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Topic Summary - Displaying 1 post(s).
Posted by: George W. Maschke  Mark & Quote Posted on: Nov 4th, 2005 at 4:43am
Former senior CIA officer Floyd Paseman, who passed away earlier this year, related the following personal anecdote about polygraph screening in A Spy's Journey: A CIA Memoir (Saint Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2004) at pp. 38-39:

I gained a tremendous amount of experience during my first tour. One incident taught me not to depend too heavily on the famous polygraph. Due to my fluency in Chinese, I was called upon to translate often during the polygraphing of Chinese-speaking agents. So, it was not unusual that I was asked to join the polygraph operator, the case officer, and the agent in a designated locale where I would be the translator.

The technique of the polygraph was already well known--rehearsal, questioning, re-questioning, and determination of whether or not the machine indicated the agent was lying or hiding anything. We were doing the exam at an unoccupied safehouse (a location unknown to the local counterintelligence service to be used in meeting an agent). The case officer went into another room so as not to be involved or responsible for the experience the agent was about to have. The examiner went over the ground rules, did the procedures, and administered a test examination. By the time we finished and proceeded through the real examination, the agent had been hooked up to the machine for around two hours--an uncomfortable experience, as I can testify from personal experience. Then disaster struck. The examiner and I went outside the building, where the case officer was given the good news--the agent was clean. We all congratulated each other, had a smoke, and went to go back into the house. I grasped the door handle, and it came off in my hand. We were locked out with the agent still inside hooked up to the machine. For the next hour, we searched around the house trying to find an open window or one I at least could break. I finally broke a basement window, and went and let the other two officers in. Imagine our surprise when we walked into the room to apologize to the agent--only to find him drenched in sweat. "OK, I confess--I have been lying and passing you false information for years," he said to me in Chinese. He further noted that he knew we had caught him when he went outside and did not come right back in. He was terminated within the next several meetings.

Paseman also comments briefly on the CIA's post-Ames polygraph jihad (pp. 157-58):

This episode [the Aldrich Ames espionage case] triggered events that continue to plague the CIA to this day. In the aftermath of the Ames debacle, the polygraph test, supposed to be done every five years, turned into a witch-hunt. Polygraphers were stung by the fact that they had passed Aldrich Ames even while he was spying for the Soviets. From then on, the polygraphers were on the hunt. The result, in some cases, was almost unbearable interrogation techniques. And there were a lot of inconclusive cases, in which the polygrapher could not call the officer clean or conclude positively that they were practicing deception. Inconclusive--by the time everyone realized what a mess we had on our hands, hundreds of employees were put into this category. They couldn't get assignments, and they couldn't be promoted. This created animosity throughout the ranks of the Agency...