Doug Williams Argues Why He Should Be Allowed to Continue Teaching People How to Pass a Polygraph Test

On 21 November 2016, imprisoned polygraph critic Doug Williams filed a court motion seeking amendment of federal judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange‘s sentencing order, which stipulates that upon release, Williams will be subject to three years’ “supervised release” during which time he “shall not participate in any form of polygraph-related activity.” Williams asks the court to modify the conditions of his release to allow him to engage in polygraph-related activity to the extent that it is not “intended or part of a scheme to defraud the United States or tamper with witnesses.”

On 10 February 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief opposing Williams’ motion, effectively conceding that polygraph countermeasures work and arguing that “the restriction on polygraph-related activities for the full term of supervised release is the minimum restriction necessary to protect the public.”

On 21 February 2017, Doug Williams filed a reply to the government’s opposition, challenging the Justice Department’s legal arguments and arguing forcefully why his freedom of speech should not be curtailed. His broader arguments are worth citing here (cited as filed, without corrections):

7. Williams is a highly trained and experience polygraph operator. He has been working in his profession for over 44 years. The District Court has discretion to impose an occupational restriction as a special condition of supervised release, but its discretion must be exercised in accordance with 18 U.S.C. S3538 (d) Subsection (a) states that a sentencing court may impose an occupational restriction only if it determines that ” … Imposition of such a restriction is reasonably necessary to protect the public because there is reason to believe that absent such restriction, the defendant will continue to engage in unlawful conduct similar to that for which the defendant was convicted.”

8. In this case there is no reason to believe that Williams will “continue to engage in unlawful conduct.” Williams can practice his profession as a polygraph operator and continue to publish information about the ineffectiveness of the polygraph examination without engaging in a scheme to defraud the United States Government, or without tampering with a witness. Williams has a 1st Amendment right to provide information about how a person taking a polygraph test can avoid being falsely accused of deception simply because they have a nervous reaction to a relevant question. Williams has no intention of providing information or training to any person for the purpose of defrauding the government, or the tampering with a witness. In his business and occupation, Williams seeks to provide comprehensive information about the use of the polygraph examination as well as methods used by the subject being tested to prove their truthfulness on a polygraph examination.

9. Any occupational restriction must be “reasonably necessary to protect the public” which requires a finding by the Court that, in the absence of the restriction “the defendant will continue to engage in unlawful conduct similar to that for which the defendant was convicted.” U.S.S.G. 5F1.5 (a)(2). In providing information about the use of the polygraph examination as well as methods to produce a “truthful” polygraph chart tracing, Williams is actually protecting the public and individual citizens from being defrauded by government agencies or employees who improperly use the polygraph testing process, and falsely brand a truthful person as a liar simply because they are nervous.

10. The government’s response states: “Given the defendant’s (Mr. Williams) extreme disregard for public safety and national security, there are no less restrictive alternatives that would adequately prevent him from helping individuals lie in order to obtain or keep sensitive government positions. Williams would submit that he is more concerned with our national security as evidenced by the fact that he has devoted almost forty years of his life proving the polygraph is nothing but a scam and he has been warning the government that it is foolish and dangerous to rely in the polygraph as a “lie detector”. In truth and in fact, it is the polygraph operators and those government officials who rely on the polygraph who are the ones who have demonstrated little regard for public safety and national security by relying on such an unreliable procedure as polygraph testing. Furttier, there IS no evidence that Williams has ever been involved in “helping individuals lie in  order to obtain or keep sensitive government positions”. In fact, the government seized Mr. Williams’ computer and downloaded the records of over 4900 people who had either purchased his manual and DVD or took part in my one on one polygraph test preparation training. The government agents, and an AUSA interviewed every one of these people who were of interest to them. They started the interview by saying, “We’re not after you, we are after Doug Williams.”. They interrogated them very intensely asking them if Williams ever told them to lie or if they ever told Williams they were going to lie. Not one of these people ever said Williams told them to lie or that they ever told Williams they were going to lie. It is of interest to note that polygraph operators from this same agency, the Customs and Border Patrol, admit that over two-thirds of the applicants for positions with that agency are denied employment because of a “failed” polygraph test so it is obvious that many thousands of people have been falsely accused of deception by government polygraph operators. This failure rate is another example of the polygraph program’s extreme disregard for public safety and national security by thwarting the Customs and Border Patrol’s efforts to adequately staff their agency.

11. The government’s response states: “Both UCs made it clear to defendant (Mr. Williams) that they could not keep or obtain federal employment unless he helped them lie about their crimes during their respective polygraph examinations. Knowing the UCs intent to lie to federal investigators in  order to get or keep federal law enforcement positions, defendant (Mr. Williams) willingly trained them how to provide false responses to polygraphers questions and still pass.” That is not true, neither of the UCs told Mr. Williams they were going to lie on the polygraph test, nor did Mr. Williams ever tell them to lie. The first undercover agent simply said the investigators already knew he had “turned his head” while a friend brought in  some drugs and the second undercover agent said he was going to tell the polygraph operator about his “crimes” and his only concern was that it would get back to the sheriff and he would lose his job as a deputy. Also, the government has no evidence that Mr. Williams “trained them to provide false responses to polygraphers questions and still pass”. The fact is that no polygraph test was ever administered to either of these undercover agents, nor did they ever intend to take a polygraph test. And there is no evidence that Mr. Williams helped them “lie about their crimes during their respective polygraph examinations” when no such test was ever taken. The UCs were the ones doing all the lying and they needed no help from Mr. Williams. Indeed, this was all pretend and they were even lying about lying since everything they said was scripted.

12. The polygraph is A simple device that has not changed significantly since in was invented in 1920. It records the subject’s blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration and what’s known as the galvanic skin response which is basically just a measurement of the increase or decrease of sweat activity on the subject’s fingers. Polygraph operators ask a series of questions during the test and measure the subject’s reaction or lack of reaction to the questions. There are two types of questions asked on the polygraph test – relevant and control. The relevant questions are those that pertain to the point at issue. For example, if the polygraph test is about drug smuggling, the questions would be as follows: Did you smuggle drugs into the country? Did you work with someone to smuggle drugs into the country? Right now could you take me to any of the drugs that were smuggled into the country? The polygraph operator will intersperse control questions during the test. The control questions would be as follows: Have you ever lied to anyone in authority to keep from getting in trouble? Did you ever deliberately hurt anyone? Have you ever stolen anything? The theory underlying the polygraph as a “lie detector” is as follows: If a subject has a reaction on a relevant questions that is greater than their reaction to a control questions, the subject is deemed to be deceptive. If the reverse is true, and the subject has a reaction to the control questions that is greater than their reaction to the relevant questions, the subject is deemed to be truthful. This reaction that would brand a person as a liar is  simply a nervous reaction such as is seen in the fight or flight response. When a person is confronted with a threatening stimulus their body releases a shot of adrenalin which causes their blood pressure to increase, their breathing to become erratic, and the sweat activity on their hand to increase. In order for the polygraph to be accurate as a “lie detector’, this reaction that polygraph operators refer to as a “lying reaction” or a “reaction indicative of deception” must always indicate deception. The problem is that there is no such thing as a “lying reaction”. In fact, the reaction that brands a person as a liar can and often is caused by any number of innocent stimuli – such as embarrassment, rage at having been asked an accusatory question, simple nervousness, fear of being falsely accused of lying – even the tone of the examiner during questioning can elicit a reaction that would cause a person to fail the test. So, the polygraph records a person’s nervous reaction to relevant questions but the problem is that nervousness does not always indicate deception – in fact it only indicates deception about 50% of the time. Thus the polygraph is no more accurate than “the toss of a coin”. Mr. Williams simply teaches people what the polygraph records, teaches them the difference between the relevant and control questions and runs them through a relaxation exercise similar to that used in the Lamas technique of natural child birth. This training only takes about twenty minutes and then the subject is hooked up to the polygraph and is allowed to demonstrate their ability to relax when answering the relevant questions and think of something frightening when answering the control questions thereby producing a perfect “truthful” chart. When you consider the extraordinary failure rate of almost 70% at the Customs and Border Patrol – as well as other government agencies – it is logical to assume that many thousands of people are falsely branded as liars by government polygraph operators. It would be unconscionable to deprive those persons seeking this training from receiving it by prohibiting Mr. Williams from continuing to educate them about how to avoid being falsely accused of deception simply because they are nervous.

13. The government’s response states: “Because defendant’s criminal conduct was inextricably linked with his polygraph business and because defendant has repeatedly and deliberately sought to avoid knowledge of his clients intention to lie during polygraph examinations (in order to insulate himself from criminal activity), the Court’s restriction on defendants participation in polygraph related activity is necessary to protect the public.” There is no statute that prohibits Mr. Williams from teaching a person to pass, or for that matter to “beat” a polygraph test. Williams was charged with witness tampering and Mr. Williams’ knowledge or lack of knowledge about his clients intention to lie during polygraph examinations is irrelevant simply because having the knowledge that a person he is training plans to lie does not constitute a crime. The crime Mr. Williams was charged with is witness tampering not teaching a person how to pass a polygraph test. Further, as will be discussed later, except in these two cases, there is no evidence that anyone has ever told him they intended to lie during polygraph examinations, and Mr. Williams has certainly never told anyone to lie on their polygraph examinations – and in  fact Mr. Williams never told any of these undercover agents to lie – nor did they ever tell Mr. Williams they planned to lie on their polygraph examinations. As regards the charges of witness tampering, it appears from the record that the only “tampering” being done was done by the government’s undercover agents. And it should be noted that these agents were not “witnesses” to anything. In fact everything they said was a lie. Also, everything Mr. Williams told the government’s undercover agents about how to pass a polygraph test was in his testimony to the congress in 1985 in support of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. So Mr. Williams is  in prison for telling the undercover agents exactly what he told the congress over thirty years ago.

14. Williams has been demonstrating how simple it is to “beat the box” on national television and in hundreds of seminars over the past thirty eight years. It is true that anyone can use Mr. Williams’ techniques to pass their polygraph test regardless of whether they are nervous or not, lying or not, no matter what. Mr. Williams has been saying that for almost forty years. He says that is hopes that those who use the polygraph or rely on the results reported to them by polygraph operators will realize that it is not accurate or reliable as a “lie detector” and will quit using it. Besides, liars can pass the polygraph test easily regardless of whether they have been trained or not. History is replete with examples of people who have lied and passed polygraph tests with no problem, Aldridge Ames, the CIA agent who was a notorious traitor, passed many polygraph examinations – and he was actively passing classified information to the Soviets when he took – and passed – many polygraph tests. As a matter of fact, there has never been even one traitor, or spy ever caught by the polygraph. Even the most recent episode with Edward Snowden demonstrates how foolish and dangerous it is to rely on the results of a polygraph test. Snowden passed two polygraph tests in order to get access to the information he leaked from the NSA. Snowden not only passed the pre-employment polygraph test, but he also passed the all encompassing, highly vaunted “lifestyle” polygraph test. Snowden passed both polygraph tests, even though he knew at the time he took the tests what he planned to do when he got his security clearance. If that doesn’t prove the polygraph is worthless, what does? So, the polygraph brands truthful people as liars and allows liars to pass the test with no problem. In fact, liars have demonstrated the ability to pass the polygraph test without any training whatsoever while truthful people are branded as liars at an alarming rate. Therefore, Williams’ training is essential to help truthful people avoid being falsely accused of deception. Accordingly Williams requests that the Court remove the special condition of his supervised release prohibiting his participation in any form of polygraph related activity.

Respectfully submitted

Douglas G Williams
Pro Se

Williams’ full brief may be downloaded here. For discussion of Williams’ case, see the Doug Williams Polygraph Trial Discussion Thread.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Applicant Megan Brown Discusses Her Polygraph Experience

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:

Polygraph Screening Prevents U.S. Customs and Border Protection from Meeting Hiring Goals

Customs and Border ProtectionAssociated Press reporter Elliot Spagat reports on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s pre-employment polygraph screening program:

SAN DIEGO (AP) — David Kirk was a career Marine pilot with a top-secret security clearance and a record of flying classified missions. He was in the cockpit when President George W. Bush and Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden traveled around the nation’s capital by helicopter.

With credentials like that, Kirk was stunned to fail a lie detector when he applied for a pilot’s job with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which guards 6,000 miles of border with Mexico and Canada. After two contentious polygraph sessions that lasted a combined eight hours, Kirk said, he drove home “with my tail between my legs,” wondering how things had gone so wrong.

Two out of three applicants to the CBP fail its polygraph, according to the agency — more than double the average rate of eight law enforcement agencies that provided data to The Associated Press under open-records requests.

Stories like David Kirk’s are common at CBP. See, for example, the dozens of comments on our 2010 blog post, Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Failure Rate Pegged at 60%.

It’s a big reason approximately 2,000 jobs at the nation’s largest law enforcement agency are empty, with the Border Patrol, a part of CBP, recently slipping below 20,000 agents for the first time since 2009. And it has raised questions of whether the lie detector tests are being properly administered.

CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said the failure rate is too high, but that it’s largely because the agency hasn’t attracted the applicants it wants. He and other law enforcement experts contend the polygraphs are generally working as intended at the agency, which has been trying to root out bribery and other corruption.

Gil Kerlikowske should be asked to document how he knows that the reason the CBP failure rate is so high is “largely because the agency hasn’t attracted the applicants it wants.” A more plausible explanation is that an invalid procedure (polygraph screening) is frequently and predictably producing invalid results.

But others, including lawmakers, union leaders and polygraph experts, contend that the use of lie detectors has gone awry and that many applicants are being subjected to unusually long and hostile interrogations, which some say can make people look deceptive even when they are telling the truth.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he suspects CBP examiners fail applicants to justify their own jobs. He said he worries applicants are being wrongly branded with a “scarlet letter” in the eyes of other potential government employers.

“There seems to be no good explanation, and when we hear so many anecdotal stories, it starts to look like a trend where they feel like they have to fail them, a certain number,” he said. “It makes you angry that people would be put through that.”

Senator Jeff Flake is likely correct. Polygraph operators’ pass/fail rates are compared, and it’s likely that polygraph they don’t want to appear to be “soft” compared to their peers. Sen. Flake raised concern about the level of false positives in the CBP polygraph program in a Judiciary Committee meeting held in June 2016.

In December, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said it was reviewing whether CBP’s polygraphs are effective in hiring. The hiring difficulties have become so acute that the Border Patrol recently took the unusual step of asking Congress to use money earmarked for 300 jobs for other purposes. That raises doubts about President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to add 5,000 agents.

Taking a polygraph became a hiring requirement at CBP in 2012 after a huge hiring surge led to more agents getting arrested for misconduct.

James Tomsheck said that when he was CBP’s chief of internal affairs from 2006 to 2014, about 30 applicants admitted during the lie detector test that they were sent by drug cartels; one said he killed his infant son.

One applicant revealed his brother-in-law wanted him to smuggle cocaine on the job, and another said he used marijuana 9,000 times, including the night before his test, according to the Government Accountability Office.

It is true, as James Tomsheck notes, that applicants sometimes admit to disqualifying behavior during pre-employment polygraph examinations.1 But only the most stupid of applicants make such admissions. Any person of reasonable intelligence seeking to infiltrate CBP on behalf of a drug cartel can pass the polygraph using simple countermeasures (see Chapter 4) that polygraph operators cannot detect.

Interviews with six applicants who failed to clear the polygraph fit a pattern: The examiner abruptly changes tone, leveling accusations of lying or holding something back. The job-seeker denies it and the questioning goes in circles for hours. Some are invited for a second visit, which ends no differently.

Luis Granado applied to the Border Patrol in 2014 with military experience and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. His father is an agent, and Granado used to proudly try on the badge as a boy.

“This was my dream job,” said Granado, 31, who is now a full-time Air Force reservist in Tucson, Arizona. “I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps forever.”

He said the examiner scolded him for answers that were “too emphatic, too fast” and told him to stop grinding his teeth.

Granado said the examiner was troubled by an admission that he cheated on a test in high school. When he denied ever belonging to a cartel or terrorist group, the examiner stopped and said, “Well, I think you’re being deceptive,” according to Granado. After two sessions that lasted a total of 12 hours, his conditional job offer was rescinded.

CBP declined to comment on individual cases.

Luis Granado’s experience is an all-too-common story, and it’s happening not only to CBP applicants, but also to applicants with other federal agencies with a polygraph screening requirement. See AntiPolygraph.org’s Personal Statements page for examples.

CBP’s Kerlikowske put the agency’s polygraph failure rate at about 65 percent. The AP asked law enforcement agencies across the country for two years of lie-detector data for job applicants, including police departments in the nation’s 10 largest cities and in major towns along the Mexican border. The eight that supplied numbers showed an average failure rate of 28 percent.

Tomsheck said that when he was CBP’s internal affairs chief, other federal agencies, including the FBI and Secret Service, had failure rates of less than 35 percent. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the only federal agency that supplied data to the AP, failed 36 percent in the last two years.

Mark Handler, editor in chief of the American Polygraph Association, said failure rates of about 30 percent are typical in law enforcement hiring.

Kerlikowske explained that the agency isn’t getting the applicants it wants because the relatively new CBP, created in 2003, “doesn’t have a brand” and is unfamiliar to some.

Among other possible reasons offered by some experts for the agency’s failure rate: CBP may have higher standards than local departments, and it get less-experienced applicants who have never taken a lie detector before.

Agencies can and do set their polygraph pass/fail rates as high or as low as they please. For example, in the late 1990s, the FBI had a pre-employment polygraph failure rate of 20%. But after 9/11, with a surge in the number of applicants, that failure rate more than doubled to 50% by 2002. It is not plausible that this rate increase had anything to do with the FBI having higher hiring standards (they didn’t change) or the fact that applicants had never been polygraphed before. Rather, with more applicants, the FBI felt it could afford to arbitrarily brand a higher percentage of applicants as liars and disqualify them.

The duration of CBP’s testing strikes some experts as unusual.

“If there’s an exam that lasts four to eight hours, your polygrapher is either incompetent or a fool or both,” said Capt. Alan Hamilton, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s recruitment and employment division. His department’s exams last no longer than 90 minutes.

Handler said prolonged, accusatory interviews can lead to failures for people who are telling the truth. Lie detectors measure blood pressure, sweating and breathing.

The relatively lengthy polygraph interrogations at CBP likely result from the fact that the CBP polygraph program was largely created and initially staffed with retired U.S. Secret Service polygraph operators, who could collect their pensions while receiving federal salaries with CBP (“double-dipping”). Lengthy, abusive interrogations have long been a hallmark of the USSS polygraph program. See, for example, the personal statement of Bill Roche.

Polygraphs are generally not admissible in court, and federal law bars private employers from using them to hire. The military doesn’t use them to screen enlistees, and some law enforcement agencies don’t use them in hiring, including the New York Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

CBP, under pressure to hire, recently loosened standards on previous marijuana use and, under a law that took effect in December, can waive polygraphs for veterans with top-secret clearances.

A better solution would be to scrap the polygraph program entirely. Given polygraphy’s lack of scientific underpinnings and vulnerability to simple, easily-learned countermeasures, CBP and other federal agencies should scrap their misplaced reliance on it. See AntiPolygraph.org’s proposed legislation for effecting this outcome.

Kirk, 47, of Friendswood, Texas, applied to CBP in 2013 after 20 years as a Marine officer and calls it one of the worst experiences of his life. In the Marines, “one of our biggest mantras is our honesty and integrity,” he said. “Someone calling me a liar, I take it very personally.”

During the 2013 polygraph exams, he said, he was accused of cheating on his wife and mishandling classified information and was told he acted like a drug trafficker trying to infiltrate the agency. Kirk vehemently denies the allegations.

The accusation of marital infidelity “almost made me want to jump across the desk,” said the father of four. He told the examiner that he tried marijuana in college and says the biggest mark on his record is a speeding ticket.

“They treated me like a criminal,” said Kirk, now a private pilot. “I don’t know who was better qualified than me to fill this position.”

See also this video report produced by the Associated Press, which includes an interview with David Kirk:

  1. AntiPolygraph.org is unaware of any instance where someone attempting to infiltrate CBP on behalf of a drug cartel was criminally prosecuted. []

On Eve of Polygraph Trial, Leaked Case Files Contradict CBP Polygraph Chief’s Countermeasure Detection Claim

cbp-ia-emblemIn a memo nominating his friend and colleague Special Agent Fred C. Ball for a polygraph association award, U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph unit chief John R. Schwartz claimed that “[Operation Lie Busters] revealed that sophisticated countermeasures can be routinely identified when all best practices are employed, including proper training of examiners and stringent Quality Control.” Operation Lie Busters is a criminal investigation initiated by the CBP polygraph unit that sought to entrap individuals offering instruction to the public on how to pass or beat a polygraph test.

Case files (104 MB ZIP archive) leaked to AntiPolygraph.org1 contradict Schwartz’s sophisticated countermeasure detection claim. AntiPolygraph.org’s review of the representative sample comprising 65 CBP “confirmed countermeasure cases” from August 2013 to January 2014, that is, the period leading up to Schwartz’s January 2014 memorandum, reveals that not a single case involved sophisticated countermeasures such as those delineated in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 MB PDF) or in Doug Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph.

On the contrary, in each of the 65 confirmed countermeasure cases, the examinee admitted to or engaged in activity indicating that he or she lacked a sophisticated grasp of polygraph procedure, such as dissociation, moving arms, legs, or hands, taking deep breaths, or targeting irrelevant questions. In one particularly egregious case (13-11886), an applicant who stated that he “thought of a ‘positive image’ such as his daughter’s face after answering questions and while awaiting the next question” was chalked up as a “confirmed countermeasure case” (and presumably barred from CBP employment).

The evidence of these case files is entirely consistent with the statement in a 2010 polygraph community training presentation that the notion that polygraph countermeasures are easy to detect and ineffective against an experienced examiner is fiction, and that it is a fact that “[i]t is easy to make realistic reactions” and that “[i]t is difficult to detect [countermeasures] when skillfully applied by trained subjects”:

handler-countermeasures-2009-slide-104

handler-countermeasures-2009-slide-105

Among the 65 CBP “confirmed countermeasure” cases, not one can credibly be described as having been skillfully applied by a trained subject. Eighteen previously published Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed countermeasure cases similarly suggest that DIA has no ability to detect sophisticated polygraph countermeasures. Because CBP and DIA, like all federal agencies with polygraph programs, use methodologies taught by the National Center for Credibility Assessment (the federal polygraph school), it is unlikely that any other federal agency is any more capable of countermeasure detection.

There is no evidence that Operation Lie Busters has resulted in any increased ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. Indeed, if sophisticated countermeasures could be routinely identified, there would have been no need for federal investigators to construct and circulate a polygraph watch list based on customer records seized from Doug Williams and Chad Dixon, an Indiana electrician also targeted in the investigation. Indeed, there would have been no perceived need for Operation Lie Busters at all.

The federal government’s inability to detect sophisticated countermeasures helps to explain its decision to target Williams, a former police polygraph examiner who has been teaching individuals how to pass or beat the polygraph since 1979, for entrapment and prosecution. Jury selection in his trial is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, 6 Tuesday, 12 May 2015.

Instead of seeking to suppress the public’s knowledge and understanding of polygraph procedure and countermeasures, and to imprison those who make such knowledge available, the United States Government should terminate its misplaced reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy. Make-believe science yields make believe security.

  1. Expand the ZIP archive to review the CBP confirmed countermeasure case files. The files associated with each case are organized in separate folders, each of which includes the charts associated with the case (in a folder titled “Documents”), the examinee’s statement admitting to countermeasure use, and the text of an e-mail message from the CBP polygraph unit transmitting the files to the National Center for Credibility Assessment. In a handful of cases, one of these — charts, statement, or cover message — is not available. You will also find a tab-delimited text file with an overview of each case and the countermeasures employed. []

Trial Date Set in U.S. v. Doug Williams

At a 15-minute arraignment hearing (258 kb PDF) held on Tuesday, 18 November 2014, Doug Williams of Norman, Oklahama, who was indicted last week in connection with his business teaching people how to pass polygraph tests, pled  not guilty, was released on his own recognizance, and a trial date of Tuesday, 13 January 2015 was set. The case is to be heard before Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Williams is represented by attorneys Chris H. Eulberg and Stephen H. Buzin.

Doug Williams Indicted for Teaching How to Pass a Polygraph Test

Doug Williams
Doug Williams in August 2013 News9.com Interview

On the afternoon of Friday, 14 November 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the indictment (the day before) of Douglas Gene Williams, a former Oklahoma City police polygraphist and the proprietor of Polygraph.com, who has been teaching individuals how to pass polygraph “tests” since 1979. The 21-page five-count indictment accuses Williams of two counts of mail fraud for having received payment for his services through the U.S. Postal Service and three counts of witness tampering for allegedly “persuad[ing] or attempting to persuade” two undercover agents posing as customers “to conceal material facts and make false statements with the intent to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony” of the undercover agents “in an official proceeding….”

Williams is not charged with any alleged crime not involving an undercover agent posing as a customer. Whatever the legal merits of the government’s case against Williams, it seems clear that the overarching motivation of the criminal investigation against him is to suppress speech that the government dislikes. U.S. v. Doug Williams has serious implications for free speech in the United States.

For the time being, Williams is limiting his public comments based on legal counsel. However, he has previously described the February 2013 entrapment operation and raid that federal agents conducted on his home and office. Using business records seized during the raid, federal officials compiled an inter-agency watch list comprising the names and personal details of thousands of Williams’ customers, as well as a lesser number of customers of a second man, Chad Dixon, who was also targeted for prosecution.

The indictment (2.6 mb PDF) of Doug Williams is an implicit admission by the U.S. government that 1) polygraph countermeasures work,  2) it has no effective means of detecting them, 3) it is deeply concerned about polygraph countermeasures.

A decade ago, an instructor at the federal government’s polygraph school suggested in a polygraph trade journal that providing information about polygraph countermeasures to the public should be outlawed. AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke posted a public response, never thinking that the U.S. government would actually pursue such a radical plan. But it appears to be happening.

Recommended reading:

Also, for discussion of the indictment from the time it was first made public, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board thread Doug Williams of Polygraph.com Indicted. Comments may also be posted here. Registration is not required.

 

Sacked U.S. Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Chief James F. Tomsheck Was Keynote Speaker at 2013 NCCA Graduation Ceremony

James F. Tomsheck
James F. Tomsheck

On Monday, 9 June 2014, the Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Assistant Commissioner James F. Tomsheck, who headed CBP’s Internal Affairs unit, “was removed from his post…amid criticism that he failed to investigate hundreds of allegations of abuse and use of force by armed border agents.”

Tomsheck, himself a former polygraph operator, was ultimately responsible for Operation Lie Busters, an ongoing criminal investigation that attempted to entrap individuals who provide instruction in how to pass polygraph examinations.

In July 2013, Tomsheck was the commencement speaker at a National Center for Credibility Assessment graduation ceremony. Tomsheck’s speech was the top story in the August 2013 issue of the CBP-IA newsletter, Special Delivery, a copy of which (1.2 mb PDF) has been obtained by AntiPolygraph.org. The full text of the article is reproduced below:

AC TOMSHECK ADDRESSES NCCA GRADUATES

NCCA Commencement - July 2013On July 24, 2013, five CBP students received diplomas completing the masters-level curriculum in Forensic Psychophysiology at the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) commencement. The graduates are now assigned as intern Polygraph Examiners in the CBP-IA Credibility Assessment Division (CAD). After a successful six-month internship, the graduates will become federally certified polygraph examiners. Once certified, these new polygraph examiners will play an important role in the effort to conduct 100% screening of all law enforcement applicants before they are hired by CBP, as required by the Anti-Border Corruption Act.

NCCA Director William Norris introduced the Commencement Speaker as “one of us” and directed the attention of the audience to a highlighted photograph of the 1984 graduating class that included a young Secret Service Agent, now CBP IA Assistant Commissioner James Tomsheck. AC Tomsheck congratulated the 32 graduates representing numerous federal agencies and praised them for their diligent work in the classroom and laboratories. He emphasized their success could not have been possible without the support of their families and agencies, and the excellent instruction received by the NCCA faculty. Mr. Tomsheck advised the graduates that they were entering the profession at a time unparalleled in the government, when all agencies were relying more on the unique ability of polygraph to protect our National Security from Insider Threats, and provided the assemblage with examples of penetration attempts wherein polygraph developed critical information impossible to obtain through traditional vetting methods. He emphasized that the graduates must always maintain and follow the standards taught and endorsed by NCCA, and implemented through the policies of their respective agencies.

This semester’s CBP graduates and their future office assignments are: Michael Gonzalez, McAllen; Eric Modisett, San Diego; Michale Moylan, San Diego; David Pelfrey, Detroit; and Sapphia Small, Newark.

NCCA, the federal government’s polygraph school, turns out newly minted polygraphers in 14 weeks, less than half the length of a typical barber college.

U.S. Government Circulates Watch List of Buyers of Information on How to Pass a Polygraph Test

cbp-ia-emblemMcClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reports that a list of 4,904 individuals whose names were derived from the customer records of Doug Williams and Chad Dixon, both of whom were targeted in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection-led criminal investigation called Operation Lie Busters, has been circulated to nearly 30 federal agencies including the CIA, NSA, DIA, DOE, IRS, and FDA. Exerpt:

WASHINGTON — U.S. agencies collected and shared the personal information of thousands of Americans in an attempt to root out untrustworthy federal workers that ended up scrutinizing people who had no direct ties to the U.S. government and simply had purchased certain books.

Federal officials gathered the information from the customer records of two men who were under criminal investigation for purportedly teaching people how to pass lie detector tests. The officials then distributed a list of 4,904 people – along with many of their Social Security numbers, addresses and professions – to nearly 30 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

Although the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven, authorities hoped to find government employees or applicants who might have tried to use them to lie during the tests required for security clearances. Officials with multiple agencies confirmed that they’d checked the names in their databases and planned to retain the list in case any of those named take polygraphs for federal jobs or criminal investigations.

It turned out, however, that many people on the list worked outside the federal government and lived across the country. Among the people whose personal details were collected were nurses, firefighters, police officers and private attorneys, McClatchy learned. Also included: a psychologist, a cancer researcher and employees of Rite Aid, Paramount Pictures, the American Red Cross and Georgetown University.

Moreover, many of them had only bought books or DVDs from one of the men being investigated and didn’t receive the one-on-one training that investigators had suspected. In one case, a Washington lawyer was listed even though he’d never contacted the instructors. Dozens of others had wanted to pass a polygraph not for a job, but for a personal reason: The test was demanded by spouses who suspected infidelity.

The unprecedented creation of such a list and decision to disseminate it widely demonstrate the ease with which the federal government can collect and share Americans’ personal information, even when there’s no clear reason for doing so.

It’s well worth reading the rest of the story. In addition, a DoD response to a McClatchy Newspapers inquiry indicates that Operation Lie Busters remains an ongoing investigation. In declining to answer whether it had checked names on the list against its records, DoD wrote:
The Department of Defense (DoD) has an active criminal investigation, working with US Customs and Border Protection, into the potential training of DoD civilian polygraph examinees in the use of countermeasures and making false statements. Because this is an active criminal investigation, we cannot provide any further information at this time.
Taylor also reveals that NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden “underwent two polygraphs for his NSA job” and that “he wasn’t found to have used polygraph-beating techniques to pass them.” Of course, that’s hardly surprising. No polygraph operator has ever demonstrated any ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. A collection of polygraph community countermeasure training materials published by AntiPolygraph.org earlier this year documents that the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting the kind of countermeasures explained in Doug Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph, or in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (PDF). Indeed, the very existence of Operation Lie Busters speaks to the federal government’s frustration in this regard. Taylor’s article does not mention whether Snowden’s polygraphs came before or after he began collecting the documents that he ultimately provided to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Chief John R. Schwartz on Interrogation

AntiPolygraph.org has received a copy of a presentation (1.4 mb PDF) on interrogation given by John R. Schwartz, who now heads the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Credibility Assessment Division. In that capacity, Schwartz heads one of the federal government’s largest polygraph units, with some 71 polygraph examiners and a fiscal year 2012 budget of $11.4 million. Schwartz has previously worked as an instructor at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (since renamed the National Center for Credibility Assessment) and in 1995 served as its acting director. As such, his views on interrogation are presumably influential.

Schwartz gave the presentation, titled, “Interrogation Tips for Nerds Like Me” at an October 2007 seminar held by the California Association of Polygraph Examiners in Coronado. Among other things, the presentation brings home the point that polygraph “testing” is really all about interrogation. For example, slide 6 covers “internal pressure” in the polygraph examinee that can be exploited by the polygraph operator :

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p06The “cookie jar” story is a simplistic tale that polygraphers like to tell during the pre-test phase. Retired FBI polygrapher Jack Trimarco explained it this way in a 2007 radio interview:

Moms are the best polygraph examiners in the world because they know Little Johnny 24-hours-a-day, and when Mom tells Johnny, “Don’t take a cookie before dinner” and she walks into the kitchen and the cookie jar has the top off of it and there’s crumbs on the counter and crumbs, in fact, on little Johnny’s mouth, and she says, “Johnny, did you take a cookie?” and he goes into the fetal position and looks down and lowers his voice and says, “No, Mommy,” well Mommy knows immediately that Johnny did take the cookie.

The polygrapher attempts to convince the examinee that the polygraph results are like the cookie crumbs on Little Johnny’s mouth.

Slides 10 and 11 document a dangerous mindset prevalent among American interrogators: that their job is to extract confessions (as opposed to determining the truth). Federal polygraph operators are typically evaluated based on their post-test confession rates. Schwartz dismisses the possibility that the polygraph could be wrong and enumerates methods for overcoming objections. Yet a statistical analysis (255 kb PDF) by Dr. Alan P. Zelicoff of the best polygraph field studies suggests that “if a subject fails a polygraph, the probability that she is, in fact, being deceptive is little more than chance alone; that is, one could flip a coin and get virtually the same result for a positive test based on the published data.”

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p10schwartz-interrogation-2007-p11There is an inside joke among polygraphers that they are salesmen with a difficult job: selling jail time. In slide 13, urging the polygrapher to keep the interrogation going as long as possible, Schwartz describes the job a different way: “manure salesman”:

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p13In slide 14, Schwartz specifically mentions AntiPolygraph.org, suggesting that the polygrapher should “do the unexpected” if he or she believes that the examinee has read this site (or if the polygrapher has “the feeling” that the examinee “won’t confess”). It’s not clear what “unexpected” things Schwartz advocates polygraphers doing:

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p14In slides 20 and 21, Schwartz suggests a variety of polygraph techniques “if nothing else works,” including one of his own creation: “Schwartz’s Helpful Interrogation Test,” evidently an adaptation of the peak of tension test. This technique is not included in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph handbook (1.9 mb PDF), and it’s not clear if CBP polygraphers use it. Nonetheless, it is cause for concern that a federal polygrapher devised and advocated a “home brewed” polygraph technique:

schwartz-interrogation-2007-p20schwartz-interrogation-2007-p21It is absurd to ask a polygraph examinee why an invalid procedure (polygraphy) may have produced an inaccurate result. It’s like asking why a coin toss came out heads instead of tails. Schwartz’s home brewed “Helpful Interrogation Test” has one thing in common with the Backster Zone Comparison Test, the Reid Modified General Question Test, and the Keeler Relevant/Irrelevant Test: it is the brainchild of an interrogator, not a scientist. Beware of manure salesmen.

Border Patrol Union Knows Polygraphs Are Junk Science

nbpc-local-2544-logoNational Border Patrol Council Local 2544 in Tucson, Arizona takes a dim view of polygraph “testing” in an article titled “Polygraph = Junk Science.” Excerpt:

There is a new kingdom being built within DHS. It’s the Polygraph Kingdom. Polygraph examiners have basically been anointed judge, jury and executioner. The problem? Polygraphs are absolute junk science. They are not reliable. Many dishonest people can easily beat them, and many others that would make great agents are screwed out of a career by false positives. So we are more likely to end up with a polished career criminal in our ranks and less likely to end up with a good person who a polygraph examiner decides he or she doesn’t like. Polygraph examiners need trophies on their mantles, just like IA and OIG. The easiest targets are honest people with a conscience. Most criminals have no honesty and even less conscience.

We have always advised our members to decline an invitation to do a polygraph exam (this doesn’t apply to new applicants, they have no choice). Polygraph exams can’t help you, they can only hurt you. The agency will not dismiss anything because you pass a polygraph, but they will use a negative result to hammer you. As with drugs, the easiest thing to do is “just say no” to polygraph exams. The old and tired IA/OIG line “If you don’t have anything to hide you would (fill in the blank)” is a sure sign that they are desperate to trick you into something. We have seen too many good agents targeted by IA and OIG over the years because of personal bias and grudges. Who is keeping an eye on the IA and OIG agents?

Read the rest here.