AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke’s talk, “Polygraph ‘Tests’ and How to Beat Them,” presented on 31 July 2020 at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) 2020 conference, may be viewed online here:
On 25 September 2015, federal judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange sentenced Doug Williams, who pled guilty after he was entrapped in a federal sting operation called “Operation Lie Busters,” to two years of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release “[u]pon release from imprisonment.”
Williams had taught two undercover federal agents how to pass or beat a polygraph “test.”
Williams was released from prison on 26 July 2017, and thus his three years of supervised release expired on Sunday, 26 July 2020. Williams’ terms of supervised release had prohibited him from participating “in any form of polygraph-related activity during the period of supervision.”
Williams plans to resume offering training on how to pass or beat the polygraph, and his website, Polygraph.com, now includes the following notice:
Now accepting clients. There will soon be a sign up form to set a time and date for the training.
AntiPolygraph.org has today published a collection of documents associated with the National Center for Credibility Assessment’s training courses on polygraph countermeasures. These documents, which date to circa 2013, describe the U.S. government’s best efforts to detect polygraph countermeasures. Key revelations include:
- In a secret 1995 study, 80 percent of test subjects who were taught polygraph countermeasures succeeded in beating the U.S. government’s primary counterintelligence polygraph screening technique. The training took no more than an hour. NCCA officials have concealed this study from the National Academy of Sciences and the American public;
- The federal government’s methods for attempting to detect polygraph countermeasures are conjectural in nature and were developed by two non-scientist polygraph operators at the federal polygraph school;
- The U.S. government’s polygraph countermeasure detection training is centered on countering information found on two “anti-polygraph websites” (including this one) run by U.S. citizens (one of whom was entrapped and sent to prison and the other of whom was targeted for entrapment). Minimal attention is paid to foreign intelligence services.
The core of the U.S. government’s training for polygraph operators on how to detect countermeasures is a 40-hour “comprehensive” course taught by the National Center for Credibility Assessment’s Threat Assessment and Strategic Support Branch (TASS). The course, called “CE 839,” is restricted to federally certified polygraph operators. The NCCA website, which disappeared from the Internet shortly after the 2016 presidential election, described the course thus (PDD is short for “Psychophysiological Detection of Deception,” a buzzword for “polgyraphy”):
This 40-hour course prepares the PDD examiner to deter and detect employment of polygraph countermeasures in criminal and intelligence testing environments. The course presents background information for a foundation in concepts, theories, and research data related to polygraph countermeasures. Laboratory exercises are included to enhance skills and provide hands-on experience. Detailed discussion of numerous case studies involving examples of confirmed countermeasures. Law enforcement and intelligence PDD examinations are used to demonstrate methods of detecting and defeating this threat. Information provided includes discussion of threats posed by foreign intelligence services, terrorist organizations, and other criminal elements attempting to defeat law enforcement and intelligence PDD examinations. This course is intended as the primary polygraph countermeasures course for criminal and security screening PDD examiners or as a periodic refresher course for examiners supporting intelligence operations. The course included daily directed reading assignments followed by classroom discussions and quizzes.
A note to slide 7 of the first block of instruction (18 MB PDF), dubbed “Back to Basics,” chides AntiPolygraph.org for publishing two Arabic-language jihadist documents on polygraph countermeasures with English translations, averring that “For the Anti-polygraph crowd the ‘end justifies the means’ – they are willing to compromise national security in their quest to rid the world of polygraph.”
No explanation is provided as to how AntiPolygraph.org’s documenting of jihadist literature on polygraph countermeasures (and in the process bringing it to the attention of the federal polygraph community) constitutes our compromising national security. We would counter that NCCA is compromising national security through its embrace of the pseudoscience of polygraphy and its mulish resistance to independent review of its “research” findings.
This “Back to Basics” presentation also includes a suggestion (at slide 22) to overinflate the blood pressure cuff (which causes pain) to punish examinees who breath more slowly than the polygraph operator would like:
Block 2 (11.4 MB PDF) of the comprehensive course (“Physiological Features”) is what NCCA considers to be the core of the course. It identifies features of polygraph tracings that NCCA believes are indicative of polygraph countermeasure use. Although none of the NCCA documents provided to AntiPolygraph.org are marked as being classified, the presenter’s notes for slide 5 state that the discussion will be classified “secret”:
The presenter’s notes for the concluding slide (52) bemoan the fact that “Today we have many performing high level CM. The average person can go on-line and find not only the test technique that will be used in their polygraph but the questions asked.”
You are at the right site to find that kind of information.
The presentation for the fourth block of instruction (4.5 MB PDF) includes some of the information we found most interesting. It documents a secret U.S. government countermeasure study conducted by Gordon H. Barland circa 1995 in which (including inconclusive results) 80% of test subjects taught to beat the polygraph were successful in doing so. Countermeasure training lasted no more than an hour and consisted of telling the examinee, upon hearing a “control” question, to pick a number over 600 and count backwards by threes.
Slides 7-9, with presenter’s notes, are reproduced below (you can click on the images to view them in a larger size):
Barland’s study strongly suggested that polygraph screening is highly vulnerable to polygraph countermeasures. The U.S. government has concealed this study from the public, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council, which in 2001-2002 conducted a review of the scientific evidence on the polygraph. In its report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection (10.3 MB PDF), the Council noted (at p. 118, emphasis added):
“…we were advised by officials from [the Department of Energy] and [the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, since renamed the National Center for Credibility Assessment] that there was information relevant to our work, classified at the secret level, particularly with regard to polygraph countermeasures. In order to review such information, several committee members and staff obtained national security clearances at the secret level. We were subsequently told by officials of the Central Intelligence Agency and DoDPI that there were no completed studies of polygraph countermeasures at the secret level; we do not know whether there are any such studies at a higher level of classification.”
NCCA deliberately misled, and concealed relevant documentation from, the National Research Council.
With respect to the mention of officials of the Central Intelligence Agency, note that the most influential person at DoDPI/NCCA at the time was Donald J. Krapohl, a career CIA agent and polygraph operator who for many years was the éminence grise at DoDPI/NCCA.
The presentation goes on to document how two non-scientist NCCA staff members, Paul M. Menges and Daniel V. Weatherman, devised a system that purports to identify those who employed countermeasures in Barland’s study by examining the polygraph tracings. Their scheme identifies a number of “physiological features” that are posited to be evidence of polygraph countermeasure use. The criteria are so broad that any polygraph operator could likely find indications of countermeasure use in any particular set of polygraph charts if he looks hard enough. Slide 13 notes that when Weatherman applied his “global scoring” approach to detect countermeasures, only 47% of the innocent were correctly identified.
The entire NCCA comprehensive countermeasure course is centered on these two non-scientists’ unpublished, un-peer-reviewed “research.”
Slide 36 notes: “Software unable to identify CM.” This is not surprising, given the conjectural, “I know them when I see them!” nature of Menges’ and Weatherman’s countermeasure “detection” methods.
It’s worth noting that around the time Menges and Weatherman were attempting to devise a technique for detecting polygraph countermeasures, Menges authored an article published in the American Polygraph Association quarterly, Polygraph, suggesting that teaching polygraph countermeasures to the public should be outlawed.
A decade later, Doug Williams, who runs Polygraph.com, which features prominently in NCCA’s polygraph countermeasure training, was targeted for entrapment in Operation Lie Busters and ultimately sentenced to two years in federal prison. He has since been released but is prohibited from providing in-person training on how to pass a polygraph “test” until July 2020. AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke was also targeted for entrapment during Operation Lie Busters but was not charged with any crime. Contemporaneous evidence suggests that AntiPolygraph.org was additionally targeted for surveillance by the NSA.
The fifth block of instruction (5.7 MB PDF) covers suggested supplemental polygraph counter-countermeasure techniques such as the “Repeat the Last Word Test,” the “Focused CM Technique,” the “Yes/No Test,” and the abandonment of the “control” question “test” (CQT) in favor of the Concealed Information Test.
On a final note, recall our 11 October 2014 blog post, “Senior Official at Federal Polygraph School Accused of Espionage.” Then recently-retired Defense Intelligence Agency counterintelligence investigator Scott W. Carmichael said this about these documents in an e-mail message to retired FBI polygrapher Robert Drdak:
The study conducted by Dan [Weatherman] and Paul [Menges] drew on raw data collected by Dr. Gordon H. Barland and the classified report of his earlier study of mental countermeasures dated in 1994. Dan, Paul and Dr. Senter performed their work as employees of DoDPI. Your old colleague and former business partner Don Krapohl provided oversight for their work and edited the report submitted by Dan and Paul back in CY2003. The entire effort was official, and it was based on a classified study.
Dan and Paul believed their findings constituted a new, reliable, and therefore extremely valuable diagnostic tool. Dr. Senter tested the tool and determined that, sure enough, the specific diagnostic features identified by Dan and Paul through their study correlated with a high degree of probability to the employment of countermeasures. As you may know, the U.S. government now requires all federal polygraph examiners to receive 40 hours of instruction on polygraph countermeasures to become certified as federal examiners; and, to receive 4 hours of polygraph countermeasures refresher training every year to maintain their certifications. DoDPI/DCCA [sic, correct NCCA] is so confident in the diagnostic tool developed by Dan and Paul, they decided to use the new tool as the very foundation for the 40-hour instruction and the annual 4-hour refresher training.
Again, Dr. Barland’s 1994 study, which formed the basis for Weatherman and Menges’s study, was classified. By definition, then, and by DoD Instruction, Weatherman and Menges’s study and findings, were therefore also classified.
But DoDPI did something stupid. They committed a security violation. In fact, they did so repeatedly. They found it inconvenient and unwieldy to carry classified briefing slides around with them as they traveled to various parts of the country to teach the diagnostic tool to examiners – and, when they found it necessary to brief uncleared personnel on the tool, rather than follow routine but bothersome administrative procedures which would have enabled them to do so, they elected to simply not stamp their briefing slides at all. Instead, they stamped their materials as Unclassified/FOUO – while handling and treating their materials as though they were classified, in order to ensure their tool did not fall into foreign hands. Why? Because anyone who learns how the entire US government now detects the employment of countermeasures, will be able to device [sic] methods to defeat the US government examination process.
Additional NCCA countermeasure training materials, with brief descriptions, are available for download here.
Gordon H. Barland, Ph.D. worked at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (now the National Center for Credibility Assessment) from 1986 until his retirement in 2000. During this period, he conducted research on polygraph countermeasures, and by his own estimation, “[p]rior to his retirement from DoDPI, he was the Federal Government’s primary authority on polygraph countermeasures.”
In July 2003, Dr. Barland presented a week-long course on polygraphy including polygraph countermeasures at the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Forenses in Mexico City. According to an NCCA timeline on polygraph countermeasures, “[t]he course was presented by Barland after being approved by the National Security Agency.”
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a copy of the 397-slide PowerPoint file Dr. Barland used in this presentation, which we are also making available as a PDF file. All are invited to download the file and to review it slide by slide. We present here only a few highlights.
The title slide:
Slide 42 discusses common polygraph operator doctrine about countermeasures and admits that it only applies to “naïve” countermeasures, that is, the sort of thing that someone who doesn’t understand polygraph procedure might attempt. In this slide, “E” is shorthand for “examiner”:
In slide 54, Dr. Barland’s mentions his fear, in the aftermath of the National Research Council’s damning 2003 report (10.3 mb PDF) and referencing a federal lawsuit that was ultimately dismissed on procedural grounds, that the United States Congress might outlaw polygraph screening:
Dr. Barland was particularly concerned with two websites that he said polygraph operators needed to monitor regularly: www.polygraph.com, run by former Oklahoma City Police Department polygrapher Doug Williams, who turned against polygraphy and began offering the public information about polygraphy’s shortcomings and how to pass or beat a polygraph “test,” and AntiPolygraph.org. The CAAWP listserv mentioned in the presentation is defunct:
Regarding Williams’ motives, Barland paints a very different picture of Williams than did the federal officials behind Operation Lie Busters, who set out to entrap, arrest, and incarcerate him:
Barland goes on to discuss Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph, at length.
Slide 148 suggests interrogation approaches for getting a polygraph examinee to admit to having used countermeasures:Barland also addresses AntiPolygraph.org and characterized our book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector as “an excellent polygraph manual, with an extensive chapter on [countermeasures]”:
Absent from the presentation is any clearly stated, effective method for reliably detecting the kinds of countermeasures outlined in How to Sting the Polygraph and The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.
We begin publication with an undated “white paper” titled “Timeline Detailing the Countermeasures Classification Issue” (288 kb PDF). Metadata in the Microsoft Word version (140 kb DOC) of the document indicates that it was created on 15 August 2012 by NCCA Quality Assurance Program chief Gary Light.
The white paper argues that “CM [countermeasure] detection information from its inception has been researched, developed and implemented in an unclassified environment. CM procedures were not, are not and need not be classified when teaching the detection process.”
In January 2014, McClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reported on efforts by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), NCCA’s parent agency since 2008, to classify certain information about polygraphy. (See AntiPolygraph.org’s commentary on her reporting here.) Gary Light’s white paper helps to shed light on the internal debate over whether information about polygraphy, including polygraph countermeasures, should be classified. Light appears to be firmly in the “no” camp.
The white paper includes an appendix documenting the publication and presentation of information about polygraph countermeasures “in an unclassified environment,” including, among other things, a 2005 class taught by former NCCA (then DoDPI) researcher Charles R. Honts in the People’s Republic of China.
Of particular note, the white paper also mentions a 2011 “Russian CM Policy Chapter #5 provided to the Department of Energy (DOE),” noting “DOE personnel were provided with a 125 page document describing the CM policy of a Russian government agency. The CM criteria described in the text were similar to those of DoD. Basically only the names of the criteria differed.”
On 25 April 2001, then Defense Security Service Deputy Director for Developmental Programs and former Department of Defense Polygraph Institute director Michael H. Capps testified to Congress that “[t]he U.S. government has supported the use of the polygraph among allied nations when mutual interests were at stake, such as when it supplied training and state-of-the-art polygraph equipment to Russia, to help them maintain security over their nuclear weaponry after the fall of Communism.” Perhaps the “Russian government agency” whose polygraph countermeasure policy chapter was provided to the U.S. Department of Energy is the same one to which NCCA (then DoDPI) provided “training and state-of-the-art polygraph equipment.”
In sum, this NCCA white paper acknowledges that information about polygraph countermeasures originated outside of the U.S. government, is widely available around the world, and should not be considered “classified.”
Light also writes that “[i]t should be … noted that since 2000 the federal government has conducted over 1,000,000,000 [sic] examinations.” It seems likely that this is a typographical error, and that the actual number is three orders of magnitude lower, or over 1,000,000 polygraph examinations conducted between 2000 and 2012. This would average out to about >83,300 polygraph examinations per year across the federal government during the relevant time period. According to Department of Defense (DoD) polygraph operator Brian R. Morris, DoD alone has been conducting more than 129,000 polygraphs per year in the aftermath of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations.
Light concludes his white paper noting “In this time and after all of these examinations, not one example can be provided wherein NCCA procedures for the protection of CM protocols has [sic] failed.”
AntiPolygraph.org can attest that NCCA procedures for the protection of its polygraph countermeasure protocols have indeed failed. We have them and will be publishing them in due course. Watch this space.
Note also retired DIA counterintelligence officer Scott W. Carmichael’s 2014 claim that the then number two official at NCCA, Donald Krapohl, violated the Espionage Act by funneling classified information about polygraph countermeasures to the government of Singapore.
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained and is publishing a copy of a “For Official Use Only” video produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2006 about the Ana Belen Montes espionage case. This never-before-published video, titled The Two Faces of Ana: Model Employee/Cuban Spy, includes interviews with Montes’ colleagues at DIA. The video mentions (at 16:31) that she used polygraph countermeasures to pass a 1994 DIA polygraph screening “test,” which facilitated her espionage:
The polygraph test in 1994 made her even more dangerous. By deflecting suspicion away from her, she was freer to pursue her espionage. And to pass the polygraph, she had used a countermeasure taught to her by the Cubans.
Regarding the significance of the Montes case for DIA polygraph policy, see Ignoring Science After Cuban Spy Ana Belen Montes Beat the Polygraph, DoD IG Recommended More Polygraphs. Regarding the ineffectiveness of DIA’s polygraph countermeasure detection efforts, see Leaked Documents Point to DIA’s Inability to Detect Sophisticated Polygraph Countermeasures.
You may also download this video as a 138 MB MKV file.
The U.S. Department of Justice effectively conceded that polygraph countermeasures are effective in arguing against incarcerated polygraph critic Doug Williams‘ motion that he be allowed to engage in polygraph-related activities during his upcoming three-year period of supervised release. DOJ’s opposition brief (PDF), filed on 10 February 2017, notes, at p. 2:
In addition to training manuals and DVDs, defendant sold in-person, confidential, “one-on-one” polygraph countermeasures training sessions. During these sessions, defendant taught clients how to pass polygraph tests even if they were lying. (emphasis added)
The brief, which largely recaps details of the government-orchestrated “crimes” for which Williams was convicted, concludes by arguing that “the restriction on polygraph-related activities for the full term of supervised release is the minimum restriction necessary to protect the public.” This flies in the face of the polygraph community’s claims that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures can be routinely detected and are ineffective.
In this video statement posted to YouTube on 31 January 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection applicant Megan Brown describes her pre-employment polygraph experience, which included an accusation of attempted polygraph countermeasures:
Huffington Post reporter Jessica Schulberg tells the story of a senior FBI intelligence analyst who lost his security clearance and his job over a polygraph operator’s accusation that he employed polygraph countermeasures. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON — Logan tried to stay calm as he boarded the subway to take the one-mile trip from his office at FBI headquarters to Patriots Plaza. He could have walked, but he didn’t want to risk getting sweaty or disheveled before his polygraph examination.
There was nothing to worry about, Logan told himself. During his 11 years as an FBI intelligence analyst, he had already passed two polygraphs — one when he was hired in 2003 and another in 2008. The bureau administers polygraphs to potential hires and then reinvestigates its employees every five years throughout their employment.
But as he headed to Patriots Plaza that morning in September 2014, Logan (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) couldn’t stop thinking about his polygraph results from the year before. His anxiety had taken over, and the test caught physiological reactions in response to national security questions. The examiner accused him of lying and attempting to cheat the polygraph. Logan denied both charges. The FBI scheduled a retest.
This time would be different. It had to be different, or he could lose his security clearance and his job.
But the 2014 retest got off to a bad start. Logan felt a panic attack set in as soon as the exam began. He focused on steadying his breathing and restoring his calm.
Logan’s attempts to quiet his nerves backfired. The polygrapher accused him of using a “countermeasure” ? a poorly defined term for deliberately altering one’s physiological state (by, say, sticking a thumbtack in one’s shoe) in order to hide lying on a polygraph. Logan denied the charge, but after several hours under pressure, he amended a written statement to include self-incriminating phrases he alleges were fed to him by the polygrapher. That statement was later used against him when the FBI revoked his security clearance, effectively putting him out of work. Logan appealed.
After nearly two years without pay, he is still trying to regain his clearance.
Read the rest of this important story here. In September 2105 the late Dr. Drew C. Richardson, a retired FBI scientist and polygraph critic, posted to AntiPolygraph.org the text of a declaration that he provided in support of the FBI employee in question.
An article published in the French language newspaper Le Soleil in 2011 recounts the story of an applicant for employment with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who read AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, and used the countermeasure techniques provided therein to pass the RCMP’s pre-employment polygraph examination while lying about salient details of his history, including whether he intended to use polygraph countermeasures. An English translation of the article follows:
The Man Who Beat the Polygraph
Published 13 January 2011 at 0500 hours | Updated 13 January 2011 at 0842 hours
(Québec) Anyone can beat the lie detector with a little preparation says Jean-François Courteau, who says he fooled that of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police without getting caught.
Jean-François Courteau, an information technology consultant from Québec, once was considering a career in the field of cybercrime. In 2006, he went through the entire selection process for the RCMP.
In his preparatory research, he quickly stumbled across the book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, a work that is offered for free on the Internet, that provides all the tricks for beating the polygraph.
Jean-François Courteau began by completing the RCMP questionnaire, whose hundred questions aim to bring out all the skeletons from the candidate’s closet.
Once connected to the polygraph, he says he lied on 3 of the 10 questions. “They asked me if I had omitted information about criminal acts I may have committed,” recounts Mr. Courteau. “I said no, but I knew that eight months previously, I had driven after drinking.”
The candidate says he also lied on the questions, “Do you intend to tell the truth?” and “Do you intend to use means to counter the polygraph?” “I replied no and yet that is what I was doing the whole time,” he summed up.
Jean-François Courteau says he was later eliminated because of a credit record that the RCMP deemed insufficient.
He draws from his experience the conclusion that the polygraph is partly based on chance. “It’s a random measure,” judges Jean-François Courteau. “Someone can arrive there totally dishonest, and he can pass anyway if he is well prepared.”
While it is not AntiPolygraph.org’s intention to help individuals obtain employment for which they are not qualified, Courteau’s experience underscores the folly of relying on the pseudoscience of polygraphy for personnel security screening.