Former Oklahoma City police polygraph examiner Doug Williams, who has campaigned against polygraphy since realizing in the 1970s that what he and fellow polygraphers were doing is a fraud, has for the first time told the story of how federal agents in February 2013 attempted to entrap him for teaching people how to pass polygraph examinations. The federal criminal investigation, called “Operation Lie Busters,” has been reported on atsomelength by McClatchy Newspapers investigative reporter Marisa Taylor, but Williams has previously declined comment except to say that he had done nothing wrong.
In a new edition of his book, From Cop to Crusader: The Story of My Fight Against the Dangerous Myth of “Lie Detection,” Williams tells the story of how an undercover federal agent came to his office on 21 February 2013 for instruction on how to pass a polygraph test. The agent placed a backpack in the corner of the office that likely contained video recording equipment. During the training session, the agent, who claimed to be a sheriff’s deputy seeking employment with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, made unsolicited admissions to having “smuggled drugs [into] the jail” and “got[ten] a blow job” from a female juvenile while taking her home in his official vehicle.
As soon as the undercover agent left Williams’ office, several federal agents in bulletproof vests stormed in and handcuffed Williams. The agent who seemed to be in charge of the raid was Special Agent Douglas Robbins of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Internal Affairs. Also present during the raid was CBP Senior Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr., whom CBP polygraph unit chief John R. Schwartz described as “the case agent and polygraph expert responsible for orchestrating and conducting the investigation” in a recent letter nominating Ball for an American Polygraph Association award. Trial Attorney Anthony J. Phillips of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section was also present.
The agents did not arrest Williams, but kept him handcuffed as they executed search warrants at his office and home, where they seized his paper and electronic records as well as his polygraph instrumentation. These were returned to Williams some two months later but were exploited by federal agents to create a polygraph watch list of 4,904 names that has been circulated among nearly 30 federal agencies.
To date, Williams has not been charged with any crime, but he remains in legal jeopardy. Operation Lie Busters, which has serious implications for freedom of speech in America, is ongoing, and Williams has “heard the FBI is still interviewing people from the list of customers they took from [his] computer.”
For the full story, pick up a copy of Williams’ From Cop to Crusader, which may be ordered from his website or on Amazon.com. Williams’ account of the federal entrapment attempt and raid appears at Chapter 18.
John R. Schwartz, who heads the U.S. Customs and Border Protection polygraph unit, claims that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures (the kind described in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector), can be routinely identified “when all best practices are employed, including proper training of examiners and stringent Quality Control.” Schwartz made the claim in a January 2014 memorandum nominating his colleague and friend, Fred C. Ball, Jr., for the American Polygraph Association’s David L. Motsinger Horizon Award, which is presented annually “in recognition of a new shining star in the profession or association who early in their career demonstrates loyalty, professionalism and dedication to the polygraph profession (less than 10 years).”
Schwartz bases his nomination of Ball on the latter’s role as case agent in Operation Lie Busters, a federal criminal investigation targeting individuals providing training in how to pass polygraph tests. A copy of Schwartz’s memo was made available to AntiPolygraph.org and is reproduced in full below:
David L. Motsinger Horizon Award
Nomination of Fred C. Ball, Jr.
This accomplishment arguably represents the single most significant development in our profession in many decades. Its impact is profound and far reaching, and has already affected, or will affect, legal precedence, new polygraph case law, policies, scientific research, teaching, Quality Control, best practices and procedures, our view of polygraph validity, and many other aspects of forensic psychophysiology.
In 2011, a novel and complicated criminal investigation was initiated regarding the training of individuals in sophisticated polygraph countermeasures, and their effectiveness in defeating the polygraph protocols and procedures employed by federal, state, and local agencies including the court systems. The investigation revealed that sophisticated countermeasures can be routinely identified when all best practices are employed, including proper training of examiners and stringent Quality Control, but failure to endorse and employ these best practices results in the unacceptable risk that such countermeasures could be effective.
Popularly known as Operation LieBusters, the investigation combined novel and precedent-setting legal strategies, lengthy and technical undercover operations, voluminous and complicated analytical methodologies, complex investigative procedures, esoteric technical knowledge of polygraph countermeasures and physiology, and extremely effective interview and elicitation skills to ensure confirmatory confessions.
A graduate of the National Center for Credibility Assessment on April 6, 2011, Senior Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr. of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Credibility Assessment Division was the case agent and polygraph expert responsible for orchestrating and conducting the investigation. The three-year endeavor resulted in several arrests, convictions, and probation revocations at the federal, state, and local level. Of even greater significance to our national security and the safety of our citizens, the investigation identified and thwarted Insider Threats and infiltration attempts as well as many convicted sex offenders who had been able to continue their offenses through the use of polygraph countermeasures. The investigation also provides a unique data set, including ground truth data, which will be invaluable for scientific research and polygraph training, as well as an investigative blue print for future investigations.
Schwartz’s claim that sophisticated polygraph countermeasures can be routinely identified is noteworthy because to our knowledge, there is nothing in the polygraph literature that would support such a claim. On the contrary, polygraph countermeasure documentation published by AntiPolygraph.org in 2013 suggests that the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting countermeasures.
On Friday, 17 January 2014, AntiPolygraph.org e-mailed Schwartz seeking comment, noting that if he could provide evidence that sophisticated countermeasures can indeed be routinely identified, we are prepared to withdraw any suggestion that examinees consider using countermeasures and to instead expressly advise against any such use. Schwartz did not respond.
It seems to AntiPolygraph.org that if sophisticated polygraph countermeasures truly could be “routinely identified,” as Schwartz claims, that there would have been no need for for Fred Ball to concoct an elaborate scheme to entrap and imprison Chad Dixon, an electrician who taught fewer than 100 people how to pass polygraph tests in his spare time, or to attempt to entrap former police polygraphist Doug Williams, who has been teaching people how to pass polygraph examinations since 1979. Nor would there have been any need for a polygraph watch list of Williams’ customers to be circulated among federal agencies with polygraph programs. Nor would there have been any need for the attempted entrapment of AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke, evidently by a U.S. government employee or contractor. Nor would the NSA feel the need to target visitors to AntiPolygraph.org.
Indeed, the very existence of Operation Lie Busters makes Schwartz’s claim that sophisticated countermeasures can be routinely identified difficult to believe. Who will polygraph the polygraphers?
On Friday, 12 April 2013, AntiPolygraph co-founder George Maschke sent an inquiry to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking clarification on whether the U.S. Department of Justice considers the learning, using, or teaching of polygraph countermeasures by or to federal employees or applicants for employment is a crime:
Date: Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:38:55 +0000
To: Attorney General Eric Holder <AskDOJ@usdoj.gov>
Cc: DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano <email@example.com>, “DHS Acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “CBP Deputy Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski” <email@example.com>
Subject: Operation Lie Busters: Is Learning, Using, or Teaching Polygraph Countermeasures a Crime?
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
I’m a co-founder of AntiPolygraph.org, a non-profit, public interest website dedicated to polygraph policy reform. AntiPolygraph.org’s ultimate objective is the elimination of the exemptions to the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 that deny federal, state, and local government job applicants, employees, and contractors the protections against lie detector “testing” that other Americans have enjoyed for the past quarter century.
In 2002, the National Research Council concluded that “[polygraph testing’s] accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies.” In 1997, retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dr. Drew Richardson, then a polygraph expert with the Bureau’s Laboratory Division, put it more directly in testimony before a Senate subcommittee: “the diagnostic value of this type of testing is no more than that of astrology or tea-leaf reading.”
Rejecting the science on polygraphy, federal agencies have actually increased their reliance on it over the past decade. Pre-employment polygraph failure rates on the order of 50% or more are the norm among federal agencies with a polygraph requirement, and given polygraphy’s lack of scientific underpinnings, it is inevitable that many honest applicants are being falsely branded as liars by their government and wrongly blacklisted from employment for which they are qualified. Those falsely accused of deception have no meaningful avenue of appeal.
Since 2000, AntiPolygraph.org has made available a free book titled The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF) providing documentation on polygraph validity (or lack thereof), policy, procedure, and countermeasures. Polygraph countermeasures are techniques that can be used to pass a polygraph whether or not one is telling the truth. While deceptive individuals can use countermeasures to fool the polygraph, truthful persons may also elect to use them to mitigate the high risk of a false positive outcome. AntiPolygraph.org has no desire to help liars beat the polygraph, but we know of no way of making such information available to honest persons with a legitimate need for it without also making it available to everyone. We believe that such speech is protected by the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The choice of a truthful person to use polygraph countermeasures is not an irrational one. The late David T. Lykken, an eminent authority on polygraphy, opined: “…if I were somehow forced to take a polygraph test in relation to some important matter, I would certainly use these proven countermeasures rather than rely on the truth and my innocence as safeguards. An innocent suspect has nearly a 50:50 chance of failing a CQT [Control Question Test — the technique used by federal law enforcement agencies for pre-employment screening] administered under adversarial circumstances, and those odds are considerably worse than those involved in Russian roulette.” (A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector, Plenum Trade, 1997, p. 277.)
No polygraph operator has ever demonstrated the ability to detect the kind of countermeasures we discuss in The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, and polygraph community documents recently released by AntiPolygraph.org show that the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting such countermeasures.
Information has come to our attention suggesting that, unable to detect polygraph countermeasures, at least one federal agency is construing the teaching, learning, and/or use of them to be a crime, at least in some circumstances.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has revealed the existence of a criminal investigation called Operation Lie Busters in which 10 applicants for employment with CBP “were identified as receiving sophisticated polygraph Countermeasure training in an effort to defeat the polygraph requirement.” The CBP Public Affairs Office refused to answer any questions regarding Operation Lie Busters, including the name of the operation, which AntiPolygraph.org has independently learned.
AntiPolygraph.org has also learned that two senior investigators involved in the operation, John R. Schwartz, who heads CBP’s Credibility Assessment Division, and Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr., a polygraph examiner with CBP Internal Affairs, have been scheduled since the beginning of January to give a three-hour keynote presentation on the operation before members of a private polygraph organization on 3 June 2013.
If polygraph operators involved with Operation Lie Busters can showboat the operation at a polygraph convention, then the public should also be entitled to know details of this operation, which the CBP Credibility Assessment Division has characterized as “precedent setting” (without clarifying what precedent is being set). I thus seek clarity from you regarding the following questions:
Does the U.S. Department of Justice consider it a crime for federal employees or applicants for federal employment to learn about polygraph countermeasures?
Does the U.S. Department of Justice consider it a crime for federal employees or applicants for federal employment to use polygraph countermeasures?
Does the U.S. Department of Justice consider it a crime to teach federal employees or applicants for federal employment about polygraph countermeasures?
The federal criminal investigation into polygraph countermeasure training reported by AntiPolygraph.org 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 AntiPolygraph.org’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, AntiPolygraph.org 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 AntiPolygraph.org, reveals the name of the investigation to be “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 AntiPolygraph.org reveal that the two primary sources of information about polygraph countermeasures that concern the polygraph community are AntiPolygraph.org 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. AntiPolygraph.org 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.