DoD Polygraph Operator Says Polygraphs Tripled Post-Snowden, Mental Countermeasures a “Tough Thing”

Brian R. Morris (LinkedIn profile picture)
Brian R. Morris
(LinkedIn profile)

In an address to members of the Federalist Society at the South Texas College of Law that was posted to YouTube on 15 April 2016, Department of Defense (and probable NSA) polygraph operator Brian R. Morris mentioned that in the aftermath of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations, the Department of Defense tripled the number of polygraph screening examinations that it conducts annually. At 3:45 Morris begins speaking about polygraph screening and notes:

I got the number of internal exams that the DoD ran whether they’re applicants or current employees trying to maintain their security clearance, from May 2010 to April 2011, over 43,000 internal exams. That’s pre-Edward Snowden. Post-Edward Snowden, that number’s tripled….

This would indicate that the various DoD agencies with polygraph programs are currently conducting more than 129,000 polygraph examinations per year, a remarkably high number. It should be noted that as an NSA contractor, Edward Snowden was subject to polygraph screening and reportedly underwent two polygraph examinations in connection with that employment.

Morris also spoke about polygraph countermeasures in response to a question by an audience member at 35:35. Morris concedes that mental countermeasures to the polygraph (such as are outlined in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector), are a “tough thing.” Morris mentioned AntiPolygraph.org directly and falsely implied that its co-founder, George Maschke, is living in The Netherlands to avoid criminal prosecution in the United States. (Maschke attended and reported on the trial of Doug Williams that Morris mentions.)

Woman: Can you beat the box?

Morris: Can you beat it? Could I? Or could anyone?

Woman: You talked about countermeasures. What do you have in mind for countermeasures. What does that term mean?

Morris: All right. Well, countermeasures is something that somebody is attempting to do to get a false negative, all right? And a false negative means they pass your test without being completely truthful. Now traditionally — I talked about Polygraph.org being a good website? If you go to AntiPolygraph.org [laughter] that’s a site run by George Maschke who’s a former…I think it was FBI or CIA applicant who failed multiple polygraph exams, did not get chosen based on the results of the polygraph exams, so he kind of made it his life’s mission to try to help people to [using air quotes] cheat on the polygraph, to be able to successfully get through. Now if you go look at where he is located, he is living in the Netherlands, because at this point, if you actually try and help somebody to cheat on a polygraph exam — Doug Williams, go Google Doug Williams — incarcerated. Former polygraph examiner who was helping people try to cheat on the exam, was getting paid to do it, and they prosecuted him, I think it was for perpetrating a fraud on the government in terms of trying to help people do that.

But the traditional way, I’m sure you’ve seen like, I don’t know, Ocean’s Eleven or Twelve, like put a tack in your shoe and step on it, wear rubber underwear, do an anal sphincter squeeze, you know these physical things, and that’s the whole point of this pad [holds up piezoelectric sensor pad] which has been, oh, about the last 10 or fifteen years, is that — make sure people are sitting still and not moving on the test.

Now the tough thing is, is when we deal with mental countermeasures. Somebody’s not physically moving, but they are trying to simulate things that would cause fear in them and generate a response. And if you imagine standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon with your back to it and closing your eyes, and just tipping of the back and falling, or that — being right at the top of a roller coaster just as it’s about to go over the edge, you can generate some massive electrodermal responses.

The problem is, unless you’ve got someone who can train you to say, “That’s a reasonable response” — I mean, if I’ve got this all right here [pointing to polygraph chart on screen], and I’m looking about, you know, this much is [inaudible] and all of a sudden I’ve got [inaudible] of my screen there, that response is too good to be true. It’s not a legitimate response. And so, while mental countermeasures are something we certainly pay attention to, somebody would have to be extremely sophisticated. And the other thing is that if somebody does countermeasures and they successfully get through, nobody’s going to tell you about that. They’re not going to go “Whoo! I lied and I beatcha!” “Thanks, you’re done!” [laughter] You know, that’s not gonna happen.

Morris suggests that mental countermeasures can be detected if a reaction is “too good to be true.” However, the polygraph literature is bereft of any evidence that any polygraph operator can detect mental countermeasures (or physical ones such as tongue biting). Extensive countermeasure training materials and federal case files leaked to AntiPolygraph.org show that polygraph operators have no reliable methodology for detecting the kinds of polygraph countermeasures outlined in The Lie Behind the Lie Detector or in Doug Williams’ manual, “How to Sting the Polygraph.”

Morris’s presentation may be viewed in its entirety below: