Once Secret CIA Report Reveals Derogatory Information on Polygraph Luminaries Gugas, Barefoot, and Harrelson

A formerly secret CIA report (PDF) provides derogatory information about three prominent polygraph operators of the mid-20th century. The report was declassified and publicly released pursuant to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.

Chris Gugas

The subject of the two-page report, dated 14 August 1968, is Chris Gugas (1921-2007), a former CIA intelligence officer and staff agent. According to the document, during an undercover assignment in Turkey from 1951-1952 in connection with a secret program called Project Endomorph, Gugas “was a source of constant embarrassment in his contacts with Turkish police officials,” adding that “[h]e was boastful, indiscreet, lacking in sound judgment, knew little or nothing in the fields in which he was self-professedly an expert and was guilty of security breaches in failing to maintain his cover.”

The CIA report also alleges that Gugas misrepresented his qualifications, stating:

Subject professed to be an expert in his knowledge of the polygraph machine and claimed he had two years’ experience with the Los Angeles Police Department prior to his employment with the Agency. However, it was developed that instead of this claimed experience, he had actually spent one or two weeks in a detective school connected with the Los Angeles Police Department where he received below average grades.

The CIA report goes on to detail additional indiscretions by Gugas and notes that after a 1953 assessment by a CIA psychologist, he

…was found to be egotistical, emotionally unstable, possessed of a need to build himself up in the eyes of others and gave either exaggerated or completely erroneous information as to his past positions. His intelligence quotient was found to be comparatively low in relation to those of other Agency employees.

The report notes that Gugas’ termination was recommended, and that he resigned from the CIA on 29 April 1953.

Gugas would go on to become a founding member and eventual president of the American Polygraph Association.

J. Kirk Barefoot

The CIA’s Gugas report goes on to note that J. Kirk Barefoot (1927-2017), another founder of the American Polygraph Association—and its first president—in April 1964

…informed the [Central Intelligence] Agency he had been a witness to unauthorized disclosures of classified information made by a group in a cocktail lounge in Omaha, Nebraska. The individual making the disclosures about ENDOMORPH activities abroad under Agency sponsorship was identified as Leonard HARRELSON. Subject [Chris Gugas], who was then Director of Public Safety for the City of Omaha, Nebraska, was one of the group and it was believed that he was responsible for supplying the classified information to HARRELSON about ENDOMORPH activities.

The report notes that the informant, J. Kirk Barefoot, “was disapproved for Agency employment in 1951 because of falsification of his [Personal History Statement], and questionable maturity, judgment, discretion and honesty.”

Barefoot won the American Polygraph Association’s Alec E. Greene Award in 1973 and its John E. Reid Award (“for distinguished achievements in polygraph research, teaching, or writing”) in 1985.

Leonard H. “Len” Harrelson

Leonard H. Harrelson (1924-2004), whom Barefoot alleged disclosed classified information, ran the now defunct Keeler Polygraph Institute in Chicago—the first polygraph school ever—from 1955 until his retirement.

Regarding Harrelson, the CIA report notes:

Leonard HARRELSON is a private investigator specializing in hypnotism and the use of the polygraph machine. In 1964 he was employed by the Keeler Polygraph Company in Chicago, Illinois. In 1954 HARRELSON was in partnership with Lloyd B. FURR in a private detective agency known as the American Bureau of Investigation, Tower Building, Washington, D.C….

HARRELSON is believed to be a person of poor morals. He was given a medical discharge from the Army as a psychoneurotic in 1949 and had been court-martialed twice for impersonating non-commissioned officers of a rank higher than he possessed. In his business partnership with FURR, HARRELSON would misrepresent himself as being with the FBI by covering the word “American” when presenting his credentials and just showing “Bureau of Investigation”.

Harrelson won the American Polygraph Association’s David L. Motsinger Award in 2000, its Al & Dorothea Clinchard Award in 2002, and its Leonarde Keeler Award (“for long and distinguished service to the polygraph profession”) in 2003.

A cover note to the CIA report wryly observes, “These undesirables all seem to make each other’s acquaintance in some way or other.”

American Polygraph Association Declines Comment as More Racist Text Messages by Member Daniel Ribacoff Surface

Polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff on the set of the Steve Wilcos Show, which cut ties with him after racist text messages came to light

Dirty Cops & PIs blog founder and editor Jeffrey Augustine reports on newly discovered racist text messages attributed to disgraced polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff in an article titled, “Trouble for Polygraph Expert Dan Ribacoff as More Racist Texts Surface.”

Both AntiPolygraph.org and Dirty Cops & PIs previously reported on a different set of racist text messages sent by Ribacoff.

The new racist text messages are associated with Ribacoff’s business’s California telephone number, +13105920027.

One of the newly reported racist text messages associated with Daniel Ribacoff’s California cell phone number (Dirty Cops & PIs blog image)

For his report, Augustine contacted the American Polygraph Association—of which Ribacoff is an associate member—”for comment regarding Ribacoff’s alleged racist text messages and their implications for the polygraph industry.”

American Polygraph Association President Roy Ortiz (APA photo)

In reply, American Polygraph Association president Roy Ortiz “stated that the APA does not comment on matters involving litigation.” It is noteworthy 1) that Augustine’s inquiry was not limited to litigation that Ribacoff faces, 2) that the American Polygraph Association is not a party to that litigation, and 3) that the American Polygraph Association bylaws include no such restriction on commentary.

In 2003, American Polygraph Association president Roy Ortiz, then an APA director and the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department’s polygraph unit, was the subject of specific and credible allegations of corruption.

American Polygraph Association Director Lisa Ribacoff (APA photo)

Augustine also notes that Daniel Ribacoff’s daughter and business associate, Lisa Ribacoff, is a director of the American Polygraph Association:

In the course of our research, we discovered that Dan Ribacoff’s daughter, Lisa Ribacoff, is a current director and board member of the American Polygraph Association. Given the serious implications of the racist messages allegedly sent by the father and CEO of Lisa Ribacoff’s company, and in order to maintain a minimal level of integrity, the APA should require Ms. Ribacoff to recuse herself from participating as a Director of their organization.

Augustine’s article may be read in full here.

American Polygraph Association Seeks to Limit Electoral Challenges, Foreign Influence

American Polygraph AssociationOn 4 July 2015, in a message board post titled “APA Board Conpires [sic] to Limit Eligibility for Elections and International Influence,” a pseudonymous user posting as “Dedicated to Truth”1 attached a Microsoft Word document purporting to be a working draft (141 kb .doc file) of the American Polygraph Association’s bylaws. AntiPolygraph.org has reason to believe that this document is genuine.

The draft bylaws indicate that the APA’s board of directors is seeking to limit electoral challenges from outsiders such as that posed by Daniel Mangan of New Hampshire, who is running for the position of president-elect against J. Patrick O’Burke, a current APA vice president and member of the board of directors who is also director of The Polygraph Institute, LLC, a Texas polygraph school.

“Dedicated to Truth” alleges that Mangan’s candidacy is opposed by the APA board of directors and that the board is contemplating a change to the bylaws that if currently implemented, would have shielded O’Burke from Mangan’s electoral competition. At present, any voting member may be nominated for the position of president-elect. The draft bylaws would change this by adding the requirement that a candidate for the position of president-elect be a sitting member of the board of directors.2 If adopted, perhaps this section should be called “the Mangan Rule.”

“Dedicated to Truth” also alleges that “there is talk…of adding a requirement that anyone seeking election to the BOD must have attended the previous annual seminar.” This latter provision appears to have not yet been written into the draft bylaws.

AntiPolygraph.org understands that in recent years, a growing number of the APA’s new members have been recruited from abroad, often encouraged to join by the American polygraph instructors who train them. “Dedicated to Truth” writes: “The BOD is…afraid of an international takeover of the Association and is planning on excluding non-US citizens from becoming Members of the Board,” pointing to a marginal note by APA general counsel Gordon Vaughan stating in relevant part “RAY NELSON TO DRAFT PROPOSED LANGUAGE THAT NO OFFICER MAY BE NON-US CITIZEN.”

The current draft language would allow a maximum of two members of the board of directors to be non-US citizens, make English the official language of the APA, and impose requirements that might be onerous for any board member not a resident of the United States. In addition, the APA board would require a three-fourths supermajority vote by the general membership to change these restrictions:

4.5       International Composition of the Board of Directors.     At no time may more than two (2) Directors  positions be held by a person who is not a citizen of the United States of America.

The Official Language of the APA is English and official correspondence must be in English.  The official National Office for the APA must be in the continental United States (CONUS) with at least one annual meeting held in a CONUS location that is attended by a quorum.  All Directors must agree and be capable of traveling to CONUS locations for all Board meetings.  The banking institution holding the funds for the APA must also be in a CONUS location.  The provisions in 4.5 may not be changed except by a three fourths (3/4) majority vote of the general membership.

The American Polygraph Association is holding elections via electronic voting this week (5-11 July 2015).

  1. “Dedicated to Truth” is the official motto of the American Polygraph Association. []
  2. See para. 5.1. []

Discredited Lawyer Promotes Discredited Lie Test

F. Lee Bailey
F. Lee Bailey

Disbarred criminal defense lawyer F. Lee Bailey will be the keynote speaker at a seminar jointly presented by the American Polygraph Association and the Maine Polygraph Association next Wednesday to Friday, 24-26 April 2013 in Saco, Maine. The stated purpose of the seminar is “to educate lawyers, investigators, therapists, probation and governmental officers and members of the judiciary on the current state of polygraph – often referred to by the misnomer ‘Lie Detector’ – usage in the United States.” Such individuals will be required to pay $250 for the privilege. It is perhaps fitting that a crooked lawyer would be selected as keynote speaker by practitioners of a crooked profession: polygraphy depends on the operator lying to and otherwise deceiving the person being “tested,” and the American Polygraph Association doesn’t think it’s an ethical problem that one of their past presidents, Ed Gelb, falsely passed himself off as a Ph.D. in marketing his polygraph services. Incidentally, Gelb and Bailey collaborated in a television show called “Lie Detector” (which Bailey avers is a misnomer) that aired from 1982-83.

Continue reading Discredited Lawyer Promotes Discredited Lie Test

Iowa Polygraph Association Lawsuit Withdrawn

In February 2007, AntiPolygraph.org News cited a Des Moines Register article about a defamation lawsuit filed by former Iowa Polygraph Association (IPA) president James E. Reistroffer against three members of the Association’s ethics committee: Mike McDermott, Dennis Wilbur, and Jan Caylor Martins. The matter is now settled, with Reistroffer having withdrawn his lawsuit, and each of the three respondents having signed a letter of apology to Reistroffer.

According to Mr. Reistroffer, the original ethics complaint against him arose when, as president of the IPA, he “made an inquiry about the methods of performing examinations on sex offenders” in the state of Iowa. Reistroffer felt that another polygraph examiner “was in error by performing examinations against the standards and practices of the Iowa Polygraph Association and the American Polygraph Association.”

As a consequence of his inquiry, Mr. Reistroffer was removed as president of the IPA and given an oral reprimand. He has since resigned as a member of the IPA and is now the president of a new polygraph organization, the Iowa Polygraph Society.

The respondents’ letter of apology (245 kb PDF), dated 6 June 2008, is addressed to Ms. Judy Scharff of the Iowa Polygraph Association and Mr. Reistroffer and reads as follows:

Dear Ms. Scharff and Mr. Reistroffer:

We, Mike McDermott, Dennis Wilbur and Jan Caylor Martins, as members of the 2006 Iowa Polygraph Association Grievance Committee, take this means to advise you of the following:

1. James E. Reistroffer has brought a defamation action against us in the Iowa District Court for Scott County arising out of our investigation of a complaint concerning him in his capacity as president of the Iowa Polygraph Association in 2006. During the course of that investigation, we made findings adverse to James E. Reistroffer that questioned his ethics, and we recommended to the Iowa Polygraph Association that he be removed as president and that our report be forwarded to the APA Ethics Committee Chair, Donald Weinstein. Based on our recommendation, the association removed James E. Reistroffer from the office of president and precluded him from a board position for a period of three years. He was given an oral reprimand pursuant to our recommendation, and our findings were sent to Donald Weinstein, the chairman of the American Polygraph Association Ethics Committee.

2. We apologize to James E. Reistroffer because our committee had no authority under the by-laws of the Iowa Polygraph Association to make the findings and recommendations set out in our report to the association on April 17, 2006. Information we obtained during our investigation was disseminated beyond our committee and the Iowa Polygraph Association board of directors. It was disclosed to Donald Weinstein, who was not a member of the Iowa Polygraph Association Committee or its board of directors. The findings of our investigation are considered privileged and should not have been released outside of the committee or the board of directors.

3. We do not object to allowing James E. Reistroffer to be restored to full membership without any conditions imposed on his right to hold any office. We similarly have no objection to allowing Anthony Reistroffer to be restored to Iowa Polygraph Association membership.

4. James E. Reistroffer was, in fact, the co-chair of the Grievance Committee of the American Polygraph Association at all times relevant to the inquiry by our committee in 2006.

5. A copy of this statement will be sent to Donald Weinstein, the chairman of the American Polygraph Association Ethics Committee.

6. We apologize for the harm and expense our actions have caused James E. Reistroffer, his family, and the Iowa Polygraph Association.

7. James E. Reistroffer has dismissed his defamation action against us and his claims against us have been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. At this time we wish to move on in a positive direction to benefit all parties involved.

American Polygraph Association Disapproves Fox’s Moment of Truth Lie Detector Show

Scott Michels reports for ABC News in “Is the Truth Worth $500,000?”:

Is the Truth Worth $500,000?
‘Truth’ or Fiction? Polygraph Association Questions New Reality Show

Dec. 13, 2007—

Hook someone up to a lie detector. Ask personal questions. Watch the person squirm.

That’s the premise of the new Fox TV reality show, “The Moment of Truth,” which some polygraph experts have criticized.

Contestants are asked a series of personal — and potentially embarrassing — questions while connected to a polygraph machine. Answer honestly, the premise goes, and you win money.

But an association of polygraph examiners is already questioning the accuracy of the show, which airs next month. The American Polygraph Association, a trade association of polygraph examiners that promotes the use of the machines, calls the show an irresponsible misuse of lie detectors.

“This is a wholesale abuse of a technology that has appropriate use in national security and community safety,” said Don Krapohl, the association’s chairman.

In the show, contestants undergo a pretape polygraph test, taken by a certified polygraph expert, of about 75 questions. They are not told the results of the test.

A few days later, they are asked 21 of those questions on camera and in front of an audience. The more answers that match what the lie detector says is true, the more money they win, up to $500,000.

Friends and family, who are in the audience, have a button they can hit to stop the contestant from answering.

Similar programs are being produced in 23 other countries, according to Fox, not always without controversy. A similar show has been a hit in Colombia but was briefly taken off the air earlier this year after a woman reportedly admitted on air that she had hired a hitman to kill her husband.

The questions in the U.S. version tend toward the confidential. Some samples: “Is there a part of your husband’s body that repulses you?” “Do you really care about the starving children in Africa?” “Are you sexually attracted to one of your wife’s friends?” “Do you like your mother-in-law?” “Do you think you’ll be with your husband five years from now?”

Answering the questions, sometimes in front of the very people who may be hurt by the answers, is all part of the novelty and intentional controversy of the show, says Fox. “What deep, dark secret will someone divulge for hundreds of thousands of dollars?” the network’s promotional materials ask.

But Krapohl of the American Polygraph Association said polygraph machines are unable to measure some of the kinds of questions that appear to be asked on the show, such as ones that measure attitudes and inclinations.

Polygraphs “test on past behavior, not on what’s going on in your head,” he said. The former head of the FBI’s polygraph unit, who was not familiar with the show, said the machines also cannot accurately measure a person’s beliefs, opinions or expectations.

A Fox spokesman, Michael Roach, declined to comment on the criticism. Mike Darnell, the station’s president of alternative entertainment, told the Los Angeles Times that early tapings show that contestants do lie during the show but don’t challenge the lie detector.

“It’s like a reality soap,” he told the paper. “Every one of us thinks about these things and has these thoughts, but we never have to say a word. But this show reads people’s minds. If they want the money, they have to be honest.”

Polygraphs work by tracking how a person’s body, through measurements such as blood pressure and pulse, responds to a series of questions. Though they accurately measure stress, the National Academy of Sciences has warned that the tests don’t necessarily show that a person is lying. A 2002 study warned that polygraphs are “intrinsically susceptible to producing erroneous results.”

Polygraphs are widely used by law enforcement agencies, who stand by their usefulness as investigative tools, though the results of the tests are generally inadmissible in court.

The Polygraph Association, which promotes the use of the tests, says studies have shown they are about 90 percent accurate in field tests, when used to ask about specific events in the past. They are less accurate when used in laboratory simulations. The National Academy of Sciences put it this way: “Specific-incident polygraph tests can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates well above chance, though well below perfection.”

This quote from the executive summary of the National Academy of Sciences’ report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, has been stripped of important context. Here it is, the passage in-context:

CONCLUSION: Notwithstanding the limitations of the quality of the empirical research and the limited ability to generalize to real-world settings, we conclude that in populations of examinees such as those represented in the polygraph research literature, untrained in countermeasures, specific-incident polygraph tests can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates well above chance, though well below perfection. Because the studies of acceptable quality all focus on specific incidents, generalization from them to uses for screening is not justified. Because actual screening applications involve considerably more ambiguity for the examinee and in determining truth than arises in specific-incident studies, polygraph accuracy for screening purposes is almost certainly lower than what can be achieved by specific-incident polygraph tests in the field.

Note that the Academy’s conclusion is based on the examinee being untrained in polygraph countermeasures. Information on how to fool the polygraph is readily available to anyone who seeks it, and polygraphers have no way of ascertaining whether a person has learned how to beat the lie detector.

Scott Michels of ABC News continues:

The tests are far less accurate when used in employment screening, according to the Academy, and federal courts have warned that their accuracy is still subject to debate.

Kendall Shull, the former head of the FBI’s polygraph program, said that for questions to be reliable, they should be focused on past actions; questions that are too general or too broad could produce inaccurate results, he said.

The questions shouldn’t focus on a person’s intentions. “You cannot ask questions that ask for a person’s beliefs, opinions or expectations,” he said.

“You can’t ask if your spouse loves you. You can’t ask if they intend to divorce you,” he said. “But you can ask if they’ve visited an attorney.”

Contestants sign an agreement not to challenge the results of the polygraph test and Darnell told the Times that contestants tend not to dispute the accuracy of the test when caught in a lie.

James Blascovich, a University of California at Santa Barbara psychology professor who has done research on polygraph tests, suggested that the tests are useful because people believe they are accurate. “Because people believe, they might confess,” he said.

While the American Polygraph Association may be chagrined to see the polygraph used for entertainment purposes on a lowbrow television program, this use of the lie detector can at least do relatively little harm. There is broad consensus among scientists that polygraph testing is completely without scientific basis. Yet governmental agencies persist in using it for purposes of national security and public safety, and that can cause (and indeed has caused) great harm. To the extent that Fox’s “Moment of Truth” program fosters public re-examination of our reliance on this pseudoscience, some good may ultimately come of it.

For discussion of Fox’s Moment of Truth, see New Fox Gameshow “Moment of Truth” May Be a Golden Opportunity for Exposing Polygraphy as Quackery on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.

Iowa Polygraph Association Past President James Reistroffer Sues Ethics Committee Members

In “City paying legal fees of officer being sued,” Clark Kauffman reports for the Des Moines Register on a defamation lawsuit brought by former Iowa Polygraph Association president James Reistroffer against three members of the association’s ethics committee:

Des Moines taxpayers are paying the legal fees of a police officer accused of abusing his position in a private organization of polygraph experts.

Sgt. David M. McDermott is one of three defendants in a lawsuit filed late last year by James Reistroffer, former president of the Iowa Polygraph Association.

Reistroffer is claiming that McDermott, Jan Caylor and Dennis Wilbur defamed him, and he is seeking unspecified damages. The defendants in the case have denied any wrongdoing.

Reistroffer says the three, acting in their capacity as the ethics committee of the Iowa Polygraph Association, conducted an unauthorized investigation into his criticism of another polygraph examiner’s techniques, then reported their “false and defamatory” findings to the American Polygraph Association.

Reistroffer says that as a result of the ethics committee’s actions, his reputation was damaged and he was removed as president of the Iowa association.

Although the lawsuit alleges no wrongdoing by McDermott in his capacity as a city police officer, the city is paying for his defense, and Assistant City Attorney Angela Althoff is handling the case on McDermott’s behalf.

One of McDermott’s co-defendants, Caylor, is a polygraph examiner for the Iowa Department of Corrections. Caylor has retained private counsel to defend her. The state is not assisting with her defense.

Des Moines City Attorney Bruce Bergman said the city is defending McDermott because his job description with the city calls for him to serve on the Iowa Polygraph Association’s board or ethics committee.

“The reason he was on the board is that it’s a job expectation,” Bergman said. “In other words, we wanted to have a City of Des Moines police officer on the board.”

Deputy City Attorney Mark Godwin said, “Mike was serving on the board basically at the request of the department. And so we felt that he was working when he was doing that since the department requested him to do it. And we, of course, have a statutory duty to defend and indemnify him.”

Godwin said he is not sure whether McDermott was paid by the city for the hours he spent working for the association.

Reporter Clark Kauffman can be reached at (515) 284-8233 or ckauffman@dmreg.com.

American Polygraph Association Considers Polygraph “Testing” of Airport Personnel

Issue #58 of PolygraphPlace.com’s biweekly e-zine, The Polygraph Chronicles, includes mention that the American Polygraph Assoction may seek an amendment rolling back the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA), which restricts private sector use of polygraphy in the workplace. Excerpt:

The American Polygraph Association (APA) Newsletter of Sept/Oct 2001 contains several comments from members of the Board of Directors showing recognition by the professional polygraph community that quality polygraph testing of airport personnel can and should be one way polygraph can serve society. There is an active committee examining the use of polygraph in airport (transportation) security with an eye on possible amendments to the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. The APA committee is comprised of the APA General Counsel, researchers, statisticians, a labor specialist, and several polygraph examiners.

As previously reported in the Polygraph News, an earlier edition of The Polygraph Chronicles reported a similar proposal by National Polygraph Association president Kenneth J. Whaley.

“The Truth About the Polygraph”

Veteran polygrapher Theodore Paul Ponticelli writes in Justice: Denied — The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted. Although a supporter of polygraphic interrogation, Ponticelli offers pointed criticism of the polygraph community. Excerpt:

The American Polygraph Association (APA) in all appearance should be the watchdog of the industry, but it is no more than a trade association with minimal standards as to what a polygraph school should teach. The APA scratches the surface with school inspections and student review. As a matter of fact, the APA was denied authority by the Department of Education for academically accrediting polygraph schools, therefore, the APA possesses little or no authority to endorse a post-secondary educational institution.

The Federal Government has a polygraph examiner school. They train most federal agents from the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement, Defense Intelligence Agency and Military Investigative agencies. During 1970, this author participated in the government’s school course that was being systems engineered. Every potential student would receive the same scientifically standard training in order to maintain a high degree of reliability and validity. Since 1995 the school has liberalized its curriculum and does not seem concerned with graduates who return to their agencies and change the procedures without the benefit of scientific research. What was once known as a model school has now sunk to the low depths of academia.

Ironically, those polygraph examiners from federal and municipal law enforcement agencies hide behind their badges and want the public to believe in their accuracies, which isn’t the case. The majority of law enforcement polygraph examiners lack intellectual soundness and knowledge of human behavior as related to detecting deception. In addition, most presuppose a person’s guilt with lack of probable cause and tangible evidence. As an example, if a woman reported to the police that her estranged husband molested their child, law enforcement has been known to fail to investigate or attempt to prove or disprove the allegation made by the complainant. The estranged husband would then be administered a polygraph test and the results of the test become spurious in many cases. As another example, if a detective informs the polygraph examiner that the suspect is good for the crime, in many cases the polygraph results will be reported as deceptive. Why? Many reasons, although the first is dishonesty or incompetence. The same degree of incompetence in polygraph exists in the private sector and the reason is the same, inferior training and lack of integrity.