Normal Topic Was Wen Ho Lee's FBI Polygraph 'Test' Rigged? (Read 5719 times)
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Was Wen Ho Lee's FBI Polygraph 'Test' Rigged?
Feb 5th, 2002 at 1:35pm
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Was Wen Ho Lee's FBI polygraph "test" rigged?

A new book by reporters Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman, A Convenient Spy: Wen Ho Lee and the Politics of Nuclear Espionage (Simon & Schuster, 2001), provides evidence that such may be the case.

First, some background. Edward J. Curran, then chief of the Department of Energy's Office of Counterintelligence, had intended a December 1998 polygraph interrogation to serve as a pretext for stripping Wen Ho Lee of his security clearance and firing him. According to an internal FBI memo dated 18 December 1998, DOE counterintelligence had wanted Lee's access to classified information revoked "prior to the issuance of a final report by the Cox Committee." (Stober & Hoffman, p. 173)

The Final Report of the Attorney General's Review Team on the Handling of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Investigation, better known as the "Bellows Report," reveals that in a memorandum to Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson dated 21 December 1999, Curran "only presented two possibilities that 'may occur' after Lee was offered a polygraph: either he would refuse to take the polygraph and DOE would pull his clearance and take steps to terminate his employment, or he would agree to take the polygraph, not 'pass' it, and his clearances would be pulled and termination proceedings initiated."

On 23 December 1998, DOE polygrapher Wolfgang Vinskey polygraphed Wen Ho Lee, asking him the following relevant questions, to all of which Lee answered, "No":
  • Have you ever committed espionage against the United States?
  • Have you ever provided any classified weapons data to any unauthorized person?
  • Have you had any contact with anyone to commit espionage against the United States?
  • Have you ever had personal contact with anyone you know who had committed espionage against the United States?

Lee was supposed to fail, but he passed. Vinskey told FBI Special Agents Carol Covert and John Hudenko that Lee "blew it away." Vinskey's supervisors, polygraphers Ron Fox and John Mata (past president of the American Association of Police Polygraphists), agreed that Lee had passed (and with one of the highest possible scores).

But on 2 February 1999, FBI Polygraph Unit chief Ken Shull, after reviewing Lee's polygraph charts and videotape, somehow came to the conclusion that Lee "seemed to be inconclusive, if not deceptive" in his answers to the DOE polygraph "test."

According to Stober and Hoffman, on 9 February, the FBI falsely explained to Lee (who had never been informed that he was the suspect in an espionage investigation) that they "needed his help solving a puzzle related to the W88, but first he had to be cleared with a polygraph." Stober and Hoffman describe what happened next:

Resigned, Lee reported to the Los Alamos Inn at 9 A.M. on February 10. He was shown into a room where the polygrapher, named Hobgood, was waiting. Agents had taken down the room's artwork and situated a table and a chair for Lee facing one of the blank walls. The room was uncomfortably warm, and Lee had the distinct impression that the FBI had turned up the thermostat. He took a seat and Hobgood hooked him up to the machine. The polygrapher cinched the finger cuff around his thumb to a painful tightness. Hobgood informed Lee that he was a suspect in an investigation into the loss of classified information on the W88 warhead--the first time the FBI had clearly told him. He was advised of his rights, just as he would be if he were being arrested. Lee found this upsetting.

Not surprisingly, Lee "failed."

If Stober and Hoffman's account is accurate, it suggests that the FBI deliberately rigged the "test" by sensitizing Lee to the relevant questions by surprising him with the information that he was a spy suspect immediately before the "test," and by overheating the room and over-tightening a polygraph attachment.

There is no question that polygraph "tests" can be rigged by the examiner. On 27 April 2001, at the second public meeting of the National Academy of Sciences Study to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph, Dr. James Blascovich, a panel member, stated, "...every examiner I asked at [the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute], 'If you wanted someone to fail this test, could you have them do it, physiologically?' they said 'yes.'"

And at the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary's 25 April 2001 hearing on issues surrounding the use of polygraphs, attorney Mark S. Zaid reported in his prepared statement:

Quote: 1997-98, CIA polygraphers reported to the Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section that they were instructed by CIA management to "fail" certain employees. Additionally, they revealed that they were taught how to sensitize examinees during pre-testing interviews so as to create the likelihood of false positives. Notwithstanding these sensational allegations, there is no evidence either the CIA or Department of Justice ever conducted an investigation.

It is hard to imagine an innocent explanation for the conduct ascribed by Stober and Hoffman to the FBI polygrapher. If any polygraphers reading this can think of one, please post it here.
« Last Edit: Mar 16th, 2005 at 10:17am by George W. Maschke »  

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Was Wen Ho Lee's FBI Polygraph 'Test' Rigged?

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