In the 29th episode of his true crime Light ‘Em Up podcast, host Phillip L. Rizzo speaks with AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke. Topics discussed include Maschke’s personal experience with the polygraph, the scientific shortcomings of polygraphy, polygraph policy, and countermeasures.
Thomas P. Mauriello, who once headed the NSA’s Polygraph Division, tells Newsy national security reporter Sasha Ingber that while he thinks the U.S. government should use polygraphs, they alone shouldn’t be the determining factor in decision-making. Mauriello’s remarks came in the context of a video report titled, “Ex-Polygraph Chief: Polygraphs Need Not Deny Afghan Interpreters Visas.” The following is a transcript excerpt:
Are Afghan interpreters who risked their lives to help U.S. forces now being consigned to death because of a flawed test?
“They just told me, ‘you failed the polygraph test,'” Afghan interpreter Omid Mahmoodi said.
Many tell Newsy they’ve been denied Special Immigrant Visas after failing the required polygraph.
“The use of the polygraph has been very helpful, but it’s unfair many times” Tom Mauriello, Former Chief of Polygraph at the Department of Defense said.
This all comes as the U.S. troop withdrawal in Afghanistan is almost complete and the Taliban is gaining ground.
All the reason, Mauriello says, a polygraph shouldn’t make-or-break an interpreter’s chances of coming to the U.S.
“Should the government be using it? Yes,” Mauriello said. “But they should be using it as a tool, among other things, so if they’re not successful on a polygraph test, but they’ve done an extensive background investigation and there’s no reason to have any concerns or problem, they should weigh those two things and then decide whether a person should have access or be approved for whatever they’re being evaluated for.”
Newsy additionally sought comment from the federal polygraph school, the National Center for Credibility Assessment, which did not respond to its calls or emails.
Ingber also spoke with AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke about the policy of denying visas to Afghans who served with U.S. forces based on polygraph results:
“It is, in fact, a cop-invented pseudoscience,” former Intelligence Officer George Maschke said. “The claim that polygraph has no scientific basis is supported by the National Academy of Sciences, which conducted an exhaustive review of the scientific evidence on polygraphs and in its 2002 report ‘The Polygraph and Lie Detection’ expressly recommended against polygraph screening by federal agencies.”
Polygraphs aren’t admissible evidence in most courtrooms. The major exception is New Mexico. So why are they being used here?
“I feel it’s unconscionable that the United states government is denying evacuation to Afghans who served honorably with our forces simply because they failed a polygraph test,” Maschke continued. “And I think it would be appropriate for President Biden to take executive action to reverse that policy immediately.”
The entire video report may be viewed below:
In a report published online on Tuesday, 27 July 2021, Newsy In the Loop presenter Christian Bryant asked national security reporter Sasha Ingber about the plight of Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants who have been rejected because they failed a polygraph:
Bryant: You know, one of the things that we’ve talked about is the fact that, you know, we’re going to see some arrivals at Fort Lee, but there are some people who’ve applied and already been denied because of—because they failed a polygraph. What can you tell us about the Afghan interpreters who have already failed this polygraph test. I mean, what can you tell us about that hurdle for some of these interpreters and their families?
Ingber: Well, I spoke with the former chief of polygraph at the Defense Department, and it was a fascinating conversation because he seemed to cast some doubt on the, the weight and gravity of the polygraph as being the way to determine whether or not an Afghan should come to the country. If you don’t get through the polygraph test, then your visa application is denied. And he says that it should be one piece in a mosaic, essentially, that helps to determine whether or not you should be allowed to come here, that a security check, looking at your background, should also weigh heavily into that decision, that cultural clashes, and even who your polygrapher is, can affect how you do on that test, Christian.
While Ingber did not state the name of the former DoD polygraph chief with whom she spoke, we commend him for his candor and hope that he will continue to speak out about this urgent policy matter.
The entire In the Loop report, which begins with discussion of the evacuation of some Afghans to Fort Lee, Virginia, may be viewed here (14 MB MP4 file).
The lives of Afghans who served honorably with U.S. forces but were denied visas simply because they failed a polygraph “test” are in imminent danger with the United States completing its withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August 2021 and the Taliban gaining control over increasingly large parts of the country.
Please write to President Biden and your members of Congress and urge them to reverse the policy of denying visas based on polygraph results. See Special Immigrant Visas Should Not Be Denied Based on Polygraph Results on the Action Alerts forum of the AntiPolygraph.org message board for links and suggested wordings.
In a report presented by foreign correspondent Anna Coren, CNN chronicles the plight of Afghan linguists who served with United States forces but have been denied Special Immigrant Visas. Both interpreters showcased in the video report were fired because they failed pseudoscientific polygraph “tests.”
The following is an excerpt from the written article accompanying the video report:
Abdul Rashid Shirzad…served for five years as a linguist working alongside America’s military elite, translating for US Special Forces.
He showed CNN photographs of his time on missions in the Kejran Valley in Uruzgan province working with the US Navy’s SEAL Team 10. But according to Shirzad, his service has now amounted to a death sentence. The US government rejected his Special Immigrant Visa, and he said that’s made him a target for the Taliban.
“If they catch me they’re going to kill me, kill my kids and my wife too. It’s payback time for them you know,” he said.
The father of three said his contract with the US military was terminated in 2014 after he also failed a polygraph test. He had applied for his visa the year before.
But Shirzad’s letters of recommendation from SEAL commanders, seen by CNN, reflect a translator who went above and beyond duty. They describe him as a “valuable and necessary asset” who “braved enemy fire” and “undoubtedly saved the lives of Americans and Afghans alike.”
Shirzad said he was excited to work with the Americans, and became a lead liaison between US and Afghan Special Forces. One recommendation letter for the visa, from a US commander, described how Shirzad took part in 63 “high-risk direct action combat missions” and was “vital” to the success of his team’s operations. It detailed how he helped the recovery of a team member who was caught in a blast and left with life threatening injuries.
Shirzad said he has no idea what he did wrong and never received an explanation for his termination. His visa rejection letter from the US Embassy stated “lack of faithful and valuable service.”
The situation for the second interpreter showcased, Sohail Pardis, is more grim. Pardis worked as an interpreter for U.S. military contractor Mission Essential Personnel from 17 May 2011 until 18 August 2012 when, as CNN reports, he was terminated after failing a polygraph “test.” Pardis was subsequently denied a Special Immigrant Visa.
According to family members, on 12 May 2021, the Taliban stopped Pardis at a checkpoint, dragged him out of his car, and beheaded him. CNN showed a blurred copy of the following photograph, which we believe readers should see unedited:
CNN correspondent Anna Coren spoke with Pardis’ friend and fellow Special Immigrant Visa reject Abdulhaq Ayoubi and visited Pardis’ gravesite. The video report may be viewed here.
Numerous other Afghan interpreters who served honorably with U.S. forces have been denied Special Immigrant Visas because of failed polygraph “tests.” (See our article from last week, Afghan Interpreters Denied Special Immigrant Visas Based on Polygraph Results.)
It is unconscionable that Special Immigrant Visas are being denied based on polygraph outcomes. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences completed a thorough review of the scientific evidence on polygraphs and advised 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.”
Please write to President Biden and your members of Congress and urge them to reverse this policy. See Special Immigrant Visas Should Not Be Denied Based on Polygraph Results on the Action Alerts forum of the AntiPolygraph.org message board for links and suggested wordings.
At a meeting of the San Diego City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee held on 16 June 2021, Captain Rudy Tai of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) mentioned that the pre-employment polygraph screening process now includes questioning about hate crimes and racial bias. As part of a “Recruitment and Retention Update” Tai told the committee:
As far as our polygraph update, what we notice is we meet with our polygraphers—our polygraphers are in-house—we meet with them once a quarter, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page. As we see issues coming up nationwide, take for example we wanted to make sure we were capturing questions in the polygraph that have to do with hate incidents, hate crimes, any biases a person may have, any associations they may have—on social media—make sure we capture that within the polygraph process.
In response, Councilmember Raul Campillo asked:
I do have a question about the one slide put—about the steps that go through—the polygraph test. I’m just curious what questions are asked on the polygraph test.
SDPD Lieutenant Steve Waldheim responded without actually disclosing precisely what questions are asked:
So, regarding the polygraph, they ask a plethora of questions. So, they actually break it down into four different categories, and they break it down into drugs, serious crimes, again what we added there was pertaining to any uh racial uh anything to that, that uh basically any bias, things like that, so they ask just about anything and everything on the polygraph. So they cover a lot. Usually it takes at least two hours to go over with a polygrapher, um, and they ask just about everything. And they reiterate, again, with our background detectives, we meet with them before, and we have pre-polygraph interview with the background detective. They go over all the questions, again, and they are getting asked on the pre-investigative questionnaire and the personal history statement. So we ask just about everything. And then they confirm that on the polygraph with them hooked up on the machine.
Councilmember Campillo responded:
Okay. Understood. I’m glad to hear that issues of the bias, it, whether they’re racial, social, gender, of all sorts, I, I, I’m glad to hear that. It’s a concern of mine, and we’ve be—know we want to continue to, to find and prevent folks who do have those sorts of biases from being able to be part of law enforcement just because of how much—how important the role is in criminal justice. I was gonna ask if—when we have a police officer transfer from a different department, from a different agency, maybe I should say, into SDPD, do they go through that same polygraph test as well?
To which Lt. Waldheim replied:
Yes sir, they do. They all go through the same polygraph. They all go through the same background investigation.
On 20 June 2021, AntiPolygraph.org co-founder George Maschke wrote to Councilmember Raul Campillo regarding the inadequacy of Lieutenant Steve Walheim’s reply and asked, among other things, whether he would support polygraph screening of applicants for employment with the San Diego city attorney’s office (his former employer):
Dear Councilmember Campillo,
I write for AntiPolygraph.org, a non-profit, public interest website dedicated to polygraph policy reform. I listened with interest to the discussion of polygraph policy at last week’s meeting of the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee and am preparing to publish an article that will quote your question about that.
At that meeting, you expressed satisfaction with Lt. Steve Waldheim’s reply that the police department’s polygraph screening process includes questions about racial bias. However, Lt. Waldheim actually dodged your question with generalities. You had asked him what questions are asked on the polygraph test. He didn’t actually tell you what questions are asked.
AntiPolygraph.org published the precise questions asked on the SDPD pre-employment polygraph examination two years ago:
It appears that the question, “Have you ever committed any serious crime?” remains unchanged, with the exception that its scope, which is discussed with the subject during the pre-test phase, has been expanded to include hate crimes (which it previously did not). The following SDPD graphic shows the areas that were previously covered by this question:
A question not raised at last week’s meeting is whether SDPD should be relying on polygraph screening at all. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences completed a thorough review of the scientific evidence on polygraphs and found polygraph screening to be completely invalid and advised against its use by federal agencies.
You should also be aware that polygraphy is vulnerable to simple, effective countermeasures that anyone can learn and that polygraph operators cannot detect. You’ll find such countermeasures explained in Ch. 4 of our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.
In view of polygraphy’s scientific shortcomings, do you support the SDPD’s reliance on it to screen applicants? If so, why?
And if you do support the SDPD’s use of polygraphs on applicants, would you also support a polygraph screening requirement for those seeking employment with the city attorney’s office? If not, why not?
I will be happy to address any questions you may have regarding the foregoing.
George W. Maschke, Ph.D.
Tel/SMS: 1-202-810-2105 (Please use Signal Private Messenger or WhatsApp)
Councilmember Campillo did not resond to our inquiry.
At the same meeting, Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn asked about attrition in the hiring process, in response to which Lt. Waldheim stated:
…a little over 50% fail the written exam, then 15% will fail the physical aspect, then when it comes to the PIQ, the pre-investigative questionnaire, we lose about half of them at that step, because then they’ll be disqualified for some reason or another… Then our polygraph examination, we lose about 50% on that aspect. However, even though we lose fifty percent, the majority of the failures actually have new disclosures, which then tells us that the polygraph test is doing its job, catching people in a lie.
The 50% pre-employment polygraph failure rate mentioned by Waldheim is not unusual among governmental agencies with a pre-employment polygraph screening requirement. Given that polygraphy has no scientific basis, it is inevitable that many honest applicants are being falsely branded as liars and wrongly disqualified from employment.
Waldheim’s claim that the majority of those who fail make “new disclosures” should not be uncritically accepted. Polygraph operators are typically rated on the basis of their confession rates after a failed “test.” They are thus incentivized both to seek admissions and to amplify their significance.
Waldheim’s use of the weasel words “new disclosures” suggests that not all such disclosures are necessarily admissions to having lied on the polygraph.
In a 22 April 2021 YouTube interview with retired NYPD detective Ron Licciardi, polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff, who is best known for his appearances on the lowbrow daytime television talk program, the Steve Wilkos Show, disclosed that he has the contract for administering pre-employment polygraph examinations to New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department applicants, stating:
We happen to have the contract for the MTA police, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police, so we do the polygraphs for pre-employment, where we search for what we call undetected crimes.
As previously reported by AntiPolygraph.org, Ribacoff’s company, International Investigative Group, is the defendant in current civil litigation credibly alleging billing fraud in the millions of dollars.
On 17 June 2021, AntiPolygraph.org submitted the following inquiry to Metropolitan Transit Authority media relations:
Is the MTA aware that the contractor who does pre-employment polygraph screening for the MTA Police Department (International Investigative Group) is the defendant in a civil lawsuit credibly alleging billing fraud in the millions of dollars? AntiPolygraph.org reported yesterday on the latest developments in this litigation:
We’re planning to report on the MTA having selected the fraud-tainted International Investigative Group (IIG) to screen police applicants and would like to know 1) when the MTA awarded this company its first contract to screen applicants, 2) when the current contract period ends, 3) whether MTA intends to cancel the current contract before it ends, 4) whether MTA intends to renew its contract with IIG, and 5) how many applicants have been polygraphed by IIG?
Any additional comment MTA may have on its dealings with IIG is also welcome.
MTA media relations neither responded to nor acknowledged this inquiry, which was submitted directly via their website.
A pre-employment polygraph examination conducted for the MTAPD in late 2020 by Daniel Ribacoff’s daughter, Lisa Ribacoff (a member of the American Polygraph Association’s board of directors), is at issue in a racial discrimination complaint currently pending before the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
An applicant for employment with the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department has filed a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in connection with a pre-employment polygraph screening “test” administered by that department. Anthony M. DeStefano reports for Newsday. Excerpt:
An NYPD officer from Nassau County trying to get a job with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority police is accusing the agency of racial and disability discrimination in a government filing.
Jonathan Kyle Carter, 29, of Uniondale, alleges in a complaint that a conditional job offer he received from the MTA to join its police force in late 2020 was rescinded after he took a polygraph test.
Carter, a five-year NYPD veteran, claimed in his filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the MTA used polygraph tests to “suppress the hiring of African American (Black) police officer candidates. “
“This racially motivated invidious discrimination is done to facilitate a covert policy and procedure by MTA that denies black candidates equal opportunity, among other reasons, in favor of white applicants with family already employed by the MTA, that is nepotism, at the expense of the constitutional rights of black candidates,” Carter alleged in his filing.
His attorney, Peter Crusco of Farmingdale, said the EEOC will investigate the case and either decide to mediate the matter or give Carter the right to sue the MTA for discrimination.
A spokesman for the MTA said in a statement that as a matter of policy the agency doesn’t comment on personnel matters or “matters of pending litigation or that could become litigation.”
EEOC official said under federal law they can’t confirm or deny whether any complaint is filed.
In the filing, Carter said that he completed several parts of the MTA police application process, including an interview on Jan. 13, 2020. He said he was given a conditional offer of employment for a police officer position on Nov. 3, 2020. The employment was conditioned on a medical exam and the polygraph test, he said.
In an interview with Newsday, Carter said that he wanted to switch to the MTA police because it offered a better work schedule and better quality of life. Carter, who works for the city’s Transit Police, has 43 arrests with the NYPD, records show.
Carter said that during the polygraph exam he mentioned to the examiner that he had been diagnosed with “White Coat Syndrome,” a condition in which he gets nervous in any kind of clinical situation.
“My heart and my blood pressure goes up, so usually when I take any kind of medical exam I usually fail the initial one,” said Carter.
The polygraph examiner then became hostile when Carter mentioned White Coat Syndrome, telling him it wasn’t a real medical condition, Carter’s filing said.
On Dec.11, 2020, after the polygraph test, Carter said he received notification from an MTA employment manager that the agency was rescinding its offer because of the results of the polygraph test.
Based on the polygraph result, “the MTA had determined that you do not meet the requirements of the MTA police officer position, ” the letter from the agency stated, according to the EEOC complaint.
Polygraph screening provides government agencies perfect cover for unlawful discrimination in hiring. A suppressed study by the federal polygraph school showed innocent blacks failing the polygraph at a significantly higher rate than innocent whites.
In episode 102 of the legal podcast Excited Utterance, Vanderbilt University law professor Edward K. Cheng (@edwardkcheng) interviews Northumbria University senior lecturer in law Kyriakos N. Kotsoglou (@Kyri_Kotsoglou) about the use of polygraphs in the United Kingdom, with an emphasis on Kotsoglou’s new article, “Zombie Forensics: the use of the polygraph and the integrity of the criminal justice system in England and Wales,” International Journal of Evidence and Proof, 2021 (1): 16-35.
Kotsoglou addresses the systemic problems associated with a justice system embracing such a pseudoscientific technique as polygraphy. His critique is of relevance for policymakers everywhere.
On Friday, 12 March 2021, the Texas Department of Public Safety Polygraph School graduated its 29th class. In the midst of the most deadly pandemic to hit the United States in a century, and in defiance of current U.S. Center for Disease Control guidance and the city of Austin’s and Travis County’s mask mandates, participants did not wear masks and did not observe social distancing. They did, however, shake hands and touch their faces.
Texas DPS Director Col. Steven C. McCraw, a retired FBI agent who once headed the Bureau’s Inspection Division, gave the graduation address, portions of which AntiPolygraph.org has transcribed. In remarks that are often ungrammatical, McCraw expresses an evidently sincere belief in the pseudoscience of polygraphy, condescension for those who oppose it, and at the same time a recognition that polygraphy is all about interrogation and obtaining confessions. He expresses no concern for potential harm to innocent persons:
I do believe that this is such a important part, discipline, law enforcement discipline, without question. I’ve seen the benefit of it and in a world where crime is transitory—I know the sheriff and I were talking a little bit about it—you know it’s, wherever you’re at, whether it’s North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, certainly Louisiana or Texas, I mean what happens somewhere happens somewhere else. And we recognize that we’re working pretty much the same criminal organizations, the same criminals, and this, this thing, as long as there’s an unending demand for sex with children, we’re, we’re plagued with this depravity of mankind when we talk about what’s going on.
And, and at the end of the day, your job is to get the truth, and of course, we’re, we’re very proud about the school, and pleased that we’re able to produce it, but it’s only as good as the people you put into it, plain and simple. I mean, you are sitting here, there’s a good reason. You’ve exhibited throughout your career not just integrity, but good judgment, and interview, interview skills. I mean you have, already have the tools to get the confessions. You’ve demonstrated that. So you, whether you have a tool or not, but having the science behind it and the tool to help is so vitally important.
From the department’s standpoint, I guess from our standpoint, and I can tell you an example, if nothing else, pre-employment polygraphs. It’s amazing what people will walk into a door wanting to be a state trooper. I mean, we’ve got pedophiles, okay, obviously, we have, we have people who are planning armed robberies of a, an armored vehicle, we’ve had individuals that were thinking about fragging their leadership in Afghanistan. So there’s some, there’s criminals out there applying, and if not for, because the background looked good, everything looked good, if not for those pre-employment, you know, interviews, during confessions that many times those confessions happen even before the interview, before their polygraph is given, because of the quality of our people that are providing that uh, that pre-polygraph interview that they’re conducting, going over the particular facts. And it’s amazing, you know, how we’ve been saved.
While law enforcement applicants sometimes make disqualifying admissions, polygraph screening also results in many honest, well-qualified applicants being wrongly branded as liars and blacklisted. There is no evidence that law enforcement agencies that polygraph applicants have a more honest workforce than those that don’t. Notably, state and local law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oregon are prohibited by law from polygraphing applicants and employees.
So there’s people that don’t really like the polygraph in the legislature, in some other parts of the judicial system, but they don’t understand it, or haven’t seen it, and don’t recognize that, how productive it is.
McCraw’s supposition that those who “don’t really like the polygraph” don’t understand it is ill-founded. Those who understand polygraphy the best tend to oppose it. For example, the National Academy of Sciences conducted a thorough review of the scientific evidence on the polygraph and likened polygraphy to superstitious lie detection rituals in primitive societies.
As the late Dr. Stephen Fienberg, who led the National Academy of Sciences’ polygraph review committee observed, “Polygraph testing has been the gold standard, but it’s obviously fool’s gold.”
McCraw goes on:
At the end of the day, no one goes to jail on a polygraph. There’s got to be corroborating evidence. But there’s so many times where it’s a he said, she said, and you don’t know. And I can say even from a disciplinary standpoint as a director, when you’re looking at somebody that, you know, has, has compromised their integrity, but they’re consistent they had not, and you know, you don’t want to lose a good employee, or employee that appears to be a good employee, that’s worked so hard, you invested in, and you know, you don’t wanna, just based upon, you know, circumstantial evidence remove somebody, but at the end of the day, the polygraph is the great separator.
I mean that then, was it last week when someone I swore was telling me the truth. I moved finally, I thought that somebody that’s telling me something, here’s, here is a candidate we’re firing and it’s just unfair, uh, because clearly, he didn’t do it. Guess what? He lied, okay? And I wouldn’t have been able to know that unless there was a polygraph given in that regard.
Tactical polygraphs. Whoever came up with a tact—who’s idea was that anyway? Matt, did you have something to do with that? Yeah, somebody conspired. That’s a cool name, right? Not a strategic polygraph, but a tactical polygraph, okay? It implies that you’re, you know, proactive, you’re out there, you’re in the field, and you’re getting your hands dirty, you’re where it’s at. And that’s exactly what it’s about.
A so-called “tactical polygraph” is a polygraph “test” administered to a suspect promptly after arrest in an attempt to obtain admissions to crimes beyond those for which the suspect has been arrested. The suspect’s “failing” may be a pre-scripted part of the interrogation plan.
The “Matt” to whom McCraw called out is Texas Department of Public Safety Captain Matthew Mull, a polygraph operator and advocate of this coercive interrogation technique.
You know, we don’t do our, our sex trafficking operations without, without a polygrapher on site. I’ve been even lobbied by ICE HSI on more than one occasion to increase the number of polygraphers that we have, you know in the Rio Grande valley because of how productive it has been. Of course, it’s productive. And if, at the end of the day, you know it’s not only in terms of finding evidence to support, you know, putting them where they need to be, but it’s also identifying victims, other victims in that regard. And you are in a position to be able to do that.
You know there’s, not now, when you hit the day, first day running, you’re going to be in a position to do something that other people won’t be able to do. I mean, you’ve already got that skill to interview on top of that, you’ve got this, then you have the opportunity, because they’re being funneled into your presence, and you have an opportunity to make a difference. And sometimes, you know, patience is important, I know. You know, I don’t have it. But I know you have it, because sometimes you have to listen and empathize—for hours—with someone that you’re disgusted by.
I’m always, always reminded of someone that worked for me in, in my FBI days and we had the Tohono O’odham reservation in Arizona, and there was such pervasive child molestation on the, on the “res,” that, you know, how do you get the confessions? What do you, if someone does one, they do fifteen. How do you able to gonna elicit that infor—, you know how do you, and it’s about empathizing, and she was able to do that again and again and again, and followed up with a polygraph that always, you know, produced results in a way that we’re sparing the children from having to testify, which is brutal when you do so.
So there’s so many good things that you’re going to be doing, you know, whether it’s murderers, [unclear], whatever it is, you know, that cross your career, and, you know, and you’ll also, again, you know, in another discipline, ’cause people are understand that, hey, law enforcement is data based, scientific based, we don’t, we don’t, it’s not voodoo, okay, it’s about science, it’s about things that work.
Col. McCraw’s assertion that law enforcement is “scientific based” does not hold true when it comes to its reliance on polygraphy—a thoroughly discredited pseudoscience. “Voodoo science” is not an inapt characterization of polygraphic lie detection.
It’s about, you know, evidence-based strategies. It’s in policing it is, is in fact a profession, and a very important, critical profession. There’s nothing more important that government does is protect its people, and you’re a key part of that with what discipline that you have that fits into it. And we’ve got an obligation to use all the tools that we can, and you’re, you’re a very important tool…
Law enforcement has no obligation to use tools such as the polygraph that are known to be scientifically baseless. McCraw’s remarks help to illustrate how deeply entrenched belief in the century-old, cop-invented pseudoscience of polygraphy is in American law enforcement.
Video of the Texas DPS Polygraph School Class 29 graduation ceremony is available on the Texas DPS YouTube channel here:
Since 2002, the CIA has used the pseudonym “Molly Hale” to respond to selected public inquiries. Since 2019, such inquiries may be directed to the CIA’s Twitter or Facebook accounts using the hashtag #AskMollyHale.
On 3 March 2021, Molly Hale replied to the following inquiry:
I would really love to work for CIA, and think I would be a great candidate, but I’m nervous about taking a lie detector test. It’s not that I have anything to hide, I just feel like my results wouldn’t be accurate because of my crazy nerves! What do you recommend I do?
Nerves of Jello
Among other things, Molly Hale writes:
I’m here to tell you that the actual polygraph is far less intimidating than your mind might make it out to be. We’re talking less Jason Bourne and more Meet the Parents, if cinema is your thing. But seriously, the polygraph isn’t a strategy to ‘psych out’ potential officers….
This is a lie. The polygraph is precisely a strategy to psych out potential CIA officers. Specifically, it is intended to convince them that the polygraph operator can read their minds (lie detection is a form of mind reading), and that deception is futile. In fact, polygraphy has no scientific basis (it’s a century-old, cop-invented pseudoscience), and polygraph outcomes have no clear connection with whether one has spoken the truth.
In the pre-employment polygraph screening technique used by the CIA, applicants are typically accused of lying or withholding information during the initial polygraph session and are badgered for admissions. If no disqualifying admissions are made, they are typically invited back for one or more follow-up sessions.
Molly Hale continues:
…It is a tool, which is leveraged to assess a person’s strength of character, trustworthiness, honesty, and reliability; nothing more, nothing less. Given the access to sensitive information afforded to CIA officers, it is important we use every tool at our disposal to determine a person’s suitability for employment.
Ouija boards and astrological charts are also at the CIA’s disposal. Should they use these, too? Molly Hale goes on:
To your point about nerves affecting the outcome of the test, understand that CIA polygraph examiners are some of the world’s most capable security professionals. They are well-trained in the use of polygraph instruments and are skilled in properly assessing the results. That is to say, they know how to distinguish nerves from deception. If you’re concerned that the examiner might conflate the two, let me ease your worries: our examiners are incredibly good at what they do.
Molly Hale’s claim that CIA polygraph operators “know how to distinguish nerves from deception” is patently false. The fundamental weakness of polygraphy is that it cannot distinguish between people who are nervous because they are lying and those who are nervous but telling the truth.
In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences completed a thorough review of the scientific evidence on polygraph screening and concluded 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.”
The CIA is willfully ignoring the science on polygraphs.
Molly Hale has yet another lie to tell:
If I haven’t been up to this point, let me be very clear: if you want to work for CIA, don’t let a fear of the polygraph be the one reason that stops you. We’re not looking for perfect people, we’re looking for honest people. If you are candid and forthright through the process, the polygraph will not be an issue.
Many candid and forthright CIA applicants end up being falsely branded as liars and disqualified based on polygraph chart readings. (Some have shared their stories here.) In fact, retired CIA polygraph operator John F. Sullivan has opined that “an honest subject has no better chance than a dishonest subject of getting through the process.”
Molly Hale concludes:
So take a deep breath, calm your nerves, and submit that application!
Before you submit that application, we recommend that you educate yourself about the pseudoscientific means by which the CIA will pretend to assess your honesty and integrity. Our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, is a good starting point.