Polygraph Screening Sidelined Dozens of Afghan Interior Ministry Officers

U.S. embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan

AntiPolygraph.org has previously reported and commented on U.S. government efforts to foist the pseudoscience of polygraphy on other countries and on local employees at U.S. diplomatic facilities. For example:

Now, for the first time, a victim of such efforts has publicly shared his story with AntiPolygraph.org. An officer in the Afghan Ministry of the Interior who specialized in anti-corruption eforts relates, among other things, how he and some 40 of his colleagues had their careers arbitrarily sidelined in 2018 when they were required to submit to polygraph screening conducted at the U.S. embassy in Kabul. His statement helps to document the ongoing harm caused by America’s stubborn reliance on this pseudoscience. See the Polygraph Statement of Sherzai Sulimany.

Accused Russian Spy Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins Evidently Beat the Polygraph to Penetrate 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.

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 January 2017, the Defense Intelligence Agency has required that all contractors 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 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 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):

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: The original version of this article incorrectly assumed that Debbins’ employment at Ft. Meade was with the NSA. 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 Spy Alexander Yuk Ching Ma Evidently Beat the Polygraph to Penetrate the FBI

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma
(LinkedIn profile picture)

On Thursday, 13 August 2020, FBI Special Agent Chris Jensen filed under seal a criminal complaint against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma of Honolulu, Hawaii, charging him with “Conspiracy to Gather and Communicate National Defense Information of the United States to a Foreign Nation.” On Monday, 17 August 2020, the complaint was unsealed.

In an accompanying affidavit, SA Jensen adduces evidence that Ma, a 67-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hong Kong who worked for the CIA from 1982-1987, acted as a “compromised asset” of the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) “at least by early 2001.”

The evidence against Ma appears to be strong, consisting in part of a video recording of meetings he and an unnamed 85-year-old relative who worked for the CIA from 1967-1983 held with “at least five (5) MSS intelligence officials in a Hong Kong hotel room” from 24-26 March 2001. The 85-year-old relative “suffers from an advanced and debilitating cognitive disease,” and the FBI has therefore not sought his arrest.

SA Jensen’s affidavit states at paras. 22-26:

22. Following the March 2001 Hong Kong meetings, MA continued to remain in contact with MSS officials and to work on their behalf. The investigation has revealed that as a mechanism to once again give himself access to U.S. government information, MA applied for employment with the FBI. On December 26, 2002, MA applied for the position of “Special Agent.” On or about December 30, 2002, after being advised by the FBI that he did not meet the age requirements for the FBI Special Agent position, MA submitted an online job application to the FBI for a “contract linguist/monitor/tester” position.

23. On or about April 14, 2003, MA submitted a written application for a contract linguist position, in Chinese languages, at the FBI Honolulu Field Office, in Honolulu, Hawaii. On or about April 21, 2003, MA used a prepaid calling card to call his MSS handlers to notify them of the status of his efforts to gain FBI employment.

24. On or about May 20, 2004, MA was notified that his background investigation for the contract linguist position was complete and that an employment contract would be ready for review in several weeks. MA agreed to continue the hiring process.

25. On or about August 10, 2004, one day before reporting to work with the FBI, MA telephoned a suspected accomplice and stated that he would be working for “the other side.”

26. On or about August 11, 2004, MA reported to work with the FBI….

Left unsaid in the affidavit is that as a condition of FBI employment, Ma necessarily sat for and passed a pre-employment polygraph “test.” The counterintelligence portion of the polygraph procedure used by the FBI includes relevant questions such as “Have you been involved in espionage or terrorism against the US?” and “Have you had any unauthorized foreign contacts?”

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma
(Facebook, 6 August 2015)

If, as seems likely, the criminal allegations are true, then Ma beat the polygraph to penetrate the FBI.

It is to be noted that around the time Ma applied for employment with the FBI, the Bureau had a roughly 50% polygraph failure rate for special agent applicants, with many honest persons being wrongly branded as liars and barred for life from FBI employment.

SA Jensen’s affidavit goes on to chronicle instances of Ma’s alleged espionage against the FBI up to 30 November 2010. It is possible that Ma faced a second, periodic polygraph screening “test” some time during his FBI employment.

It is not surprising that Ma could have fooled the polygraph. As documented in Chapter 4 of AntiPolygraph.org’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (which Ma might have easily found online in 2003), polygraphy is vulnerable to simple, effective countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect.

Ma would not be alone in having beaten the FBI’s pre-employment polygraph “test.” On 26 April 2004, Marine Corps veteran Leandro Aragoncillo, acting for current and former officials in the Philippines, beat an FBI pre-employment polygraph “test” to gain employment as an FBI analyst.

Other spies known to have passed the polygraph include Nazi spy Ignatz Theodor Griebl (in the FBI’s first use of the polygraph in a counterintelligence investigation), Czech spies Karel Frantisek Koecher and Jiri Pasovsky, Chinese spy Larry Wu-tai Chin, Russian spy Aldrich Hazen Ames, and Cuban spies Ana Belen Montes and Nicolás Sirgado.

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma in January 2019 meeting with an undercover FBI agent
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma in January 2019 meeting with undercover FBI employee

In 2002, some two years before Ma and Aragoncillo beat the polygraph, the National Academy of Sciences 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.”

Sadly, in the aftermath of 9/11, federal agencies ignored this advice. How many more catastrophic failures like the Ma case will it take before the U.S. government terminates its misplaced reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy?

LAPD Polygraph Policy Documents Disclosed

AntiPolygraph.org has obtained and published two previously unavailable Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) polygraph unit policy documents.

The LAPD Polygraph Unit Examiner Reference Guide dated November 2018 and marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive” includes rules for scoring polygraph charts as well as question sequences for the various polygraph techniques used by the LAPD polygraph unit, including the Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test format used for screening applicants.

The LAPD Technical Investigation Unit Polygraph Unit Guidelines dated May 2019 detail the organization of the LAPD polygraph unit, the duties and responsibilities of its personnel, and its internal policies and procedures.

Updated Law Enforcement Polygraph Handbook

Polygraph Law Enforcement Accreditation

In 2011, AntiPolygraph.org reported that a consortium of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies had created a “Polygraph Law Enforcement Accreditation” (PLEA) program and had in 2010 promulgated a 65-page “Polygraph Guide for Standards and Practices,” a copy of which we obtained and published (1.9 MB PDF).

The PLEA consortium continues to function and by 2018 included the Greenville, South Carolina Police Department, the Houston Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the North Carolina Bureau of Investigations, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Virginia State Police, and a federal representative from the National Center for Credibility Assessment.

AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a newer, 78-page copy (1 MB PDF) of the PLEA Polygraph Guide for Standards and Practices dated 25 October 2018. Like the 2010 edition, it is marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive” on each page, with an additional caveat: “Do Not Copy.” Oh well.

The 2018 edition of the guide includes three new chapters covering, respectively, the Directed Lie Comparison Test (Ch. 11), the Directed Lie Screening Test (Ch. 12), and the Concealed Information Test (Ch. 13).

Defense Intelligence Agency Polygraph Policy Disclosed

DIA seal

AntiPolygraph.org has obtained an unredacted copy of the regulation governing the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) polygraph program. The document, marked “For Official Use Only” and titled “Credibility Assessment Program” is DIA Instruction 5200.002 dated 3 July 2014. Of special note is Section 4.22, which seemingly provides for the possible removal of DIA personnel based solely on failure to pass a polygraph screening “test.”

To our knowledge, this policy document has not previously been made public.

AntiPolygraph.org has also obtained a redacted copy of an earlier version of this document dated 23 March 2010.

NCCA Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (LEPET)

NCCA LEPET Administration Guide

AntiPolygraph.org has obtained a copy of the National Center for Credibility Assessment’s documentation of the polygraph screening technique “used by federal law enforcement agencies during the pre-employment process.”

The 23-page document, dated 3 March 2016, provides instructions for administration of the so-called “Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test” (LEPET), to which applicants for employment with such agencies as the FBI, DEA, ATF, and U.S. Secret Service are subjected.

In 2004, AntiPolygraph.org published an earlier version of this document, dated January 2002, which remains available. The LEPET manual has changed little since this earlier version.

When we first published this document, then recently retired FBI supervisory special agent, scientist, and polygraph expert Drew Campbell Richardson observed regarding it:

This is more or less THE SCRIPT for what you will see and what you will hear. You will see the order, even the very language and characterizations of the foolishness that we have come to know as polygraph screening. This document is sufficiently important that it requires your careful attention and then your careful attention again.

The LEPET manual will remain of great interest to anyone seeking employment with a federal law enforcement agency with a polygraph screening requirement.

SDPD Polygraph Screening Documents Disclosed

AntiPolygraph.org has published a set of documents concerning the San Diego Police Department’s polygraph practices. These documents, which date to 2017, focus primarily on pre-employment polygraph screening.

The most notable document, titled “SDPD DLST Preemployment Script” instructs the polygraph operator how to conduct the “pre-test” procedure.

“DLST” stands for “directed-lie screening test.” Directed-lie “control” questions are ones in response to which the examinee is told to “lie,” unlike probable-lie “control” questions, in which the operator attempts to manipulate the examinee into lying. For more on directed-lie “control” questions, see Chapter 3 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (beginning at p. 107 of the 5th edition).

The pre-employment script shows that the “test” consists of a “Subtest A” and a “Subtest B.” The relevant questions on Subtest A are:

R1 As an adult, have you received any (other) formal discipline at work?

R2 As an adult / In the last 10 years, have you had any (other) personal involvement with illegal drugs?

There is also an unscored “sacrifice relevant” question:

SR Do you intend to answer the formal discipline and drug involvement questions truthfully?

The directed-lie “control” questions are:

C1 Did you ever lose your temper?

C2 Did you ever violate a minor traffic law?

There are also two irrelevant, or in SDPD’s parlance, “neutral” questions. These are not scored:

N1 Are you now in San Diego?

N2 Are the lights on?

Subtest B includes the following relevant questions:

R3 Have you ever committed any (other) serious crime?

R4 Have you ever committed any (other) sex crime?

The sacrifice relevant question for Subtest B is:

SR Do you intend to answer the “serious crime” and “sex crime” questions truthfully?

The directed-lie “control” questions for Subtest B are:

C3 Did you ever say anything about someone that wasn’t true?

C4 Did you ever violate a rule or regulation?

And finally, the irrelevant questions for Subtest B are:

N3 Are you now sitting down?

N4 Is today _____?

For more details, see the SDPD DLST Preemployment Script.

The document collection also includes a “polygraph questionnaire” with many more questions than the four relevant ones that are asked while the subject is hooked up to the polygraph instrument, a set of “mind maps” that describe the scope of the relevant questions from Subtests A and B, as well as a script used for polygraphic interrogation of criminal suspects.

It should be borne in mind that polygraphy has no scientific basis, and it is common for truthful people to wrongly be branded as liars. If you are facing a polygraph “test,” be it with the San Diego Police Department or any other agency, be sure to download a copy of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector for more on polygraphy’s scientific shortcomings, the simplistic methodology on which it relies, and pointers on what you can do to mitigate the risk of wrongly failing when you’re telling the truth.

Mark Harris on Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Polygraph Screening

Mark Harris (Twitter profile)

Wired has published a major investigative article on law enforcement’s use of pre-employment polygraph screening. In The Lie Generator: Inside the Black Mirror World of Polygraph Job Screenings, science/technology writer Mark Harris (@meharris on Twitter) reports based on, among other sources, data gleaned from numerous public record access law requests filed with police and sheriff’s departments across the United States. Excerpt:

Data obtained by WIRED showed vast differences in the outcomes of polygraph tests depending on the examiner each candidate faced. Consider another law enforcement agency that uses polygraphs in its employment process: the Washington State Patrol (WSP). Between late October 2011 and the end of April 2017, the WSP conducted 5,746 polygraph tests on potential recruits. This was the largest data set WIRED received, including copious data on both applicants and examiners. While one examiner failed less than 20 percent of candidates, others failed more than half the applicants they screened. And while two examiners disqualified just four people in more than 1,000 applicants for supposedly having sex with animals, one of their colleagues failed more than 10 times as many for bestiality—around one in 20 of all job seekers. The same examiner was also twice as likely as the rest of his peers to fail applicants on the grounds of child pornography.

There were no further hearings trials for these supposed crimes, and no jury to convince or judge to adjudicate, just scores of otherwise qualified applicants who would now not become Washington state troopers.

“We don’t know which, if any, of the examiners are accurate, but the disparity between them suggests the test is not being used in a way that is at all reliable,” says John Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona. And tests that are not reliable, Allen says, cannot be valid.

Harris’ article is too important for any summary posted here to do it justice. Go read it in its entirety.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Polygraph “Test for Espionage, Sabotage, and Corruption” Exposed

In 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, unable to fill available positions because of the agency’s roughly 70% pre-employment polygraph failure rate (1 MB PDF), began a “pilot program” whereby instead of using the probable-lie Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (1 MB PDF) technique used by other federal law enforcement agencies, CBP applicants would instead be subjected to a new directed-lie technique based on the Test for Espionage and Sabotage, which is used by the Departments of Defense and Energy for security screening.

CBP’s new polygraph screening technique is called the “Test for Espionage, Sabotage, and Corruption” or “TES-C.” AntiPolygraph.org has obtained, and is publishing, CBP documentation regarding this procedure, including the precise questions asked, and their order.

Those who face CBP pre-employment polygraph screening can familiarize themselves with this information to prepare and help protect themselves against a false positive outcome, which is common in this scientifically baseless procedure.

The TES-C consists of two main question series, “Sub-test A” and “Sub-test B.” These are XML files (originally with the LXQ file extension associated with the Lafayette Instrument Company’s LX Polygraph Software; AntiPolygraph.org has substituted the XML extension to make the files readable in web browsers).

The questions, in order, with types, on Sub-test A are:

X Start of Chart Please remain still, the test is about to begin.

I1 Irrelevant/Neutral Are the lights on in this room?

I2 Irrelevant/Neutral Are you now sitting down?

SRQ Sacrifice Relevant Concerning/Regarding the security issues we discussed, do you intend to answer each question truthfully?

1C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever commit a minor traffic violation?

1R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?

1R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?

1C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever take any (government/company) supplies for your personal use?

2R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?

2R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?

2C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever commit a minor traffic violation?

3R1 Relevant Have you been involved in terrorism against the US?

3R2 Relevant Have you deliberately compromised any classified information?

2C2 Did you ever take any (government/company) supplies for your personal use?

XX End of Chart This part of the test is now over, please remain still.

The questions, in order, with types, on Sub-test B are:

X Start of Chart Please remain still, the test is about to begin.

I1 Irrelevant Are the lights on in this room?

I2 Irrelevant Are you now sitting down?

SRQ Sacrifice Relevant Concerning / Regarding the security issues we discussed, do you intend to answer each question truthfully?

1C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything in anger that you later regretted?

1R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?

1R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?

1C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything derogatory about another person behind their back?

2R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?

2R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?

2C1 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything in anger that you later regretted?

3R3 Relevant Have you been involved in any serious criminal activity?

3R4 Relevant Have you deliberately hidden any foreign contact from CBP?

2C2 Control/Comparison Did you ever say anything derogatory about another person behind their back?

XX End of Chart This part of the test is now over, please remain still.

The scope of the relevant questions is outlined in a Suitability Scoping Guide (28 kb PDF). A PowerPoint presentation titled “CBP Route Maps” also shows the scope of the relevant questions, revealing, among other things, that the question about “serious criminal activity” includes a wide array of crimes ranging from, among other things, “viewing, downloading, searching, distributing, selling, [or] producing” child pornography, drug possession or use in the past three years, and drug transactions anytime.

A CBP Polygraph TES-C Pre-Test Outline lays out in detail the script to be followed by the polygraph operator administering the TES-C. Applicants are required to sign a CBP Applicant Release of Liability form (92 kb PDF) agreeing “not to sue CBP, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), and CBP’s and DHS’s employees, officers, and agents, their heirs, successors, or assigns (the “Released Parties”), and agree to hold the Released Parties harmless of and from any and all actions or omissions, rights or causes of actions, suits, damages, judgments, claims, and demands whatsoever, present or future, in law or in equity, whether known or unknown, which arise out of, result from, occur during, or are connected in any manner with my polygraph examination….”

What other pre-employment test requires such bureacratic CYA?

The pre-test outline also reflects CBP’s fear of polygraph countermeasures, which CBP and other federal agencies have no reliable means of detecting. Step 5 of the pre-test outline instructs the polygraph operator as follows:

5. Countermeasure Statement

  • Tell me what you know about Polygraph.
  • Have you conducted any research on Polygraph?
  • If the examinee answers “No”, let the examinee know that most information on the Internet is opinion based and often incorrect and misleading.
  • Tell the examinee that they should NOT do anything to alter their polygraph examination.
  • If the examinee says “Yes”, they have conducted polygraph research, ask them what information did they learn and where did they get the information.
  • Again, tell the examinee that “most information on the Internet is incorrect and misleading.”

Inform the examinee that they should NOT do anything to alter their polygraph examination.

Polygraph operators want their examinees to be ignorant about polygraphy. They are not nearly so much concerned about examinees getting “incorrect and misleading” information about polygraphy as they are about them getting factual and correct information about polygraphy and polygraph countermeasures. The polygraph operator will likely arbitrarily accuse any examinee who states that he or she has visited AntiPolygraph.org, or otherwise researched polygraphy, with having employed polygraph countermeasures.

Those facing CBP pre-employment polygraph screening will want to read the entire TES-C Pre-Test Outline and additional TES-C documentation available at the AntiPolygraph.org Reading Room. They will also want to read our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 MB PDF) to learn how to protect themselves against the high risk of a false positive outcome associated with this pseudoscientific procedure.