Senator Shelby Calls for More Lie Detector “Testing” at FBI

In a knee-jerk reacton to the Hanssen case, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has called for increased use of polygraph screening at the FBI. In an article titled “Russian Spy Case Worries Congress,” Carol Skorneck of the Associated Press writes:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The arrest of a veteran FBI agent on charges of spying for Moscow shows the bureau must beef up security and regularly give lie-detector tests to all counterintelligence agents, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman said Tuesday.

The case of Robert Philip Hanssen, 56, could represent “a very, very, very serious case of espionage,” Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said in a telephone interview from his home state of Alabama.

“I think it sends a message that the FBI is going to have to be more vigilant in dealing with its own agents that are assigned to the areas of counterintelligence,” said Shelby, who said he was briefed about the case a week to 10 days ago. “I don’t know offhand if the FBI agents are routinely polygraphed or not, but if they’re dealing with counterintelligence, they ought to be.”

DOE Polygraph Program Put on Hold

In an article entitled “Lab Security Measures Shelved Pending Study,” Washington Post staff writer Walter Pincus suggests that expanded polygraph screening has been suspended pending a review. Excerpt:

In his last days in office, former energy secretary Bill Richardson temporarily suspended a series of measures that had been taken over the past two years to tighten security at the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories.

Richardson discontinued some of the measures, which included giving polygraph or “lie detector” tests to more than 10,000 employees, pending a high-level review to determine whether they have done more harm than good.

He had instituted many of the security measures under pressure from Congress after allegations of Chinese espionage at the lab. But laboratory managers and scientists have complained in recent months that the crackdown was making it difficult for them to do their jobs and for the labs to recruit first-rate researchers.

“I’m not just concerned with security,” Richardson said in a telephone interview. “I was concerned with the morale of the labs.”

In addition to widespread polygraphing of Energy Department employees, the measures included tighter computer security, limited access to classified materials and controls over foreign visitors.

Polygraph Unreliability Underscored in Oregon Murder Case

In an article entitled, “Key witness now prime suspect,” staff writer Michelle Roberts of The Oregonian reports that Mr. Humberto Castro Soler, who testified that he watched Mr. James Bryant shoot a Salem woman and her boyfriend over a 1999 drug deal gone bad, is now the prime suspect in those murders. Mr. Soler had “passed” a polygraph “test” administered by a Portland police officer, while Mr. Bryant had “failed.” The following excerpt underscores the unreliability of polygraph chart readings and the dangers of placing any confidence in them:

Polygraph questions

Police have made no secret about why they relied on Soler.

He passed a polygraph test administered by Portland Police Detective Sgt. Glenda Leutwyler, a respected polygrapher who handles dozens of cases every year for the district attorney’s office.

Although polygraph results aren’t admissible in court, they are often used as investigative tools.

Without the test, no detective worth his badge would have hinged a high-profile murder case on the word of a man like Soler, who has spent most of his adult life in prison for a string of armed robberies and drug charges.

Soler was not offered a plea agreement until he passed Leutwyler’s polygraph Oct. 24, 1999. Police thought they’d solved their case, their confidence underscored when Clark, who insisted Soler was the shooter, failed Leutwyler’s exam Oct. 29, 1999.

But in recent months, three polygraph experts have challenged those results.

David Raskin, an Alaska-based polygraph expert Bryant’s lawyers hired in October, examined Soler’s test and deemed it inconclusive.

Raskin criticized Leutwyler’s results, saying that detectives were eager to believe Soler and “made great efforts to reassure (Soler) that they wanted and expected him to pass.”

Raskin also found different results for Clark’s polygraph test, saying it was inconclusive about whether she saw Soler shoot Pawloski, but truthful about seeing Soler shoot Schneider.

Leutwyler defended her results and discredits Raskin as a hired gun for the defense whom Bryant’s attorneys “had to go all the way to Alaska to find.”

At the request of Clark’s attorneys, Stan Abrams, a local polygraph expert, also analyzed Leutwyler’s charts. Using his own scoring method, Abrams found Clark’s polygraph inconclusive.

When Abrams scored the results using Leutwyler’s method, he arrived at the same results she did. Both methods are accepted by the American Polygraph Association.

Ken Simmons, a former Oregon State Police polygrapher who now runs his own business, also deemed the results inconclusive.

“My results were tending in the same direction as Leutwyler’s . . . but I didn’t think (Soler and Clark’s) reactions were high enough to reach a conclusion,” Simmons said.

He also underscored why polygraph tests are not admissible in court and perhaps should not be used as a primary foundation for a major criminal case.

“The fact is that with polygraphs, even if they’re done well, there’s always a chance for error,” he said.

Jenny Cooke, who represents Bryant, and other defense attorneys involved in the case accuse prosecutors of standing by Leutwyler’s results “at all costs.”

“I think the prosecutor’s office won’t charge Soler because they’re terrified that this case is going to blow (Leutwyler’s) credibility all to hell,” Cooke said. “And what does that say about all the other cases they’ve used her for?”

Multnomah County Chief Deputy Norman Frink said he couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation, but “People can assume we’re not fools.”

Shawnee County, KS Approves Funds for Polygraph

In an article entitled, “Sheriff’s department to get polygraph equipment,” Alicia Henrikson of the Topeka Capital-Journal writes:

County commissioners approved the purchase of a polygraph instrument and polygraph training for a sheriff’s deputy on Thursday in a 3-0 vote at the county commission meeting. The cost for the instrument, training and a laptop computer is $17,900.

Undersheriff Dan Breci said that the main reason why the sheriff’s office wanted a polygraph is because the office wants to use it in its hiring process.

“We want to make sure we are hiring the best,” Breci said.

Shawnee County, Kansas Sheriff’s Office Asks for Polygraph

In an article entitled, “Sheriff’s office asks county for polygraph,” Alicia Henrikson of the Topeka Capital-Journal writes:

The Shawnee County Sheriff’s Department has never had anyone trained to operate a polygraph instrument.

The department has never had such a need because it doesn’t have a polygraph.

That may be about to change. The sheriff’s department is asking the county commission to approve the purchase of a polygraph instrument and training for an officer to use the machine. The $19,700 cost will cover the polygraph, training and a laptop computer.

“The perception in law enforcement circles is that polygraphs are more reliable than voice stress analyzers,” Undersheriff Dan Breci said. “Large departments usually have polygraphs and people trained to use polygraph instruments.”

Shawnee County officials need to understand that while both voice stress analyzers and polygraphs may be good props for an interrogation, neither of these techniques have been shown by competent scientific research to operate at better than chance levels of accuracy. See George Maschke’s action alert for details on how you can help set Shawnee County officials straight on lie detectors.

Mention of “Polygraph” Prompts Mistrial

Patrick E. Gauen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes on the case of Rodney Woidtke, who was being retried for murder in Bellevue, Illinois:

Polygraph, or lie-detector, tests are not admissible in Illinois courts, and case law suggests that mere mention of the word can be considered poison to a jury’s fairness.

“Domenici Wants Review Committee to Weigh Polygraph Benefits to DOE Lab Security”

In a press release occasioned by the commencement of the National Academy of Sciences’ polygraph review, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) expresses his concerns about the Department of Energy’s use of polygraphs:

“I hope the work of this committee, backed by the NAS, will give us an objective analysis of polygraphs, and help determine the necessity for widespread polygraph testing,” [Sen. Domenici] said. “My understanding is that lab workers do not object to intrusive tests that have scientific basis. For example, the drug tests required of some lab employees are not contentious because they are scientifically credible. Polygraphs need to meet the same litmus test before they enjoy such acceptance.”

Birmingham, Alabama Police Captain Suspended for Refusing Polygraph

In an article entitled “Captain Suspended Over Missing Computers,” Carol Robinson of the Birmingham News writes:

A Birmingham police captain has been suspended for nearly nine weeks for refusing to take a lie detector test in connection with missing departmental computers.

Capt. Ellison Beggs, the highest-ranking officer suspended in recent memory, will be off without pay for 45 working days beginning Feb. 12, according to Chief Mike Coppage’s disciplinary notice filed Wednesday with the Jefferson County Personnel Board.

In many parts of the United States, public employees accused of wrongdoing can be ordered to submit to pseudoscientific lie detector “testing” and punished for merely refusing to submit. By eliminating the governmental exemptions to the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act, we can put an end to such abuse.

Jenny Jones Again Promotes the Pseudoscience of Polygraphy

Today on the Jenny Jones television talk show: “Those Guests Thought They Were The Best, But They Couldn’t Pass The Test.”

A look at some of the year’s most entertaining lie detector tests. Meet one man who wants his girlfriend to take a lie detector test to prove she isn’t having an affair with another woman. Also, meet women who swear their body parts are “au naturel.”

See George Maschke’s bulletin board message “Set Jenny Jones Straight on Lie Detector ‘Tests'” for more on this show’s promotion of pseudoscience, and how to send a message to Jenny Jones.