Normal Topic A Report from the Senate Hearing on Polygraphs (Read 4791 times)
Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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A Report from the Senate Hearing on Polygraphs
May 3rd, 2001 at 1:12pm
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On Wednesday, 25 April 2001, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary held an open hearing on "Issues Surrounding the Use of Polygraphs." The immediate impetus for this hearing was the FBI's decision to expand its polygraph program in the wake of the Hanssen espionage case. I attended this hearing and took notes which I thought I'd share here.

Committee Chairman Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) opened the hearing a little after 10:00 A.M. in Room 226 of the Senate Dirksen Building. I was surprised to find that Senator Hatch was the only senator present as the hearing began. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) arrived later, and staffers for the other Committee members also attended the hearing. Senator Hatch noted in his oral remarks that he would be reviewing the written record of the hearing. His written statement may be read here:

http://antipolygraph.org/hearings/senate-judiciary-2001/hatch-statement.shtml

Sen. Hatch then called upon five invited witnesses to testify.  My understanding is that the FBI had declined to send any witnesses, arguing that it would not comment until the blue ribbon panel headed by former FBI director Judge William Webster had made its recommendations. Judge Webster, who had been invited to testify, similarly declined. I found this a peculiar circumstance, as FBI Director Louis J. Freeh did not wait for the Webster panel's recommendations before deciding to order some 500 FBI employees to submit to polygraph screening. It's also worth noting that Judge Webster had been scheduled to speak to the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council polygraph committee meeting on Friday, 27 April 2001 (at which I gave a talk) but canceled.

The five witnesses who did appear were former Department of Defense Polygraph Institute director Michael H. Capps, Professor William G. Iacono of the University of Minnesota, former CIA general counsel Jeffrey H. Smith, attorney Mark S. Zaid, and American Polygraph Association past president Richard W. Keifer, who is also a retired FBI polygrapher. Each witness also submitted prepared remarks, which may be read on AntiPolygraph.org at:

http://antipolygraph.org/read.shtml#senate-judiciary-2001

Mr. Capps read his written statement about federal polygraph policy and Professor Iacono spoke about the scientific status of polygraphy.

Former CIA general counsel Jeff Smith made some points that I found especially interesting. He placed special emphasis on the need for integrity, oblivious, it seems, to the obvious contradiction that the polygraph process depends in a fundamental way on trickery and has an inherent bias against the truthful.

Mr. Smith also raised the following noteworthy question (quoted below from his written statement):

Quote:
In deciding whether to expand the use of the polygraph, we should also note that the number of people with knowledge of sensitive counterintelligence investigations goes far beyond the CIA and FBI.  Justice Department lawyers, officials at other agencies, military officers, and White House/National Security Council staff often have access to highly classified information.  As this Committee knows, certain Members of Congress and the senior staff of the intelligence oversight committees are, by law, kept "fully and currently informed" of sensitive matters as well.  Are we prepared to polygraph these persons as well?


But the most noteworthy thing Mr. Smith said was his next sentence: "If we had never begun to use the polygraph, a strong case could be made that we should now not start." I found this to be a remarkable admission: using the polygraph may have been a mistake, but since we've begun using it, we must continue to do so!

Mark Zaid provided a scathing commentary on polygraphy and polygraph policy. I recommend reading his written statement, which he did not read in full at the hearing. The following passage, to which he did make reference in his oral remarks, is especially noteworthy:

Quote:
...it is not surprising that in 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.


to be continued
  

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Re: A Report from the Senate Hearing on Polygraphs
Reply #1 - May 3rd, 2001 at 1:17pm
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continued

Dick Keifer (rhymes with "cipher"), who is a past president of the American Polygraph Association and who retired from the FBI in 1996, also made some interesting claims (quoted from his written statement):

Quote:
It is my opinion that in a security screening polygraph examination, Robert Hansen [sic] would have reacted with greater than 99% certainty.


This is a remarkably vague statement coming from someone who ought to know better. It would seem Mr. Keifer meant to imply that there is a 99% chance that Robert Philip Hanssen would have failed a polygraph screening examination. It is not clear on what basis Mr. Keifer opines this. It seems that considerably fewer than 99% of persons polygraphed who later turned out to be double agents "failed" their polygraph "tests."

Mr. Keifer went on to claim:

Quote:
Based on the results of scientific studies, when conducting a screening polygraph, you will have high confidence (99.99 %) on decisions to clear people.


Mr. Keifer didn't say which "scientific studies" support a 99.99% confidence level with regard to decisions to clear people. But since convicted spy Aldrich H. Ames passed two polygraph "tests" while allegedly spying for the Soviet Union and later, Russia, then if Dick Keifer's figures are correct, President Bush ought to pardon Ames (and grant a posthumous pardon to Larry Wu-tai Chin, who was convicted of spying for China, but passed his CIA polygraph "tests."). After all, we can be 99.99% confident that they are innocent.

About a half hour into the hearing, after each witness had delivered his opening statement, Senator Hatch left and turned the hearing over to Senator Spector.

In response to a question, Mr. Keifer (if memory serves) made reference to a study in which polygraph examiners were asked to report on every error they thought they had ever made. The self-reported error rate was less than 1%.

About 50 minutes into the hearing, Senator Durbin spoke. He likened polygraph testing to a trial by ordeal, and said that when he practiced law, he never advised a client to take a polygraph. Senator Durbin asked Mr. Keifer if he conceeded the point that polygraph testing is subjective. Mr. Keifer downplayed subjectivity in counterintelligence-scope polygraph screening, but said that greater leeway was given in incident-specific polygraph interrogations.

In summary, Senator Durbin said something very close to "We're looking for a quick fix. I don't think this is the machine."

Senator Specter described the "mock crimes" used in laboratory studies of polygraphy as a "contrivance," saying it was a "game." He didn't think that real life accuracy will be better than in laboratory studies. He was skeptical of such studies because there were no serious personal consequences for the volunteers.

In response to a question from Senator Specter, former DoDPI director Mike Capps said "We'll never know the validity of polygraph" and downplayed the validity of laboratory studies. However, he did not argue that polygraphy is invalid or should not be relied upon. Rather, he seemed to accept polygraphy as a scientifically valid procedure albeit one for which no precise validity rate can be specified.

Written statements submitted by other individuals were also entered into the record, although such statements were not enumerated at the hearing. The statement which I submitted may be read on AntiPolygraph.org at:

http://antipolygraph.org/hearings/senate-judiciary-2001/maschke-statement.shtml

The hearing ended about an hour after it began, with Senator Specter raising the possibility of a follow-up hearing. After Senator Specter had shaken hands with each of the invited witnesses, I introduced myself to him and presented him with a spiral-bound copy of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, which he took with him as he exited the hearing room.
  

George W. Maschke
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Re: A Report from the Senate Hearing on Polygraphs
Reply #2 - May 3rd, 2001 at 4:41pm
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George, I admire you in your hard work and efforts for our cause.  You are putting much time and effort into something that you are not gaining from financially.  Keep up the good work and don't ever stop!  If I ever have kids and they follow my footsteps into law enforcement and didn't get disqualified because of the polygraph machine because it doesn’t exist, I will tell who helped them get the job....you. Wink
  

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods" &&&&-Albert Einstein &&
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Re: A Report from the Senate Hearing on Polygraphs
Reply #3 - May 3rd, 2001 at 7:00pm
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Nate,

Thanks for your kind words. When we finally do succeed in abolishing the polygraph, there will be plenty of credit to go around.

You can help in an important way. As a Kansan, you have a senator on the Judiciary Committee: Senator Sam Brownback. As you're probably aware, it is in the Senate Judiciary Committee that the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) originated, and it is likely in this committee that any Comprehensive Polygraph Protection Act (eliminating the governmental and other exemptions to the EPPA) will originate.

You should write a brief (not more than a few pages) letter -- not an e-mail -- to Senator Brownback explaining your experience with the polygraph and asking him to support a comprehensive ban on employment-related polygraph "testing." You might also mention AntiPolygraph.org in your letter. His address is:

Senator Sam Brownback
303 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

In addition, you can seek an in-person meeting with Senator Brownback to discuss the polygraph issue. He has offices in several cities in Kansas, which you'll find listed here:

http://www.senate.gov/~brownback/offices.html

You can call the office nearest you to arrange an eventual meeting.
  

George W. Maschke
Tel/SMS: 1-202-810-2105 (Please use Signal Private Messenger or WhatsApp to text or call.)
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Re: A Report from the Senate Hearing on Polygraphs
Reply #4 - May 4th, 2001 at 12:22am
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George,

First, I must also commend you on your reporting of this most important hearing.

It seems very odd that the FBI was no-show at this hearing. Dr. Drew Richardson would have been an important addition to the testimony at the hearing.

Add another note on Director Freeh. I read in the paper on Monday that he is contemplating retirement. Interseting turn of events, could it be possible that the good director who said he would submit to polygraph testing starting to get a little nervous about the recommendations of the Webster panel?

Keep up the good work Cheesy

Fred F.
  
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Re: A Report from the Senate Hearing on Polygraphs
Reply #5 - May 4th, 2001 at 6:16am
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Quote:
Add another note on Director Freeh. I read in the paper on Monday that he is contemplating retirement.


Fred F, Judge Freeh is not just contemplating retirement--he has actually submitted a resignation, effective some time this June.

Still, your point crossed my mind as well.  I was also jokingly wondering if an upcoming poly has something to do with his early retirement.  But considering the minute probability of an FBI polygrapher actually accusing his boss of deception (regardless of how the charts should be scored), I don't think that this was the case.  If Freeh ever actually were actually polygraphed, as George observed, it would have been nothing more than a publicity stunt.

What interests me most about Judge Freeh's resignation are some of the comments made in his resignation letter.  The letter can be found at:
http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel01/freeh050101.htm

He lists among his accomplishments increasing fairness in the Bureau's hiring practices.

Quote:
Significantly, we have made dramatic strides in increasing the numbers of minorities and women who serve as Special Agents. ... Our priority on fairness has also resulted in significant increases in the number of minorities and women serving in high-level management positions in the Senior Executive Service.


There may be more minorities working for the Bureau since he took over, but Judge Freeh should be careful not to take too much credit for increasing "fairness in hiring."  It was he, after all, who implemented the Bureau's pre-employment polygraph screening process, despite the fact that virtually no one in academia believes that polygraph screening is valid.

In his statement Judge Freeh also notes that "Respect for the dignity of all...," "Compassion," and "Fairness" are three of the Bureau's five core values.  It appears that these core values are all but forgotten when FBI deals with those who fail pre-employment polygraphs.  As many of you know, these individuals are dismissed from the hiring process on the basis of polygraph results alone.  One would think that a "compassionate," "fair" organization with "respect for the dignity of all" would have a standardized appeal process and at the very least conduct background investigations on these individuals in an attempt to discover polygraph errors that even Attorney General John Ashcroft placed at 15%.
  
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