Electrical engineer Byron Johns, “a polygraph victim who was constantly recruited and rejected from CIA, NSA, FBI, DOD contractors, and later resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service,” tells his story in a blog titled, The U.S. Intelligence Community Reject.
The NSA (@NSAgov) has blocked AntiPolygraph.org (@ap_org) from following and viewing the NSA’s tweets:
Curious about what may have prompted this action, we used Google to search twitter.com for matches including both “ap_org” and “NSAGov.” We found two replies that we posted to tweets the NSA made on 9 July 2018. Here is the first reply:
And here is the second reply:
We have asked the NSA to explain why they blocked us and will share their reply with an update here when received:
Update (12 November 2018): The NSA has not responded to our inquiry and continues to block AntiPolygraph.org on Twitter.
NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers says that he hates polygraphs but nonetheless considers them “a good tool for us.”
Rogers made the remark during an appearance on Monday, 3 November 2014 at Stanford University in response to a question by professor of political science Scott Sagan, who asked what Rogers has done in terms of background checks, security clearances, and personnel reliability programs to preclude another security breach like Edward Snowden’s.
The first specific measure Rogers mentioned was polygraph screening, replying in relevant part (at 1:09:09 in the webcast):
So, I remind the workforce, we all signed up to a higher level of scrutiny and a higher level of security. We all know that that’s part of the job. We all agree to that. Whether it’s polygraphs, whole lots of other things that we do–I mean, I can’t stand ’em. I’ll be the first to admit I hate ’em, but it is as…but I acknowledge that it’s a good tool for us, and if I’m gonna do this, I go into it with my eyes open even though part of me goes, “Oh man, I’ve got to sit down and get wired to a machine.” ‘Cause we have one standard for all of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re the four-star running the organization, or you’re a junior individual. I’ve got one standard for all of us when it comes to the security framework.
Rogers seemingly ignores the fact that polygraph screening is completely without scientific basis and disregards the National Research Council’s conclusion 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.”
Rogers also seems to suggest that he’s setting an example for his employees: everyone from the highest to the lowest ranking at NSA has to take the polygraph. But it’s not really the same. When the director of the NSA sits for a polygraph “test,” it’s the polygrapher’s job that’s on the line. No director of the NSA need fear failing a polygraph. The same is not true for those further down the food-chain, for whom a false-positive outcome is a serious risk.
Of course, polygraph screening is not a policy instituted by NSA in response to Edward Snowden’s disclosures. NSA has been (mis-)relying on polygraphy for almost its entire history. It may be the case, however, that NSA has increased the frequency of polygraph screenings. In December 2013, Daniel W. Drezner, writing for Foreign Policy magazine, reported following a visit to NSA headquarters:
Snowden has also changed the way the NSA is doing business. Analysts have gone from being polygraphed once every five years to once every quarter.
Update: While DIRNSA Mike Rogers says he goes into polygraphs “with [his] eyes open,” the NSA has produced a video for employees and contractors that attempts to mislead them about key aspects of polygraph screening. And NSA-affiliated personnel who attempt to open their eyes about polygraphy by researching it online may have their web browsing history intercepted and presented to them during their polygraph sessions.
McClatchy investigative reporter Marisa Taylor reports that a list of 4,904 individuals whose names were derived from the customer records of Doug Williams and Chad Dixon, both of whom were targeted in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection-led criminal investigation called Operation Lie Busters, has been circulated to nearly 30 federal agencies including the CIA, NSA, DIA, DOE, IRS, and FDA. Exerpt:
WASHINGTON — U.S. agencies collected and shared the personal information of thousands of Americans in an attempt to root out untrustworthy federal workers that ended up scrutinizing people who had no direct ties to the U.S. government and simply had purchased certain books.
Federal officials gathered the information from the customer records of two men who were under criminal investigation for purportedly teaching people how to pass lie detector tests. The officials then distributed a list of 4,904 people – along with many of their Social Security numbers, addresses and professions – to nearly 30 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.
Although the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven, authorities hoped to find government employees or applicants who might have tried to use them to lie during the tests required for security clearances. Officials with multiple agencies confirmed that they’d checked the names in their databases and planned to retain the list in case any of those named take polygraphs for federal jobs or criminal investigations.
It turned out, however, that many people on the list worked outside the federal government and lived across the country. Among the people whose personal details were collected were nurses, firefighters, police officers and private attorneys, McClatchy learned. Also included: a psychologist, a cancer researcher and employees of Rite Aid, Paramount Pictures, the American Red Cross and Georgetown University.
Moreover, many of them had only bought books or DVDs from one of the men being investigated and didn’t receive the one-on-one training that investigators had suspected. In one case, a Washington lawyer was listed even though he’d never contacted the instructors. Dozens of others had wanted to pass a polygraph not for a job, but for a personal reason: The test was demanded by spouses who suspected infidelity.
The unprecedented creation of such a list and decision to disseminate it widely demonstrate the ease with which the federal government can collect and share Americans’ personal information, even when there’s no clear reason for doing so.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has an active criminal investigation, working with US Customs and Border Protection, into the potential training of DoD civilian polygraph examinees in the use of countermeasures and making false statements. Because this is an active criminal investigation, we cannot provide any further information at this time.
On Friday, 25 October 2013, AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke was a guest on the Scott Horton Show. Topics covered during the half-hour interview include indications that AntiPolygraph.org has been targeted by the NSA for monitoring, the federal criminal investigation into individuals who provide instruction in how to pass a polygraph “test” (Operation Lie Busters), and why reliance on polygraphy for purposes of national security and public safety is misguided. The interview may be listened to on-line or downloaded as an MP3 file here.
I was recently polygraphed by the DOD and they had logs of websites I had visited the night before from my ISP and mentioned this site by name and attempted to disprove to me everything you have on the website. Certainly a scare tactic, more so interesting how they used logs regarding my web activity. Seems somewhat constitutionally messed up if you ask me.
AntiPolygraph.org replied asking whether the logs of websites were from a commercial ISP, or whether it was perhaps the military network NIPRNet. The petty officer replied “It was a commercial ISP from my own personal house!” adding that (s)he was headed to work and would send another e-mail regarding his/her experience later that day.
The petty officer did not send another e-mail and did not reply to repeated e-mail inquiries. Recently contacted by phone, the petty officer hanged up.
It seems plausible that the petty officer received a talking-to before (s)he could send the follow-up message promised in August.
The petty officer’s account suggests that the U.S. Government may be targeting AntiPolygraph.org in an attempt to identify those who visit the site. Journalist Glenn Greenwald reported in July, based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that the NSA operates a system codenamed XKEYSCORE that “allows an analyst to learn the IP addresses of every person who visits any website the analyst specifies.”
AntiPolygraph.org might be of interest to NSA because we provide information on polygraph techniques employed by the U.S. Government for personnel security screening. Our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF), includes information on techniques that can be used to pass a polygraph examination whether or not one is telling the truth. We make this information available in order to provide honest individuals with information that can help to mitigate the serious risk of a false positive outcome. However, the same information can also be used by deceptive persons to pass the polygraph.
In August, McClatchy reporters Marisa Taylor and Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. reported that federal agents had launched “a criminal investigation of instructors who claim they can teach job applicants how to pass lie detector tests.” A key objective of the investigation seems to have been to identify the instructors’ customers. Business records seized from the two instructors targeted, Chad Dixon and Doug Williams, “included the names of as many as 5,000 people.” AntiPolygraph.org’s free book is downloaded about 1,000 times in a typical week.
NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, contacted in June and asked whether AntiPolygraph.org would be a likely target for direct monitoring in order to match up visitors to the site against a list of government employees or applicants replied: “YES! NSA is already targeting visitors to your site. This is a no brainer.”
As a matter of fact, all my people that I talk to have had to learn how to beat polygraphs, and they’ve all been successful in doing it, because it’s easy to beat a polygraph. And that’s something that, if I was still in the business, and I was wanting to get back into this sort of thing, that I’d learn how to beat a polygraph before I did anything.
Tice told AntiPolygraph.org that his contacts learned how to beat the polygraph from AntiPolygraph.org and that the information was retrieved from a computer not associated with their own computers, printed out, and circulated.
AntiPolygraph.org welcomes tips from any readers with relevant information. See our contact information page regarding how to get in touch. Comments may also be posted below.
U.S. News & World Report staff writer Elizabeth Flock spoke with NSA whistleblower Russ Tice about the NSA’s polygraph practices, including how to beat the polygraph. AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke was also interviewed for this article.
The National Security Agency (NSA) has produced a video about its polygraph screening program. Watch it here, along with AntiPolygraph.org’s commentary:
For a thorough debunking of polygraphy, with extensive citations (including the U.S. Government’s own polygraph literature) that you may check for yourself, see AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF).
See also these public statements by individuals who have gone through the NSA polygraph process:
And for discussion of polygraph matters, see the AntiPolygraph.org message board.
AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a copy of an NSA leaflet (1.7 mb PDF) titled, “Your Polygraph Examination: An Important Appointment to Keep.” This leaflet, which has blanks for filling in the time, date, and place of an appointment, merits some discussion.
The leaflet begins with a section on what to do before the polygraph:
Prior to Your Appointment
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Follow your usual routine
- Take your regular medications
- Don’t skip any meals
- Come in with an open mind
- It’s a unique experience each time
- Allow enough time in your schedule
This much is fairly uncontroversial. But while the NSA urges keeping an “open mind” about the polygraph, we should also heed evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ wise counsel: “By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” The National Academy of Sciences in 2002 found polygraph screening to be completely invalid, concluding 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.” Continue reading NSA Leaflet: Your Polygraph Examination