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21 December 2000 "The Fallout at Los Alamos." ABC Nightline transcript. Dave Marash reports on the security crackdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory, including the new DOE polygraph screening program. Excerpt:

JOHN BROWN, DIRECTOR, LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LAB The--the polygraph issue is a real challenge for a scientific culture like ours.

DAVE MARASH (VO) Los Alamos lab director John Brown doesn't hide his discomfort with the polygraph plague. He's proud of his record of resistance to it.

JOHN BROWN It's been reduced by limiting the numbers to selected people who have access to the most sensitive information that this laboratory possesses. The numbers are small at this laboratory right now. It's less than about 200 people.

DAVE MARASH Just days after our interview with Dr. Brown Congress mandated wider use of the polygraph, putting hundreds more employees at Los Alamos lab, and potentially thousands more within the Department of Energy, on the list for regular, periodic polygraph examinations.

21 December 2000 Ohio prosecutor drops charge against woman who passes lie detector "test." Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Susan Ruiz Patton writes in an article entitled, "Sheriff releases trailer owner, awaits lab test results in slaying":

RAY, Ohio - An owner of the trailer where police found the body of a former Shaker Heights woman was released from jail yesterday after passing a lie-detector test.

Vinton County Prosecutor Timothy P. Gleeson said he dropped a charge of receiving stolen property against Kathryn McKnight because she had passed the test....

The fact that a prosecutor should even offer to drop charges against a suspect if he or she passes a lie detector "test" suggests that the prosecutor's case is weak. While prosecutors might hope that polygraphic interrogation will lead to confession in cases where evidence is scant, they should be mindful that these "tests" are not reliable and that detailed and accurate information about polygraph countermeasures is readily available (see ch. 4 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector). Prosecutors should be wary of making such offers.

21 December 2000 "Lawyers battle over polygraph: State wants to tell jurors Chmura refused to take a lie-detector test." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff writer Lisa Sink writes:

[Mark] Chmura, 31, a former Green Bay Packers tight end, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of third-degree sexual assault and child enticement. Authorities have accused him of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in a bathroom in the home of Chmura's neighbor Robert Gessert.

The prosecutors' motion contends they should be allowed "to admit evidence concerning the defendant's refusal to submit to a polygraph examination as evidence relevant to the defendant's consciousness of guilt."

If you are suspected of a crime, whether you are innocent or guilty, you should never agree to submit to a polygraph interrogation. Polygraphy is an unreliable procedure that fundamentally depends on trickery, and a defendant's refusal to submit should never be allowed in court as evidence of guilt.

15 December 2000 Washington Post staff writer Walter Pincus, in an article entitled, "For Government, Wen Ho Lee Mystery Deepens" writes that efforts to recover from a New Mexico dump the data tapes that Dr. Lee allegedly threw in a trash bin have been fruitless. Pincus observes:

Under the terms of Lee's plea agreement, the 10 days of questioning granted the government are over; the only step left for the government is to administer a polygraph or "lie detector" exam.

"If he shows deception" on the fundamental questions of why he made the tapes and whether he destroyed them, a senior official said, "we are right back where we were when we first discovered what he had done."

Pincus' anonymous senior official needs to learn about the lie behind the lie detector: polygraph chart readings cannot provide the answers the FBI and Energy Department are looking for.

12 December 2000 "ETHICS COMPLAINT: Polygraph expert: Test inconclusive" Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Frank Geary reports on a polygraph "test" that the Review-Journal paid Nevada polygrapher Dick Putnam to administer to Gene Smith, a fired Clark County, Nevada employee who has filed an ethics complaint "accusing Clark County Commissioner Erin Kenny of conspiring to break into the county administration building to copy records in an attempt to hurt Commissioner Mary Kincaid's re-election chances."

Results of Smith's test were inconclusive, according to a report released Monday by the examiner, Dick Putnam, a Reno area resident who performed polygraph tests for 16 years for the Washoe County Sheriff's Department and who state courts recognize as an expert in the field.

The test, which lasted about three hours, was performed at a downtown Las Vegas law office and only Putnam and Smith were in the room at the time.

Smith's results don't indicate whether he was being truthful in his allegations against Kenny, Putnam said. Five percent to 10 percent of polygraph tests come back with inconclusive results, which can occur if a subject is nervous or if the questions are poorly worded, according to polygraph experts outside Nevada. Experts say such results can also occur when the subject is being deceptive.

"The charts obtained from two separate sets of questions were not adequate to support any opinion with regard to (Smith's) truthfulness," Putnam said. "Why inconclusive results occur has been studied, but no one has been able to come up with an answer."

It is not so hard to come up with an answer as to why an inconclusive result may have occurred in this case: by concluding that the results were "inconclusive," polygraph chartgazer Dick Putnam was able to expediently avoid enmeshing himself in a political and legal imbroglio. Polygraphy has no scientific basis, and journalists should avoid the temptation to substitute polygraph chart readings for real journalism.

11 December 2000 "The Truth About Polygraphs?." Washington Post staff writer Vernon Loeb has devoted this edition of his biweekly online news column, IntelligenCIA, to the polygraph issue.

6 December 2000 Steven Aftergood reports in today's edition of the electronic newsletter Secrecy News:


Now that Congress has drastically expanded the number of national security personnel who are subject to polygraph testing, the government is belatedly initiating new studies to test the validity of the polygraph.

The Department of Energy will release $860,000 to the National Academy of Sciences for an 18 month study, the Albuquerque Journal reported December 5:

Senator Jeff Bingaman, who had requested the study over a year ago, said in a press release: "The distinguished scientists and engineers who work at Sandia and Los Alamos deserve to know whether polygraphs produce valid results and this study will help make that determination." See:

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense announced in Commerce Business Daily today that it is seeking a contractor to perform a new study on polygraph validity.

"The goal of this project is to manipulate volunteers into telling specific lies during polygraph examination to test the accuracy of the polygraph examination procedure," the DoD announcement said. See:

But there is a methodological difficulty in such tests that tends to render them useless: There is no way to ensure that a volunteer who is instructed to lie in an artificial setting will present the same physiological signs as an actual liar in a setting where the stakes are genuine.

The irony of these new polygraph studies is that they follow, rather than precede, the expansion of polygraph testing. This reflects the fact that the congressional radicals who are driving security policy are largely indifferent to questions of scientific validity.

Worse, the new National Academy study might make it more difficult to repeal the latest increase in polygraph testing in the short term. This is because proponents will be able to argue that no action should be taken during the eighteen months that the matter is under review by the Academy.

5 December 2000 "$860,000 DOE Study to Evaluate Polygraphs." Jennifer McKee of the Albuquerque Journal writes in part:

The Department of Energy intends to sink almost a million dollars into an upcoming study to determine - once and for all - how well widespread lie detector tests work in preventing espionage.

"While we must take the utmost precaution in protecting the nation's secrets with all prudent measures at our disposal, we must also protect the science at our national labs as well as the scientists who work there," said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson in a prepared statement Monday.

"The employees deserve reasonable assurance that the polygraph tests to which they are subject provide accurate results."

The DOE requested the study, which will be conducted over the next 18 months by the National Academy of Sciences at a cost of $860,000, according to Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bingaman suggested a similar study last year, said Jude McCartin, a spokesperson for the senator, and has questioned the validity of polygraphing in the past.

One wonders how the Natonal Academy of Sciences is going to spend 18 months studying a procedure that lacks both standardization and control.

4 December 2000 "DOE Agrees to Fund Bingaman-Urged Polygraph Validity Study." A press release from Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Excerpt:

Bingaman first suggested a comprehensive review of the science behind polygraphs last year when he opposed DOE's plans for expanded polygraph testing of its employees. In October 1999, Bingaman proposed and won Congressional approval of an amendment to a key appropriations bill calling for the National Academies to study DOE's polygraph rule. Afterward, he reached an agreement with DOE Secretary Bill Richardson that DOE would fund this National Research Council study.

30 November 2000 Steven Aftergood reports in today's edition of the electronic newsletter Secrecy News:


"The U.S. is, so far as I know, the only nation which places such extensive reliance on the polygraph.... It has gotten us into a lot of trouble."

That is the verdict of convicted spy Aldrich H. Ames, who is serving a life sentence at Allenwood federal penitentiary in White Deer, Pennsylvania. During his career at the CIA as a spy for the Soviet Union and for Russia, Ames was notoriously successful in evading detection by the counterintelligence polygraph exam.

Ames provided extensive comments on polygraph testing in a November 28 letter to the Federation of American Scientists that he wrote in response to a recent essay on the subject in Science Magazine.

"Like most junk science that just won't die (graphology, astrology and homeopathy come to mind), because of the usefulness or profit their practitioners enjoy, the polygraph stays with us."

"Its most obvious use is as a coercive aid to interrogators, lying somewhere on the scale between the rubber truncheon and the diploma on the wall behind the interrogator's desk. It depends upon the overall coerciveness of the setting -- you'll be fired, you won't get the job, you'll be prosecuted, you'll go to prison -- and the credulous fear the device inspires. This is why the [congressional] Redmond report ventures into the simultaneously ludicrous and sinister reality that citizens' belief in what is untrue must be fostered and strengthened. Rarely admitted, this proposition is of general application for our national security apparatus," Ames wrote.

"The national security state has many unfair and cruel weapons in its arsenal, but that of junk science is one which can be fought and perhaps defeated...."

The full text of the letter from Ames is posted here:

21 November 2000 Kevin Johnson of USA Today writes in an article entitled, "Police struggle to find next generation":

Phoenix recruiting officer Ron Meraz estimates that 30% to 50% of recruits in that city fail the polygraph test. ''I think there are some people who think they can actually beat the background check,'' city personnel analyst Adele Luffey says. ''It's amazing sometimes.'' (emphasis added)

What is truly amazing is that police departments like Phoenix continue to rely on the voodoo science of polygraphy and are prepared to arbitrarily brand as liars up to half their applicants. Phoenix city personnel analyst Adele Luffey might be surprised to learn that polygraph "tests" can be and have been easily defeated, as explained in Chapters 3 & 4 of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

21 November 2000 "Polygraph's failure fuels debate." Cincinnati Post staff writer Kimball Perry writes in part:

A polygraph test that failed to detect the lies of convicted murderer Denise Lipscomb may kill attempts to routinely use the tests in Hamilton County courts.

In documents unsealed Friday at the request of The Post, Ms. Lipscomb's attorneys, in preparing her defense, noted she passed a polygraph test in which she denied shooting Silverton cab driver John Arcady to death last year.

Polygraph "tests" are without scientific validity, and deceptive persons can use countermeasures to produce a "truthful" chart. Polygraph chart readings should never be admitted as "evidence" in a court of law.

3 November 2000 "Polygraph Testing and the DOE National Laboratories." Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists discusses the Department of Energy's polygraph policy in Science magazine's Essays on Science and Society section.

3 November 2000 Baltimore Sun Journal staff writer Michael Stroh asks, "Are polygraph tests lying to us?"

2 November 2000 2,000+ polygraphs likely at Los Alamos. Jennifer McKee of the Albuquerque Tribune writes in part:

More than 2,000 Los Alamos National Laboratory employees may have to take lie-detector tests as part of an anti-spying program included in the Defense Authorization Bill signed into law this week.

The program, which expands polygraph tests to as many 20,000 employees throughout the Department of Energy, has sparked criticism from many, including President Clinton, who called the program "unrealistic" and "impractical."

30 October 2000 President Clinton criticizes expanded Department of Energy polygraph screening. In his statement regarding his signing of H.R. 4205, the "Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001," Mr. Clinton writes:

...I am deeply disappointed that the Congress has taken upon itself to set greatly increased polygraph requirements that are unrealistic in scope, impractical in execution, and that would be strongly counterproductive in their impact on our national security.

19 October 2000 In an article entitled, "Spy Probe Shifts to Missiles," Walter Pincus and Vernon Loeb of the Washington Post report that the FBI does not believe that the 1995 Chinese defector whose information led to the spy hunt at the national laboratories was a double agent, as the CIA concluded. It appears that the CIA believed the defector to be a double agent primarily (if not solely) because he "failed" a polygraph "test." See George Maschke's commentary on the the message board.

14 October 2000 Energy Dept. Polygraph Program Expanded. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reports:

Rejecting pleas from Energy Department officials, Congress has approved a provision that will require polygraphs for 5,000 additional employees of the department's nuclear weapons complex, raising to near 20,000 the overall number that will be tested.

The new language, part of the fiscal 2001 defense authorization bill that Congress passed Thursday night, requires the department to polygraph all employees with access to "sensitive compartmented information" (SCI)--highly classified intelligence data, produced under supervision of the CIA, that include data from electronic intercepts.

(read full story on

13 October 2000 In an article entitled "Government Facing Charges of Racism," San Jose Mercury News correspondent Lenny Savino reports on five cases of alleged ethnic profiling by FBI, CIA, and DoD counterintelligence officials. Polygraphy figures prominently in four out of five of the cases discussed. For more on the case of David Tenenbaum, which features prominently in the story, see:

For more on the case of Mark Mallah, see:

13 October 2000 Steven Aftergood reports in today's edition of the electronic newsletter Secrecy News:


In its mad pursuit of a misconceived ideal of "security," Congress has quietly imposed broad new polygraph testing requirements on Energy Department employees and contractors.

Subtle changes adopted in the conference on the defense authorization bill will require polygraph tests on an additional 5000 persons in the nuclear weapons labs, Senator Pete Domenici noted in a press release yesterday. That is an increase from the current level of around 800 persons subject to polygraph testing.

"I am dismayed that the conferees took it upon themselves to adopt additional provisions on polygraphs," Sen. Domenici said. "I find it astounding, especially in light of the findings in the Baker-Hamilton Report, that the conferees included these provisions."

"The Baker-Hamilton Report clearly indicated that we should avoid further 'Made in Washington' rules that frustrate scientific pursuits and only serve to demoralize laboratory personnel. I believe these provisions will only make a bad situation worse," Sen. Domenici said. "Security will be a moot point if our national laboratories fail to achieve scientific advances worth protecting."

The Domenici press release is posted here:

The Baker-Hamilton Report is posted here:

By expanding the definition of who is a "covered person," the new polygraph provision will impose testing requirements on an additional 5000 people, based on an informal estimate that NNSA chief Gen. John Gordon provided to Senator Domenici last week, a Domenici aide said.

The new provision, section 3135 of the defense authorization act, is posted here:

It amends last year's polygraph legislation, posted here:

In his Senate remarks on 12 October 2000, Senator Domenici stated:

There is little evidence that polygraphs administered as a screening technique is an effective use of security resources. The Conferees apparently view mass polygraphs of everyone at the Labs as a silver bullet that will ensure no future security breaches. That is a naive view of security that fails to recognize that polygraphs are simply one tool among many, that must be wisely and judiciously used to ensure a strong security culture that will allow science to thrive. Otherwise, the silver bullet of mass polygraph will end up killing the labs, not protecting them.

While the Senator's position on mass polygraph screenings is welcome, it seems that he still needs to discover the lie behind the lie detector. Polygraphs are no more a "tool" than ouija boards. The complete text of Senator Domenici's remarks is published on pages S10361-2 of the Congressional Record and may be downloaded here:

10 October 2000 Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy reports in today's edition of the electronic newsletter Secrecy News that House-Senate conferees have approved legislation that severely limits the Secretary of Energy's authority to grant polygraph waivers. The following is an excerpt (emphasis added):


The House-Senate conference completed its compromise version of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 on Friday. The bill, which is an astonishing mess from many points of view, includes several provisions that will tend to diminish publish access to government information and drive security policy farther away from a defensible middle ground.

The new bill (H.R. 5408) creates two new statutory exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act. One will exempt certain unclassified foreign government information from disclosure (sec. 1073). Another will expand the exemption for certain unclassified maps and imagery (sec. 1074).

The bill places a severe new limitation on Pentagon spending for all declassification activities (sec. 1075). In place of last year's limit of $51 million, the new maximum for the coming year will be $30 million. Needless to say, no limitation is imposed on classification-related spending, which reached a total of $5 billion in FY 1999, according to the latest report of the Information Security Oversight Office.

In a step that is positively subversive in its implications, the conferees adopted a provision that allows the Secretary of Energy to grant a waiver from polygraph testing for employees in certain circumstances, but that "would prohibit the Secretary from using the need to maintain the scientific viability of a DOE laboratory as a criteria [sic]" for such exemptions (sec. 3135). In other words, the scientific viability of the DOE labs is now -- by law -- a lower priority than the DOE polygraph program.

In a rare bit of good news, the conferees did not adopt a controversial provision that would have exempted the "operational files" of the Defense Intelligence Agency from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

The new bill was adopted in conference on October 6 and is expected to be approved in House and Senate floor votes this week. Excerpts from the bill concerning secrecy and security policy are posted here:

28 September 2000 Edward T. Pound of USA Today
Michael H. Capps
Michael H. Capps
writes that the Department of Defense Inspector General has concluded that Department of Defense Polygraph Institute director Michael H. Capps misappropriated $4,100 worth of government-earned frequent-flier miles and misled investigators when questioned about the matter.

Mr. Pound's article leaves unanswered the question, "Did the disgraced director of the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute take a lie detector 'test'?" Mr. Pound doesn't mention it, but one of Mr. Capps' other noteworthy achievements as DoDPI director is the prompt disbandment of the Institute's scientific advisory board upon his appointment in 1995.

27 September 2000 "Judge Seeks Support for Polygraph Tests." Kimball Perry of the Cincinnati Post reports that Presiding Judge Robert S. Kraft of the General Division of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas will ask judges to support expanded use of tax-payer funded polygraph "tests." Judge Kraft has previously urged that polygraph "tests" be used in all felonies.

Judge Kraft needs to know about the lie behind the lie detector. He should also be made aware of the case of Floyd "Buzz" Fay of Perrysburg, Ohio, who was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison based on polygraph "evidence." (See pp. 264-67 of the 2nd ed. of David T. Lykken's A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector.)

You can write a letter to Judge Kraft at the following address:

Judge Robert S. Kraft
Hamilton County Court House
1000 Main Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Alternatively, you can call through the court administrator, Mike Watson at (513) 946-5900 or send a fax at (513) 946-5800.

27 September 2000 "Bush Campaign Wants Lie Test." Vincent Morris and Deborah Owen of the New York Post report that "George W. Bush staffers offered to take lie-detector tests yesterday as they pressed the FBI to solve the mystery of whether a mole gave a debate prep video to rival Al Gore's camp."

Mr. Bush's staffers need to learn about the lie behind the lie detector.

22 September 2000 Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) officers to undergo lie-detector tests. Lincoln Wright of the Canberra Times reports that ASIO officers "will be the first to undergo a new trial of lie-detector tests after the Howard Government endorsed a report recommending tougher rules to fix leaks of national security secrets."

Australia should learn from America's mistakes, not repeat them.

22 September 2000 In his electronic newsletter, Secrecy News, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy reports on Department of Defense plans to exand reliance on polygraphy. DoD's FY 1999 polygraph report states:

In an effort to eliminate or reduce the number of unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the media, we plan to implement a new policy. As a condition for access to Top Secret, SCI or higher information, DoD military, civilian personnel and contractor employees will sign a form certifying that they are willing to undergo a specific issue polygraph examination if classified information they had access to has been leaked. We believe this will serve as a deterrent to individuals who may be considering leaking classified information.

In 1982, a polygraph dragnet for the source of a leak in the 30-member Defense Resources Board failed to find the leaker, but did lead to John Tillson, director of manpower management at the Pentagon being falsely accused. He was exonerated only when reporter George Wilson of the Washington Post assured Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger that Tillson was not the leaker. Polygraph hunts for leakers also led to Marine colonel Robert McFarlane (1982) and Assistant Undersecretary of Defense Michael Pillsbury (1986) being falsely accused. (See D.T. Lykken's A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector, pp. 216-18) If you have further information about DoD's planned expansion of polygraphy, please contact

18 September 2000 goes online. First digital edition of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector released. Home Page > Polygraph News