Gordon H. Barland, Ph.D. worked at the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (now the National Center for Credibility Assessment) from 1986 until his retirement in 2000. During this period, he conducted research on polygraph countermeasures, and by his own estimation, “[p]rior to his retirement from DoDPI, he was the Federal Government’s primary authority on polygraph countermeasures.”
In July 2003, Dr. Barland presented a week-long course on polygraphy including polygraph countermeasures at the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Forenses in Mexico City. According to an NCCA timeline on polygraph countermeasures, “[t]he course was presented by Barland after being approved by the National Security Agency.”
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a copy of the 397-slide PowerPoint file Dr. Barland used in this presentation, which we are also making available as a PDF file. All are invited to download the file and to review it slide by slide. We present here only a few highlights.
The title slide:
Slide 42 discusses common polygraph operator doctrine about countermeasures and admits that it only applies to “naïve” countermeasures, that is, the sort of thing that someone who doesn’t understand polygraph procedure might attempt. In this slide, “E” is shorthand for “examiner”:
In slide 54, Dr. Barland’s mentions his fear, in the aftermath of the National Research Council’s damning 2003 report (10.3 mb PDF) and referencing a federal lawsuit that was ultimately dismissed on procedural grounds, that the United States Congress might outlaw polygraph screening:
Dr. Barland was particularly concerned with two websites that he said polygraph operators needed to monitor regularly: www.polygraph.com, run by former Oklahoma City Police Department polygrapher Doug Williams, who turned against polygraphy and began offering the public information about polygraphy’s shortcomings and how to pass or beat a polygraph “test,” and AntiPolygraph.org. The CAAWP listserv mentioned in the presentation is defunct:
The presentation devotes numerous slides to Doug Williams, including a biographical synopsis:
Regarding Williams’ motives, Barland paints a very different picture of Williams than did the federal officials behind Operation Lie Busters, who set out to entrap, arrest, and incarcerate him:
Slide 148 suggests interrogation approaches for getting a polygraph examinee to admit to having used countermeasures:Barland also addresses AntiPolygraph.org and characterized our book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector as “an excellent polygraph manual, with an extensive chapter on [countermeasures]”:
Numerous slides discuss conversations on the AntiPolygraph.org message board and the contents of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.
Absent from the presentation is any clearly stated, effective method for reliably detecting the kinds of countermeasures outlined in How to Sting the Polygraph and The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.
The white paper argues that “CM [countermeasure] detection information from its inception has been researched, developed and implemented in an unclassified environment. CM procedures were not, are not and need not be classified when teaching the detection process.”
In January 2014, McClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reported on efforts by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), NCCA’s parent agency since 2008, to classify certain information about polygraphy. (See AntiPolygraph.org’s commentary on her reporting here.) Gary Light’s white paper helps to shed light on the internal debate over whether information about polygraphy, including polygraph countermeasures, should be classified. Light appears to be firmly in the “no” camp.
The white paper includes an appendix documenting the publication and presentation of information about polygraph countermeasures “in an unclassified environment,” including, among other things, a 2005 class taught by former NCCA (then DoDPI) researcher Charles R. Honts in the People’s Republic of China.
Of particular note, the white paper also mentions a 2011 “Russian CM Policy Chapter #5 provided to the Department of Energy (DOE),” noting “DOE personnel were provided with a 125 page document describing the CM policy of a Russian government agency. The CM criteria described in the text were similar to those of DoD. Basically only the names of the criteria differed.”
On 25 April 2001, then Defense Security Service Deputy Director for Developmental Programs and former Department of Defense Polygraph Institute director Michael H. Capps testified to Congress that “[t]he U.S. government has supported the use of the polygraph among allied nations when mutual interests were at stake, such as when it supplied training and state-of-the-art polygraph equipment to Russia, to help them maintain security over their nuclear weaponry after the fall of Communism.” Perhaps the “Russian government agency” whose polygraph countermeasure policy chapter was provided to the U.S. Department of Energy is the same one to which NCCA (then DoDPI) provided “training and state-of-the-art polygraph equipment.”
In sum, this NCCA white paper acknowledges that information about polygraph countermeasures originated outside of the U.S. government, is widely available around the world, and should not be considered “classified.”
Light also writes that “[i]t should be … noted that since 2000 the federal government has conducted over 1,000,000,000 [sic] examinations.” It seems likely that this is a typographical error, and that the actual number is three orders of magnitude lower, or over 1,000,000 polygraph examinations conducted between 2000 and 2012. This would average out to about >83,300 polygraph examinations per year across the federal government during the relevant time period. According to Department of Defense (DoD) polygraph operator Brian R. Morris, DoD alone has been conducting more than 129,000 polygraphs per year in the aftermath of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations.
Light concludes his white paper noting “In this time and after all of these examinations, not one example can be provided wherein NCCA procedures for the protection of CM protocols has [sic] failed.”
AntiPolygraph.org can attest that NCCA procedures for the protection of its polygraph countermeasure protocols have indeed failed. We have them and will be publishing them in due course. Watch this space.
Note also retired DIA counterintelligence officer Scott W. Carmichael’s 2014 claim that the then number two official at NCCA, Donald Krapohl, violated the Espionage Act by funneling classified information about polygraph countermeasures to the government of Singapore.
The United States government is so worked up about polygraph countermeasures that it launched an ongoing criminal investigation dubbed Operation Lie Busters targeting individuals who teach others how to pass or beat polygraph examinations. An Indiana electrician named Chad Dixon who taught people how to pass the polygraph as a side job was sentenced to eight months in federal prison, and former police polygraphist Doug Williams, who operates the website Polygraph.com, was raided by federal agents who seized his customer records. At the time of this writing, he has not been charged with any crime but remains in legal jeopardy. Federal investigators created and circulated a watch list based on Dixon’s and Williams’ customer records.
AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke appears to have been the target of an attempted entrapment as well, and evidence suggests that the U.S. government may be monitoring visitors to this site.
Polygraphers often claim that they can reliably detect the kinds of countermeasures outlined in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF) and in Williams’ manual, “How to Sting the Polygraph.” Yet no polygrapher has ever demonstrated such an ability, and polygraph community documentation obtained by AntiPolygraph.org strongly suggests that polygraphers have no reliable methodology for detecting them.
Confessions to countermeasure use are relatively rare, and when they occur, at least some federal agencies send case information, stripped of the examinee’s personal details, to the federal polygraph school, the National Center for Credibility Assessment, for study.
AntiPolygraph.org has received documentation of one such case. It concerns a counterintelligence-scope polygraph screening examination, case no. 902-0470-14, conducted by Thomas M. Touhey of the 310th Military Intelligence Battalion, 902nd Military Intelligence Group, United States Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Meade, Maryland on 7 January 2014. In his Report of Polygraph Examination (195 kb PDF), Touhey summarizes the case thus:
7. (U//FOUO) OTHER REPORTABLE INFORMATION: During the conduct of testing EXAMINEE exhibited atypical physiological responses, indicative of the use of countermeasures (CM). During post-test questioning, EXAMINEE admitted to altering HIS breathing during the initial phase of collection of polygraph charts. EXAMINEE stated that prior to the polygraph session, HE researched polygraph via internet searches using the keywords “polygraph”, CIA polygraph”, full scope polygraph” and “polygraph truth”. EXAMINEE recalled HE read a DOD-sponsored site and watched a video designed to inform readers about the polygraph process and of [sic] the website “Antipolygraph.org”. EXAMINEE related HE did not employ any physical countermeasures outlined in the web searches, such as pressing HIS toes or using a small stone or tack in HIS shoe. EXAMINEE related HE focused on changing HIS breathing during questions where HE wanted to create a clear response. EXAMINEE stated HE talked to co-workers about polygraph and was advised to relax and be honest. EXAMINEE stated HE felt the need to exaggerate HIS responses as HE was unsure of the sensitivity of the instrumentation. EXAMINEE executed a sworn, written statement, detailing the information.
Touhey’s report includes a hand-written statement by the examinee, a government contractor employed by the Tatitlek Corporation, that is consonant with the above summation.
From Touhey’s report, one might conclude that this is an example of a person who visited AntiPolygraph.org, followed the countermeasure advice found in The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, and got caught. But is that what actually happened here? Touhey doesn’t specify what “atypical physiological responses” were “indicative of the use of countermeasures.” But a look at the polygraph charts makes it clear:
Above we see the beginning of the first chart collection following the so-called “acquaintance” or “numbers” test (a gimmick intended to convince the examinee that the polygraph can detect the slightest deception). At the top, you see the upper and lower respiratory tracings in blue, followed below by the electrodermal (palmar sweating) tracing in green, the cardio tracing in red, and at the bottom, the “countermeasure sensor” in black. Such sensors typically consist of a pressure-sensitive pad placed on the seat of the polygraph chair. If the examinee presses his toes to the floor, or presses his toe against a tack in his shoe, a spike will register on the countermeasure channel. And that is precisely what happened here. Note the huge spike after the first comparison question (also called a “control” question). Note also the large spike after the second comparison question.1
This, and not any breathing irregularity, is what alerted the polygraph examiner that the examinee was attempting countermeasures. It explains why Touhey asked the examinee about toe-pressing. But note that AntiPolygraph.org specifically advises against this kind of countermeasure. Indeed, none of the suggested countermeasures in The Lie Behind the Lie Detector would produce the kind of spikes observed on the countermeasure tracing here.
AntiPolygraph.org has also received a copy of an “INSCOM Polygraph Countermeasures Report” (46 kb PDF) associated with this case. Despite the fact that, as discussed above, the examinee employed countermeasures that AntiPolygraph.org specifically advises against, Touhey reports that the examinee received his countermeasure information from AntiPolygraph.org.
The countermeasures report further notes that “EXAMINEE was re-tested the same day with favorable results.” AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke’s pre 9/11 observation that the key to passing the DoD counterintelligence-scope polygraph is evidently to make no substantive admissions may still hold true today.
Federal officials are deluding themselves if they think they can detect the kinds of countermeasures documented on AntiPolygraph.org based on examples like the above case. Well-trained spies, saboteurs, and terrorists who understand polygraph procedure will not make the rookie mistake that the examinee in this case made. AntiPolygraph.org makes information about polygraph countermeasures available to afford truthful persons a means of protecting themselves against the random error that is all too common in polygraph screening. But inevitably, the same techniques can also be used by those working against the United States (as happened in the case of Ana Belen Montes, a Cuban double agent trained in polygraph countermeasures who penetrated the Defense Intelligence Agency while passing her polygraph examinations “with flying colors”).
Instead of trying to criminalize the dissemination of information about polygraph countermeasures, the U.S. government should heed the warning of the National Research Council 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.” Polygraphy must be abolished.
UPDATE: An inspection of the examinee’s statement suggests that the polygraph examiner may have encouraged the examinee to mention AntiPolygraph.org. The statement reads in part:
Prior to my examination, I visited some websites both pro + con relating to the polygraph process. I did so to gather information so I could feel comfortable during my first exam. I performed primarily “Google” searches on terms: Polygraph, CI Polygraph, Full Scope Polygraph, and Polygraph Truth. Specific sites I recall visiting were: DoD sponsored/[owned?] polygraph site + video, and polygraphtruth.org (I think). Mind you that many sites visited were google search results so I don’t specifically recall individual URLs….
It appears that “Anti-polyoraph.org” [sic] was inserted between the lines at some later point:
Coming on the heels of an accusation that a senior official at the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) facilitated the transfer of classified information to the government of Singapore via the Lafayette Instrument Company, AntiPolygraph.org has received information that NCCA has provided polygraph countermeasure documentation to a representative of Stoelting Co., another polygraph-manufacturing company. In 2004, Stoelting’s then CEO Lavern Miller pleaded guilty to attempting to export polygraph instruments to China without a license.
The documention provided by NCCA to the Stoelting representative forms the basis of a slide presentation, a copy of which was made available to AntiPolygraph.org. The presentation includes a caution to keep the information provided in the presentation confidential (slide 2):Of particular note, the presentation includes previously unpublished color screen shots from a pre-employment polygraph examination conducted by the CIA in 1997. This polygraph examination formed the basis for a 1999 American Polygraph Association (APA) journal article co-authored by the CIA polygrapher who conducted it and Donald J. Krapohl, the NCCA official recently accused of an Espionage Act violation.1
Screen shots in the slide presentation include details not shown in the 1999 article, such as the various questions asked, the precise date of the polygraph session, and the fact that it was a CIA polygraph examination. (In the 1999 article published in the APA quarterly, Polygraph, the CIA is not named as the agency involved.) This polygraph screen shot (slide 12) shows the date that the examination was conducted, 30 April 1997, and reveals one of the probable-lie “control” questions used:
Slide 24 shows that the PolyScore polygraph chart-scoring software developed by the U.S. government gave the examinee a passing score. It also reveals the specific relevant questions that were asked in this polygraph examination:
As we see, the relevant questions were:
Have you been offered any money to work for a foreign intelligence service?
Have you secretly provided the [redacted] technology to any foreign government?
Have you been directed to penetrate the CIA by any foreign intelligence service?
Combine this with the probable-lie “control” questions cited in earlier slides:
Other than what we discussed, have you ever misrepresented you [sic] academic abilities to make yourself look important?
Before joining the military, did you ever lie about anythig [sic] that you don’t want the CIA to find out about?
and you have the key information required to successfully defeat such a polygraph examination.
Polygraph examinations are not difficult to defeat, and it would be hard to credibly argue that public release of the information contained in the presentation will harm U.S. national security interests in any way. But this is the kind of information that NCCA’s parent agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, would probably withhold from a member of the public who requested it under the Freedom of Information Act. Yet such things seemingly circulate among NCCA’s favored friends.
It’s worth noting that the examinee in the above case study had purchased Doug Williams’ manual, “How to Sting the Polygraph.” The CIA polygraph examiner suspected countermeasures because of the large size of a reaction, but was only able to confirm that countermeasures were employed because the examinee admitted such when asked. An in-depth discussion of this case may be found on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.
The CIA polygrapher wrote under a pseudonym, Peter S. London. The article citation is, London, Peter S. and Donald J. Krapohl, “A Case Study in PDD Countermeasures,” Polygraph, Vol. 28, No. 2 (1999), pp. 143-148. [↩]
A 2013 presentation by the National Center for Credibility Assessment documents that the federal polygraph school is working on a computer software project intended to automate the detection of polygraph countermeasures. It appears that the software does not employ a new approach to countermeasure detection, but rather seeks to “[v]alidate the countermeasure detection features taught by the NCCA Threat Assessment and Strategic Support Branch.” A competent scientist might first attempt to determine whether such putative “countermeasure detection features” are indeed valid, rather than set out to “validate” them. NCCA seems not to allow for the possibility that any of their teachings might not be valid.
The NCCA presentation projects that the countermeasures detection software project would be completed by the end of 2013 with a report and software to be delivered at a date that remained to be determined. The project had a budget of $199,200 in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, with another $100,000 projected for fiscal year 2014.
The slides from the presentation that deal with the countermeasure detection software are reproduced below. Among other things, the presentation indicates that NCCA has developed a “common NCCA specification” for polygraph chart data. To AntiPolygraph.org’s knowledge, such specification has not been publicly documented.
McClatchy Newspapers investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reports that the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA), which trains all federal polygraph operators, is proposing that certain training and research materials be classified or subjected to limited distribution. An NCCA internal draft memo dated 2 December 2013 obtained by McClatchy notes that “there is almost nothing about the polygraph, PCASS, and the emerging credibility assessment technologies that remains to be classified” but nonetheless proposes additional secrecy:
Proposal for the Protection of NCCA-unique Information
Tradecraft and technologies unique to the intelligence community (IC) must be shielded from disclosure to American adversaries, a stance recognized and strongly supported by the NCCA. NCCA proposes that it consider the following categories of information classified:
New countermeasure detection methods developed through classified projects by the NCCA or other government entities.
Disclosure that particular US intelligence, counterintelligence or security programs use a specific type of polygraph technique.
NCCA research on new credibility assessment technologies and analytical methods to be used solely by intelligence or security agencies.
Information deemed classified by any NCCA customer agency, irrespective of recognition by DoD as being classified.
Research into new technologies designed for covert applications.
There remains a category of information that is sensitive, but not classified. This type of information may be necessary for state and local law enforcement polygraph examiners serving, for example, on the Joint Terrorism Task Force where there are demonstrable US interests. However, disclosure of this same information to foreign governments or the media would still be prohibited except as approved through appropriate channels. Sensitive information of this type would include:
Methods for detecting and thwarting countermeasures.
Professor Charles R. Honts indicates that one supposed countermeasure detection technique used by the federal government is invalid. The technique involves looking for the breathing reactions illustrated in former police polygraphist Doug Williams’ manual, “How to Sting the Polygraph.” In a laboratory experiment, Honts found that those same reactions are exhibited in roughly equal proportions by both truthful and deceptive examinees, including those with no knowledge of polygraph countermeasures.
By keeping supposed countermeasure detection techniques secret, NCCA would prevent the kind of scrutiny that Honts was able to bring. That might save NCCA embarrassment, but it’s hard to see how that’s in the interest of America’s national security or public safety.
NCCA also floats the idea of classifying the fact that a “particular US intelligence, counterintelligence or security programs use a specific type of polygraph technique.” This is a particularly bad idea. To the extent that polygraphs are administered to individuals without security clearances, for example, to job applicants, information about the polygraph techniques used by federal agencies cannot be kept secret. For example, AntiPolygraph.org knows, from examinee reporting, that the NSA and CIA persist in using the (thoroughly discredited) relevant/irrelevent technique for applicant screening (documented in Ch. 3 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector), while DoD and DOE use the directed-lie Test for Espionage and Sabotage and federal law enforcement agencies use the probable-lie Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (PDF). This kind of information simply cannot be kept secret, and it’s pointless to try.
In short, classifying polygraph training and research materials will simply serve to shield more bad science from critical review.
McClatchy has also published a bulletin dated 13 December 2013 from the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Director of Security, Stephen R. Norton, warning against the use of polygraph countermeasures. Norton writes:
13 December 2013
SUBJECT: Attempts to Undermine DIA Administered Polygraph Examinations
The Office of Security’s Credibility Assessment Program helps to protect national security through the use of the polygraph examination. The polygraph vetting process is a critical element in protecting the safety and security of this Agency and the United States of America. We have seen examples of when examinees attempt to employ tactics designed to undermine the polygraph. Attempts are not likely to be successful due to sophisticated detection devices. Any attempt to undermine a polygraph exam will be viewed — regardless of motivation — as a threat to this Agency and national security.
DIA employees or DIA-affiliated persons who engage in purposeful and deliberate tactics to alter the outcome of a polygraph examination will be the subject of administrative or disciplinary action. This can include suspension, loss of security clearance, or even removal from federal service. The same penalties may apply to any DIA or DIA-affiliated person who coaches or collaborates with others to deliberately undermine a polygraph examination. Contractors who undermine a polygraph examination place their livelihood in jeopardy.
Bottom line: It is a dangerous game to play with your career and with the national security of the country you serve.
Thank you for your cooperation and support of the Office of Security’s mission to protect the Agency’s people, property, and information.
Stephen R. Norton
Director of Security
AntiPolygraph.org agrees with Norton that it is a dangerous game to play with national security. But it is DIA that is playing with national security by relying on scientifically baseless polygraph screening to assess the honesty and integrity of its employees. We note that Ana Belen Montes, the most notorious spy in DIA’s history, beat the polygraph. And in 2009, DIA fired analyst John Dullahan after a (wrongly) failed polygraph.
We invite DIA employees, and all who may face polygraph screening, to educate themselves about this unreliable procedure and learn how to protect themselves against the risk of a false positive outcome. Our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF) is a good place to start.
As the American Polygraph Association holds its annual seminar in Austin, Texas this week, one of the topics on the agenda is a program run by a consortium of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies called “Polygraph Law Enforcement Accreditation” (PLEA). Participating agencies include the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the Houston Police Department.
The PLEA consortium, whose motto is “Semper Veritas” (truth always), has promulgated a 65-page “Polygraph Guide for Standards and Practices” that sets forth procedures and protocols to be used by participating agencies. AntiPolygraph.org has received a copy of this guide, each page of which is marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive Information,” and has made it available for download here (1.9 MB PDF). Chapter 10 will be of special interest to applicants for employment with agencies participating in the PLEA consortium.
On 4 February 2011, the US Department of Defense published an amendment (PDF) to Directive 5210.48 (“Polygraph and Credibility Assessment Program”). The amended directive reflects the transfer of DoD polygraph program management from the defunct Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) to the director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC), a sub-unit of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). This