Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy (Read 34545 times)
Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Oct 30th, 2003 at 2:33pm
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The FBI has lied in writing about the accuracy of polygraphy. A new full color leaflet prepared by the FBI Polygraph Unit to promote the Bureau's Personnel Security Polygraph Program states:

Quote:
Q: How accurate is the polygraph?
A: Current research continues to show that the polygraph is highly reliable and a valid technique. Your test will receive an opinion by your examiner but will be subject to a quality assurance review to be sure you receive a fair and accurate examination.


The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which recently conducted a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence on polygraphs, has flatly contradicted the FBI, concluding in its report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, that "almost a century of research in scientific psychology and physiology provides little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy" (p. 212). Indeed, the NAS found that "[the polygraph'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." (p. 6, original emphasis)

Moreover, no amount of "quality assurance review" can assure anyone of a "fair and accurate examination" because polygraphy has no scientific basis whatsoever.

The leaflet also includes the following:

Quote:
Q: If I am nervous will this cause me trouble on the polygraph test?
A: It is normal and expected that you will be nervous during the polygraph process. Your polygraph examiner will explain to you the process and eliminate areas of concern that you may have. Feel free to ask your examiner any questions you think are necessary to ask.


One wonders how FBI polygraph examiners propose to eliminate the informed subject's well-justified concerns about the unreliability of polygraphy? In any event, what the FBI does not tell the reader is that if he/she is more nervous when answering the relevant questions (the ones about counterintelligence issues) than when answering the so-called "probable-lie control questions" (e.g., "Did you ever lie to a supervisor?"), answers to which are secretly expected to be untrue, then his/her nervousness may very well result in a false positive outcome. For more on polygraph procedure, see Chapter 3 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF).

The FBI Personnel Security Polygraph Program leaflet may be downloaded as a 637 kb PDF file here:

http://antipolygraph.org/documents/fbi-psp-leaflet.pdf

The plain text of the leaflet is available in HTML format here:

http://antipolygraph.org/documents/fbi-psp-leaflet.shtml
  

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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #1 - Nov 3rd, 2003 at 5:49am
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George:
I'm new to bulletin boards and can't quite figure out how to start my own message so I'm tacking it on to your posting.

I recently took a pre-employment FBI poly and was told I reacted strongly to the drug questions. I admitted to using marijuana a few times long ago, but in fact during a period of youth indiscretion my drug usage exceeded the FBI's 15 times limit and was not limited to marijuana. However, I haven't touched anything illegal in about 25 years. I was encouraged to write an explanation/confession. I was told that without some explanation, the technical reviewers of my poly might not grant me a second chance. I said it was so long ago that I'd have to think about it.

My questions are these: should I write a beneign statement that perhaps I did more drugs than previously stated, but that it was so long ago I can't be sure?

Also, can a relevant/irrelevant test be beaten? I'm pretty sure after reading your book and other material, that the test was relevant/irrelevant.  The irrelevant questions were 1) Is your name XXX?
2) Is your SSN XXX? 3) Do you live in XXX? One other question seemed relevant, but may not have been. It was, "Have you ever betrayed the trust of someone from your inner circle of trust?" It sounds like a control question, but it was explained that they were only looking for significant betrayal, not white lies, and that they found that spies don't just one day start spying but in fact begin down that road by betraying those closest to them. In that context, it could be a relevant question.

Anyway, I'm stymied as to what tack to take. I'm pretty sure that if I admit to more than 15 times, I'll be disqualifed 1) for exceeding that arbitrary number, and 2) for lying about it to begin with.

Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.
CCK
  
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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #2 - Nov 3rd, 2003 at 6:30am
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CCK,

For future reference, to start a new topic, go to the forum in which you want to post, and click on the "Start new topic" text in the upper right hand portion of the message board page.

With regard to your questions:

1) I think it would not be in your interest to write a statement admitting that your drug use actually exceeded that which you previously admitted. You would be disqualified, and your admission to having lied in your application would become a matter of permanent record (in your FBI HQ file) with long-term consequences for future government employment, even outside the FBI.

2) Yes, like other polygraph techniques, the relevant/irrelevant technique can be beaten, but based on your description, this is not the technique that you encountered. The question,  "Have you ever betrayed the trust of someone from your inner circle of trust?" is very clearly a probable-lie "control" question.

From here, it seems to me that you now face an ethical choice between 1) contacting the FBI to withdraw your application (or perhaps simply doing nothing) and 2) contesting the polygraph results, requesting a "re-test," and attempting to pass the second time. This is a choice you'll have to make on your own.
  

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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #3 - Nov 4th, 2003 at 4:17am
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George:
Thank you for your input. I'll need a bit of prep time, but I'm going to take the test again. Could you please answer just a few more questions so I'll know how to deal with it?

Is it possible that the question about betraying a loved one's trust could be relevant? The only reason I question it is that the polygrapher emphasized that he was only talking about significant breaches of trust, no white lies and such. He also said they used that question as a criterion for hiring because spies tend to betray their loved ones first on their road to espionage.  Maybe I'm still naive to their tactics and the polygrapher was just playing me. If it is a control question, it's not a very good one. I don't think many people (other than those who've had affairs and such) would register a strong reaction. I wouldn't, which would skew the reactions of my relevant questions.

Second question is, if it is a known-lie control question, would a test have just one? The other non-relevant questions were "Is your last name XXX? Is your SSN XXX? Do you live in XXX?" If I were to try to beat the test, would I manipulate a response to those questions also or only the one about trust?

Also, I understand how to manipulate for a known-lie test. How would one respond to a relevant/irrelevant test?

Thanks in advance for your answers and for the service you provide with your website.

CCK
  
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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #4 - Nov 4th, 2003 at 10:01am
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As I mentioned before, the question about betraying the trust of a loved one is a probable-lie "control" question. The polygrapher's spiel about betrayal of loved ones being a first step on the road to espionage is delivered in an attempt to make the question appear to be a relevant one.

I am not aware of the FBI using only one probable-lie "control" question in pre-employment polygraph examinations. Other commonly used "control" questions include, "Did you ever lie to a supervisor?", "Did you ever steal anything from an employer?" and, if it is determined during the "pre-test" that you drink alcoholic beverages, "Did you ever drive while under the influence of alcohol?"

Countermeasures to the Relevant/Irrelevant technique are briefly discussed in Chapter 4 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

Note also that, based on feedback received by AntiPolygraph.org, it seems that in most cases, FBI applicants who are offered a "re-test" usually fail the second time, too, and are sometimes additionally accused of countermeasure use. It seems likely that FBI polygraphers expect those who have failed an initial polygraph to have researched polygraphy. They may be suspicious of those who deny having done so. Thus, it might be prudent, in the context of a "re-test," to adopt the "complete honesty" approach discussed in Chapter 4 of TLBTLD.
  

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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #5 - Nov 5th, 2003 at 1:54am
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Thanks very much. I'll re-read chapter 4.
  
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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #6 - Nov 13th, 2003 at 9:48am
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It is worth noting that the intended audience for the FBI Polygraph Unit's calculated lie about the accuracy of polygraphy is their fellow special agents and other Bureau employees.

The FBI Polygraph Unit is worthy of the contempt of all FBI employees for whom the motto, "Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity" is not merely an empty slogan.
« Last Edit: Nov 13th, 2003 at 10:45am by George W. Maschke »  

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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #7 - Nov 13th, 2003 at 7:49pm
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CCK,
...
With regard to your questions:
1) I think it would not be in your interest to write a statement admitting that your drug use actually exceeded that which you previously admitted. You would be disqualified, and your admission to having lied in your application would become a matter of permanent record (in your FBI HQ file) with long-term consequences for future government employment, even outside the FBI.

This comes very close to encouraging an FBI applicant to lie, or rather to continue lying, in pursuit of a career. While one may argue with the specific criteria an agency selects for itself, I don't like the idea that a future FBI agent may have lied about a material job requirement to get hired. I certainly don't expect you to encourage this, George.

-Marty
  

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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #8 - Nov 13th, 2003 at 9:52pm
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Marty,
I interpreted George's statements in the same manner; encouraging cck to lie in order to better his chances of gaining employment with the FBI.  Perhaps George would care to clarify his statement.
  
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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #9 - Nov 13th, 2003 at 10:36pm
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Always look out for no.1!
  
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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #10 - Nov 14th, 2003 at 3:13am
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Marty and Ray,

I have never advocated circumventing any rules on an application.  My complete honesty approach put me through the wringer plus an extra wash cycle and rinse.  I read George's opinion to be one that any change, no matter how slight, could be interpreted in the worst way possible and not put into context (as compared to a a court of law with a jury and defense lawyer to argue your case). 

Marty, you know me never to advise anyone to not tell the truth but I think this one might be in a gray area.  When in the room with the "polygraph pro", there are no witnesses or records to clarify statements or explainations.  Misinterpretations are easy to come by and become part of a lifetime permanent record.

Regards.
  
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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #11 - Nov 14th, 2003 at 3:56am
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Marty,

CCK asked me whether he/she should "write a beneign statement that perhaps [he/she] did more drugs than previously stated, but that it was so long ago [he/she] can't be sure?" I would have been lying had I stated that doing so would be in his/her interest.
  

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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #12 - Nov 14th, 2003 at 4:02am
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Marty and Ray,

I have never advocated circumventing any rules on an application.  My complete honesty approach put me through the wringer plus an extra wash cycle and rinse.  I read George's opinion to be one that any change, no matter how slight, could be interpreted in the worst way possible and not put into context (as compared to a a court of law with a jury and defense lawyer to argue your case).  

Marty, you know me never to advise anyone to not tell the truth but I think this one might be in a gray area.  When in the room with the "polygraph pro", there are no witnesses or records to clarify statements or explainations.  Misinterpretations are easy to come by and become part of a lifetime permanent record.

Regards.

The problem is that cck has already indicated he is outside of the FBI's acceptible drug usage range. While I believe his stated useage is long enough ago as to not matter, it is not my call - or his call - it's the FBI's call.

Fair Chance, this in no way excuses the FBI for use of marginal "science" in screening or the excesses and abuses polygraphers inflict on the innocent. There is little so painful as being accused falsely.

-Marty
  

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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #13 - Nov 14th, 2003 at 4:07am
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Marty,

How would you have answered CCK's question?
  

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Re: FBI Lies About Polygraph Accuracy
Reply #14 - Nov 14th, 2003 at 4:11am
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Marty,

CCK asked me whether he/she should "write a beneign statement that perhaps [he/she] did more drugs than previously stated, but that it was so long ago [he/she] can't be sure?" I would have been lying had I stated that doing so would be in his/her interest.


Indeed, George, your advice was factually correct. My unease is with the implication some may take that you agreed with cck's falsification of his background to obtain employment as a special agent. I believe that detracts from your more general polygraph message.

-Marty
  

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