Federal Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Examiner Handbook

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.

Welcome to the AntiPolygraph.org News

After more than five years of manually updating the Polygraph News page on AntiPolygraph.org, we’re moving to a weblog or “blog” format for linking to and commenting on polygraph, voice stress, and other “lie detector” related news. We hope you will enjoy the change. The old polygraph news pages will remain available, but will no longer be updated.

“Lying in Wait”

Congressional Quarterly national security editor Jeff Stein discusses a jihadist article on polygraph countermeasures recently discovered and translated by AntiPolygraph.org:

Lying in Wait: Al Qaeda “knows that polygraphs are unreliable and has an idea of how to beat them,” says a former U.S. Army linguist.

George W. Maschke, a translator fluent in Arabic and Farsi, discovered an article on an al Qaeda-linked Web site last week that instructs followers on specific countermeasures to use when U.S. interrogators hook them up to polygraph machines.

“There are many tricks for fooling the device,” says “The Myth of the Lie Detector,” originally posted on the al-Tawhed Web site in 2004. “We must realize that the idea of the device is based on measuring the body’s physiological changes. Thus, if the mujahid [holy warrior] is able to control these changes, it will enable him to fool the device.”

The article goes on to describe numerous methods a prisoner can use to control his breathing and blood pressure, evidently taken from articles and discussions challenging the science behind polygraphs posted by former U.S. intelligence and law enforcement personnel at an anti-polygraph Web site in the United States.

Maschke, who also worked with the FBI on terrorism cases in the 1990s, posted the original Arabic version along with his translation at the site.

He and other former intelligence personnel, including a retired senior FBI scientist, maintain that certain kinds of polygraph tests are unreliable and can be defeated easily. U.S. interrogators have been using them in Iraq with mixed results.

“The Moment of Truth: Polygraph Firm Banks on Separating Fact from Fiction”

Washington Post staff writer Michael Alison Chandler profiles Northern Virginia Pre-Employment and Polygraph Services. Excerpt:

Light filters through the heavy morning clouds and into the cramped waiting room, shining on Lawrence J. Mangan as he shifts in his chair, waiting to be grilled.

Just before 9 a.m., Darryl L. DeBow comes for him. They walk through a storage room and into a windowless office, where DeBow will attach Mangan to a computer, via two chest straps that will monitor his breathing and put a blood pressure cuff on his arm and metal plates on his fingertips to gauge perspiration.

Mangan has gone through an 800-question psychological exam and taken a drug test. He now faces his final barrier to employment at the Leesburg Police Department: a lie detector test.

He’ll be one of about 1,000 people tested this year by Northern Virginia Pre-Employment and Polygraph Services, which is affiliated with the Virginia School of Polygraph, based in downtown Leesburg.

If he passes, Mangan can quit his job with the Vienna Police Department, with its alternating schedule of nights and days, and work saner shifts closer to home and his wife and three children.

“We’ve weeded out a lot of bad candidates. They come in spit shined and look good on paper, then fall apart during the polygraph,” DeBow said in an interview. “Sex crimes, theft from employers, falsification of records. . . . You name it, people have done it.”

The beginning of the test is informal. No wires, no digital monitors. Just a couple of guys talking. DeBow inquires about Mangan’s 21 years as a New York City correctional officer and asks him to rate how happy his childhood was and how many drinks he has in a given week.

“We don’t work with angels here,” DeBow told him. “You got to give me the 100 percent truth. You got to get it out there.”

Before he entered the controversial field of polygraphy, DeBow was a Loudoun County sheriff’s deputy. In the early 1990s, shortly after a promotion to sergeant, he fell off a ladder during a SWAT team drill and landed on his back. His injuries caused chronic pain and confined him to a desk job. DeBow went to polygraph school and returned to the department as an examiner.

“When one door shuts, another door opens,” he said. “I was given a second chance.”

In 2003, he bought the Virginia School of Polygraph, one of 19 schools in the world accredited by the American Polygraph Association, and moved the headquarters from Virginia Beach to Leesburg. The school annually trains 20 to 35 examiners, who come from as far as Costa Rica and Canada.

DeBow and four other examiners administer tests, monitoring the activities of convicted sex offenders, aiding criminal investigations, testing potential hires for local police or fire departments and checking the fidelity of clients’ potential spouses.

“Everybody has that deep, dark little secret that they want to keep hidden,” DeBow said. His job is to expose buried misdeeds through his probing questions and, later, through his technological fluency.

The informal, introductory questions continued:

Did you ever commit the act of burglary?

Assault and battery? Domestic abuse?

Rape, forcing someone to have sex who was drunk or drugged?

Exposing yourself or peeping in someone’s window?

Petty larceny; theft of anything?

After a string of no’s, Mangan hesitated at the last question. The hum from the computer filled the room.

“I guess when I was a kid, maybe candy,” Mangan finally said.

“When you lie, you have what is called a sympathetic response; your body goes into fight-or-flight mode,” DeBow said. “It affects the pulse rate, blood pressure, respiratory and galvanic skin response [sweatiness]. We measure these things.”

“That’s nonsense,” said Drew C. Richardson, a former FBI agent with a PhD in physiology. He has testified before the Senate, challenging the government’s use of polygraph testing. “There isn’t an isolated ‘lie response,’ ” he said.

Such emotions as anger, surprise or revulsion also can trigger similar physiological responses, Richardson said. When a job is on the line, someone could be responding in fear “to the consequences of being branded a liar, rather than being caught in a lie,” he said.

Dr. Richardson is right. There is broad consensus amongst scientists that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis, and false positives are all too common.

Victoria, Australia: “No Lie Tests for Sex Offenders”

Tanya Giles reports for the Herald Sun:

A RADICAL proposal to force paroled sex offenders to take regular lie detector tests to help stop them reoffending has been rejected.

Police Minister Tim Holding said the Government was sceptical of the reliability of polygraphs as a scientific tool to gather evidence, and would not proceed with tests. “No court in Australia allows polygraph to be submitted as admissible evidence,” he said.

He said the Government had already begun the Sex Offenders Register and introduced the Serious Sex Offenders Monitoring Bill into Parliament so police could keep a close eye on freed sex offenders.

The British Government recently introduced legislation making it compulsory for pedophiles to take polygraph tests so authorities could monitor their behaviour after release.

A third of sex offenders polygraph-tested in Britain in 2003 admitted unsupervised contact with children since being freed.

The program is already used in 36 states in the US as well as in Canada.

But Mr Holding said Victoria set its own laws and did not follow the decisions of other countries.

Last year, FBI-trained forensic polygraph expert Steven Van Aperen briefed the Department of Justice on how the program could be used to help prevent pedophiles re-offending.

Mr Van Aperen, who frequently works on high-profile homicide cases, said polygraphs had been shown to act as an artificial conscience. He said other benefits included:

IDENTIFYING previously unknown victims who could be counselled and help police.

REDUCING the prison population and its costs.

CATCHING repeat offenders.

PROVIDING more effective parole supervision.

A departmental briefing paper on the proposal, seen by the Herald Sun, recommended that the Government not proceed with tests.

Justice policy advisers said polygraphs, which are based on the theory that lying raises anxiety, causes sweating and increases heart and breathing rates, was a highly contentious “scientific” technique.

They raised concerns that using polygraphs as a condition of parole could undermine the new Sex Offenders Register.

The advisers said it could also interfere with the Adult Parole Board’s discretion when releasing prisoners.

Nixon Wanted Polygraph for “Deep Throat” W. Mark Felt

In an article titled, “President Called Felt a ‘Traitor’ in ’73,” William Neikirk and Mike Dorning report for the Chicago Tribune that White House tapes reveal that former President Richard M. Nixon wanted to force W. Mark Felt to take a lie detector “test.” Excerpt:

WASHINGTON — Nearly 15 months before his 1974 resignation, President Richard Nixon described W. Mark Felt as a traitor who should be required to take a lie detector test, according to previously undisclosed tapes of White House conversations stored at the National Archives.

Felt was identified this week as the Washington Post’s Watergate source known as Deep Throat. While a national debate erupted over whether Felt is a hero or a villain, tapes previously disclosed showed that Nixon had concluded as early as October 1972 that Felt, then the deputy director of the FBI, was leaking damaging information on the Watergate scandal.

The newly disclosed tapes also show Nixon and his aides firmly believed Felt was leaking information to The New York Times and Time magazine on a variety of topics, including wiretaps of reporters and a White House-authorized burglary of the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, who earlier had leaked the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s internal history of decision-making in the Vietnam War.

In a tape that was recorded May 12, 1973, Nixon brought up Felt’s name in a telephone conversation with Chief of Staff Alexander Haig, saying that Felt apparently had “blown the whistle” on the administration’s involvement in investigating Ellsberg.

Referring to Felt, Nixon told Haig, “Everybody is to know that he is a goddamn traitor and just watch him damned carefully.” But he added that he was going to leave it to the “new man to clean house” at the FBI, a reference to the vacancy at the bureau after acting director L. Patrick Gray had stepped down two weeks before.

Nixon said he found out from Time’s attorney three or four months before this May meeting that Felt had leaked information to the magazine. He said he told Gray at the time to investigate leaks Nixon said were coming from the FBI. Nixon said Gray protested that they could not be coming from the bureau.

“And I said we have it on very good authority that they’re from Felt,” Nixon said he told Gray. But when the acting FBI director said that the leaked information couldn’t be coming from Felt, Nixon said, “I said, `Dammit . . . you ought to give him a lie detector test.’ You know I was very tough.”

Gray told Nixon that he could not give Felt a lie detector test and vouched for his deputy, as did Atty. Gen. Richard Kleindienst.

In another White House tape recording, former President Nixon infamously stated, “I don’t know anything about polygraphs, and I don’t know how accurate they are, but I know they’ll scare the hell out of people.”

“Do Lie Detectors Lie?”

Former FBI agent Clint Van Zandt comments for MSNBC. Excerpt:

A polygraph does not really separate truth from lies; or the honest from the liar. It simply provides information concerning any change in physiological response in areas such as respiration, heartbeat and blood pressure, this while the person being tested undergoes questioning.

As a retired FBI agent, I don’t want to take anything away from my former law enforcement colleagues who practice the art (vs. science) of detecting truth, but I have been less than confident in the statistical success rate of the polygraph, having seen killers “pass” the test, and honest people “fail.”

You see, the prevailing theory behind the polygraph is that when someone tells a lie, they become nervous about their lies and their nervousness causes changes that can be noted in their breathing, their heartbeat, their perspiration and their blood pressure. An initial baseline is established by asking questions of the person being tested whose correct answers are known to the polygraph operator (or forensic psychophysiologist). Deviation from the known baseline for truthful answers is then taken as an indication of deception.

But what about psychopaths, sociopaths or just damn good liars? If the old adage is correct, i.e., “If you believe it yourself it then passes as truth,” or if you have learned to control of your bodily reactions, why can’t you “pass” a lie detector test even if you are “lying?”

And what about the opposite: What if you are completely innocent but nervous, angry, sad, embarrassed or just fearful of a test whose results may affect your entire life? Or what if you have a cold, a muscular problem, a headache, or if you’re simply constipated? Can these purely non-voluntary bodily symptoms or conditions affect the physiological changes that are being measured against “the truth baseline?” And what if you are nervous? Is the nervousness due to the fact that you know you’ve done something wrong and may get found out by the polygraph, or are you simply nervous for any number of other reasons–all totally unrelated to your complicity in some suggested criminal act?

The ACLU, an organization with which I do not normally side, supported the passage of the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act that outlawed the use of the polygraph “for the purpose of rendering a diagnostic opinion regarding the honesty or dishonesty of an individual.”

Does the polygraph, in the hands of a trained, competent individual really allow the operator to detect deception on the part of the person being tested? Well, yes and no. Try betting your life or your career on that one!

“Bullshitting the Lie Detector”

Harmon Leon writes for SF Weekly. Excerpt:

This ad appears on Craigslist:

Has your parole officer accused you of doing something you haven’t done? Could this put you back in jail? Then we want to help.

Call us and we’ll clear your name.

We’ve got a show to help you prove who’s telling the truth.

If selected, we will profile your story on a new national TV show where guests are polygraphed to get the truth out.

I’m intrigued. My e-mail reply: I am on parole!

Going by the name Hank, I express how much, I, who-is-on-parole, would love to be on their TV show (whatever the hell that might be). Immediately the TV producer e-mails back, thrilled to hear from I, who-is-on-parole. She leaves a phone number. I, who-is-on-parole, phone her. I weave an elaborate tale involving weapons and drug charges. This pleases her. I elaborate. I have something to prove to my probation officer. He said I flunked a recent drug test, which landed me back in jail for 20 days. The producer’s even more pleased.

A day later the producer phones back. She wants me on the show! That’s right Bubba, I’m booked on Lie Detector (Tuesdays, 8 p.m.), a program on family-friendly PAX TV that has a motto: “The lie detector holds the power to reveal the truth and expose deception wherever it might be found.”

For discussion, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread, “Lie Detector” TV Show w/Rolonda Watts & Ed Gelb.

“Father of Idaho Kids Fails Lie Detector”

Associated Press correspondent Nicholas K. Geranios reports. Excerpt:

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — The father of two children missing from a home where three people were killed failed parts of a lie detector test, but is not a suspect in the case, authorities said.

Steve Groene said in a television interview that he lacked an alibi and failed portions of a voluntary polygraph test administered by the FBI, but Kootenai County sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said that was not enough to make Groene a suspect.

“There is no evidence linking Steve Groene to this crime, to make him a suspect or a person of interest,” Wolfinger said Monday.

He attributed the polygraph results to Groene’s emotional distress after his ex-wife and a son were slain and another son, Dylan, 9, and his 8-year-old daughter, Shasta, disappeared more than a week ago.

The polygraph measures a person’s “physiological response to their emotional state,” Wolfinger said. “Steve Groene is very distraught and upset.”

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office is right not to allow the results of Mr. Groene’s polygraph “test” to guide the investigation. Polygraphic lie detection has no scientific basis, regardless of whether or not the person being “tested” is distraught. For discussion, see the message board thread, Idaho Dad Cleared After Told He Failed Poly.

Update 25 March 2021: Steve Groene’s two missing children were kidnapped and abused by serial killer Joseph E. Duncan III. Groene died of cancer in 2019 at the age of 62.

“Interrogation Machine’s Maker Settles Crowe Suit”

San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Onell R. Soto reports. (The National Institute for Truth Verification, which markets the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), had earlier admitted in court that their device is not capable of lie detection, but continues to suggest otherwise on its website):

The maker of a machine police used while interrogating the brother of slain Escondido girl Stephanie Crowe agreed to settle a lawsuit that accused it of making a faulty device that falsely led to murder charges, lawyers said in court yesterday.

Michael Crowe and two friends, Joshua Treadway and Aaron Houser, were initially accused in 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe’s stabbing death in 1998. Their lawyers said police falsely obtained confessions using the machine.

Murder charges were dropped after Stephanie’s blood was found on a transient’s sweat shirt as the boys headed to trial in 1999. The transient, Richard Tuite, was convicted of manslaughter in the slaying last year and is in prison.

After the charges against the three boys were dropped, their families sued police officers, prosecutors, the government agencies that employed them and the makers of the machine.

U.S. District Judge John S. Rhoades dismissed the majority of the case; attorneys for the families said they will appeal his rulings.

The settlement means there will be no trial for the National Institute for Truth Verification, makers of the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer. Rhoades had ordered a trial six weeks ago.

Lawyers for both sides said they can’t spell out how much the company will pay the families because of a confidentiality agreement.

“It’s not an admission of liability,” Kimberly Oberrecht, who represents the company, said of the settlement.

Crowe family lawyer Milton Silverman called the company’s machine “a fraud and a sham” in court papers and said its use coerced two of the three boys to wrongly tell police they took part in the stabbing death of Stephanie.

Rhoades said he didn’t believe he could approve keeping the settlement amount secret, but the lawyers said later they will arrange for the suit to be settled out of court.

The National Institute’s West Palm Beach, Fla., offices were closed yesterday evening. The company describes the $9,995 machine on its Web site as being “effective in all investigative situations.”

It lists 158 police agencies in California, including several in San Diego County, as clients and says the machine is more effective than a polygraph in determining whether someone is lying.

Michael Crowe and Treadway both denied involvement in Stephanie’s stabbing, but they said they began doubting themselves after an Oceanside police officer working with Escondido investigators told them the machine was highly accurate and indicated they were lying, lawyers said.