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.
On Thursday, 14 November 2013, the Washington Postreported that Ignacio Zamora Jr., a U.S. Secret Service senior supervisor who oversaw members of President Obama’s security detail, was removed from his assignment and is under investigation for alleged misconduct. Excerpt:
A call from the Hay-Adams hotel this past spring reporting that a Secret Service agent was trying to force his way into a woman’s room set in motion an internal investigation that has sent tremors through an agency still trying to restore its elite reputation.
The incident came a year after the agency was roiled by a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, prompting vows from senior officials to curb a male-dominated culture of hard partying and other excesses.
The service named its first female director, Julia Pierson, seven months ago, and an extensive inspector general report on the agency’s culture launched in the wake of the Cartagena scandal is expected to be released in coming weeks.
The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.
In a follow-up investigation, agency officials also found that Zamora and another supervisor, Timothy Barraclough, had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to a female subordinate, according to those with knowledge of the case. Officials have removed Zamora from his position and moved Barraclough off the detail to a separate part of the division, people familiar with the case said.
Readers of AntiPolygraph.org may be familiar with the name Ignacio Zamora Jr. In 1998, Zamora subjected Bill Roche, a police officer who had applied to become a U.S. Secret Service special agent, to a harsh and demeaning polygraph interrogation, falsely accusing him of deception.
But as emeritus professor of psychology John Furedyhas observed, polygraph operators can no more divine truth from the examination of polygraph charts than ancient Roman haruspices (entrail readers) could divine future events from the examination of intestines. Make believe science yields make believe security.
Norah O’Donnell reports for CBS News that the U.S. Secret Service “wants to polygraph a number of agents and officers involved” in a scandal wherein they allegedly hired prostitutes while in Cartagena, Colombia as part of President Obama’s security detail. It should be noted, however, that the unscientific polygraph is in part responsible for the selection of personnel with such poor judgment: all Secret Service agents and uniformed officers are required to undergo to pre-employment polygraph screening.
While polygraphy has an inherent bias against truthful persons, liars can easily beat the polygraph using simple countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect. The Secret Service would do well to terminate its reliance on this unreliable pseudoscience.
Update: ABC News reports that the Secret Service personnel suspected of consorting with prostitutes will be “forced to submit to lie detector tests.” CBS’s earlier reporting suggested that any such “testing” would be voluntary.
On 12 December 2001, CBS 60 Minutes II aired an investigative report on polygraph screening. Produced by Shawn Efran and reported by Scott Pelley, the report takes an in-depth look at the U.S. Government’s misplaced reliance on polygraph screening. The concerns raised in this report remain as valid today as they were five years ago. Indeed, despite overwhelming scientific evidence against polygraph screening, governmental reliance on it has actually grown.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in its decision (43 kb PDF) in U.S. v. Linda Gay Allard (Case No. 05-20087) filed on 11 September 2006, upheld the admission of testimony regarding a polygraph examination administered by Special Agent William Wind of the United States Secret Service. After failing the polygraph, Allard confessed to placing straight pins in a Hillshire Farms summer sausage purchased at Walmart, in hopes of getting money from Hillshire Farms. Allard alleges that Wind coerced her confession:
Allard testified on direct examination that her confession was involuntary because it was coerced by Agent Wind. She stated that Agent Wind told her she could not leave until she wrote what he told her to write in her statement; that Agent Wind threatened her by stating that he could take her farm and arrest her at work; that Agent Wind refused to honor her request for an attorney; that Agent Wind pushed her, shoved her, and told her to sit down and shut up; and that Agent Wind said he could make her children disappear.
The appeals court upheld the decision of the trial court to allow Special Agent Wind to testify regarding his polygraph examination and interrogation of Linda Allard, including mention that she had “failed,” for the limited purpose of rebutting Allard’s allegations.
The court’s decision makes no mention of any recording of the polygraph examination, and it would appear that none was made. However, it seems to be standard practice for the Secret Service to audio record the polygraph examinations of applicants for employment. There is no excuse for not recording the interrogations of criminal suspects (whether or not a polygraph is used). By routinely recording interrogations, abuse of the kind alleged by Allard, as well as false allegations of the same, can be minimized, and any doubts resolved.
Charles P. Pierce writes on pre-employment polygraph screening in the cover story of the 3 August 2003 edition of the Boston Globe Magazine. Excerpt:
WAS HE SWEATING?
Of course he was sweating.
But he didn’t want to be sweating, and he didn’t want his heart to race this way, because he knew what that did to his blood pressure, and he knew that he was in a situation here in the Boston office of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Everybody there knew him from the days when he’d been the law-enforcement equivalent of a phenom pitcher straight out of the minors. So they knew why he was standing there, and he knew why he was standing there, and they knew that he knew. He was standing there because there was a man behind a closed door with a machine that claimed to know the truth of him better than he did. And he wasn’t sure what the machine knew about him that he didn’t know. He knew this situation well. He’d been trained to put suspects in this kind of a box.
Once, when he was 16 and at a party, he’d smoked a little weed. The joint came by — maybe once, maybe twice — and he’d taken a puff. Maybe two. It was a long time ago and hard to remember, but it was long before he’d become interested in law enforcement and long before he’d become so good at it. It was long before he’d graduated from Northeastern University summa cum laude with his degree in criminal justice and long before the co-op job with the DEA. He’d planned on entering the DEA upon graduation but was tripped up by the budget shutdown of the mid-’90s.
It was long before he’d gone to work for that antidrug task force down on Cape Cod, long before he’d grown his hair long and his beard out to go undercover to chase the speed labs and the dope-running boats, and it was long before someone had waved the gun at him in the crack house in New Bedford. It was long before he’d gotten a pilot’s license because he’d heard the DEA had an air wing, and he thought he might like to be part of that, too. It was long before the awards and the citations, and it was long before he’d applied for the full-time job at DEA when the government reopened for business.
He sailed through all the preliminary background checks and the physical test and scored in the 90th percentile on the oral examinations. And then they’d strapped him to a polygraph and asked him about any drug use, and he’d told them about when he was 16 and the joint came by at the party. He knew there were cameras on his eyes. He knew there were sensors in the seat. He gave his answer. The polygrapher looked at the machine and frowned.
There’s a problem right here with this question, the examiner told him. There were “issues” with regard to his answers about his “past drug use.” Why don’t you go out and think about what the problem might be, the polygrapher suggested gravely. That was how he came to be here, sweating, in front of all the people who knew him so well.
Manny Garcia, Peter Wallsten, and Amy Driscoll of the Miami Heraldreport of reliance on polygraphy in determining the credibiliy of statements made by an informant. Excerpt:
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI are investigating a possible plot to kill Gov. Jeb Bush with a truck bomb in Tallahassee, law enforcement officials confirmed Thursday. . .
The investigators were skeptical. The inmate supplying the information has failed at least five lie-detector tests during the past eight to 10 days conducted by the Secret Service and the FBI. The inmate was specifically asked about the alleged plot against the governor when he failed, prompting some agents to characterize him as “51 percent pathological liar, 49 percent truthful.” He has been jailed since July 2001.
Characterizing someone as a liar or truthful on the basis of polygraph “test” results is foolhardy. Unfortunately, many American law enforcement agencies continue to allow polygraph results to influence their decisions despite the fact that these “tests” are easily beaten and have not been proven to determine truth from deception better than chance in a peer-reviewed study conducted under field conditions.