Normal Topic Los Alamos Advisory Committee Minutes on Polygraph (Read 5396 times)
Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Los Alamos Advisory Committee Minutes on Polygraph
Jul 1st, 2001 at 9:08pm
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C.S. Rogers, a retired FBI polygrapher working at the lab's Office of Internal Security, addressed the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Employee Advisory Committee at its 18 January 2001 meeting.

One remark attributed to Rogers especially caught my attention. After stating that it is misnomer to call a polygraph test a "lie detector" test, Rogers is reported to have said:

"No one can tell if someone is lying."

Rare candor coming from a polygraph professional! And yet telling if someone is lying is the ostensible purpose for polygraph "testing!" The meeting minutes go on to state, "Steve Rogers believes if an individual has a clear understanding of what they have done or not done, is in good mental and physical health, and the questions are properly worded the test is nearly 100% accurate." Accurate at what, if no one can tell if someone is lying?!

I find it disturbing that, based on the minutes of this meeting, none of the members of the Employee Advisory Committee at LANL, one of America's foremost research laboratories, challenged this (and other) nonsense that was presented to them.

The minutes of this meeting, reproduced below, are from the LANL Employee Advisory Committee website and are to be found on-line at:


TA-3, Bldg. 43, Director's Conference Room January 18, 2001

EAC Web site:

Members Present
Kersti Rock, T; Anita Stone, BUS; Ken LaGattuta, X; E. Corine Ortiz, DX; Fernando Quintana, E; Robert Lopez, S; Kathryn Strong, HR; Lorraine Segura, ESH; Dennis Wulff, NMT; Kay Roybal, PAO; Kelley Keresey, D; Thomas Baca, ISEC; Eric Pitcher, LANSCE; Frank Pabian, NIS; Jo Fowler, QIO

The meeting was called to order at 1:15 p.m. by the Chair, Kersti Rock.

C.S. "Steve" Rogers, Counterintelligence Officer for ISEC [Office of Internal Security]
Steve came to talk to us about polygraphs and made the following comments:

Steve has 29 years at the FBI, and has worked out of many field offices, where he gained extensive experience installing listening and recording devices. He attended polygraph school in 1987, and has administered over 1400 polygraph exams. He is licensed in New Mexico to perform polygraphs exams. Polygraphs are admissible as evidence in court in New Mexico.

The polygraph is a very complex psychological exam. To call it a "lie detector test" is a misnomer. No one can tell if someone is lying. The polygraph detects changes in psychological responses to questions without explanation. Interpretation of polygraph exams is an art not a science.

The polygraph began in the 1920s and is still evolving. Polygraphs have become computerized in recent years. The polygraphs DOE administers in Albuquerque are computerized, although the analog version is still widely used. Computerized charts are also evolving. Visual analysis by the examiner of the computer-produced charts is still the most accurate method.

Steve Rogers believes if an individual has a clear understanding of what they have done or not done, is in good mental and physical health, and the questions are properly worded the test is nearly 100% accurate. However, in controlled laboratory settings, where ground-truth is a known quantity, the accuracy of the polygraph is usually no better than 90%. (These two statements may appear to be contradictory, but Steve insists that they are both true.)

The uncontrolled variables involved in a polygraph exam are:
  • Everyone is different
  • Every test is different
  • Personality is the underlying force

The feeling/reaction after the lie is what the polygraph test detects. Keep the questions simple. Consequences can generate an emotional response. Examiners are looking for changes from a baseline set by examinee. Examiners should be able to detect if someone is heavily medicated or is trying other ways to beat the exam.

The examiner needs to have a cavalier attitude to maintain their objectiveness. Steve tries to keep the atmosphere light. If the examinee doesn't respond well to the small talk that could signal that they are waiting for the big question.

The Albuquerque test center hasn't had a false positive result in the over 1800 tests they have performed. The Albuquerque test center performs screening tests. These are different from criminal tests.

The FBI started screening all of its employees in 1994. They screen for counterintelligence and drug use/sale. Less than 1% failed the counterintelligence test but about 50% were failing the drug use/sale test. They changed the questions from "Have you ever used (specific drugs)?" to "Have you used a (specific drug) more than 5 to 15 times (depending on the drug)?" and the failure rate was reduced to 20%.

The CIA has been giving lifestyle tests to its employees for many years. Aldrich Ames, a former CIA employee and spy, purported to have passed the polygraph exam really just beat his polygraph examiner. His chart showed problems, but he was able to convince the examiner with excuses for the results.

There are different test formats. The Directed Lie is one that is used by Albuquerque. This test provides control questions that you are asked to lie about. The Control question technique asks a relevant question followed by a control question that is a probable lie. The Irrelevant/Relevant Lie is another type of exam.

Steve performed a demonstration of the equipment. Kersti volunteered to be tested. They record respiration rate, skin electrical conductance and blood pressure. She was hooked up to the equipment with monitors around her chest, monitors on two of her left fingers and a blood pressure cuff on her right arm. She was asked to pick a number between three and eight but not three or eight, write it down and not let anyone see it. Kersti was then asked if the number she wrote was one through eight in order but was told to say no to each question. They practiced first and then pumped up her blood pressure cuff.

Her results showed a definite change when asked if she had written the number six, which she had.

Larry Freestone, S-6, Information and Personnel Security Group Leader
Larry Freestone came to talk to us about how LANL employees are selected and notified for polygraph exams and made the following comments:

The Defense Authorization Acts of FY 2000 and 2001, and 10 CFR 709, 710 and 711 requires CI polygraph examinations for certain LANL workers in sensitive programs. Much of the frustration over polygraph examinations comes from lack of information. Polygraph examinations are required for individuals enrolled in the following programs:

  • Personal Security Assurance Program, PSAP 
  • Personal Assurance Program, PAP 
  • Special Access Program, SAP 
  • Sensitive Compartmented Information, SCI 
  • Counterintelligence programs 
  • Sigmas 14 & 15 
  • DOE HQ Office of Security and Emergency Operations 
  • DOE HQ Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance

Sigma 14 is the category of sensitive information concerning the vulnerability of nuclear weapons to deliberate unauthorized nuclear detonation. 

Sigma 15 is the category of sensitive information concerning the design and function of nuclear weapons use control systems, features, and their components. This includes use control information for passive and active systems.

Sigma 16 is in the works but not yet thoroughly defined. The specifics of Sigma 16 are being clarified by DOE HQ, NNSA, and three design laboratories. What we have been told is that access to Sigma 16 will be based on an access list and that Sigma 16 will be accountable. At this time, we are not sure if access to Sigma 16 will require a CI polygraph examination.

In 2000 all new members of PSAP were polygraphed and they are developing a policy to pick up incumbents. Most likely they will perform 20% of those incumbents per year to be complete in five years. There are now approximately 1700 people in the PSAP program.

Employees working in the sensitive programs listed above can expect to be repolygraphed at approximately 5-year intervals as long as the law is in effect.

The PSAP team notifies the employee and their line manager that CI polygraph examinations are required for entry into PSAP. DOE Counterintelligence (CN) then approves all applications and an appointment is made by the DOE CI Polygraph Center located in Albuquerque.

PSAP employees are those that either work with Special Nuclear Materials (SNM), are supervisors of employees who work with SNM, or whose position is of high risk to national security.

Larry Freestone maintains an e-mail list called Threatgram. Threatgram provides information on National Security issues found on the web. Anyone with a LANL e-mail address can subscribe to the Threatgram but cannot redistribute the e-mail. You can subscribe through listmanager or by e-mailing Larry Freestone at

The meeting adjourned at 3:25pm.

Respectfully submitted,
Anita Stone, EAC historian

George W. Maschke
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box Jim_Munroe
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Re: Los Alamos Advisory Committee Minutes on Polyg
Reply #1 - Jul 5th, 2001 at 4:04am
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     This is a good find. Although a LANL employee, I never follow what the EAC is doing. Despite the name, the EAC does not represent the employees. Members are selected by management to advise management on subjects that management selects. They are allowed no independence and are not allowed to make any public statements without management concurrence. There are some good people on the EAC but their role is so limited that they they are toothless.

Jim Munroe
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Los Alamos Advisory Committee Minutes on Polygraph

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