Accused Russian Spy Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins Evidently Beat the Polygraph to Penetrate the NSA, INSCOM and the DIA

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins

On Thursday, 20 August 2020, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia indicted former U.S. Army Special Forces officer Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins of Gainesville, Virginia on a single count of “Conspiracy to Gather or Deliver Defense Information to Aid a Foreign Government.” Debbins was arrested on Friday, 21 August 2020.

The indictment states that the 45-year-old Debbins graduated from the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at the University of Minnesota in 1997 and served on active military duty from July 1998 until November 2005. During this time, Debbins served in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps in Korea and at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and with the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group in Germany. Debbins was investigated for a security violation during a deployment to Azerbaijan in 2004, as a consequence of which he was relieved of command and his Top Secret/SCI security clearance was suspended. After leaving active duty, Debbins served in the inactive army reserve until 2010.

The indictment alleges that throughout his military service, indeed while still an ROTC cadet, Debbins was working on behalf of a Russian intelligence service. The indictment alleges, among other things, that during a meeting with two Russian intelligence officers in 2003, Debbins provided information about the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, noting at para. 46 that he was instructed not to take a polygraph “test’:

46. During the meeting, RIS 5 and RIS 6 instructed DEBBINS not to take a polygraph and offered to give him training on how to deceive polygraphs. They further encouraged DEBBINS to continue pursuing a career in the Special Forces.

It is not specified whether Debbins ever received such polygraph countermeasure training.

The indictment does go on to note:

60. In January 2010, an Adjudicator with the U.S. Army Central Personnel Security Clearance Facility sent DEBBINS a letter notifying him that he had been granted a TS/SCI security clearance….

The indictment does not state for what purpose Debbins was granted this security clearance, but in a profile of Debbins on the website of the Institute for World Politics he states:

I got a job working at Fort Meade as a Russian analyst and did that for three years. I then transitioned to working as a cyber instructor for CACI for another three years.

Fort Meade is home to the National Security Agency (NSA). All analyst positions at the NSA, including contractor jobs, require a full-scope (lifestyle) polygraph examination that includes questions about contacts with foreign governments.

If the espionage allegations against Debbins are true—and they seem to be well-documented, including a signed confession—then Debbins necessarily beat the polygraph to work at Fort Meade.

902nd Military Intelligence Group Crest

Debbins’ LinkedIn profile indicates that from January 2011 to March 2014, he worked as a “senior research analyst” for Mission Essential Intelligence Solutions, a government contractor. Debbins’ resume, made public on 27 August 2020 (after this article was first published), shows that this contract work was for the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, a counterintelligence unit falling under the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) and headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland. This position, for which Debbins needed a TS/SCI clearance, would have required polygraph screening.

Thereafter, from April 2014 to December 2015, Debbins indicates that he was an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, another government contractor that among other things provides services to the NSA. However, Debbins’ resume indicates that his work with Booz Allen Hamilton was as a “Russian cyber analyst” for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Since 1 July January 2017, the Defense Intelligence Agency has required that all contractors outside inside the continental United States with SCI access pass a polygraph “test.” This requirement was extended to contractors outside the continental United States as of 1 July 2017. Thus, it is possible that Debbins also beat the DIA polygraph, though it’s possible that a previously passed NSA army polygraph might have obviated the need for a DIA polygraph.

After that, Debbins indicates that he worked as an instructor for military contractor CACI International, Inc. from January 2016 to September 2017. A statement by DIA Senior Expert for Counterintelligence David L. Tomlinson indicates that this work was with DIA’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity.

Accused spy Debbins at RAF Molesworth nuclear bunker, 30 January 2018

Debbins’ profiles on LinkedIn and the Institute for World Politics indicate that after leaving CACI International, he worked through contractor CoSolutions, Inc. as a Russian studies instructor at the Defense Intelligence Agency-run Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe (JIOCEUR) Analytic Center at RAF Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom from August 2017 to January 2020.

DIA Senior Expert for Counterintelligence David L. Tomlinson’s statement indicates that the specific organization for which Debbins worked was the DIA’s Regional Joint Intelligence Training Facility (RJITF) at RAF Molesworth. The RJITF is closely associated with the DIA-operated Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe (JIOCEUR) Analytic Center.

In 2015, the U.S. Air Force’s 501st Combat Support Wing produced the following public relations video about the JIOCEUR Analytic Center, commonly called the Joint Analytic Center (JAC):

Other recent failures of the NSA’s polygraph screening program include contractors Harold Thomas Martin III and Nghia Hoang Pho, both of whom are currently serving prison sentences for unlawfully retaining classified information.

In addition, the The DIA’s former top analyst for Cuban affairs, Ana Belen Montes, was a Cuban spy who received instruction in polygraph countermeasures from her handlers and beat at least one DIA polygraph while spying for Cuba. Ironically, in response to Montes having beaten the polygraph, the Department of Defense Inspector General recommended more polygraphs, and the DIA complied.

That spies and security violators are beating the polygraph is not surprising. Polygraphy has no scientific basis to begin with, and as explained in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, its methodology makes it vulnerable to simple, effective countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect.

Debbins’ arrest comes just a week after the espionage arrest in Honolulu of former CIA officer and FBI contract linguist Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, who evidently beat the polygraph to obtain employment with the FBI.

Note: This article was updated on 28 August 2020 to reflect new information made public in court filings associated with a detention hearing in this case.

Accused WikiLeaks CIA Vault 7 Source Joshua Adam Schulte Knew the Lie Behind the Lie Detector

Joshua Adam Schulte

An exhibit (PDF) submitted by prosecutors in the Espionage Act trial of Joshua Adam Schulte for allegedly providing a collection of CIA hacking tools dubbed “Vault 7” to WikiLeaks shows that Schulte understood that polygraph “testing” is bogus. AntiPolygraph.org has previously reported that Schulte passed multiple CIA polygraphs despite having allegedly downloaded child pornography before seeking CIA employment.

The exhibit, which appears to be an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) transcript, begins with “John” sending “Josh” (Schulte) a link to AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, noting that he was reading it and that it “seems kind of interesting.”

John asks Schulte for his opinion on polygraphs, and he responds that “they’re a means of social engineering” and provides a (no-longer available) link to video of the Penn & Teller Bullshit! documentary series episode on lie detectors.

The chat, which took place over the course of about 11 minutes on January 15th of an unspecified year, concludes with Schulte pasting the following selection from The Lie Behind the Lie Detector and remarking “rofl”:

On Monday, 21 February 1994—just seven days before the Joint Security Commission issued its report—the FBI arrested CIA counterintelligence officer Aldrich Hazen Ames and charged him with spying for the former Soviet Union and later, Russia. Since beginning his betrayal in 1985, Ames had passed two CIA polygraph “tests” during which he falsely denied having committed espionage, first on 2 May 1986 and again on 12 and 16 April 1991.

(In the chat log, the numerals do not appear as a result of the formatting of earlier editions of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.)

It is not clear what legal argument the chat log is intended to support, but it does help to document the growing understanding of those who are subject to polygraph screening that it is, as Penn and Teller put it, bullshit.

AntiPolygraph.org has transcribed the exhibit (PDF), which was first made available by reporter Matthew Russell Lee (@MatthewLeeICP):

Jan 15 13:18:05 <John> i'm reading this: https://antipolygraph.org/lie-behind-the-lie-detector.pdf
Jan 15 13:18:09 <John> seems kind of interesting
Jan 15 13:18:29 <John> what's your opinion on polygraphs
Jan 15 13:19:03 <Josh> they're a means of social engineering
Jan 15 13:19:16 <Josh> Penn and Teller did a good episode of Bullshit! about polygraphs
Jan 15 13:19:39 <John> yeah
Jan 15 13:20:03 <Josh> https://cryptm.org/data/shows/Bullshit!/Season%207/S07E05%20-%20Lie%20Detectors.avi
Jan 15 13:20:06 <Josh> :)
Jan 15 13:20:09 <Josh> you?
Jan 15 13:20:23 <John> yeah that's basically my opinion too
Jan 15 13:20:26 <Josh> the dude was right, it's the polygraphers who are complete douchebags
Jan 15 13:20:41 <John> i just wonder how hard it is for say a spy to get through an nsa polygraph
Jan 15 13:21:00 <John> like i'd imagine the background checks do a lot more to keep out spies than the polygraph
Jan 15 13:21:21 <Josh> the problem is once someone is in, then the background checks do very little
Jan 15 13:21:32 <Josh> Like, as long as you believe in your lie then you can pass it pretty easily
Jan 15 13:21:44 <Josh> Also, I hear that a lot of people go "inconclusive" in polygraphs
Jan 15 13:21:58 <Josh> meaning there is no clear indicator to the polygraphers
Jan 15 13:22:07 <John> but "inconclusive" means you don't get the clearance
Jan 15 13:22:18 <Josh> nope
Jan 15 13:22:21 <Josh> you can still get it
Jan 15 13:22:24 <John> wtf
Jan 15 13:22:24 <Josh> and you can maintain it
Jan 15 13:22:27 <John> here you don't
Jan 15 13:22:32 <Josh> even if you fail it, you get many more chances to re-take it...
Jan 15 13:22:36 <Josh> says who
Jan 15 13:22:52 <John> i forget
Jan 15 13:22:58 <Josh> I bet it's the same because I know NSA trains your polygraphers
Jan 15 13:23:07 <John> hmmm
Jan 15 13:23:33 <Josh> I mean, it's about the polygraphers and what kind of shit they can get out of you
Jan 15 13:23:38 <Josh> not really about the test itself
Jan 15 13:24:31 <Josh> you can still fail it though, I've heard of some people who dont get a clearance because they outright fail the polygraph
Jan 15 13:24:54 <Josh> and that can be for a number of reasons from nervousness to simple physiology
Jan 15 13:25:21 <John> i heard that a lot of co-ops failed to get their clearance because they lied about not having done weed
Jan 15 13:25:33 <Josh> heh
Jan 15 13:25:46 <Josh> that's actually the question I had the most trouble with
Jan 15 13:25:52 <Josh> and apparently I kept failing it
Jan 15 13:25:58 <Josh> even though I've never done drugs...
Jan 15 13:26:02 <John> lol
Jan 15 13:26:20 <Josh> I think the guy was just phishing because he didn't think a college kid had never even tried drugs before :P
Jan 15 13:26:26 <John> haha
Jan 15 13:26:32 <Josh> so fuck that guy
Jan 15 13:26:46 <Josh> he was such a fucking dick
Jan 15 13:27:06 <Josh> he told me, well, you'll probably be on your way back to texas wish you hadnt lied here
Jan 15 13:27:14 <Josh> I was like wtf
Jan 15 13:27:31 <Josh> I even decided if I had to retake it that I'd just tell them to forget it
Jan 15 13:28:16 <Josh> dude there were some people in my access class that failed it like 4-5 times...
Jan 15 13:28:23 <Josh> and others who took 6 years to get cleared
Jan 15 13:28:26 <Josh> I was like, jesus
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> "On Monday, February —just seven days before the Joint Se-
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> curity Commission issued its report—the FBI arrested CIA counter-
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> intelligence officer Aldrich Hazen Ames and charged him with spying
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> for the former Soviet Union and later, Russia. Since beginning his
Jan 15 13:32:16 <Josh> betrayal in , Ames had passed two CIA polygraph "tests" during
Jan 15 13:32:17 <Josh> which he falsely denied having committed espionage, first on
Jan 15 13:32:19 <Josh> May and again on and April .
Jan 15 13:32:21 <Josh> "
Jan 15 13:32:47 <Josh> he went inconclusive
Jan 15 13:39:20 <Josh> hmmm
Jan 15 13:39:25 <Josh> rofl:

NSA Blocks AntiPolygraph.org on Twitter

The NSA (@NSAgov) has blocked AntiPolygraph.org (@ap_org) from following and viewing the NSA’s tweets:

Screen shot of the NSA’s Twitter profile as viewed from AntiPolygraph.org’s Twitter account, 3 November 2018

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.

Update (17 February 2020): The NSA has recently unblocked AntiPolygraph.org on Twitter, after having blocked us throughout 2019. The NSA never responded to our inquiry regading the reason for the block.

NSA Director Mike Rogers on Polygraph Screening

mike-rogers-on-polygraph-screening
NSA Director Mike Rogers Speaking on Polygraph Screening

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.

U.S. Government Circulates Watch List of Buyers of Information on How to Pass a Polygraph Test

cbp-ia-emblemMcClatchy 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.

It’s well worth reading the rest of the story. In addition, a DoD response to a McClatchy Newspapers inquiry indicates that Operation Lie Busters remains an ongoing investigation. In declining to answer whether it had checked names on the list against its records, DoD wrote:
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.
Taylor also reveals that NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden “underwent two polygraphs for his NSA job” and that “he wasn’t found to have used polygraph-beating techniques to pass them.” Of course, that’s hardly surprising. No polygraph operator has ever demonstrated any ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. A collection of polygraph community countermeasure training materials published by AntiPolygraph.org earlier this year documents that the polygraph community has no coherent methodology for detecting the kind of countermeasures explained in Doug Williams’ manual, How to Sting the Polygraph, or in AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (PDF). Indeed, the very existence of Operation Lie Busters speaks to the federal government’s frustration in this regard. Taylor’s article does not mention whether Snowden’s polygraphs came before or after he began collecting the documents that he ultimately provided to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

George Maschke on Likely NSA Monitoring, Operation Lie Busters, and Federal Polygraph Policy

scott-horton-showOn 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.

Is AntiPolygraph.org Being Targeted By the NSA?

nsa-logoAn e-mail received by AntiPolygraph.org in August from a U.S. Navy petty officer suggests that AntiPolygraph.org may be targeted for electronic surveillance. The petty officer wrote:

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.

XKeyscore-logoThe 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.

russ-ticeNSA 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.”

Also in June, in an interview with Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs show, Tice mentioned that contacts inside the NSA who are providing him information are all beating the polygraph:

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.

The Truth About the Polygraph (According to the NSA)

The National Security Agency (NSA) has produced a video about its polygraph screening program. Watch it here, along with AntiPolygraph.org’s commentary:

The original source video is available here. For commentary on the NSA’s accompanying polygraph leaflet, see our earlier blog post, NSA Leaflet: Your Polygraph Examination.

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.