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:
The presentation devotes numerous slides to Doug Williams, including a biographical synopsis:
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:
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]”:
Numerous slides discuss conversations on the AntiPolygraph.org message board and the contents of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.
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.
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 an order 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.
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.
On Friday, 21 September 2001, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s senior analyst for Cuban affairs, 16-year veteran Ana Belen Montes, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage for Cuba. News that Montes had beaten the polygraph while spying for Cuba was first reported here on AntiPolygraph.org by one of our forum members. That Montes beat the polygraph is confirmed by retired DIA counterintelligence investigator Scott W. Carmichael, who writes “She had successfully completed DIA’s counterintelligence scope polygraph examination in March 1994, seemingly with flying colors.”1
The Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General conducted a review of the Montes case and on 16 June 2005 produced a top secret report titled, “Review of the Actions Taken to Deter, Detect and Investigate the Espionage Activities of Ana Belen Montes.” An unclassified version of the report (15 MB PDF) with major redactions has been publicly released.
The DoD IG reviewed over 250,000 pages of documentation2 but evidently failed to review the National Academy of Science’s (NAS) 2003 landmark report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, which concluded, among other things, 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.” The NAS report is nowhere mentioned in the Montes review.
The 180-page report devotes just a single page3 — half of which is redacted — to Montes’ having beaten the polygraph.
The Montes review makes several recommendations with respect to polygraph policy. In short, it calls for more research into polygraph countermeasures, retention of polygraph charts for 35 years, and requiring polygraph screening for everyone at DIA.
Faced with a Cuban spy who beat the polygraph, DoD consulted not the scientific literature on polygraphy, but rather turned to those with the most to hide — the federal polygraph community — and decided that more polygraphs is the answer.
Retired DIA counterintelligence officer Scott W. Carmichael notes that Montes was hardly the first Cuban spy to beat the polygraph:
Indications of a spy’s presence [within the DIA] were manifest. There was the CIA’s persistent difficulty in running Cuban agents. It seemed that every operation was doubled back against the CIA by an incredibly effective Cuban Intelligence Service as agent after agent defeated CIA polygraph examinations.4
One of the Cuban spies who beat the polygraph was the late Nicolas Sirgado, who beat a polygraph test administered by now retired CIA polygrapher Alan B. Trabue.
The DoD IG’s decision to ignore the science on polygraphs was presaged by a 2002 memorandum on polygraph policy by then Assistant Secretary of Defense John P. Stenbit, who completely disregarded the National Academy of Sciences’ key finding that reliance on polygraph screening is unjustified, and even dangerous to national security.
By systematically ignoring the science on polygraphs and instead increasing its reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy, DoD has shortchanged national security.
Below are the DoD IG’s specific recommendations regarding polygraph policy:
3 b (U//FOUO) We recommend that the Director, Counterintelligence Field Activity5:
(i) (U//FOUO) Research polygraph countermeasures and then collaborate with polygraph manufactures to develop, produce, and distribute new countermeasures detection devices for use by polygraph community consumers.
(ii) (U//FOUO) Develop comprehensive polygraph standards for the DoD polygraph community to increase the effectiveness of polygraph countermeasures [sic].
(iii) (U//FOUO) Establish a comprehensive polygraph countermeasures course at the DoD Polygraph Institute that requires all DoD polygraph examiners to attend the course within 1 year of graduation from initial polygraph training and thereafter requires them to attend refresher training at least biennially.
(iv) (U//FOUO) Direct all DoD polygraph programs to report to the DoD Polygraph Institute all polygraph examinations in which countermeasures are confirmed.
4 (U//FOUO) We recommend that the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Counterintelligence and Security continue working with Congress to change DoD polygraph provisions in 10 U.S.C. section 1564a, and, once the law is changed, to advise us of the update to DoD Directive 5210.48 and DoD Regulation 5210.48-R.6
5 (U//FOUO) We recommend that the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency use pre-employment Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph examinations for every Defense Intelligence Agency position that requires access to Top Secret material.7
6 (U//FOUO) We recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence direct all DoD entities with polygraph programs to digitize and retain for a minimum of 35 years all Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph examination charts.8
7 (C) We recommend that the Director, Defense Intelligence Agency institute a coordinated employee vetting program that uses personnel specialists, security officials, polygraph examiners, and psychologists to determine the suitability of prospective employees.9
Carmichael, Scott W. True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba’s Master Spy. Naval Institute Press, 2007 at p. 41. [↩]
See p. 2 of the report, p. 14 of the PDF file. [↩]
On 21 February 2013, federal agents raided former police polygraphist Doug Williams‘ home and office, seizing his customer records as part of an investigation targeting polygraph countermeasure instructors. The U.S. government used these records to create a interagency watch list of individuals who had purchased Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph, an accompanying DVD, or had received in-person training on how to pass a polygraph “test.”
Court records obtained by AntiPolygraph.org reveal that one of the individuals on the list, Ray Dwight Sluss of Johnson City, Tennessee, a convicted sex offender on probation, passed four post-conviction polygraph examinations. In a memorandum (PDF) dated 22 November 2013, United States Attorney William C. Killian writes:
In 2013, federal agents received information that Sluss had purchased polygraph counter-measures techniques and training from an individual in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma who marketed these products to convicted felons like Sluss who were subject to polygraph examinations. FBI in Oklahoma referred the defendant to FBI in Johnson City, where an agent confirmed that Sluss had been convicted of child pornography crimes, was on state court probation, and had completed periodic polygraph examinations. As a convicted sex offender, Sluss was also subject to limitations on his residence, employment, and activities. FBI verified that Sluss had successfully passed four polygraph examinations since his release from prison.
There is no indication that any polygraph operator ever detected Sluss using polygraph countermeasures. Sluss had completed his polygraph requirement and on 10 September 2010 was placed on “unsupervised” probation.
According to another court filing, on 28 August 2013, FBI Special Agent Peter O’Hare, Jr. “visited Mr. Sluss at his home to question him about a report that Mr. Sluss had purchased materials relating to polygraph examination countermeasures. Mr. Sluss denied making such a purchase.”
O’Hare returned to Sluss’s residence two days later accompanied by the latter’s probation officer, and a search of the home led to the discovery of computer media with child pornography, for possession of which Sluss was sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison.
The Sluss case highlights the vulnerability of polygraphy to simple countermeasures (see Chapter 4) that polygraph operators cannot detect and the foolishness of official reliance on this pseudoscientific procedure for public safety purposes.
Steven Williams, a 30-year-old U.S. Air Force staff sergeant stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, has confessed to killing his ex-wife, Tricia Todd, on the night of 26 April 2016. Williams reportedly dismembered Todd with a chain saw and buried her body parts in an acid-filled container in a pre-dug grave in a Florida nature preserve.
Despite having committed a premeditated murder, on or about 3 May 2016, Williams passed a polygraph “test” about his ex-wife’s disappearance. As Huffington Post senior crime reporter David Lohr noted on 5 May:
A search of Williams’ car showed nothing unusual, authorities said, and he passed a polygraph examination.
“He did voluntarily submit to a polygraph exam,” [Martin County, Florida Sheriff William] Snyder said. “Nothing in Mr. Williams’s lengthy interview — and it was a long, detailed interview — nor his polygraph exam indicated that he was involved or had any additional information about Tricia Todd’s disappearance.”
Snyder added that “at this point, there is no focus that needs to be on the former husband.”
It would appear that Williams’ passing the polygraph helped to misdirect investigators, at least temporarily. Williams ultimately confessed to killing Todd and agreed to lead investigators to her remains as part of a plea arrangement which will see him incarcerated for 35 years.
Steven Williams’ fooling the polygraph after committing such a monstrous act calls to mind the case of “Woodchipper Killer” Richard Crafts, who passed a polygraph “test” despite having killed his wife, Helle Crafts, dismembered her body with a chainsaw, and ground up the parts with a commercial woodchipper.
It would be a mistake to rationalize away these failures of the polygraph to detect deception by saying, “well of course they passed, they were psychopaths who felt no remorse for their actions.” The fact of the matter is that there is little evidence regarding whether psychopaths have any special advantage when it comes to beating polygraph “tests.” The important thing to understand is that polygraphy has no scientific basis whatsoever.
Polygraph methods were devised by interrogators who had little understanding of the scientific method1, and anyone can fool the polygraph using simple countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect. Polygraph countermeasure techniques are documented in Chapter 4 of AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (PDF).