On Thursday, 30 April 2015, former police polygraph examiner Doug Williams, who faces trial on 12 May for teaching two undercover federal agents how to pass polygraph “tests,” was a guest on the Scott Horton Show. Williams discussed why polygraph “testing” is unreliable and the criminal charges pending against him after his entrapment in Operation Lie Busters. The full interview is available online.
The federal trial of Doug Williams for teaching people how to pass a polygraph, which had been scheduled to begin on Tuesday, 14 April 2015, has been moved to Tuesday, 12 May 2015. Williams’ attorney, Stephen H. Buzin, requested the continuance, citing among other things the receipt of 425 pages of new discovery materials from the U.S. government and the expectation that additional discovery materials would be delivered in coming weeks. In an order dated 25 March 2015, Chief United States District Judge Vicki Miles LaGrange issued an order granting the request, which was unopposed by the U.S. government.
Williams is featured prominently in two recent news columns. In “Insidious Orwellian Machines,” VICE Magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes, who met with Williams last August, writes about his interactions with Williams, his success in beating the polygraph for a television pilot, and his concern about the civil liberties aspect of the upcoming trial.
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.
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.
- “In Federal crackdown, ex-cop indicted for coaching to beat polygraphs” by Marisa Taylor for McClatchy Newspapers
- “Polygraph.com owner indicted for training customers to beat the polygraph” by David Kravets for Ars Technica. See also the active comments section
- “Owner of Polygraph.com indicted for ‘training customers to lie’ on polygraph tests” by Brian Ries for Mashable
- “Anti-polygraph crusader indicted, entrapped by Department of Homeland Security” by Julia Davis for Examiner.com
- “DOJ Indicts Polygraph.com Expert” by Cheri Roberts for BeforeItsNews.com
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.
The lie detector is a powerful tool. So powerful, in fact, that it doesn’t even have to exist to be effective.
This story of the telephone scam allegedly run by two Cook County Jail inmates underscores how the reputation of this technology is its strongest asset. According to federal prosecutors who indicted the men Thursday, the prisoners were able to extort money from random targets by claiming to be law-enforcement officials with a lie detector hooked up to the phone.
Their message: Our device says you’re lying when you deny being involved in the drug trade. Wire us money or we’ll arrest you.
At least a dozen victims fell for it.
The ruse put Douglas Williams in mind of an incident that occurred when he was a rookie police officer in Oklahoma City in 1970:
“We had a burglary suspect in the back of our squad car, but we didn’t have much on him and he said he was innocent,” Williams said. “So my partner told him, `I’m going to have to use our lie detector. Talk into this microphone. If what you say is true, nothing will happen. But if you’re lying, the red light will go on.'”
The “lie detector” was, you guessed it, nothing but a two-way radio. And at the suspect’s every denial, Williams said, his partner discreetly engaged the red light. “Finally he said, `You got me’ and he confessed.”
Actually, the truth is not so elusive in the debate over lie detectors. Proponents of polygraphic lie detection have failed to support their claims through peer-reviewed scientific research.
Diana Ray reports in the 2-9 June 2001 issue of Insight magazine. Excerpt:
The FBI is requiring employees to undergo increased polygraph testing as a result of security lapses, but cool liars are able to evade detection by the simple machines.
Polygraph testing did not keep Aldrich H. Ames from selling CIA secrets to the Russians before his arrest in 1994. He passed the tests with flying colors while employed by the agency. And testing didn’t prevent FBI counterspy Robert Philip Hanssen from reported treason — because, during his entire 25 years with the bureau, he never was required to take one. Recently indicted, Hanssen is charged with selling secrets to the Soviet Union and then Russia during a period of 16 years, right up to his arrest in February.
After the uncovering of Hanssen, former FBI director William Webster was tasked to investigate FBI security procedures. In the interim, the bureau announced, it would require 500 employees with access to confidential data to undergo polygraph tests during a 60-day period, including Louis Freeh, the bureau director. That was to begin late in March. Although the 60-day deadline wasn’t met, only Freeh remained to be polygraphed as Insight went to press, according to FBI spokesman Paul Bresson. Freeh announced he would retire in June after 27 years with the FBI.
In ABC News’ “Sam Show” webcast, Sam Donaldson interviews American Polygraph Association president Milton O. “Skip” Webb Jr. and Doug Williams, author of “How to Sting the Polygraph.” To view this webcast, go to Sam Donaldson’s page on the ABC News website at http://more.abcnews.go.com/onair/dailynews/samdonaldson_index.html and select the show for 2 March 2001. You will need RealPlayer to view this half-hour program. The Sam Show page also has a link through which you can e-mail Sam Donaldson with commentary.