Normal Topic a deep or 'cleansing' breath (Read 4884 times)
Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box beech trees
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a deep or 'cleansing' breath
Sep 9th, 2001 at 12:21am
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How do polygraphers regard a single deeper breath, commonly referred to as a 'cleansing' breath, during the course of a polygraph interrogation? If one were to have to take such a breath, when would be the best point to do so, if at all?

"It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government." ~ Thomas Paine
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box Drew Richardson
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Re: a deep or 'cleansing' breath
Reply #1 - Sep 9th, 2001 at 2:18am
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   A single deep breath or "cleansing" breath as you describe, regardless of where it occurred during a polygraph chart recording (i.e., before, after, or associated with a relevant, control, or irrelevant question, etc) would be considered an artifact and ignored for scoring purposes.  A series of such breaths occurring at control questions alone would be considered evidence of an attempt at chart manipulation or polygraph countermeasures.  For all of the aforementioned considerations, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to take a polygraph exam and in need of a deep breath, then by all means take one, but do not do so as an attempt to affect recorded physiology and subsequently the overall results of the examination.  Your efforts will be immediately recognized for what they are.  Manipulating respiration through other means is an effective method of utilizing/employing countermeasures.  I hope to describe more about this in various formats in coming weeks.

   Thank you for your kind comments and warm welcome (from another thread) to this message board...
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box False +
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Only now am I told!
Reply #2 - Sep 9th, 2001 at 6:48am
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Dr. Richardson,

I too would like to extend to you my warmest welcome to this forum.

This thread, and your response to beech_trees' inquiry, have been very insightful to me. Indeed, you've answered and clarified an issue I've been wondering about for almost 2 years now, since my horrible 5-hour ordeal during a CIA polygraph. (The entire account of my polygraph experience is in the personal statements section of this web site. If interested, click here:

During the interview phase of my poly, the examiner repeatedly told me not to take deep breaths. The bastard never told me I could take a deep breath every once in a while. I took him at his word, and only took shallow breaths, for fear of screwing up the readings. This made me very uncomfortable since I really needed to breath in deeply. Then the examiner got on my case for not breathing normally! This essentially contributed to a cycle of intimidation on the examiner's part. The rest is in my statement.

Why would the examiner explicitly tell me not to take deep breaths? It seems like a completely nonsensical instruction. Obviously, everyone needs to take deep breaths at some point, particularly in stressful situations like a polygraph. Further, if someone were to purposely breath deeply when not necessary, you'd get dizzy from the excessive Oxygen in your brain. Is breathing deeply some CIA delusion of a counter-measure?

Thanks for any insights.
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Paste Member Name in Quick Reply Box George W. Maschke
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Re: a deep or 'cleansing' breath
Reply #3 - Sep 9th, 2001 at 9:11am
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False +,

You asked, "Is breathing deeply some CIA delusion of a counter-measure?"

I believe that the perception among polygraphers that deep breathing is indicative of attempted countermeasures goes well beyond the CIA. But with regard to the CIA in particular, the following excerpt from the FBI's Affidavit in Support of Complaint, Arrest Warrant and Search Warrants in U.S. v. Harold J. Nicholson at pp. 6-7 helps to document it:


10. On or about October 16, 1995, and October 20, 1995, NICHOLSON underwent polygraph examinations administered by CIA polygraphers as part of his routine security update. A computerized review the examination results indicated a .97 (out of 1.0) probability of deception on two questions: (1) Are you hiding involvement with a Foreign Intelligence Service? and (2) Have you had unauthorized contact with a Foreign Intelligence Service? During one of the examinations, a CIA polygrapher deemed NICHOLSON's response "inconclusive" to the following question: "Are you concealing contact with any Foreign Nationals?" 

11. On or about December 4, 1995, NICHOLSON underwent a third polygraph examination administered by a CIA polygrapher. A computerized review of the examination revealed an .88 probability of deception on the following questions: (1) Since 1990, have you had contact with a Foreign Intelligence Service that you are trying to hide from the CIA? and (2) Are you trying to hide any contact with a Foreign Intelligence Service since 1990? The CIA examiner noted that NICHOLSON appeared to be trying to manipulate the test by taking deep breaths on the control questions, which stopped after a verbal warning.

If Nicholson really was "trying to manipulate the test by taking deep breaths on the control questions," then he was not well informed about polygraph countermeasures.


George W. Maschke
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