The Inconvenient Issue of Alleged Anthrax Killer Bruce Ivins’ Polygraph Results

On Tuesday, 15 February 2011, the National Research Council made public its Review of the Scientific Approaches Used During the FBI’s Investigation of the Anthrax Letters, seriously undermining the Bureau’s case against U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins, whom the FBI maintains was the sole perpetrator of the anthrax mailings.

Polygraphy was not among the scientific approaches reviewed by the National Research Council–appropriately so, as it has no scientific basis. Nonetheless, the FBI did rely extensively on polygraphy in its investigation of the anthrax mailings, and Ivins passed a 2002 polygraph examination regarding the anthrax attacks. The FBI avers that Ivins passed the polygraph by using countermeasures.

Jeff Stein of the Washington Post addresses Ivins’ polygraph results in a new SpyTalk column titled, “Ivins Case’s Inconvenient Issue: His Polygraph.”

For prior commentary on Ivins’ polygraph examination, see “DOJ Rationalizes Away Polygraph’s Failure to Catch Alleged Anthrax Killer Bruce Ivins” and Scott Horton’s interview of co-founder George Maschke. For insightful commentary on the latest (non-polygraph related) developments in the Ivins case, see columnist Glenn Greenwald’s article, “Serious Doubts Cast on FBI’s Anthrax Case Against Bruce Ivins.”

Scott Horton Interviews George Maschke Regarding Bruce Ivins’s Polygraph Examination

On Wednesday, 24 February 2010, Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio interviewed co-founder George Maschke about the polygraph examination of Dr. Bruce Ivins, the DoD microbiologist the FBI asserts was the sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax mailings. Ivins passed a polygraph screening test in 2002. The interview is now available on-line here.

DOJ Rationalizes Away Polygraph’s Failure to Catch Alleged Anthrax Killer Bruce Ivins

Bruce E. Ivins
Bruce E. Ivins

On Friday, 19 February 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the conclusion of its investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks. The DOJ maintains that  Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivans, who in 2002 passed a polygraph test regarding the anthrax attacks, was the sole perpetrator.

In an investigative summary (640 kb PDF), the DOJ characterizes Ivins’ passing of the polygraph as part of an effort to “stay ahead of the investigation,” alleging (at p. 84, fn. 51) that he used countermeasures to fool the polygraph:

In some sense, Dr. Ivins’s efforts to stay ahead of the investigation began much earlier. When he took a polygraph in connection with the investigation in 2002, the examiner determined that he passed. However, as the investigation began to hone in on Dr. Ivins and investigators learned that he had been prescribed a number of psychotropic medications at the time of the 2002 polygraph, investigators resubmitted his results to examiners at FBI Headquarters and the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute for a reassessment of the results in light of that new information. Both examiners who independently reassessed the results determined that Dr. Ivins exhibited “classic” signs of the use of countermeasures to pass a polygraph. At the time the polygraph was initially examined in 2002, not all examiners were trained to spot countermeasures, making the first analysis both understandable under the circumstances, and irrelevant to the subsequent conclusion that he used countermeasures.

Although the summary doesn’t state what “classic” signs of countermeasures Ivins allegedly displayed, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek reported in 2008 that the FBI “concluded he’d used ‘countermeasures’ such as controlled breathing to fool the examiners.”

Continue reading DOJ Rationalizes Away Polygraph’s Failure to Catch Alleged Anthrax Killer Bruce Ivins

Hatfill Contradicts Kristof on Polygraphs; Kristof Stands by Columns

In a 13 August 2002 op-ed piece titled “The Anthrax Files,” New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof reported that anthrax investigation “person of interest” Dr. Steven J. Hatfill had “failed” three polygraph “tests” since January and declined a fourth. In an article titled “Anthrax figure steps up offense,” Baltimore Sun staff writer Scott Shane reports that Dr. Hatfill has publicly contradicted Kristof’s claim in a news conference held on Sunday, 25 Aug. Excerpt:

At the news conference, Hatfill strongly criticized Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist who has written about him several times, accusing the FBI of “lethargy” and urging investigators to pursue clues about a scientist he called “Mr. Z.” In his most recent column on the subject, published Aug. 13, Kristof acknowledged that Hatfill was “Mr. Z” and reported, without attribution, that Hatfill had failed three polygraph tests since January.

Hatfill called that allegation “a total lie” yesterday, saying he has been given only one polygraph examination by the FBI and was told he had passed.

Hatfill’s spokesman, [Pat] Clawson, said Kristof had failed to seek comments from Hatfill or his attorneys before making allegations against him. He said Kristof was guilty of “journalism malpractice at its worst.”

Correspondence released yesterday showed that The New York Times declined to publish Glasberg’s letter on the issue, saying it was too long. The Times’ opinion page also rejected the letter, and Kristof declined to run it in his column.

Reached at his Scarsdale, N.Y., home last night, Kristof said only: “You can quote me as saying I stand by the columns.”

FBI Reportedly Threatened Hatfill’s Girlfriend Regarding Polygraph

In a press conference on Sunday, 25 August, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, whom the Federal Bureau of Investigation has designated as a “person of interest” in the ongoing anthrax investigation, described the treatment that his girlfriend (whose name has not been made public) has received from the FBI. The following is an excerpt from Dr. Hatfill’s remarks (emphasis added), which are taken from the transcript of CNN’s Late Edition program which aired on 25 August:

It is definitely not good to be the girlfriend of a person of interest. My girlfriend was locked inside an FBI car and hauled off to FBI headquarters and interrogated for hours, without once being told she has the right to leave any time she wished. Her requests for a lawyer were delayed and made difficult. Her purse, although not on the search warrant, was taken from her and its contents examined after the interrogation process while she was being driven back to her residence.

She was screamed at by FBI agents and told that the FBI had firm evidence that I had killed five innocent people. This was told to her by FBI agent Jennifer Grant and FBI agent Pamela Lane. Can you imagine that?

The FBI trumpets that I am not a suspect, and the woman I love is told the FBI — told by the FBI that I am a murderer.

This is the life of a person of interest, Mr. Ashcroft. But that’s not all. My girlfriend was told that she better take a polygraph examination and cooperate, or else. Her home checkbooks, computers, private papers and car were seized. As for her home, it was completely trashed, as is appropriate for the home of a girlfriend of a person of interest.

Some of her delicate pottery was smashed. The glass on a $3,000 painting was broken. This painting was wrapped in bubble wrap, by the way. Neatly stacked boxes awaiting shipment to her new home were ripped open, instead of opened with due regard to their contents.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have pictures of how FBI left this apartment, her apartment, which, at the time of the raid, was neatly prepared for a move to Louisiana, with all her belongings packed in nicely stacked boxes. This is one of the pictures.

I refuse to allow my girlfriend — to this treatment, as the girlfriend of a person of interest. She is not here today. I love you. I will not state her name here. And I ask the news media, please, for common decency, if you know it, please leave her alone. She will not make a statement.

Dr. Hatfill also addressed New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof’s allegation that Hatfill had failed three polygraph “tests” since January:

Another person I’ve never met or spoken to and don’t know is Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times. After transparently implicating me as Mr. Z, over a period of months he berated the FBI for not investigating me aggressively enough to suit him. He has never called me, checked his facts, asked for comment, contacted any of my representatives, anything, before he published.

Following my first press appearance, Mr. Kristoff once again wrote about me. Once again, his column was inaccurate. He said, for example, that I had failed three successive polygraph examinations since January. This is a total lie. I have not taken, let alone failed, three polygraphs on anthrax since January.

I had one polygraph session, which the FBI did administer to me in January, and I was told I passed and the examiner was satisfied that I had told the truth.

Steven Hatfill to Sue Nicholas Kristof over Polygraph Claim?

In an article titled, Anthrax ‘Subject’ Explores Filing Lawsuit against NYT Columnist for ‘Malicious Lies'” Internet writer Matthew Drudge reports that anthrax investigation “person of interest” Dr. Steven J. Hatfill is contemplating a lawsuit against New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpt:

A foreshadow of legal fireworks over what has been reported about the Department of Justice’s anthrax “Subject of Interest” Steven Hatfill emerged Sunday after the germ warfare specialist declared to the cameras: “I am not the anthrax killer!”

Sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT that Hatfill has told his lawyers he wants to sue the NEW YORK TIMES and its terror columnist Nicholas Kristof for reporting last week: Hatfill has “failed three successive polygraph examinations since January.”

“This is a total lie,” Hatfill warned on Sunday. “I have not taken, let alone failed, three polygraphs on Anthrax since January. I had one polygraph session which the FBI did administer to me in January, and I was told I passed, and the examiner was satisfied that I had told the truth. Mr. Kristof never called me about this allegation, nor did he call my attorney.”

Hatfill Attorney Says Kristof Wrong on Polygraphs

In a 13 August 2002 op-ed piece titled “The Anthrax Files,” New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof reported that anthrax investigation “person of interest” Dr. Steven J. Hatfill had “failed” three polygraph “tests” since January and declined a fourth. In an article titled “New Anthrax Clue, Same Hatfill Focus,” Hartford Courant staff writers Jack Dolan and Dave Altimari report that Dr. Hatfill’s lawyer, Victor M. Glasberg, has contested Kristof’s claim. Excerpt:

On Tuesday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said Hatfill has failed three successive lie detector tests. In a statement issued through [Hatfill friend and spokesman Patrick] Clawson, Glasberg said, “Kristof is wrong on the polygraphs.”

Anthrax Investigation “Person of Interest” Dr. Steven J. Hatfill Allegedly “Failed” Three Polygraph “Tests” Since January

In a New York Times op-ed piece titled “The Anthrax Files,” columnist Nicholas D. Kristof writes that virologist Dr. Steven J. Hatfill “has…failed three successive polygraph examinations since January, and canceled plans for another polygraph exam two weeks ago.” Kristof does not state his source for this information. For discussion of the use of polygraphs in the ongoing anthrax investigation, see the message board thread Federal Anthrax Probe Turns to Polygraph.

Dr. Steven J. Hatfill Reportedly “Failed” CIA Polygraph reports in an article titled, “FBI tries to link Hatfill to mailbox.” Excerpt:


Hatfill worked until September 1999 for the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Md., which is the primary custodian of the virulent Ames strain of anthrax found in last fall’s deadly letters.

Subsequently, he went to work for Science Applications International Corp., a Virginia-based defense company working on contract for the infectious diseases agency. Although Hatfill probably had access to anthrax, his primary duties did not involve working with it, a spokesman for the base has said.

The company dismissed Hatfill in March. He has since then been placed on administrative leave with pay from Louisiana State University’s National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, which he joined after his dismissal from Science Applications.

Hatfill complained that he lost his job with Science Applications because of a constant barrage of media calls, which he said had ruined his career. But U.S. officials indicated Tuesday that Hatfill actually was fired because he failed a CIA polygraph examination in August 2001.

One of the officials told NBC News that the polygraph was administered because Hatfill needed to upgrade his security clearance to work on a CIA counterterrorism contract awarded to Science Applications.

Once Hatfill had failed the polygraph, another U.S. official said, the CIA informed the Defense Security Service, which regulates security clearances. As a result, Hatfill was stripped of all of his security clearances, which led Science Applications to dismiss him.

The U.S. official would not say what questions Hatfill was believed to have answered less than truthfully, nor would he say what projects Hatfill would have been working on had he obtained the necessary clearance.

However, referring to a report in Tuesday’s editions of the New York Post, which said Hatfill stumbled on questions related to his purported service with a white Rhodesian commando unit, the official said, “That story is largely accurate.”

“‘Anthrax’ Doctor Failed Lie Test”

Niles Lathem reports for the New York Post. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON – A month before the first anthrax-laced letters were mailed, the bio-warfare expert now at the center of the probe failed a CIA-administered polygraph test over questions surrounding his mysterious past with a secret commando force in Rhodesia, The Post has learned.

Dr. Steven Hatfill, 48, the former Army bio-weapons expert publicly named as a “person of interest” in the federal anthrax probe, told friends and colleagues that flunking the lie-detector test cost him his security clearance and his job.

FBI officials say they have no physical evidence that connects Hatfill to the letters mailed last September and October.

But Hatfill remains one of 12 bio-warfare scientists under investigation, and law-enforcement officials say the loss of his job at the giant defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. remains a focus of the investigation.

Hatfill called a press conference Sunday to deny he was responsible and to blast the government for destroying his career.

He said he lost his job at the McClean, Va.-based firm in March because journalists began calling company officials, “all but accusing me of mailing the anthrax letters.”

But law-enforcement officials and Hatfill’s former colleagues at the company gave a different account.

They claimed that in August 2001, Hatfill had an opportunity to work on a huge CIA-sponsored project for the company and had to “upgrade” his low-level government security clearance for the job.

But when Hatfill failed the polygraph, even his existing clearance was revoked.

Company officials say they gave him six months to get it restored, and fired him in March because he was unable to do so.

The CIA has refused comment on the polygraph.