An Interview with Doug Williams Concerning Operation Lie Busters

Former police polygraphist Doug Williams spoke with Evan Anderson of Oklahoma City News 9 in an interview that aired on Monday, 19 August 2013. As reported by McClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor, Williams is one of two known targets of a federal criminal investigation called Operation Lie Busters targeting individuals who provide instruction in methods of passing a polygraph test.

Fox News has erroneously reported that Williams was arrested, although, as reported by McClatchy, investigators did confiscate his business records. Correcting the record, Williams told News 9: “I have not been arrested, I have not been indicted, I have not been charged with any crime whatsoever. Period. Ever.”

Willams notes, “They’ve got me scared, but not enough to shut up.” applauds Williams’ determination not to be intimidated into silence. Williams’ website remains online and he continues to be active on Twitter (@PolygraphCom).

McClatchy on Operations Lie Busters

Doug Williams
Crime in progress? Doug Williams explaining how to produce a scorable reaction on a polygraph chart for Penn & Teller Bullshit!

Marisa Taylor and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. report for McClatchy that the federal government is targeting for criminal prosecution those who teach methods for passing a polygraph test, noting that at least two instructors have been targeted by undercover sting operations thus far: former police polygrapher Doug Williams, who runs, and Chad Dixon, who ran a now defunct website called McClatchy reports that in the course of the investigation, which is called “Operation Lie Busters,” [i]nvestigators confiscated business records from the two men, which included the names of as many as 5,000 people who’d sought polygraph-beating advice.”

Dixon has pleaded guilty to unspecified charges that remain under seal and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, though prosecutors are seeking a two-year sentence. Williams is not reported to have been charged with any crime, and he “declined to comment other than to say he’s done nothing wrong.” co-founder George Maschke may also have been targeted by an attempted sting. McClatchy reports:

George Maschke, a former Army Reserve intelligence officer who’s a translator and runs a website that’s critical of polygraph testing, said he also suspected he’d been targeted although he’d done nothing illegal.

In May, the translator received an unsolicited email in Persian from someone purporting to be “a member of an Islamic group that seeks to restore freedom to Iraq.”

“Because the federal police are suspicious of me, they want to do a lie detector test on me,” the email read.

The emailer asked for a copy of Maschke’s book, which describes countermeasures, and for Maschke to help “in any other way.”

Maschke said he suspected the email was a ruse by federal agents. He advised the person “to comply with applicable laws,” according to an email he showed McClatchy.

Although federal authorities haven’t contacted him, Maschke said he worried that visitors to his site,, would be targeted simply for looking for information about polygraph testing.

“The criminalization of the imparting of information sets a pernicious precedent,” he said. “It is fundamentally wrong, and bad public policy, for the government to resort to entrapment to silence speech that it does not approve of.”

Instead of criminalizing truth-telling about the weaknesses of polygraphy, the U.S. government should heed the warnings of the scientific community and terminate its misplaced reliance on this pseudoscientific ritual.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Documentation has obtained a copy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Assistant Commissioner for Internal Affairs James F. Tomsheck’s “CBP-IA Five Year Report” (4.4 mb) showcasing his office’s performance from Fiscal Years 2008 to 2012. CBP-IA is the office behind Operation Lie Busters, an effort to criminalize the teaching of polygraph countermeasures. Assistant Commissioner Tomsheck concludes in his 29-page report that he’s doing a good job. Excerpt:

I am pleased to present this five-year report which details the successes the employees of the Office of Internal Affairs (IA) have achieved during fiscal years 2008 through 2012. The accomplishments described in this report highlight the dedication and commitment of every IA employee who performs his or her duties in an exemplary manner in support of CBP’s mission to secure our nation’s borders while fostering legitimate travel and trade.

Tomsheck fails to note Department of Homeland Security Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan’s 18 July 2012 report of investigation documenting his gross violations of DHS privacy policy.

CBP-IA’s polygraph unit, called the “Credibility Assessment Division,” is reviewed at pp. 19-20. Operation Lie Busters is not mentioned. Excerpt:

Five years ago, the Credibility Assessment Diivision (CAD) existed only as a vision in the minds of CBP leadership. Faced with unprecedented hiring surges designed to secure our nation’s borders, and the knowledge that rapid expansion of law enforcement agencies had historically caused a dramatic increase in corruption within those agencies, IA requested authority to establish a polygraph program within CBP-IA. With support from the Commissioner, IA obtained the required authority from OPM to begin a polygraph pre-employment screening program for applicants for CBP law enforcement positions.

In January 2008, the first 12 newly-hired certified polygraph examiners arrived at the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) to train on the LEPET polygraph format, which was designed for law enforcement screening. In February 2008, CAD deployed its first operational mission to Dallas, in collaboration with PSD, several HRM components, and Border Patrol.

The results of the polygraph examinations were profound and revealing. Many applicants successfully completed the polygraph process and were quickly sent to Basic Agent Training at Artesia, NM. However, 58% of the applicants failed to successfully complete the polygraph and were found unsuitable. Their admissions confirmed the reliability of the polygraph process.

The first independent inspection of CBP’s polygraph program by NCCA’s Quality Assurance Program provided an in-depth look at 118 functional and operational CAD criteria. The inspection team concluded their review with no derogatory findings, and affirmed the strong foundation upon which the CBP polygraph program had been established.

The biennial inspection by NCCA’s Quality Assurance Program again identified no derogatory findings of weaknesses or flaws in the CAD polygraph program. To the contrary, three areas of “strength” were identified (two quality control program management areas and polygraph program statistics regarding admission/confession rate). This was an unprecedented finding that established CBP as the leader among the 26 federal agencies with a polygraph capability. is interested in hearing from federal polygraph examiners regarding CBP-IA’s status as “the leader among the 26 federal agencies with a polygraph capability.” Comments may be posted below, anonymously if you prefer.

The five-year report also provides budgetary information regarding CBP-IA as a whole and the Credibility Assessment Division (CAD) in particular. A chart at p. 9 shows that the CAD’s budget was $5,627,583 in FY 2009 (its first year), $5,627,583 in FY 2010, $7,959,893 in FY 2011, and $11,414,174 in FY 2012. The chart shows that  as CAD’s budget was doubling from 2009 to 2012, the budget of the Personnel Security Division, which conducts background investigations, fell from $113,436,602 in FY 2009 to $81,156,746 in FY 2012, suggesting that background investigations are being shortchanged in favor of lie detector tests.

In addition to CBP-IA’s five-year report, has also obtained a CBP-IA organizational chart (160 kb PDF) current as of circa 5 December 2012 and a 23 May 2013 CBP-IA memorandum by Chris Pignone, Acting Director, Investigative Operations Division and Jeffrey Matta, Acting Director, Integrity Programs Division, titled “Reminder on IPD reporting structure” (156 kb PDF). The memo notes that “the Integrity Programs Division (IPD) is the research, analysis and education component of CBP/IA.” The memo describes the director of IPD as being “joined at the hip” with IOD (Investigative Operations Division) and CAD (the polygraph unit).

Update: A newer CBP-IA organizational chart (209 kb), current as of June 2013, is now available.

Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Subject of Scathing DHS Privacy Report

James F. Tomsheck
James F. Tomsheck has received a previously unpublished report of investigation (934 kb PDF) by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office into an information-sharing program operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Internal Affairs (CBP IA), headed by CBP Assistant Commissioner James F. Tomsheck.1

The report, by DHS Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan, is dated 18 July 2012 and documents gross violations of DHS privacy policy by Tomsheck in connection with a pilot program whereby CBP IA shared personal information on CBP employees with the FBI. The project “came to be known as the SAR Exploitation Initiative Pilot (SAREX Pilot or Pilot).”2

The ostensible purpose of this project was for CBP IA to “enhance CBP IA’s Background Investigation (BI)/Periodic Review (PR) process by leveraging the FBI’s supposed ability to conduct federated searches of law enforcement databases.” CBP IA provided personal information on over 3,000 employees to the FBI, but received, “informally,” from the FBI information on only 9 or 10 individuals.3

Callahan’s investigation “revealed a lack of oversight by CBP IA leadership to ensure that DHS policies governing the sharing of [personally identifiable information] were adhered to in conducting” the information sharing pilot program” and “found an apparent blatant disregard for concerns raised by the [Office of Inspector General] and CBP IA staff who questioned the legal authority for, and privacy implications of, the Pilot.”

Callahan also notes, among other things:

…During my meeting with the Assistant Commissioner [James F. Tomsheck] on April 26, 2012, the Assistant Commissioner seemed to believe that CBP IA’s mission exempts it from following applicable privacy law and DHS privacy policy. I believe this attitude is likely to result in a culture of non-compliance in CBP IA. On May 10, 2012, the Assistant Commissioner told me that CBP IA is already engaging in such activities outside the Pilot. It is critical, therefore, that steps be taken now to ensure that any current or future sharing of PII by CBP IA complies with applicable law and DHS policy, and that CBP counsel and the CBP Privacy Officer are consulted prior to implementation of any such projects…. invites commentary.

  1. Tomsheck’s office appears to be the lead agency in Operation Lie Busters, a criminal investigation evidently targeting the teaching of polygraph countermeasures. []
  2. The acronym “SAR” is not defined in the report. []
  3. The CBP polygraph unit’s summary of significant admissions obtained during polygraph examinations, which reveals the existence of Operation Lie Busters, mentions that “ten applicants for law enforcement positions within CBP were identified as receiving sophisticated polygraph Countermeasure training in an effort to defeat the polygraph requirement.” It is not clear whether these might be the individuals on whom the FBI informally provided information. []

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Allegedly Targets Reservists/Guardsmen with Polygraphs

In a class action appeal filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board, four military reserve officers allege that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has engaged in a “continuous” and “wide-ranging pattern of harassment” against members of the U.S. Armed Services and National Guard, including targeting them with pre-employment polygraph screening, in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (38 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq.). The case is Ferguson, et al. v. Department of Homeland Security, et al., filed 15 February 2013.

One of the appellants, Jason Dutcher, was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve when in June 2010 he applied for employment with CBP’s Office of Air and Marine. His application was rejected “ostensibly because he failed a polygraph examination.”

With regard to CBP’s pre-employment polygraph polygraph practices, the appeal alleges:

78.    On information and belief, Appellant Dutcher and members of the Applicant Subclass were denied initial employment based on their membership in the United States Armed Services or National Guard.

79.    On information and belief, and thereon alleged, polygraph examinations are or were administered to applicants with military service obligations at an unreasonably higher and inexplicably rate [sic] than to those applicants without military service obligations.

80.    On information and belief, and thereon alleged, applicants with military service obligations fail the polygraph examinations at an unreasonably and inexplicably higher rate than do those applicants without military service obligations.

81.    The Class’ obligations and membership in the uniformed services was and is a motivating factor in all discriminatory, harassing and hostile actions Appellees have taken against the Appellants.

The class that Dutcher seeks to represent includes “all those individuals who applied for employment at DHS, CBP and/or OAM between January 1, 1994 and the present who were not hired due to their military service obligations” (para. 101).

The appellants’ allegations also include:

129. Upon information and belief, Appellees have repeatedly made comments to members of the Applicant Subclass during the application process indicating that the applicant’s affiliation with the military made it difficult for Appellees to hire the applicant because the individual may have future military commitments.

130. Upon information and belief, Appellees have repeatedly refused to hire members of the Applicant Subclass because they may have future military obligations.

131. Upon information and belief, Appellees administer polygraph tests during the application process randomly, arbitrarily and at an unreasonably higher rate to members of the Applicant Subclass than to applicants with no military service affiliation.

132. Upon information and belief, an unreasonably and inexplicably higher percentage of applicants with military service affiliations fail the polygraph tests than do applicants with no military service affiliation.

133. USERRA requires employers to treat all applicants for employment similarly regardless of their military service affiliation and obligations.

134. By repeatedly discriminating against Appellant Dutcher and the Applicant Subclass through their refusal to hire members of the Applicant Subclass, Appellees have violated §4311 of USERRA.

135. Appellant’ Dutcher’s and the Applicant Subclass’ service obligations were a motivating factor in the discriminatory actions Appellees have taken against Appellant and the Applicant Subclass.

The appellants are represented by Brian J. Lawler of  Pilot Law, P.C. in San Diego, California.

Operation Lie Busters

The federal criminal investigation into polygraph countermeasure training reported by last week is named “Operation Lie Busters.” The name, which was redacted from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) document (5.4 mb PDF) released to the Center for Investigative Reporting under the Freedom of Information Act, suggests that polygraph countermeasures are central, and not peripheral to the investigation, in which 10 applicants for employment with CBP “were identified as receiving sophisticated polygraph Countermeasure training in an effort to defeat the polygraph requirement.”

While polygraph countermeasures may be used by deceptive persons to pass a polygraph, truthful persons may also choose to employ them to protect themselves against the high risk of a false positive outcome. CBP, for example, has a pre-employment polygraph failure rate of about 60%, and given polygraphy’s complete lack of scientific underpinnings, it is inevitable that many truthful applicants, like Eric Trevino, are being falsely branded as liars by CBP and other federal agencies and suffering irreparable career harm.

Polygraph countermeasures, such as those explained in’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF), are simple, easily learned, and effective, and the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting them. Being unable to detect countermeasures, it appears that the U.S. government is attempting to criminalize them.

The CBP polygraph unit (formally titled the “Credibility Assessment Division” clearly prides itself on Operation Lie Busters, having showcased it as the first item in a 28-page “Significant Admissions Summary,” even though no “significant admission” is alleged in connection with the investigation.

CBP Public Affairs declined to answer any questions about this investigation, including whether any of the 10 CBP applicants have been criminally charged, what the underlying crime in the alleged conspiracy is, whether CBP considers it a crime to receive or provide instruction in polygraph countermeasures, how the applicants in question were identified as having received polygraph countermeasure training, who provided the training, and why the name of the operation was redacted and whether it could now be disclosed.

Despite CBP’s refusal to comment, has learned that the head of CBP’s Credibility Assessment Division, John R. Schwartz, and CBP Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr. have been scheduled since at least January 2013 to give a presentation on the operation on Monday, 3 June 2013, as the keynote and opening presentation at the American Association of Police Polygraphists‘ annual seminar, which is scheduled for 2-7 June 2013 at the Omni Charlotte Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina. The seminar schedule, a copy of which has been provided to, reveals the name of the investigation to be “Operation Lie Busters”:

AAPP - Operation Lie Busters

If the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s polygraph unit can showboat Operation Lie Busters at a convention organized by a private group such as the American Association of Police Polygraphists, then the public should be entitled to know about this allegedly “precedent setting” investigation, too.

Documents provided to reveal that the two primary sources of information about polygraph countermeasures that concern the polygraph community are and former police polygraphist Doug Williams of Norman, Oklahoma, who sells a manual titled “How to Sting the Polygraph” and offers personal training in polygraph countermeasures. notes that both John Schwartz and Fred Ball are assigned to CBP offices in Houston, Texas, whose jurisdiction extends to Oklahoma City, of which Norman is a suburb.

For discussion of Operation Lie Busters, see “Is It a Crime to Provide or Receive Polygraph Countermeasure Training?” on the message board.

Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Screening: A Critical Commentary on the Center for Investigative Journalism’s Recent Reporting

On 4 April 2013, the Center for Investigative Reporting published two articles by Andrew Becker on U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s pre-employment polygraph screening program. The first, which has garnered considerable attention and was featured on Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, is “During polygraphs, border agency applicants admit to rape, kidnapping.”1 Becker’s reporting is based primarily on an internal report by CBP’s polygraph unit (formally titled the Credibility Assessment Division). This document, first obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, is available on as a word-searchable PDF file. Becker opens the article:

One [CBP applicant] admitted to kidnapping and ransoming hostages in the Ivory Coast. Others said they had molested children or committed rape. And one, as he prepared for survival in a post-apocalyptic world, contemplated assassinating President Barack Obama.

These are among the thousands of applicants who have sought sensitive law enforcement jobs in recent years with the U.S. Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection.

In many cases, these people made it all the way through the hiring process until one of the last steps – a polygraph exam. Once sitting with a polygraph examiner, they admitted to a host of astonishing crimes, according to documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The records – official summaries of more than 200 polygraph admissions – raise alarms about the thousands of employees Customs and Border Protection has hired over the past six years before it began mandatory polygraph tests for all applicants six months ago. The required polygraphs come at the tail end of a massive hiring surge that began in 2006 and eventually added 17,000 employees, helping to make the agency the largest law enforcement operation in the country.

Continue reading Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Screening: A Critical Commentary on the Center for Investigative Journalism’s Recent Reporting

  1. The Daily Beast ran with the less sensationalist title, “On Polygraph Tests, Would Be Border Patrol Agents Confess to Crimes” []

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Reveals Criminal Investigation Into Polygraph Countermeasure Training

A document (5.4 mb PDF) released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveals the existence of a criminal investigation into polygraph countermeasure training received by ten CBP applicants for employment. The document, first obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, is a summary of significant admissions obtained during polygraph examinations. The criminal investigation is revealed in the opening paragraph:

1. During the conduct of a precedence [sic] setting criminal investigation known as Operation [redacted], ten applicants for law enforcement positions within CBP were identified as receiving sophisticated polygraph Countermeasure training in an effort to defeat the polygraph requirement. None of the CBP applicants were successful, but others involved in the conspiracy were [redacted]. The Insider Threat caused by the physiological and psychological polygraph countermeasures employed against other agencies has been investigated by CBP-IA with assistance from affected agencies. This investigation provides proof of the necessity and effectiveness of the Anti-Border Corruption Act, and revelation of the previously unknown vulnerabilities of the hiring process.

The document does not state how the applicants were identified as having received polygraph countermeasure training, what the underlying crime at the heart of the alleged conspiracy is, or what precedent the investigation sets. It is not a crime to provide or receive instruction in polygraph countermeasures (although a senior federal polygraph instructor has suggested that it should be). has contacted the CBP press office seeking answers to the following questions:

  • Have any of these applicants been criminally charged? If so, what are their names and what crimes have they been charged with?
  • The paragraph alleges a criminal conspiracy; what is the underlying crime?
  • Does CBP consider it a crime for applicants to receive instruction in polygraph countermeasures?
  • Does CBP consider it a crime to provide instruction in polygraph countermeasures to CBP applicants?
  • The paragraph characterizes this investigation as precedent setting; what is the precedent that is being set here?
  • How were the applicants in question identified as having received polygraph countermeasure training?
  • Why was the name of the operation redacted? Can you now disclose it?
  • Who provided the polygraph countermeasures training, and has this individual(s) been criminally charged?
  • Does CBP allege that these 10 individuals were all in cahoots with one another?

This article will be updated upon receipt of a response.

Update: Laura R. Cylke of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Public Affairs has informed that CBP is unwilling to answer any of the above questions. Instead, CBP offered the following (entirely unresponsive) statement:


CBP recognizes that public service is a public trust.  It is critical that our employees conduct themselves with the highest standards of integrity as they carry out the critical mission of protecting America’s borders.  Our commitment to integrity begins at the time of application for employment with CBP and continues throughout the careers of our employees.

Each applicant is subject to a rigorous pre-employment process, which includes improved initial screening of applicants, an exhaustive background investigation that begins upon the initial selection of a prospective employee, and pre-employment polygraph examinations of law enforcement candidates.   Each tool is capable of identifying vulnerabilities that the other cannot, and in combination allow for a thorough vetting of the men and women seeking employment with CBP.

Falsification of application forms; cheating on any written exams, drug screening tests, or polygraph exams; and deliberate attempts to mislead background investigators are inconsistent with the highest standards of individual integrity that CBP requires of our employees.  Applicants who engage in these practices will be disqualified from further consideration for employment.

In addition to the extensive pre-employment vetting process, CBP conducts recurring checks of law enforcement officers throughout their careers and upon assignment to sensitive positions to ensure continued suitability for employment with CBP.

Update 2: A discussion thread on this topic has been opened on the message board. See “Is It a Crime to Provide or Receive Polygraph Countermeasure Training?” We have been freely providing information on polygraph countermeasures for more than a decade, most notably in our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF).

Update 3: The criminal investigation into polygraph countermeasure training is named Operation Lie Busters.

Congress Expands Customs and Border Patrol Polygraph Screening

Brian Kalish reports for on the House of Representatives’ unanimous passage of the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010 (PDF) mandating that within two years, “all applicants for law enforcement positions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection receive polygraph examinations before being hired for such a position.”

Currently, only 15% of CBP applicants are polygraphed, with a reported failure rate of 60%. However, a reader comment on suggests a significantly higher failure rate (emphasis added):

CBP needs to be more proactive in our search for the most qualified and upstanding candidates for employment to these sensitive positions. Our agency needs the very best citizens to serve the public in protecting our country from illegal entries of persons, goods and transports.

Only 1 in 341 applicants for Border Patrol Agent passed the polygraph test during our last recruitment. That is a very sad commentary, and bears a very poor reflection on our society in general. cannot confirm the accuracy of this claim, and we welcome confirmation or disconfirmation from those with knowledge of the facts. Contact information is available here, and anonymous contact is also welcomed.

It is not clear whether periodic polygraph screening might eventually become a requirement for existing CBP employees. While the law does not mandate it, neither does it prohibit it.

Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Failure Rate Pegged at 60%

Customs and Border ProtectionOn Thursday, 11 March 2010, in testimony before a subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, it was disclosed that the failure rate associated with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-employment polygraph screening program stands at 60 percent. New York Times correspondent Randal C. Archibold reports, among other things:

Polygraph examinations, which officials call an important tool to help weed out bad hires, were administered to about 15 percent of applicants by the end of 2009.

That was an increase from the 10 percent of the previous year, but made possible only because hiring slowed for the first time in several years.

James F. Tomsheck, who is in charge of internal affairs for Customs and Border Protection, said that about 60 percent of candidates failed the test and were turned away, including some who officials believed had ties to criminal organizations.

Senator Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee that held the hearing, described the failure rate as “alarming to me.”

“It is to me, too, sir,” Mr. Tomsheck replied.

He said the agency had 31 polygraph examiners but needed 50 more to reach a goal of screening all new hires.

In addition, he said, the agency is far behind in conducting periodic background checks of current law enforcement employees.

He also proposed giving periodic polygraph examinations to those employees but said that Congressional authorization and financing would be needed.

In assessing the significance of the 60% polygraph failure rate, it is important to bear in mind the 2002 finding of the National Academy of Sciences that polygraph screening is completely invalid. Upon completion of a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence on polygraphy, the NAS advised that “its accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies.”

Applying polygraph screening to all CBP applicants will not solve the problem of corruption within the organization. Polygraphy is highly vulnerable to countermeasures, and members of criminal enterprises seeking to infiltrate CBP will likely fool the lie detector. Meanwhile, given polygraphy’s complete lack of scientific underpinnings and inherent bias against the truthful, many well-qualified applicants will be wrongly excluded from the agency. Anecdotally, has heard from a number of CBP applicants who report having been falsely accused of deception.