Is Being Targeted By the NSA?

nsa-logoAn e-mail received by in August from a U.S. Navy petty officer suggests that 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. 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 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.” 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.”’s free book is downloaded about 1,000 times in a typical week.

russ-ticeNSA whistleblower Russ Tice, contacted in June and asked whether 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 that his contacts learned how to beat the polygraph from and that the information was retrieved from a computer not associated with their own computers, printed out, and circulated. 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.

Cain Backpedals on Lie Detector, Cites “Layered Voice Analysis”

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has backed off from his declaration at a press conference convened to address allegations of sexual harassment  that he was “absolutely” willing to do a lie detector test. In an interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Cain conditioned his willingness to do a lie detector test on the willingness of an accuser to do so:

Cavuto: …There’s definitely a passion to your fans and your supporters. So, um, why not a lie detector test? You kind of offered for that in your press conference the other day. Um, put it out there, I’m taking a damn lie detector test. I’m gonna pass this with flying colors. Shut up.

Cain: Because, here again, why negotiate against yourself. When somebody comes forward, and they have a claim against me, and *they’re* willing to take a lie detector test, *I’ll* take a lie detector test. I’m not going to go and take one against anonymous, no documentation. That’s not good business…

Cain went on to cite the voice stress analysis performed by private investigator T.J. Ward:

Cain: …And here’s the other thing. There’s a private investigator by the name of T.J. Ward out of Atlanta, Georgia who has some sophisticated technology that a lot of people may not have heard about. He took my statement from my press conference–

Cavuto: I heard that.

Cain: –ran it through his software and was willing to go on record–because many law enforcement agencies use this software–and said, “Herman Cain is telling the truth.”

He did the same thing for this woman who accused me the other day when she was with Gloria Allred, and went through and said, “I’m sorry, but there were a lot of untruths in that statement.”

As has pointed out earlier, T.J. Ward’s “sophisticated technology”–called “Layered Voice Analysis”–is produced and marketed by a charlatan and has no scientific basis whatsoever.

The Hinterland Gazette points out that private investigator T.J. Ward has previously worked with Cain’s newly hired attorney, Lin Wood, on the Natalee Holloway case, raising the question of whether Ward’s supposed “analysis” was part of an orchestrated public relations campaign.

DoD Updates Polygraph Directive

Department of Defense sealOn 4 February 2011, the US Department of Defense published an amendment (PDF) to Directive 5210.48 (“Polygraph and Credibility Assessment Program”). The amended directive reflects the transfer of DoD polygraph program management from the defunct Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) to the director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC), a sub-unit of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). This

The directive also reflects the re-naming of the Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment (DACA) the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA).

Hat tip to, which mirrored this document on 5 February 2011.

Afghan President’s Half-Brother Volunteered to Take Polygraph Test

Ahmad Wali Karzai

Who’s afraid of a polygraph test? Not Afghanistan’s most notorious reputed drug lord, who is on the CIA payroll.

Jeff Stein reports in his Washington Post SpyTalk column that a secret State Department cable recently published by Wikileaks reveals that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, wanted a polygraph test to clear himself of narcotics allegations. The relevant paragraph of the cable, dated 25 February 2010, is this:

Drug Trafficker: Where is the Polygraph?
¶7. (S//Rel NATO, ISAF) Unprompted, [Ahmad Wali Karzai] raised allegations of his involvement in narcotics, telling the [U.S. Senior Civilian Representative Frank Ruggiero] that he is
willing to take a polygraph anytime, anywhere to prove his
innocence and that he has hired an attorney in New York to
clear his name.  He suggested that the coalition pay mullahs
to preach against heroin, which would reduce demand for poppy
cultivation.  AWK dismissed the narcotics allegations as part
of a campaign to discredit him, particularly by the media,
saying the allegations are “like a spice added to a dish to
make it more enticing to eat.”

The document does not indicate whether the United States government took Karzai up on the offer. That Karzai, reputedly the wealthiest narcotics trafficker in Afghanistan, is not afraid of a polygraph “test” about whether he is involved in narcotics trafficking should give the U.S. Government pause about its continued reliance on polygraphy, which has no scientific basis and is vulnerable to simple countermeasures that anyone can learn.

Perhaps this Afghan drug lord on the CIA payroll understands more about polygraphy than the CIA does.

John Dullahan, DIA Analyst Fired After Failing Polygraph, Profiled in Washington Post

Washington Post staff writer Peter Finn reports in an above-the-fold front page article on the case of retired army lieutenant colonel and Defense Intelligence Agency analyst John Dullahan, whose security clearance was suspended in February 2009 after he failed three polygraph “tests.” Then DIA director LTG Michael D. Maples fired Dullahan in March 2009 (his last month as director).

DIA refuses to state its reasons for terminating LTC Dullahan, averring that “the interests of the nation do not permit disclosure to the employee of specific information about the reasons for his removal from federal service,” and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has not responded to an appeal Dullahan submitted some 18 months ago.

Continue reading John Dullahan, DIA Analyst Fired After Failing Polygraph, Profiled in Washington Post

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’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’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 message board.

Polygraph Operator Sally VanBeek Doesn’t Think Sociopaths Can Beat the Lie Detector

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Seattle 911 blog today featured a video report by Parella Lewis of KCPQ-TV’s Washington’s Most Wanted show. Lewis interviewed Detective Sally VanBeek, a polygraph operator with the Everett Police Department, who opined that sociopaths cannot beat the polygraph.

Is VanBeek, who is also president of the Northwest Polygraph Examiners Association, somehow unaware that Gary Leon Ridgway of King County, Washington, one of the most prolific serial killers in American history, passed a polygraph test and continued his killing spree? What about Charles Cullen, the “Angel of Death” who passed a polygraph and went on to kill dozens?

And just last week, a New Jersey man was arrested for the killing of five teenagers in 1978. He had been wrongly cleared as a suspect because he passed a polygraph test.

Parella Lewis’ credulous reporting is a good example of the puff journalism that perpetuates the myth of the lie detector in American popular culture.

Watch the video below and see the Seattle 911 blog post for critical commentary by readers:

Lee Anthony Evans, Cleared As Suspect by Polygraph, Arrested for 1978 Murders

WCBS TV reports that Lee Evans, an early suspect in the 1978 disappearance of five Newark, New Jersey teenagers, has been arrested for their murder along with another as-yet-unidentified man. The Associated Press reports that Evans had earlier been eliminated as a suspect after passing a polygraph test:

The boys, Melvin Pittman and Ernest Taylor, who were both 17, and Alvin Turner, Randy Johnson, and Michael McDowell, who were all 16, were last seen on a busy street near a park where they had played basketball on Aug. 20, 1978. They were with a carpenter, Lee Evans, who routinely hired teens to help him with odd jobs, police have said.

Evans told police at the time that he dropped off the boys on a street corner near an ice cream parlor. Later that night, Michael McDowell returned home and changed clothes, then returned to a waiting pickup truck with at least one other boy inside. That was the last confirmed sighting of any of the teens.

Evans was repeatedly interviewed in the months after the disappearances but passed a polygraph examination and was cleared as a suspect.

If Evans is indeed guilty of killing the “Clinton Avenue Five,” then this is yet another case where misplaced reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy led to investigatorial misdirection. Such cases include those of “Green River Killer” Gary Leon Ridgway, “Woodchipper Killer” Richard Crafts, “Angel of Death” Charles Cullen, and Dennis Donohue, the likely killer of Buffalo, New York teenager Crystallynn Girard. All passed polygraphs regarding their crimes.

Update: The Newark Star-Ledger reports that the second man arrested was Lee Evans’s cousin, Philander Hampton, 53, of Jersey City.

Ohio Judge Orders Victims in Sexual Assault Cases to Submit to Lie Detector Tests

Rachel Dissell of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Alison Floyd has ordered the victims in four sexual assault cases to submit to polygraph “testing.” In addition, Floyd has ordered the perpetrators of the assaults, who have already been found guilty, to submit to polygraph tests for sentencing purposes. It would appear that Judge Floyd acted ultra vires in ordering the victims to submit to lie detector testing.

The Ohio legal system has a long and shameful history of relying on the pseudoscience of polygraphy, from the case of Floyd Fay, who in 1978 was wrongly convicted of murder based on polygraph “evidence,” to the more recent case of Sahil Sharma, where in 2007 Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter was duped into admitting polygraph “evidence” over prosecutors’ objections.

Kaiser Fung on Lie Detectors has received a complementary copy of statistician Kaiser Fung’s new book, Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probability and Statistics on Everything You Do (New York: McGraw Hill, 2010), a short primer on statistics written for a general audience.

In Chapter 4, Fung addresses the trade-off between false positives and false negatives in diagnostic testing, using as examples drug testing of athletes, polygraph testing of criminal suspects, job applicants, and employees, and data mining for terrorists. Fung explains how altering decision thresholds to lower the rate of false positives necessarily increases the rate of false negatives, and vice versa, and how a low base rate of the thing being tested for in the population being tested can make attempts to detect it impractical.

With regard to polygraphy, Fung in particular focuses on the Preliminary Credibility Assessment Screening System (PCASS), the hand-held lie detector developed by the U.S. Department of Defense to screen locally hired workers and suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fung shows that even if we were to assume a 90% accuracy rate for the procedure (an assumption not warranted by scientific evidence), given the low incidence of insurgents seeking employment with the US armed forces, many false positives can be expected for every true positive. (Of course, there is also the problem of countermeasures: any insurgents among the hiring pool can readily fool the PCASS.)

Fung closes his treatment of PCASS with a take-home quote from Dr. Stephen Fienberg, who chaired the National Academy of Sciences panel that in 2002 authored a landmark report on polygraphy: “It may be harmless if television fails to discriminate between science and science fiction, but it is dangerous when government does not know the difference.”

Fung also tells the story of Jeffrey Deskovic, from whom interrogators extracted a false confession to the murder of a high school classmate after he failed a polygraph test. After 16 years in prison, Deskovic was vindicated by DNA evidence and released. Fung concludes, “Statistical analysis confirms that many more Deskovics, perhaps hundreds or thousands a year, are out there, most likely hapless.”

A complete review of Numbers Rule Your World is beyond the scope of this blog, but for further commentary, see reviews by Wayne Hurlbert, Andrew Gelman, and Christian Robert.