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It ended everything. (Read 14864 times)
Paste User Name in Quick Reply Box JoeyDonuts
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It ended everything.
Feb 1st, 2010 at 4:05am
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It's been a long time since I spoke of this.

Maybe I figured that now since everything's in the past that one of these days I'd be out of its shadow.

This sadly, is not the case.

In 2007, I was an Electronic Warfare technician in service with the United States Navy.  I'd been stationed on an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer for the previous five years, and was just about done with my hitch.  I'd been weighing options for shore duty, and since EW's had been combined with Cryptologic Technician (Technical), all kinds of exciting three-letter-agency shore duty billets had opened up - I was qualified since all of us had to be read in to TS/SCI.

I had a CI poly in 2005, and it went about as textbook as you can imagine.  I stared straight ahead, did everything I was told, walked out as TS/SCI with a CI poly on my record. 

When the time came to fight for orders, I managed to secure a billet in Aurora, Colorado working for a satellite branch of the NSA at Buckley AFB.  The one hitch was that they liked to have a polygraph within 6 months of the servicemember reporting.  Everything was set up for me to take the CI poly the day before I was to start my transfer - I even got schooling in Pensacola en-route, with a nice re-enlistment bonus.  I was very much looking forward to the day that I'd leave the grey waters and dreary sea rotation of Norfolk behind me, and continue serving my country in a choice location.

That day would never come.

I wasn't the slightest bit worried about the second CI polygraph.  I certainly wasn't a model sailor, but I was very good at my job.  I made E-6 in less than six years, and you don't do that with charm.  I knew my rating inside and out, and was very proud of my knowledge level.  I was a recognized SIGINT and countermeasures expert on board, and that felt good.  So when I walked into the NCIS polygraph facility for the second time, I expected to be in and out quicker than you know what.

Nothing felt odd during the tests.  I answered all of the questions truthfully.  (I have a very active brain, jumping from point to point to point constantly.  Hard to focus sometimes, but when you're asked a question like this one, you answer directly.  No confusion whatsoever.)

After the usual bank of control questions, they started with the CI material, which pretty much boiled down to one question, and it was one I'd answered before.

"Have you ever been involved in espionage or terrorism against the United States Government?"

"No."

I remember thinking about certain things after the examiner left.  What my wife and I were going to have for dinner.  Maybe I should take the dog for a walk tonight, I haven't done that in a while.  Should I take my guitar down to Florida with me for school?  I get lonesome without it.

The man returned.

"You've failed a portion of your polygraph exam."

Bewilderment.  Denial.  Confusion.  There must be some kind of mistake.

"I don't understand.  What do you mean?"

"Your readings showed that when you were asked if you were involved in espionage or terrorism against the U.S. Government, your answer showed deception."

What the hell do you say to something like that?

Do you stand up out of your chair in a huff, and angrily berate the questioner for daring to question your devotion to your country?

I didn't.  I meekly sat there, and my technician's nature took over in my mind.  There's got to be some physiological reason why this happened.  Something's wrong with me, because I KNOW the answer to that question is NO.  What could it be?

He tested me again a few minutes later.  I failed again.  There was no calming me down after that.  I was thinking of extraordinary renditions, being arrested on the spot, disappearing and never being able to speak to my wife again.  You could ask me what color the sky is at that point and I'd been so shaken up by this experience I'd question my own answer.

The first polygraph examiner left, and about thirty minutes later another NCIS officer came in, this one an agent.

He held in his hands a paper for me to sign.  It was the Miranda warning, with my name right at the top just above "SUSPICION OF ESPIONAGE/TERRORISM."

I wanted to scream, but didn't.  I wanted to throw up, but couldn't.  What the hell was wrong with me?  I'd passed this goddamned test before.

Next came a long talk with this agent, and I did everything I could to explain who I was, and why I had never done this sort of thing.  I still had faith in the system, and was worried about my career.  I knew I had nothing to hide, so I went along with everything.

He decided it was best that they send a team of agents to search my house.  That very evening.  I wasn't allowed to call my wife, and I was at this point about ten hours late coming home.  It was damn near midnight.

I showed up with three NCIS agents in tow.  They tossed my car, rifled through my belongings in my apartment, took every single unlabeled notebook, every blank diskette, every CD-R, every data-storage capable piece of equipment I owned.  My computer was taken, as were my wife's iPod.  Mine too.

I came back the next day at their insistence and took a grueling battery of several successive tests administered by a somewhat friendlier polygraph adminstrator.  He told me right off the bat that he didn't think I was a spy, he just needed to clear some things up.  So, he asked me a long series of questions relating to personal honesty...everything was leading up to this question:

"Do you think you're better than other people?"

After the polygraph was done (how long had it been?  Six hours?  I really don't remember) I remember the test administrator looking really pleased with himself, saying that this was 'good work.'  I didn't know what that meant at the time, and still don't.

At this point, I was still naively thinking that this was all a huge misunderstanding, and it would be cleared up in a matter of days.  This is NCIS, right?  How long does it take to scan a computer for classified information?

I'd given a statement earlier.  In my shaken state, I wrote down an approximation of everything I'd said and felt...but the damage was done.  The leading questions, the repeating back of my statements out of context - I had been shaken down prior, and boy did it ever work.  I was beginning to think of myself as the kind of person who would sell out his country, or inevitably do so eventually.  I couldn't think of a reason why I would do it, it was just in my nature.  After all, an honest person wouldn't have failed such an easy question.

I lost the orders.  My clearance was suspended.

For months on end, I mustered every day with the temporary holding personnel unit.  I was a First Class Petty Officer, Surface-Warfare qualified, knew the electronic order of battle of any part of the world you care to name, and I was pushing brooms around a p-way, or volunteering at a USO kitchen a few days a week.

Every few weeks for the first two months, I'd get called into NCIS' Norfolk activity for long interview sessions.  They were interrogations.  My own statements were read back to me, asking me to explain each successive thing in more forceful detail every time.  I didn't know what to say after a while.  I didn't know if I needed to get angry, maybe cry a little - I was running out of ways to say "I have never attempted to steal or sell classified information, and I have no idea how to tell you that any clearer than I am now."

Yeah, I talked to a JAG representative.  He told me I was on my own.  I wasn't sure if I could afford a lawyer, so I just waited for the system to do its thing.

That takes a while sometimes.

I knew that they didn't have any conclusive physical evidence that any theft ever took place, or I would have been formally charged much sooner.  What the hell did they have on me?  Statements taken under psychological and emotional distress?  My polygraph exams?  I had an old hard metal camera case that I'd taken from the ship just prior to INSURV one year.  INSURV is the mother of all inspections, and a lot of unneccessary stuff gets jettisoned.  It was a nice one, for the old bridge camera which had since gone missing.  My wife is a shutterbug, and I figured better for her to use it than it wind up on the bottom of the Atlantic.

Still, they never asked me about that case, or any other physical evidence.

Months went by with no word whatsoever.  My end-of-obligated service term was fast approaching, and I had a decision to make.  Re-enlist in this holding pattern?  For what?  No guarantees on anything - I still wasn't out of the woods yet.  Clearance suspended - what would I do?  I'd have to cross-rate to an uncleared job and probably go back to sea.  I wasn't going to do that again.  Not after I spent far too long waving goodbye to my wife the first time around.

It became about cost-benefit analysis.  My school and enlistment bonuses were gone.  There was no career security.  There was no reason for me to stay, aside from the pride of wearing the uniform.  I busted my ass and did the best I could for my country for six years, and this is what happens? 

I made the decision to leave the service at the end of my enlistment in January 2008.

The guys at NCIS were flabbergasted.  They said it looked like I was 'running.'  Maybe they were right.  I didn't care anymore.  I was sick and tired of sitting across from two people who were doing their damndest to convince me that I planned to sell out my country at some point, or laid the groundwork for such a plan.  I told them one point about counter-intelligence and 'thinking like the wolf.'  That was repeated back to me as 'my plan.'  I stopped short of admitting to just 'planning to steal stuff' so the interrogations would stop and I would have some kind of resolution.  I couldn't do it.

At the end of the day, and after everything they put me through, I still knew what side of the line I was on.  I'd rather leave the service with my honor intact than cop to something I didn't do in a moment of weakness, just so the unpleasantness would cease.

In the end, I was allowed to leave.  The good thing about being on legal hold for months on end is that you accrue an awful lot of unused leave days.  My CO approved 60 days terminal.  By the way, my command naturally revoked my access to everything right after the poly fail - I was treated like a pariah for the first month...but then my XO started having as much trouble as I was getting information out of them.  That pissed her off.  By the end of the ordeal, they were in my corner as much as could be expected, and I'm thankful for that.

So, I packed up, signed out, and headed for home.  I got a job as a broadcast engineer, which isn't too bad.  It's not tracking suspect merchant shipping, but it'll do.  My sixty days of terminal leave made for two months of double-dipping which helped offset getting set up back home. 

I didn't receive my seized property until several months after I was out of the service.

The only information I was ever able to get about what was going on all that time was this:  The agent assigned to me was recalled to the Coast Guard for a few months, and my file sat in his desk gathering dust until he got back.

In the end, I received an honorable discharge, which is the closest thing to vindication I will ever receive.

So there it is.

Funny...I expected more catharsis.
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #1 - Feb 1st, 2010 at 5:22am
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JoeyDonuts,

Thank you for sharing your polygraph experience. It is important that the stories of polygraph victims be publicly documented.

The NCIS is not the team of professional prodigies with impeccable integrity that one sees on the eponymous television show. In reality, they're not very competent (they rely on such nonsense as polygraphy) and as your experience shows, they can be highly coercive.

Your experience calls to mind that of Navy petty officer Daniel King and the Moscow Marine embassy guards, documented in Chapter 2 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF).

Have you filed a Privacy Act request for your personnel and security files?
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #2 - Feb 1st, 2010 at 10:59pm
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This experience is amazing.  I am astounded that this type of activity is happening.  I just don't understand the reasoning behind all these incidents other than the intelligence community is "paranoid" to the point of calling into suspect ANYONE that even is thought to be vulnerable (which is totally subjective and unscientific).  These experiences are really enlightening and give me a perspective on how our government uses polygraphs for determining who is suitable.  I appreciate your posting on this.
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #3 - Feb 3rd, 2010 at 5:07am
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Thanks, guys.

George - I've often thought about petitioning them for specific information pursuant to the case against me (if you can even call it that, since no charges were ever filed) but the truth is, there's really nothing of consequence to be learned there.

I've been out of the military for a few years now, and I'm not under any illusions about going back.  Unfortunately, this pretty much locks me out of almost any cleared civilian work out there.

Which is just as well - I will not work for any organization that relies on polygraph testing.  Being a civilian now, I have that choice.  I'm saddened that my military career came to a crashing halt the way it did, though, and I often think about what life would be like had I passed the CI poly and gone on to NIOC Denver as a CTT1.  Impossible to know, really.

There's nothing to be gained for me to press them for information.  I have my honorable discharge, am using the post-9/11 GI Bill, and have no desire to go kicking things around.

I just wanted to add my voice and story to the chorus of the thousands that have been wronged by this deceptive, amoral, and scientifically bankrupt process - the one that allowed John Walker continued ability to pilfer our nation's most trusted COMSEC materials with impunity; yet identified me as a security threat.

It seems almost impossible to effect a change in security screening protocols - the polygraphers hold the keys to the access; they are controlling all the doors.  Their very livelihood is inexorably entwined to the concept of government officials and military brass continuing to not question the polygraph's effectiveness in screening out possible security risks.

Perhaps there's light at the end of the tunnel.  I never thought I'd see military policy towards homosexuality change, and we all see the way that wind is blowing.

All the best.
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #4 - Feb 3rd, 2010 at 6:45pm
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Quote:
He held in his hands a paper for me to sign.† It was the Miranda warning, with my name right at the top just above "SUSPICION OF ESPIONAGE/TERRORISM.


At which point you should have zipped your lip, ceased all further cooperation and demanded to see an attorney.† Jesus!  They searched your premises?  You gave them permission without requiring they get a warrant?

Any attorney worth his salt would know legally they can't do squat based on the jiggly-wigglys on a polygraph.  Unless you admit to something incriminating.

I am a retired CTI1 and went through the NSA polygraph scam in 2000.

TC
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"There is no direct and unequivocal connection between lying and these physiological states of arousal...(referring to polygraph)."

Dr. Phil Zimbardo, Phd, Standford University
 
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #5 - Feb 3rd, 2010 at 11:02pm
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T.M. Cullen wrote on Feb 3rd, 2010 at 6:45pm:
At which point you should have zipped your lip, ceased all further cooperation and demanded to see an attorney.† Jesus!† They searched your premises?† You gave them permission without requiring they get a warrant?


Believe me, I realize that now.

At the time, I was thinking about my future career.

I knew I hadn't done anything, and knew that there was no evidence to indicate I had.  I wanted to be as cooperative as possible, and was under the mistaken impression that it would all be over swiftly once they discovered the lack of evidence that ANY theft or attempted contact of a FIS ever occurred, let alone whether I was involved with it.

I also had three NCIS agents assuring my wife and I that this was just a 'bump in the road' while they were ransacking my house.

Like I said, I had 'faith' in the basic goodness of the 'system,' and that I would be vindicated by the lack of evidence, and by them interviewing people I worked with.

But you're absolutely correct.  When they provided me with that paper, I should have clammed up, demanded to see an attorney, and worried about the financial cost later.  Odds are I could have worked something out.

You know what they say about hindsight, though.

Hopefully if someone reads this who is about to go through something similar, they won't make the same mistake I did.

If you are presented with a Miranda waiver, it isn't just a 'check in the box on the way to your security clearance.'  You are a suspect in a criminal investigation, and they are not looking out for your best interests - they are going to do everything in their power to tear your life apart, shake you down, and make you think of yourself as a criminal.

Do not fight this battle alone - get legal representation.
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #6 - Feb 4th, 2010 at 3:24pm
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Don't feel bad.† †I, and many others, have gone in naive and believing their bullshit.† I got my cherry popped pretty good.† It is ironic that the whole system works AGAINST honest people with a proven record of fidelity.† NSA reported me to the FBI and they actually investigated me for espionage with Taiwan!† Of course, nothing came of it.† It got a call from the a Honolulu office a year after the polygraph wanting to "talk with me", I declined.

The goal is to forewarn people.† Unfortunately, the pattern has been that people come here only AFTER the fact!

I live and work about 5 miles from a facility with the probably the largest number of polygraphs conducted outside of D.C..† I retired out of there in 1994.† I run into people through my biz that still work there and do my best to advertise this site and spread the word about the polygraph.† If the NCIS or FBI have a problem with this they are welcome to come read me my miranda rights and kiss my hairy corn-fed white ass while they're at it.
† †Shocked
About 30-50% pretty much know the polygraph is bull shit.† The rest believe in it.† Of the former, most know it's BS, but don't really know how to protect themselves.

The real blame rests with the pinhead politicians and bureaucrats who KNOW it does more harm than good, but don't want to "rock the boat".

Believe me, you'll like the private sector better.

Good Luck, TC
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"There is no direct and unequivocal connection between lying and these physiological states of arousal...(referring to polygraph)."

Dr. Phil Zimbardo, Phd, Standford University
 
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #7 - Feb 5th, 2010 at 6:21am
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One of the many problems with this kind of non-specific issue testing is that, when someone is hoping to get a job it is unlikely they will react they way they naturally would.

An innocent person accused of espionage would be most likely to emphatically deny it, would get angry and stay angry for a long period, and may even bang on the table or gesture emphatically while flatly denying any such activity.  None of that behavior, naturally, is likely to come out of a job applicant, especially one seeking a stressful job of great importance.  The polygraph operator (who is essentially a trained interrogator) will read that lack of emphatic, angry denial as indication of deception.
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Lorsque vous utilisez un argumentum ad hominem, tout le monde sait que vous Ítes intellectuellement faillite.
 
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #8 - Feb 11th, 2010 at 12:18pm
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Sergeant1107 wrote on Feb 5th, 2010 at 6:21am:
One of the many problems with this kind of non-specific issue testing is that, when someone is hoping to get a job it is unlikely they will react they way they naturally would.

An innocent person accused of espionage would be most likely to emphatically deny it, would get angry and stay angry for a long period, and may even bang on the table or gesture emphatically while flatly denying any such activity.† None of that behavior, naturally, is likely to come out of a job applicant, especially one seeking a stressful job of great importance.† The polygraph operator (who is essentially a trained interrogator) will read that lack of emphatic, angry denial as indication of deception.


Truer words concerning the polygraph were never spoken.

A friend of mine is a PhD in psychology and an expert at employment law, and he argues vehemently that polygraphs were NEVER meant to be used in selection processes in part for this reason.
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Re: It ended everything.
Reply #9 - Feb 14th, 2010 at 11:03pm
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He's obviously not being heeded.

While to the best of my knowledge, a CI poly isn't a prerequisite for initial clearance, it is required for certain assignments...hell, just about everything requiring access to TS/SCI.
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