraph exams on would-be hires. The agency has fielded complaints from applicants, members of Congress and the agency’s union.
Customs and Border Protection was required to give polygraphs six years ago to all of its applicants for front-line jobs. That includes port inspectors and Border Patrol agents. Officials say the test was implemented to weed out corruption in the ranks.
The agency’s also under pressure by Congress to hire 1,300 more Border Patrol agents. Critics say what they see as a heavy-handed polygraph examination is hurting those recruitment efforts.
“They’re supposed to be doing the polygraph testing, doing the report and then they send it through, but that’s not what’s happening, at least not in Tucson sector,” said Art Del Cueto, president of the agency’s union in Tucson.
Rather than passing the results of the polygraph on, in the Tucson sector, Del Cueto says one person was made responsible for administering the lie detector test and deciding whether or not to fail an applicant.
“What’s been happening in Tucson sector, is that the individual who’s been doing the polygraph test, he’s acting like the judge, the jury and the executioner,” he said.
The issue has come up before. Republican Rep. Martha McSally chairs the House’s Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee and grilled CBP last April.
“We have heard several anecdotal horror stories of decorated combat veterans who, for some reason, were unable to pass this polygraph coupled with some bizarre-sounding behavior on behalf of some of the polygraph examiners,” McSally said.
A CBP official said their program follows federal standards and said polygraph examiners are monitored on a daily basis and their audio recordings are checked.
Del Cueto read from one complaint, a woman who recently failed her CBP polygraph exam and sent him an email about it.
“He told me that my readings were similar to that of a Russian spy. Or someone that had been very carefully trained. I asked him what was the cause of failure. And he stated I failed for drugs and for falsifying my application. He also told me that he knew I was lying as they already had information about me in the criminal database. He stated that this was known since I arrived at the office. I told him that was not accurate and he said it doesn’t matter,” he read from the email.
The writer of the email also said the examiner shared past lie detector stories with her.
“He then said he knew I manipulated the machine and there were so many ways I could have done it, like curl my toes, count backwards, etc., etc.,” Del Cueto said.
CBP declined an interview about the allegations made against its polygraph examiner in Tucson. A spokesman emailed a list of bullet points on the agency’s polygraph policies, but did not answer questions about those policies.
According to the union, 80 percent of those who fail polygraph exams in Tucson go to work for other law enforcement agencies who administer their own polygraph exams.
Art Del Cueto also spoke about CBP polygraph policy on Episode 84 of the NBPC’s Green Line podcast (beginning at about 12:40), which was released on 30 June 2016.
Chicago Tribune reporter Duaa Eldeib reports on the case of convicted murderer Anteleto Jones, who alleges that Chicago Police Department polygraph operator Robert Bartik, who has a documented history of misconduct, physically and mentally coerced him into falsely confessing during an unrecorded interrogation. Excerpt:
A convicted murderer from Chicago who claims he was coerced into confessing by a polygraph examiner wins a round in court in his quest to get a new trial.
An Illinois court has granted a Chicago man a path forward to pursue claims that he was physically and mentally coerced by a Chicago police polygraph examiner into falsely confessing to murder.
The confession led to Anteleto Jones’ conviction and 44-year prison sentence for a gang-related shooting in West Englewood in 2000, when Jones was 19.
An eyewitness who moved out of state after the killing has emerged to say that he did not see Jones at the scene on the night of the slaying, according to a recent Illinois appellate court opinion that allows Jones to continue his effort to have his conviction reversed or get a new trial.
The eyewitness is now the third person to claim that Jones was not involved in the killing, the justices wrote in the 64-page split decision handed down June 30. Immediately after his trial, two other men came forward to say Jones was with them elsewhere at the time of the murder of Jerry “Old Baby” Green, court records show. In addition, one of Jones’ co-defendants previously filed a sworn statement saying he was “solely responsible” for the slaying of Green, who was shot multiple times outside of his friend’s house, records show.
“The only evidence connecting defendant to this murder was his own confession, which he has consistently claimed was coerced and which is not corroborated by some of the physical evidence,” according to the June 30 opinion.
Jones claimed in court records that after denying involvement in Green’s slaying, he was asked if he wanted to take a polygraph exam — sometimes called a lie-detector test — and he agreed. Instead, Jones said, Chicago police polygraph examiner Robert Bartik “punched and shoved” him to get him to confess, before any polygraph exam was ever administered. Jones later repeated the confession in a video recording.
The appellate decision cited a letter Jones wrote to his parents in which he claimed that Bartik threatened him with “the death penalty” because Bartik allegedly said that he knew “for a fact” that Jones would fail the test. Jones wrote that “it was set up for (him) to fail,” records show.
The court’s decision referred to the Tribune’s 2013 investigation into the role of Chicago police’s polygraph unit in obtaining confessions that later were found to be false. The Tribune found that the city has paid millions of dollars in damages in polygraph-related cases. Several cases that involved the polygraph unit have unraveled.
One of the cases examined by the Tribune was that of Donny McGee, who also was taken to Bartik for a polygraph as part of a high-profile murder investigation. Bartik testified that McGee began confessing before he could say a word. But the jury found McGee not guilty, and DNA evidence later excluded him.
McGee alleged that Bartik fabricated the confession and filed a lawsuit against Bartik, two detectives and the city. A jury initially awarded McGee $1.3 million, but the case was appealed and sent back for a new trial after it was determined that a juror had improperly done internet research and brought it into the jury room. The city settled for $870,000 in 2014 without admitting wrongdoing.
Serbian news site b92 reports on the case of a man who passed a police polygraph test regarding the disappearance of a woman he has since confessed to having murdered. After passing the polygraph, Rajkovic allededly went on to rape and murder a three-year old girl.
Murderer “passed lie detector test before killing again”
A man detained on July 10 on suspicion that he raped and murdered a 3-year-old child the day before, on June 24 passed a lie detector test “with no problem.”
Source: Vecernje novosti Tuesday, July 12, 2016 | 11:20
Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti is reporting this on Tuesday.
The suspect, Vladica Rajkovic, took the polygraph test as part of a police investigation into the June 18 disappearance of Dragana Stefanovic. He has in the meantime confessed to murdering the woman, and told the police the details of his crime.
On Friday, 21 September 2001, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s senior analyst for Cuban affairs, 16-year veteran Ana Belen Montes, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage for Cuba. News that Montes had beaten the polygraph while spying for Cuba was first reported here on AntiPolygraph.org by one of our forum members. That Montes beat the polygraph is confirmed by retired DIA counterintelligence investigator Scott W. Carmichael, who writes “She had successfully completed DIA’s counterintelligence scope polygraph examination in March 1994, seemingly with flying colors.”1
The Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General conducted a review of the Montes case and on 16 June 2005 produced a top secret report titled, “Review of the Actions Taken to Deter, Detect and Investigate the Espionage Activities of Ana Belen Montes.” An unclassified version of the report (15 MB PDF) with major redactions has been publicly released.
The DoD IG reviewed over 250,000 pages of documentation2 but evidently failed to review the National Academy of Science’s (NAS) 2003 landmark report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, which concluded, among other things, that “[polygraph testing’s] accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies.” The NAS report is nowhere mentioned in the Montes review.
The 180-page report devotes just a single page3 — half of which is redacted — to Montes’ having beaten the polygraph.
The Montes review makes several recommendations with respect to polygraph policy. In short, it calls for more research into polygraph countermeasures, retention of polygraph charts for 35 years, and requiring polygraph screening for everyone at DIA.
Faced with a Cuban spy who beat the polygraph, DoD consulted not the scientific literature on polygraphy, but rather turned to those with the most to hide — the federal polygraph community — and decided that more polygraphs is the answer.
Retired DIA counterintelligence officer Scott W. Carmichael notes that Montes was hardly the first Cuban spy to beat the polygraph:
Indications of a spy’s presence [within the DIA] were manifest. There was the CIA’s persistent difficulty in running Cuban agents. It seemed that every operation was doubled back against the CIA by an incredibly effective Cuban Intelligence Service as agent after agent defeated CIA polygraph examinations.4
One of the Cuban spies who beat the polygraph was the late Nicolas Sirgado, who beat a polygraph test administered by now retired CIA polygrapher Alan B. Trabue.
The DoD IG’s decision to ignore the science on polygraphs was presaged by a 2002 memorandum on polygraph policy by then Assistant Secretary of Defense John P. Stenbit, who completely disregarded the National Academy of Sciences’ key finding that reliance on polygraph screening is unjustified, and even dangerous to national security.
By systematically ignoring the science on polygraphs and instead increasing its reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy, DoD has shortchanged national security.
Below are the DoD IG’s specific recommendations regarding polygraph policy:
3 b (U//FOUO) We recommend that the Director, Counterintelligence Field Activity5:
(i) (U//FOUO) Research polygraph countermeasures and then collaborate with polygraph manufactures to develop, produce, and distribute new countermeasures detection devices for use by polygraph community consumers.
(ii) (U//FOUO) Develop comprehensive polygraph standards for the DoD polygraph community to increase the effectiveness of polygraph countermeasures [sic].
(iii) (U//FOUO) Establish a comprehensive polygraph countermeasures course at the DoD Polygraph Institute that requires all DoD polygraph examiners to attend the course within 1 year of graduation from initial polygraph training and thereafter requires them to attend refresher training at least biennially.
(iv) (U//FOUO) Direct all DoD polygraph programs to report to the DoD Polygraph Institute all polygraph examinations in which countermeasures are confirmed.
4 (U//FOUO) We recommend that the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Counterintelligence and Security continue working with Congress to change DoD polygraph provisions in 10 U.S.C. section 1564a, and, once the law is changed, to advise us of the update to DoD Directive 5210.48 and DoD Regulation 5210.48-R.6
5 (U//FOUO) We recommend that the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency use pre-employment Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph examinations for every Defense Intelligence Agency position that requires access to Top Secret material.7
6 (U//FOUO) We recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence direct all DoD entities with polygraph programs to digitize and retain for a minimum of 35 years all Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph examination charts.8
7 (C) We recommend that the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency institute a coordinated employee vetting program that uses personnel specialists, security officials, polygraph examiners, and psychologists to determine the suitability of prospective employees.9
Carmichael, Scott W. True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba’s Master Spy. Naval Institute Press, 2007 at p. 41. [↩]
See p. 2 of the report, p. 14 of the PDF file. [↩]