On the Origins of the NSA Polygraph Program

In 1951, the NSA’s forerunner organization, the Armed Forces Security Agency, began “voluntary” polygraph screening of civilian applicants for employment. On 6 December 1953, the National Security Agency (NSA) made pre-employment polygraph screening mandatory for civilian applicants.

Stephen Budiansky

Writer Stephen Budiansky describes the origins of the NSA’s polygraph program at pp. 163-65 of his 2016 history, Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union (New York: Vintage Books) (footnotes omitted):

Lieutenant General Ralph Julian Canine, director of the Armed Forces Security Agency which in 1952 became the NSA

To keep up with the thousands of clearances that needed to be processed during the rapid expansion of NSA during the Korean War, [NSA director Ralph] Canine took a fateful misstep that even more deeply confused the illusion of security with genuine security. The polygraph, or so-called lie detector, was one of those quack effusions of American turn-of-the-twentieth-century inventors that might understandably have suckered a gullible public in an earlier era of electrical wonders, but that by 1952 was obviously pure bunkum to anyone with even a modicum of scientific knowledge. J. Edgar Hoover refused to allow the machine to be used in FBI investigations, noting its complete unreliability in detecting truth or falsehood. (Repeated studies since, including a review by the National Academy of Sciences, have affirmed the elementary fact that there is no physiologic response unique to lying and that for all of their pseudoscientific poring over squiggly traces recording pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and skin conductivity, polygraphers did little better than flipping a coin in concluding when a subject had been “deceptive.”)

But the CIA had already become enamored of the polygraph—the agency would also invest embarrassing sums in mediums and clairvoyants who claimed to be able to locate Soviet missile sites by telepathy—and since 1948 had been administering the tests to investigate “major loyalty or security risk matters” in COMINT-cleared personnel. In late 1950, CIA began asking all new job applicants to “volunteer” for a polygraph interview. It was as voluntary as anything else in such a coercive situation: by 1955 only six of the agency’s twenty thousand applicants had declined to submit to the test. The CIA’s arguments for the polygraph were based not on any scientific proof of its validity—there weren’t any—but rather that it was an “extremely valuable aid to any investigation.” That was a roundabout way of saying that people who were wired up to a machine and told by an examiner with a persuasive manner that it had shown they were lying sometimes could be pressured into revealing something they had been concealing.

Canine became equally captivated by the notion that a gadget could solve NSA’s security problems. The immediate problem was that conducting a thorough background investigation took time: it required sending agents out to interview neighbors and associates and investigate financial records and employment histories. By December 1950, 39 percent of AFSA’s [the Armed Forces Security Agency, the NSA forerunner’s] employees were waiting for their clearances, new hires left to cool their heels for months at the agency’s training school, located in a former warehouse at 1436 U Street, NW, in Washington, or perform make-work tasks to fill their time. In January 1951, Canine decided that new employees who passed a polygraph interview would be given an “interim” security clearance that would allow them to start work immediately on classified projects, pending completion of their full background check.

Canine’s faith in the magical device had all the blindness of a true believer. In December 1953 he ordered that all new civilian employees submit to polygraph testing as a mandatory condition for employment at NSA. “The Director has repeatedly emphasized his firm conviction that the polygraph is more reliable and more protective of security than the background investigation,” his deputy for administration wrote in a 1956 memorandum that argued for periodically polygraphing existing civilian employees as well, to probe for “membership in subversive organizations,” “association with known or suspected subversives,” and unauthorized disclosure of classified information. (The military wisely used its authority at this time to bar the administration of the test to any service personnel.)

The trouble, aside from the abuse of privacy and due process inherent in the whole business, was that conscientious but perfectly innocent people tended to show a “deceptive” response in the standard polygraph examination, while pathological liars sailed through. In their zeal to clear the initial backlog of pending clearances, NSA scoured police departments and private detective agencies around the country to hire supposed polygraph experts to administer the tests, which took place in hastily erected soundproof rooms at the U Street building. NSA examiners frequently asked intrusive or embarrassing personal and political questions—”Did you sleep with your husband before you married?” “Are you now or have you ever been in sympathy with leftist ideas?”—and while the process was certainly speedy for those who “passed,” it became an Orwellian nightmare for the 25 percent whose clearances were held up because of their “unresolved” polygraph results.

NSA Chief Cryptologist William Friedman

Some of the more scientifically knowledgeable NSA officials tried in vain to halt the program. [Senior cryptologist] Howard Campaigne warned that it was sure to “get out of hand,” provide a false assurance of security, and “disclose information the Agency does not want to have,” tarnishing the records of capable employees with “minor derogatory data” that had nothing to do with their performance or loyalty. [NSA chief cryptologist] William Friedman‘s disdain for the polygraph was apparent in a critical article he clipped and placed in his private files: an investigative reporter who had interviewed several employees about their experiences with “the NSA Chamber of Horrors” quoted a victim of the process saying, “Halfway through, I felt like someone being tried in a Moscow purge.” The article drily observed that the polygraphing unit was located in a “heavily guarded building between a gas station and an undertaker’s parlor”; perhaps the more apropos geographical fact was that the U Street building had begun its life at the turn of the century as the factory for a famous quack patent medicine of the day.

As subsequent events would make all too clear, the touching faith that a piece of Edwardian pseudoscientific electrical gadgetry could safeguard the nation’s most important secrets would prove farcically mistaken, for almost every one of the real spies to betray NSA in the ensuing years passed a polygraph interview with flying colors, while obvious signs that in retrospect should have set off alarm bells about their behavior were blithely ignored, largely due to such misplaced confidence in hocus-pocus.

Dwight Macdonald

The investigative article that NSA chief cryptologist William F. Friedman clipped was Dwight Macdonald‘s “The Lie-Detector Era,” which was published in two installments in the 8 June 1954 and 22 June 1954 issues of The Reporter. The portion directly pertaining to the NSA polygraph program appeared in the latter installment and is excerpted below:

The NSA Chamber of Horrors

The methods used in the ORO [Operations Research Office] and CIA lie-detection programs, so far as can be established, have evoked little objection from the “subjects.” (Some, of course, may have objected to the whole idea of such tests.) The case is far otherwise with the National Security Agency, whose polygraphists have in a relatively short time aroused more distrust and hatred of their trade than all their colleagues put together.

The NSA, known until recently as the Armed Forces Security Agency, is a highly secretive outfit—”the most silent of the intelligence agencies.” It is believed to have somewhere between four and eight thousand employees, engage, it has been said, in breaking foreign codes.

The M.A. Winter Building at 1436 U Street NW in Washington, DC. The four-story brick building, erected in 1908-09, originally housed the quack patent medicine business of Mahlon Adolphus Winter. It later served as an NSA training center and was the polygraph unit’s early home.

(Although NSA carries secretiveness so far that it warns its employees not even to speak its awesome name outside the premises, the exact locations of the latter—4000 Arlington Hall, 3801 Nebraska Avenue, and 1436 “U” Street, N.W.—as well as the names of all its key employees may be found quite easily in the Pentagon’s telephone directory.)

The NSA lie-detection program was begun early in 1951 by hiring, at salaries of $6,400 a year, six examiners, none of whom, it is said, had more training than a six weeks’ course at the Keeler school in Chicago, which had fallen into disrepute after the death of its founder in 1949. These alleged examiners proceeded to test every NSA employee, and they or their successors have tested every new employee taken on since then. Their methods have been, to put it mildly, appalling.

“If they think they are getting information, they are mistaken,” a former employee has observed. “Maybe they’re testing for emotional stability.” Another theory is that the tests are a kind of hazing, designed not to find out anything about security risks but to intimidate the newcomers and break them to harness. A third theory—since the tests make no sense in terms of their ostensible purpose, such theories are necessary—is that the tests are really nothing but fishing expeditions, especially during the “discussion period” before the machine is started, to see what dirt can be turned up on the subjects and their friends.

Two case histories may give an idea of what has been going on at NSA. The names are fictitious because, although neither Jane Doe nor Richard Roe is still in government service, both were warned, like all who took the NSA tests, never to mention the fact that they had done so. One was even threatened with the Espionage Acton the absurd ground that the very act of undergoing the test was “classified” information.

Jane Doe, daughter of a Pennsylvania Republican, got a job with NSA in the spring of 1952 after her graduation from a Midwestern women’s college. That fall, while she was still waiting for her security clearance, she and some twenty other “unclear persons” were called to a meeting at which an Army captain asked them to agree to take lie-detector tests in order to speed up their clearances. It was entirely voluntary, he explained, adding, however, that he really couldn’t say when or if those who refused to take the tests would get their clearances. The group “volunteered” unanimously to take the tests.

A few days later, Miss Doe was shown into a small bare-walled room and seated in front of a desk behind which were a polygraph and a beefy individual whom she classified as an ex-cop from his aggressive manner and his recessive grammar.

His opening remarks were to the point: “If you’re lying, we’re going to find you out.” (“The examiner by his friendly attitude undertakes to reassure the suspect and put him at his ease,” writes Clarence D. Lee in The Instrumental Detection of Deception. But of course Captain Lee was describing the examination of criminals, not college girls.) The examiner handed Miss Doe a mimeographed list of questions which included some “neutral” ones like “Is your name Jane Doe?” and “Did you eat breakfast today?” mixed in with some “crucial” ones like “Have you ever associated with Communists?,” Are you an alcoholic?,” “Are you a dope addict?,” “Are you a homosexual?,” and “Are you in any way subject to blackmail?” He explained that she must answer Yes or No to each question.

At this point Miss Doe began to get a little annoyed. After a “dry run” through the questions and an inconclusive fencing match as to how to tell who is a Communist and who isn’t, the examiner wrapped the blood-pressure gadget around her arm, hooked the pneumograph around her chest, and attached the galvanic electrode to her hand. The machine was started, the pens began to trace their lines on the graph paper, and the examiner began to ask the questions again. The whole test took about ten minutes, she thinks, or rather would have if she had not had a bad case of hay fever that day, so that every time she sneezed a cataclysm appeared on the graph and the process had to be begun all over again. By the time the test was over, she felt that she had won the slight consolation of having irritated the examiner almost as much as he had irritated her. “Looking back on it,” Miss Doe has said, “it’s not the results of the test I object to—I must have passed because I got a top secret clearance—but the humiliation of being treated as a suspected liar and criminal.”

The Ordeal of Richard Roe

Richard Roe took his test in the fall of 1951. Like Miss Doe, he had been working for several months at NSA but had not yet been cleared. Also like her, he is a college graduate—a political science major—and was interrogated by an examiner who may or may not have gone to high school. (The work at NSA demands people of high intellectual qualifications, a fact hopelessly in collision with the personnel chief’s yearnings for innocents unexposed to “radical” ideas; the polygraph staff meets that officer’s standards, but this very fact makes it difficult for them to communicate with the people they are supposed to test.) “I was willing, even eager, to take the test because I believed in its scientific reliability,” says Richard Roe. “But halfway through, I felt like someone being tried in a Moscow purge.”

The third-degree atmosphere was established the minute he entered the room. “My examiner looked and acted like a desk sergeant. He fixed me with a suspicious stare, didn’t shake hands, smile, or even introduce himself.” (“An examiner…must be an intelligence person with a reasonably good educational background, preferably college training. He should have…general ability to ‘get along’ with people and to be well liked…”—Lie Detection and Criminal Interrogation, by Inbau and Reid.)

One of the questions on the list the examiner presented to Mr. Roe was, “Have you ever been sympathetic to Communism?” It caused a good deal of grief to both of them. Mr. Roe explained, or rather tried to—”there was a total lack of empathy”—that he had studied Marxism in college and consequently found it difficult to answer this with a simple Yes or No. If by “Communism” the examiner meant Marx’s doctrines, then he could only say he was sympathetic to some and unsympathetic to others. If the term was to be taken in its Russian context, then he felt obliged to say that he had once felt sympathetic to the Mensheviks but had never been sympathetic to the Bolsheviks. All of this passed over the inquisitor’s head with a heavy, soughing sound like wind in the branches of a rain-soaked tree. “I got the impression that he considered anyone who had studied Marx to be ipso facto a security risk and also that he personally wanted me to fail.”

The results were inconclusive, and Mr. Roe, a rather high-strung type, had to take the test three more times, each time with ambiguous results. After each test, his security officer tried to persuade him to resign quietly, thus avoiding the possible stigma of being fired. The security officer also seemed anxious to save the security division a lot of trouble and possibly to add a scalp to be displayed to inquiring McCarthys later on. Mr. Roe was finally dropped, much to everyone’s relief, including his own.

Peeping Tom And His Polygraph

Other veterans of the polygraph wars at NSA tell stories similar to Miss Doe’s and Mr. Roe’s. The examiners seem to have violated just about every rule of proper polygraph technique. The questions were often extremely vague—”Have you ever done anything you were ashamed of?” “Are you now or have you ever been in sympathy with leftist ideas?” (“The preparation of test questions is an extremely important aspect of the examination. The question must be unambiguous, unequivocal and thoroughly understandable to the subject.”—Inbau and Reid, op. cit.)

When a psychology major in college who is working on his doctorate in history got the one about “leftist ideas,” he asked to have the question reformulated. “But the examiner refused—he couldn’t see why if I was ‘innocent’ I found it hard to answer. We just weren’t en rapport at all.” Another NSA subject—or victim—has reported that at one point his examiner shouted at him, “Goddammit, you’re lying! I know you’re lying, the machine tells me so!” (“The cross-examiner must remember at all times that he is not seeking to browbeat, trip or confuse his witness, as is a cross-examining attorney in court…. Such conflict reactions only make the blood pressure record harder to read.”—William Moulton Marston, op. cit.)

Look Out for the EPQ!

Although all the manuals urge the examiner to try to reduce rather than increase emotional tension, so that significant reactions are not masked by irrelevant ones, the NSA gang relied heavily on what is known unfavorably in the trade as the EPQ (Embarrassing Personal Question) technique. EPQs are generally directed to the more intimate aspects of the subject’s sex life. Women are apt to resent being asked, by a strange man, questions like (to unmarried girls) “Have you ever slept with a man?”—at least one is reported to have walked out at this point—and (to married women) “Did you sleep with your husband before you were married?” Reaction to EPQs, Inbau and Reid have written, “is not significant for any practical useful purpose. Moreover, it can be misleading…. The factors of surprise, anticipation, embarrassment, etc., which constitute the stimulating effect of a ‘personal embarrassing’ question, are totally different and unrelated to those involved about a question about the offense (e.g. burglary) under investigation. For control purposes the examiner might just as well set off a firecracker….”

The folklore of NSA is full of stories about these tests: the office belle, an innocent young thing who was asked if she liked girls and got into trouble when she said of course she did; the married woman who got one examiner fired because after he had asked her “Have you ever cheated on your husband?” he told her she was lying when she said No and later called her up to ask her for a date; and the leering assumption on the part of the examiners that anyone who had spent much time abroad, especially in Paris, was a Don Juan, a pervert, or both.

These stories may well be apocryphal; the point is that they are told—and believed—throughout the agency. Horror tales about the polygraph department at 1436 “U” Street (a heavily guarded building between a gas station and an undertaker’s parlor) are a staple of conversation. There are rumors every now and then that all employees are going to be retested annually, but, although this was done at Oak Ridge and is done at CIA and ORO, it has never been tried at NSA. It is generally felt that an attempt to rerun the old employees would be likely to provoke a mass exodus. Most of the employees resent bitterly the fact that they were bamboozled into taking a test, represented as a routine scientific process, that turned out to be a third degree.

Resentment over the tests ha become so articulate within a few months of their inception—probably nothing has caused so much loose talk among NSA personnel as the tests that were supposed to tighten up security there—that in the fall of 1951 three leading professionals (Russell Chatham, John Reid, and George Haney) met in Chicago to discuss the problem. “It was decided that Mr. Chatham would go to Washington and express their displeasure and concern at the manner in which these tests were being handled,” one of them has since written. “It was our information that the men conducting some of these examinations had little or no experience…. also that the polygraph tests were being used conclusively in determining whether or not an applicant would be employed. Mr. Chatham called on interested officers and pointed out those things which were felt to be a reflection on the polygraph field…. It was his feeling when he left that the situation would be corrected or stopped. Evidently such was not the case, as the practice was continued and perhaps many people have been unnecessarily harmed as a result.”

The foregoing was written early in 1952. Whether or to what extent NSA has mended its polygraph manners since then is as murky as most other aspects of the Most Silent Agency. Some reports say that the EPQ flourishes there as always. Others, including Mr. Chatham, believe the situation has at least been cleaned up. NSA itself, answering questions put to it on behalf of this magazine by a defense department security officer, who says he himself has never been able to get any further inside NSA than the reception room, states that its examiners are now “required…to conduct themselves in an objective and professional manner,” that they are given lie tests themselves by independent firms before being hired and are periodically retested (embittered NSA émigrés claim this is a desperate attempt to reduce the incidence of blackmailing and Peeping Tom questioning), and concludes, “Changes have been made in personnel, method and machinery, based on latest developments in the field”—a reassuring but somewhat vague reply.

In 2022, some seventy years after the NSA first began polygraph screening of applicants, its misplaced reliance on this thoroughly discredited, fraudulent pseudoscience remains stronger than ever. The NSA polygraph program has expanded to include post-hire periodic polygraph screening of employees as well as the polygraph “testing” of military personnel. The NSA polygraph program has yet to catch a spy.

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.”

CIA’s “Molly Hale” Lies About Lie Detectors

CIA social media graphic

Since 2002, the CIA has used the pseudonym “Molly Hale” to respond to selected public inquiries. Since 2019, such inquiries may be directed to the CIA’s Twitter or Facebook accounts using the hashtag #AskMollyHale.

On 3 March 2021, Molly Hale replied to the following inquiry:

Dear Molly,

I would really love to work for CIA, and think I would be a great candidate, but I’m nervous about taking a lie detector test. It’s not that I have anything to hide, I just feel like my results wouldn’t be accurate because of my crazy nerves! What do you recommend I do?

Nerves of Jello

Among other things, Molly Hale writes:

I’m here to tell you that the actual polygraph is far less intimidating than your mind might make it out to be. We’re talking less Jason Bourne and more Meet the Parents, if cinema is your thing. But seriously, the polygraph isn’t a strategy to ‘psych out’ potential officers….

This is a lie. The polygraph is precisely a strategy to psych out potential CIA officers. Specifically, it is intended to convince them that the polygraph operator can read their minds (lie detection is a form of mind reading), and that deception is futile. In fact, polygraphy has no scientific basis (it’s a century-old, cop-invented pseudoscience), and polygraph outcomes have no clear connection with whether one has spoken the truth.

In the pre-employment polygraph screening technique used by the CIA, applicants are typically accused of lying or withholding information during the initial polygraph session and are badgered for admissions. If no disqualifying admissions are made, they are typically invited back for one or more follow-up sessions.

Molly Hale continues:

…It is a tool, which is leveraged to assess a person’s strength of character, trustworthiness, honesty, and reliability; nothing more, nothing less. Given the access to sensitive information afforded to CIA officers, it is important we use every tool at our disposal to determine a person’s suitability for employment.

Ouija boards and astrological charts are also at the CIA’s disposal. Should they use these, too? Molly Hale goes on:

To your point about nerves affecting the outcome of the test, understand that CIA polygraph examiners are some of the world’s most capable security professionals. They are well-trained in the use of polygraph instruments and are skilled in properly assessing the results. That is to say, they know how to distinguish nerves from deception. If you’re concerned that the examiner might conflate the two, let me ease your worries: our examiners are incredibly good at what they do.

Molly Hale’s claim that CIA polygraph operators “know how to distinguish nerves from deception” is patently false. The fundamental weakness of polygraphy is that it cannot distinguish between people who are nervous because they are lying and those who are nervous but telling the truth.

In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences completed a thorough review of the scientific evidence on polygraph screening and concluded that “its 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 CIA is willfully ignoring the science on polygraphs.

Molly Hale has yet another lie to tell:

If I haven’t been up to this point, let me be very clear: if you want to work for CIA, don’t let a fear of the polygraph be the one reason that stops you. We’re not looking for perfect people, we’re looking for honest people. If you are candid and forthright through the process, the polygraph will not be an issue.

Many candid and forthright CIA applicants end up being falsely branded as liars and disqualified based on polygraph chart readings. (Some have shared their stories here.) In fact, retired CIA polygraph operator John F. Sullivan has opined that “an honest subject has no better chance than a dishonest subject of getting through the process.”

Molly Hale concludes:

So take a deep breath, calm your nerves, and submit that application!

Before you submit that application, we recommend that you educate yourself about the pseudoscientific means by which the CIA will pretend to assess your honesty and integrity. Our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, is a good starting point.

Apparent CIA Officer Brian Jeffrey Raymond, Charged With Drugging and Sexually Molesting Multiple Women, Evidently Beat the Polygraph

Brian Jeffrey Raymond
(FBI-provided photo)

On 8 October 2020, the FBI filed a under seal a criminal complaint and supporting affidavit against former federal employee Brian Jeffrey Raymond in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charging him with a single count of violating 18 U.S.C. §2422(a), alleging that he “[k]nowingly induced an individual to travel for the purpose of engaging in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.”

FBI Special Agent Erin L. Sheridan, who investigated Raymond, in still frame from 2017 FBI recruitment video

On 31 December 2020, the FBI filed an additional criminal complaint against Raymond, charging him with further sex-related crimes. In a supporting affidavit, FBI Special Agent Erin L. Sheridan details evidence, including photographs and videos, that Raymond had a years-long history of drugging women and sexually abusing them while they were unconscious. An earlier Motion for Pre-Trial Detention states that “[t]he videos and photographs show at least 21 different unconscious women, all appearing to be adults.” Raymond’s internet search history, recovered from a laptop computer, suggests an interest in such criminal behavior dating back at least as early as 2010.

The 44-year-old Raymond had been a federal employee for some 23 years and had most recently worked at the United States embassy in Mexico City.

While the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI have avoided mentioning the specific U.S. government agency that employed Raymond, circumstantial evidence strongly indicates that it was the Central Intelligence Agency.

In a Motion for Release with Conditions filed on 15 October 2020, Raymond’s counsel mentioned that he had taken and, to his knowledge, passed polygraphs throughout his career, and that the most recent one “addressed allegations against him.”

9. At regular intervals throughout his tenure in public service, as well as shortly after the launch of the current investigation, Mr. Raymond has taken polygraph tests. To his knowledge, he has passed every one of the more than 10 such test [sic], including the most recent one, which addressed allegations against him. Those results were shared with the Department of Justice. He’s taken over 10 polygraphs during his career.

Employees of the U.S. Department of State are not routinely required to submit to polygraph screening. But CIA employees, who often work under diplomatic cover, are.

Brian Jeffrey Raymond
(FBI-provided photo)

The aforementioned Motion for Pre-Trial Detention indicates that Raymond

is extremely comfortable living, working and traveling overseas, to an extent that few others could relate. Indeed, he has lived and worked in multiple foreign countries across the globe. He speaks Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. He has worked in or visited over 60 different countries in all regions of the world….

Brian Jeffrey Raymond
(FBI-provided photo)

Another indication of Raymond’s affiliation with the CIA is the presence of a hardcover copy of Gentleman Spy, Peter Grose’s 641-page biography of CIA director Allen Dulles, on his bookshelf in the above social media photograph released by the FBI in connection with a public request that other potential victims come forward.

The CIA uses a “full scope” polygraph screening technique that includes the question, “Have you ever committed a serious crime?” In light of the compelling nature of the evidence against him, it seems likely that Brian Jeffrey Raymond beat the polygraph at least once during his CIA employment.

Andrew Marvin Warren

In an eerily similar case, the CIA station chief in Algeria, Andrew Marvin Warren, in 2008 came under investigation for drugging and raping two women. Warren ultimately pleaded guilty to “charges of abusive sexual contact and unlawful use of cocaine while possessing a firearm” and in March 2011 was sentenced to 65 months in prison.

In 2013, in one of his last stories, the late investigative reporter Michael Hastings profiled Warren in a Rolling Stones article titled, “The Spy Who Cracked Up in the Cold.” Warren was released from prison on 14 January 2015 whereupon he began serving a 120-month term of supervised release.

In the commission of his crimes, Warren, like Raymond, was undeterred by the prospect of periodic polygraph screening.

Accused Spy Alexander Yuk Ching Ma Evidently Beat the Polygraph to Penetrate the FBI

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma
(LinkedIn profile picture)

On Thursday, 13 August 2020, FBI Special Agent Chris Jensen filed under seal a criminal complaint against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma of Honolulu, Hawaii, charging him with “Conspiracy to Gather and Communicate National Defense Information of the United States to a Foreign Nation.” On Monday, 17 August 2020, the complaint was unsealed.

In an accompanying affidavit, SA Jensen adduces evidence that Ma, a 67-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hong Kong who worked for the CIA from 1982-1987, acted as a “compromised asset” of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) “at least by early 2001.”

The evidence against Ma appears to be strong, consisting in part of a video recording of meetings he and an unnamed 85-year-old relative who worked for the CIA from 1967-1983 held with “at least five (5) MSS intelligence officials in a Hong Kong hotel room” from 24-26 March 2001. The 85-year-old relative “suffers from an advanced and debilitating cognitive disease,” and the FBI has therefore not sought his arrest.

SA Jensen’s affidavit states at paras. 22-26:

22. Following the March 2001 Hong Kong meetings, MA continued to remain in contact with MSS officials and to work on their behalf. The investigation has revealed that as a mechanism to once again give himself access to U.S. government information, MA applied for employment with the FBI. On December 26, 2002, MA applied for the position of “Special Agent.” On or about December 30, 2002, after being advised by the FBI that he did not meet the age requirements for the FBI Special Agent position, MA submitted an online job application to the FBI for a “contract linguist/monitor/tester” position.

23. On or about April 14, 2003, MA submitted a written application for a contract linguist position, in Chinese languages, at the FBI Honolulu Field Office, in Honolulu, Hawaii. On or about April 21, 2003, MA used a prepaid calling card to call his MSS handlers to notify them of the status of his efforts to gain FBI employment.

24. On or about May 20, 2004, MA was notified that his background investigation for the contract linguist position was complete and that an employment contract would be ready for review in several weeks. MA agreed to continue the hiring process.

25. On or about August 10, 2004, one day before reporting to work with the FBI, MA telephoned a suspected accomplice and stated that he would be working for “the other side.”

26. On or about August 11, 2004, MA reported to work with the FBI….

Left unsaid in the affidavit is that as a condition of FBI employment, Ma necessarily sat for and passed a pre-employment polygraph “test.” The counterintelligence portion of the polygraph procedure used by the FBI includes relevant questions such as “Have you been involved in espionage or terrorism against the US?” and “Have you had any unauthorized foreign contacts?”

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma
(Facebook, 6 August 2015)

If, as seems likely, the criminal allegations are true, then Ma beat the polygraph to penetrate the FBI.

It is to be noted that around the time Ma applied for employment with the FBI, the Bureau had a roughly 50% polygraph failure rate for special agent applicants, with many honest persons being wrongly branded as liars and barred for life from FBI employment.

SA Jensen’s affidavit goes on to chronicle instances of Ma’s alleged espionage against the FBI up to 30 November 2010. It is possible that Ma faced a second, periodic polygraph screening “test” some time during his FBI employment.

It is not surprising that Ma could have fooled the polygraph. As documented in Chapter 4 of AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (which Ma might have easily found online in 2003), polygraphy is vulnerable to simple, effective countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect.

Ma would not be alone in having beaten the FBI’s pre-employment polygraph “test.” On 26 April 2004, Marine Corps veteran Leandro Aragoncillo, acting for current and former officials in the Philippines, beat an FBI pre-employment polygraph “test” to gain employment as an FBI analyst.

Other spies known to have passed the polygraph include Nazi spy Ignatz Theodor Griebl (in the FBI’s first use of the polygraph in a counterintelligence investigation), Czech spies Karel Frantisek Koecher and Jiri Pasovsky, Chinese spy Larry Wu-tai Chin, Russian spy Aldrich Hazen Ames, and Cuban spies Ana Belen Montes and Nicolás Sirgado.

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma in January 2019 meeting with an undercover FBI agent
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma in January 2019 meeting with undercover FBI employee

In 2002, some two years before Ma and Aragoncillo beat the polygraph, the National Academy of Sciences advised 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.”

Sadly, in the aftermath of 9/11, federal agencies ignored this advice. How many more catastrophic failures like the Ma case will it take before the U.S. government terminates its misplaced reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy?

Accused WikiLeaks CIA Vault 7 Source Joshua Adam Schulte Knew the Lie Behind the Lie Detector

Joshua Adam Schulte

An exhibit (PDF) submitted by prosecutors in the Espionage Act trial of Joshua Adam Schulte for allegedly providing a collection of CIA hacking tools dubbed “Vault 7” to WikiLeaks shows that Schulte understood that polygraph “testing” is bogus. AntiPolygraph.org has previously reported that Schulte passed multiple CIA polygraphs despite having allegedly downloaded child pornography before seeking CIA employment.

The exhibit, which appears to be an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) transcript, begins with “John” sending “Josh” (Schulte) a link to AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, noting that he was reading it and that it “seems kind of interesting.”

John asks Schulte for his opinion on polygraphs, and he responds that “they’re a means of social engineering” and provides a (no-longer available) link to video of the Penn & Teller Bullshit! documentary series episode on lie detectors.

The chat, which took place over the course of about 11 minutes on January 15th of an unspecified year, concludes with Schulte pasting the following selection from The Lie Behind the Lie Detector and remarking “rofl”:

On Monday, 21 February 1994—just seven days before the Joint Security Commission issued its report—the FBI arrested CIA counterintelligence officer Aldrich Hazen Ames and charged him with spying for the former Soviet Union and later, Russia. Since beginning his betrayal in 1985, Ames had passed two CIA polygraph “tests” during which he falsely denied having committed espionage, first on 2 May 1986 and again on 12 and 16 April 1991.

(In the chat log, the numerals do not appear as a result of the formatting of earlier editions of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.)

It is not clear what legal argument the chat log is intended to support, but it does help to document the growing understanding of those who are subject to polygraph screening that it is, as Penn and Teller put it, bullshit.

AntiPolygraph.org has transcribed the exhibit (PDF), which was first made available by reporter Matthew Russell Lee (@MatthewLeeICP):

Jan 15 13:18:05 <John> i'm reading this: https://antipolygraph.org/lie-behind-the-lie-detector.pdf
Jan 15 13:18:09 <John> seems kind of interesting
Jan 15 13:18:29 <John> what's your opinion on polygraphs
Jan 15 13:19:03 <Josh> they're a means of social engineering
Jan 15 13:19:16 <Josh> Penn and Teller did a good episode of Bullshit! about polygraphs
Jan 15 13:19:39 <John> yeah
Jan 15 13:20:03 <Josh> https://cryptm.org/data/shows/Bullshit!/Season%207/S07E05%20-%20Lie%20Detectors.avi
Jan 15 13:20:06 <Josh> :)
Jan 15 13:20:09 <Josh> you?
Jan 15 13:20:23 <John> yeah that's basically my opinion too
Jan 15 13:20:26 <Josh> the dude was right, it's the polygraphers who are complete douchebags
Jan 15 13:20:41 <John> i just wonder how hard it is for say a spy to get through an nsa polygraph
Jan 15 13:21:00 <John> like i'd imagine the background checks do a lot more to keep out spies than the polygraph
Jan 15 13:21:21 <Josh> the problem is once someone is in, then the background checks do very little
Jan 15 13:21:32 <Josh> Like, as long as you believe in your lie then you can pass it pretty easily
Jan 15 13:21:44 <Josh> Also, I hear that a lot of people go "inconclusive" in polygraphs
Jan 15 13:21:58 <Josh> meaning there is no clear indicator to the polygraphers
Jan 15 13:22:07 <John> but "inconclusive" means you don't get the clearance
Jan 15 13:22:18 <Josh> nope
Jan 15 13:22:21 <Josh> you can still get it
Jan 15 13:22:24 <John> wtf
Jan 15 13:22:24 <Josh> and you can maintain it
Jan 15 13:22:27 <John> here you don't
Jan 15 13:22:32 <Josh> even if you fail it, you get many more chances to re-take it...
Jan 15 13:22:36 <Josh> says who
Jan 15 13:22:52 <John> i forget
Jan 15 13:22:58 <Josh> I bet it's the same because I know NSA trains your polygraphers
Jan 15 13:23:07 <John> hmmm
Jan 15 13:23:33 <Josh> I mean, it's about the polygraphers and what kind of shit they can get out of you
Jan 15 13:23:38 <Josh> not really about the test itself
Jan 15 13:24:31 <Josh> you can still fail it though, I've heard of some people who dont get a clearance because they outright fail the polygraph
Jan 15 13:24:54 <Josh> and that can be for a number of reasons from nervousness to simple physiology
Jan 15 13:25:21 <John> i heard that a lot of co-ops failed to get their clearance because they lied about not having done weed
Jan 15 13:25:33 <Josh> heh
Jan 15 13:25:46 <Josh> that's actually the question I had the most trouble with
Jan 15 13:25:52 <Josh> and apparently I kept failing it
Jan 15 13:25:58 <Josh> even though I've never done drugs...
Jan 15 13:26:02 <John> lol
Jan 15 13:26:20 <Josh> I think the guy was just phishing because he didn't think a college kid had never even tried drugs before :P
Jan 15 13:26:26 <John> haha
Jan 15 13:26:32 <Josh> so fuck that guy
Jan 15 13:26:46 <Josh> he was such a fucking dick
Jan 15 13:27:06 <Josh> he told me, well, you'll probably be on your way back to texas wish you hadnt lied here
Jan 15 13:27:14 <Josh> I was like wtf
Jan 15 13:27:31 <Josh> I even decided if I had to retake it that I'd just tell them to forget it
Jan 15 13:28:16 <Josh> dude there were some people in my access class that failed it like 4-5 times...
Jan 15 13:28:23 <Josh> and others who took 6 years to get cleared
Jan 15 13:28:26 <Josh> I was like, jesus
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> "On Monday, February —just seven days before the Joint Se-
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> curity Commission issued its report—the FBI arrested CIA counter-
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> intelligence officer Aldrich Hazen Ames and charged him with spying
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> for the former Soviet Union and later, Russia. Since beginning his
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> betrayal in , Ames had passed two CIA polygraph "tests" during
Jan 15 13:32:17 <Josh> which he falsely denied having committed espionage, first on
Jan 15 13:32:19 <Josh> May and again on and April .
Jan 15 13:32:21 <Josh> "
Jan 15 13:32:47 <Josh> he went inconclusive
Jan 15 13:39:20 <Josh> hmmm
Jan 15 13:39:25 <Josh> rofl:

WikiLeaks CIA Vault 7 Leak and Child Pornography Suspect Joshua Adam Schulte Passed Multiple Polygraphs

Joshua Adam Schulte

On 23 August 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted former CIA employee Joshua Adam Schulte for receipt, possession, and transportation of child pornography dating back to 2009.

In 2010, Schulte sought and obtained employment with the CIA. All CIA applicants are required to pass a pre-employment polygraph as well as periodic polygraph screening after hire. The relevant questions asked typically include computer crimes including possession of child pornography. In a proceeding held on 24 August 2017, Schulte’s lawyer, Kenneth F. Smith, stated that Schulte had passed a CIA polygraph that addressed the issue of child pornography:

MR. SMITH: …Pursuant to his employment and his security clearances, he has undergone extensive and extreme vetting, including numerous polygraph examinations. He was subjected to polygraph examinations in the beginning, when he started, and continuing throughout his career. And, Judge, particularly I think it’s important to note  in those polygraph examinations and as a part of that vetting, he was asked specifically about this conduct, and he passed all of those polygraphs with flying colors.

Judge, it’s important because…

THE COURT: He was asked about child pornography in the polygraphs?

MR. SMITH: That’s correct, Judge.

On 18 June 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a superseding indictment additionally charging Schulte with, among other things, “illegal gathering of national defense information…for the purpose of providing it to, and causing it to be provided to, an organization that purports to publicly disseminate classified, sensitive, and confidential information (“Organization-1″), which posted the Classfied Information on the Internet.”

“Organization-1” is widely understood to be WikiLeaks, and the national defense information in question is widely understood to be WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7” release of CIA hacking tools, publication of which began in March 2017.

The indictment alleges that Schulte gathered this information in 2016, the year he left CIA employment. It is unknown whether Schulte was polygraphed after the time that he allegedly gathered information allegedly provided to WikiLeaks.

In any event, if the child pornography charges against Schulte, which again date to 2009, a year before the CIA hired him, are true, and if the polygraph is capable of detecting deception, as the CIA and other federal agencies claim, then the polygraph should have eliminated Schulte from consideration for CIA employment. But it didn’t.

Book Review: A Life of Lies and Spies by Alan B. Trabue

a-life-of-spies-and-liesAlan B. Trabue retired from the Central Intelligence Agency in 2011 after a 40-year career, 38 years of which he spent in the polygraph division. AntiPolygraph.org has received a review copy of his memoir, A Life of Lies and Spies: Tales of a CIA Ops Polygraph Interrogator (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015). The book comprises numerous entertaining anecdotes about polygraph examinations the author conducted on agents recruited by CIA case officers, with a special focus on operational security matters. As Trabue notes in his epilogue, it is his hope that his story not only entertains, “but also helps keep others in the world of espionage and covert activities safe from harm.” While Trabue provides relatively little detail about polygraph procedure, or about the history of the CIA polygraph division, this review will focus on such details; more general reviews of the book are available here and here.

Trabue notes that when he first interviewed with the CIA polygraph section in 1972, it was known as the “Interrogation Research Section.” The cryptic name is understandable when one realizes that polygraph “testing” is all about interrogation. Trabue refers to himself as a “polygraph interrogator” (p. 7), noting (at pp. 29-30):

During my training, it was constantly stressed that the CIA considered the polygraph process to be an aid to interrogation. My training officer stressed that my mission was to obtain any reportable information regarding the issues under investigation and report the information to the adjudicators. Interrogation and the reporting of information obtained during polygraph examinations were stressed much more than the technical results of actual polygraph testing….

But despite this acknowledgement, Trabue seems not to understand that polygraphy lacks any scientific basis and to actually believe that polygraph charts are a reliable indicator of deception, noting at p. 79, that “[a]fter a deceptive response has been clearly identified on the polygraph charts, an interrogator will confront the examinee with that fact.” He writes that [m]any [polygraph examiners] had cases with polygraph charts clearly indicating that an agent was a double agent…” (p. 83) and speaks of “unmistakable deceptive reactions” (p. 177).

Alan B. Trabue
Alan B. Trabue

Of course, there is no such thing as a “deceptive response” that can be “clearly identified” on polygraph charts. The entire procedure is pseudoscience–the brainchild of interrogators who had little grasp of the scientific method. The author’s failure to understand this after nearly four decades as a polygraph examiner bears out Upton Sinclair’s observation that “[i]t is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Trabue notes that when conducting polygraph examinations of agents recruited from within foreign intelligence services, he “tried to make posttest decisions based solely on analysis of the polygraph charts and avoided any posttest interrogation” (p. 92). No doubt he was following CIA polygraph protocols, but any reliance on polygraph chart readings is misplaced: the procedure is inherently biased against the truthful and yet easily defeated by liars using simple countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect.1

Trabue actually provides an example of the unreliability of polygraph chart readings in Chapter 12 (“Castro’s Buddy Beats the Box”). This chapter tells the story of Trabue’s experience conducting “a very thorough polygraph interview and examination” of a Cuban agent recruited by the CIA. Trabue notes that “the results [were]…clearly and unmistakably nondeceptive” and that he “was confident in [his] analysis and with the final call of No Deception Indicated.” But Trabue adds:

Cuban Interior Ministry Officer Nicolas Sirgado (1935-2013)
Cuban Interior Ministry Officer Nicolas Sirgado (1935-2013)

There is an unexpected and bitter ending to this story. In a most unfortunate turn of events, about two years later I was advised that Fidel Castro had been seen on Cuban television with his arm around the shoulders of the agent I tested. Castro revealed to the world that my examinee had been a double agent against American intelligence for many years….

Trabue does not name the Cuban double agent who beat him, but his account closely matches reporting on the late Cuban intelligence officer Nicolás Sirgado, who beat the CIA polygraph three times.

In a letter penned in 2000, convicted spy Aldrich Hazen Ames, who twice passed CIA polygraph screening examinations while spying for the Russians, offered insight into why the CIA continues to rely on polygraphy despite ample evidence of its unreliablity: bureaucratic CYA:

Deciding whether to trust or credit a person is always an uncertain task, and in a variety of situations a bad, lazy or just unlucky decision about a person can result not only in serious problems for the organization and its purposes, but in career-damaging blame for the unfortunate decision-maker. Here, the polygraph is a scientific godsend: the bureaucrat accounting for a bad decision, or sometimes for a missed opportunity (the latter is much less often questioned in a bureaucracy) can point to what is considered an unassailably objective, though occasionally and unavoidably fallible, polygraph judgment. All that was at fault was some practical application of a “scientific” technique, like those frozen O-rings, or the sandstorms between the Gulf and Desert One in 1980.

An anecdote recounted by Trabue (at pp. 197-98) speaks to this sort of reliance on polygraphy as a means of skirting responsibility for one’s decisions:

There was one other occasion when I was pressured, again from the chief of an office. I was within minutes of leaving the office to test an agent who was going to be involved in a diplomatically sensitive and expensive operation.

As I prepared for the case in a vacant office, the chief entered ans slowly approached. Putting his knuckles on the desk, he leaned over me, made sure he had my eye, and said, “I expect DI or NDI results.”

His words were delivered with all the menace, threat, and intimidation he could muster.

He paused and then added, “I don’t want to hear any of that Inconclusive crap.”

At first, I thought he was joking. His menacing words were delivered in an overbearing, intimidating manner and brought an instant smile to my face, but I quickly saw from the expression on his face that he was dead serious.

As my smile faded, I said, “Sir, I’ll do my best to get clear test results, but unfortunately the outcome of some polygraph tests is an Inconclusive call. Sometimes there are health reasons, and sometimes there are just inconsistent and erratic responses for unknown reasons. Inconclusive means you don’t know one way or the other. I’m not about to flip a coin jsut to make it DI or NDI.”

“I want DI or NDI,” he said, glaring down at me. “That Inconclusive call won’t do me any good. We’ve got an expensive operation about to start, and I’ve got to know one way or the other.”

I repeated, “I’ll do my best, but an Inconclusive call is a possibility.”

Still hovering over me, he slowly and emphatically repeated, “I want a DI or NDI call.” He raised himself to full height again, turned his back to me, and walked out of the office.

CIA polygraph trivia mentioned includes the fact that for decades the CIA used the Stoelting three-channel Executive Model polygraph with a communal inkwell that held red ink. The instrument was built into a briefcase  and weighed about 25 pounds (pp. 129-30, 239). Trabue notes that “[t]here was a standing joke in Polygraph Section that foreign intelligence services could easily identify CIA polygraph examiners because their right arm was longer than their left arm” (pp. 118-19).

Trabue also unwittingly offers a counterinterrogation tip for polygraph examinees (p. 229):

All interrogation officers are familiar with the concept called “throwing a bone,” wherein an examinee offers an interrogator information to throw him off track. It is a stalling tactic, usually an act of desperation, used in the hope that the interrogator will take that bone and run with it for a while and perhaps even believe that the bone is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A “bone” may be information fabricated by the agent, it may be a partial truth, and it may be an entirely true piece of information, but it most certainly is not the information that the examinee was really concealing during interrogation. After a lengthy interrogation, a confession will many times be treated by an interrogator as a bone thrown by the examinee. The interrogator will say something like, “John, thanks for telling me that, but that could not possibly explain the massive reactions I saw on your polygraph charts. Something much more serious caused you to react. John, what else is there?” The interrogator will continue with the interrogation as if there had been no confession. If what the examinee said was truly the reason for his reactions, he will continue to offer his story over and over again, because he has nothing else to add. (emphasis added)

As one of only three published memoirs by a retired CIA polygraph examiner,2 Trabue’s My Life of Lies and Spies will be of interest to all concerned with polygraphy, interrogation, or intelligence operations.

  1. For an overview of such countermeasures, see Chapter 4 of AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector. []
  2. The other two being Of Spies and Lies: A CIA Lie Detector Remembers Vietnam and  Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner, both by John F. Sullivan. []

Federal Polygraph School Gave Countermeasure Information to Polygraph Company

Coming on the heels of an accusation that a senior official at the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) facilitated the transfer of classified information to the government of Singapore via the Lafayette Instrument Company, AntiPolygraph.org has received information that NCCA has provided polygraph countermeasure documentation to a representative of Stoelting Co., another polygraph-manufacturing company. In 2004, Stoelting’s then CEO Lavern Miller pleaded guilty to attempting to export polygraph instruments to China without a license.

The documention provided by NCCA to the Stoelting representative forms the basis of a slide presentation, a copy of which was made available to AntiPolygraph.org. The presentation includes a caution to keep the information provided in the presentation confidential (slide 2):stoelting-countermeasures (p.2)Of particular note, the presentation includes previously unpublished color screen shots from a pre-employment polygraph examination conducted by the CIA in 1997. This polygraph examination formed the basis for a 1999 American Polygraph Association (APA) journal article co-authored by the CIA polygrapher who conducted it and Donald J. Krapohl, the NCCA official recently accused of an Espionage Act violation.1

Screen shots in the slide presentation include details not shown in the 1999 article, such as the various questions asked, the precise date of the polygraph session, and the fact that it was a CIA polygraph examination. (In the 1999 article published in the APA quarterly, Polygraph, the CIA is not named as the agency involved.) This polygraph screen shot (slide 12) shows the date that the examination was conducted, 30 April 1997, and reveals one of the probable-lie “control” questions used:

stoelting-countermeasures (p.12)

Slide 24 shows that the PolyScore polygraph chart-scoring software developed by the U.S. government gave the examinee a passing score. It also reveals the specific relevant questions that were asked in this polygraph examination:stoelting-countermeasures (p.24)

As we see, the relevant questions were:

  1. Have you been offered any money to work for a foreign intelligence service?
  2. Have you secretly provided the [redacted] technology to any foreign government?
  3. Have you been directed to penetrate the CIA by any foreign intelligence service?

Combine this with the probable-lie “control” questions cited in earlier slides:

  1. Other than what we discussed, have you ever misrepresented you [sic] academic abilities to make yourself look important?
  2. Before joining the military, did you ever lie about anythig [sic] that you don’t want the CIA to find out about?

and you have the key information required to successfully defeat such a polygraph examination.

Polygraph examinations are not difficult to defeat, and it would be hard to credibly argue that public release of the information contained in the presentation will harm U.S. national security interests in any way. But this is the kind of information that NCCA’s parent agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, would probably withhold from a member of the public who requested it under the Freedom of Information Act. Yet such things seemingly circulate among NCCA’s favored friends.

It’s worth noting that the examinee in the above case study had purchased Doug Williams’ manual, “How to Sting the Polygraph.” The CIA polygraph examiner suspected countermeasures because of the large size of a reaction, but was only able to confirm that countermeasures were employed because the examinee admitted such when asked. An in-depth discussion of this case may be found on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.

The presentation (6.6 mb PDF | 6.8 mb PPTX) runs on for a total of 134 slides, but like other polygraph community documentation on countermeasures previously published by AntiPolygraph.org, it offers no coherent strategy for detecting the kinds of countermeasures described in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF), or in former police polygraphist Doug Williams’ manual, “How to Sting the Polygraph.”

Update: With respect to why a polygraph manufacturer might want NCCA training slides on countermeasures, note that as McClatchy reporter Marisa Taylor mentioned last year in her article, “Polygraph world’s close ties spark accusations of favoritism,” Stoelting Co. has purchased a polygraph school. While Stoelting refused comment to Taylor on this, it appears that the polygraph school Stoelting purchased is the Academy of Polygraph Science in Fort Myers, Florida.

  1. The CIA polygrapher wrote under a pseudonym, Peter S. London. The article citation is, London, Peter S. and Donald J. Krapohl, “A Case Study in PDD Countermeasures,” Polygraph, Vol. 28, No. 2 (1999), pp. 143-148. []