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13 June 2003 Australia: More on Polygraph in Mallard Case
The Post of Perth, West Australia, reports in an article titled, "QC asks judges to visit scene of '94 murder." Excerpt:

On Tuesday night, some TV news bulletins showed interviews with a Mallard family member, and several, including the 7.30 Report, showed videotape of Mallard doing an electronic lie detector test.

A longer segment on the ABC's 7.30 Report showed more of the lie detector, or polygraph, test.

Mr Fiannaca said the reliability and scientific validity of polygraph testing would be challenged later in the appeal.

Expert evidence brought by the crown would show it was "totally unreliable", he said.

The 7.30 Report had shown extra video of the testing that had not been made available to the crown.

Mr Fiannaca said this amounted to non-disclosure of evidence by Mallard's team.

The footage was a very important part of the evidence needed to establish the reliability of the test.

The crown was also concerned that lay witnesses yet to be called for the appeal would be influenced by the report.

The video footage had not been admitted into evidence and was not in the public domain.

He said the DPP was considering whether to take contempt of court proceedings against the TV channel concerned.

Justice Len Roberts-Smith said there was potential for the report to have an impact on witnesses.

He said: "I can think of witnesses who are uncertain about certain things."

Justice Christine Wheeler said the 7.30 Report segment went beyond a fair and accurate report of the court proceedings.

It was emotive and one-sided, she said.

Justice Parker said the reports had the appearance of something of an orchestrated campaign.

He said it could have a long-term effect on the way the public viewed the courts.

He said: "The extremely one-sided reporting creates in the public mind an expectation that is disappointed when the court makes a decision based on all the evidence before it.

"The perception is created that the court is out of touch with the reality of the case."

He said the question of whether any polygraph evidence would be received was open to submissions.

He said if there were any recurrence of the type of reporting seen on some TV bulletins on Tuesday night, the court would consider at least a suppression order, or the need for an adjournment.

Mr McCusker said the polygraph footage had been provided to media about a year ago by supporters of Mallard out of "desperation".

He said it had been provided on the understanding it would not be aired until shown in court.

Mr McCusker said: "Channel 2 took the view that once it [the polygraph] was mentioned in court, that was the trigger."

12 June 2003 Australia: TV report angers judges
David Darragh reports for the West Australian on the appeal of convicted murderer Andrew Mallard, who has sought the admission of polygraph results.

THE Court of Criminal Appeal has criticised heavily what it described as emotive and one-sided television news reports of convicted murderer Andrew Mallard's appeal that could influence witnesses at the hearing.

Mallard's appeal against his conviction for wilfully murdering Mosman Park jeweller Pamela Lawrence in May 1994 was almost postponed yesterday after Director of Public Prosecutions lawyer Bruno Fiannaca objected strongly to television news coverage of the opening day.

All three judges presiding over the case expressed their concerns about the potential impact of such reports on witnesses.

Mr Fiannaca told the court the DPP was disappointed with the emotive and inaccurate nature of some reports.

They had the potential to influence the evidence of several witnesses.

He said some reports seemed calculated to influence the case. Serious thought was being given to contempt of court charges.

He was concerned about a story on Tuesday night's 7.30 Report which showed video footage of Mallard having a lie detector test.

Mr Fiannaca said the tenor of the story seemed to suggest the legitimacy of polygraph testing.

But the DPP had affidavits from eminent scientists which supported arguments that polygraph tests were unreliable, Mr Fiannaca said.


Mallard's lawyer, Malcolm McCusker QC, said polygraph examiner William Glare was not expected to testify after recently having a severe stroke.

12 June 2003 Indiana Governor Rejects Convicted Murderer's Request for a Lie Detector Test
Joe Gerrety reports for the Lafayette, Indiana Journal and Courier in an article titled, "Gov. O'Bannon denies clemency for Trueblood." Excerpt:

Gov. Frank O'Bannon denied condemned triple murderer Joseph L. Trueblood's request for clemency, making his Friday morning execution a near certainty.

"The judicial system has provided Trueblood repeated opportunities in multiple appeals to challenge ... facts in formal, timely, and appropriate settings," O'Bannon wrote in a seven-page statement issued late this morning.

"Indiana's courts have not hesitated to vacate convictions or sentences in capital cases when a procedural or substantive error has been found, but no error has been found in Trueblood's case."

Trueblood, 46, of Lafayette, is scheduled to die by lethal injection shortly after midnight at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City for the Aug. 15, 1988, murders his ex-girlfriend, Susan Bowsher Hughes, 22, her daughter, Ashelyn, 2, and her son, William, 1. The killings occurred in Tippecanoe County.

In denying the clemency request, O'Bannon also rejected Trueblood's request that he be allowed to give a polygraph examination to prove his claim that his trial lawyers tricked and coerced him in 1990 into pleading guilty to the murders of the children.

This article also provides the full text of Indiana governor Frank O'Bannon's statement, which includes the following paragraph on Trueblood's request for a polygraph examination:
In his letter, Trueblood asked to take a "lie detector" test to show that he believed his story to be true. The facts surrounding Trueblood's crimes have been judicially determined. The judicial system has provided Trueblood repeated opportunities in multiple appeals to challenge those facts in formal, timely, and appropriate settings. The Indiana Supreme Court has determined that the results of polygraph or "lie detector" tests cannot be used as evidence. "This is because of the inherent unreliability of polygraph examinations." Gray v. State, 758 N.E.2d 519, 522 (Ind. 2001). Indiana's courts have not hesitated to vacate convictions or sentences in capital cases when a procedural or substantive error has been found, but no error has been found in Trueblood's case. I base my clemency decision on the judicially determined facts.

11 June 2003 Condemned killer asks for polygraph
Shannon Tan reports for the Indianapolis Star. Excerpt:

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- With just days to live, Joseph L. Trueblood asked Gov. Frank O'Bannon on Tuesday for a polygraph test to prove the Death Row inmate has been telling the truth.

Trueblood insists his lawyers told him he would not face death when he pleaded guilty to killing Ashelyn Bow-sher, 2, and her 1-year-old brother, Billy.

Trueblood expected a prison term of 30 to 40 years, he told reporters. Instead, Trueblood is scheduled to die early Friday for killing the children and their mother, Susan Bowsher, 22, his former girlfriend -- unless O'Bannon intervenes. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the execution. Trueblood, 46, read his handwritten "dying declaration" at a news conference Tuesday at the Indiana State Prison. Even as he pleaded for his life, it was clear he had begun to accept the prospect of his death.


Trueblood has written at least one letter to O'Bannon seeking a lie detector test. Although he has yet to rule in this case, O'Bannon has not granted clemency to any inmate since taking office in 1997.

9 June 2003 Australia: Lie detector test on trial
The Sunday Times reports that "[the] admissibility of lie detector tests in criminal trials will be tested for the first time in a superior Australian court when an appeal against a 1994 murder conviction goes to the West Australian Supreme Court this week."

28 May 2003 "Labs to keep giving polygraph tests"
Andrea Widener reports for the Contra Costa County Times. Excerpt:

Last fall, a panel of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences found that polygraph tests are unproven, and perhaps even dangerous, as a tool to search for potential spies at the nation's nuclear weapons labs.

Its measures of heart rate, breathing and sweaty palms are easily tripped by the nervous but innocent, and easily fooled by experts. What's more, the panel said, the polygraph gives security experts a misleading sense of security because spies can pass the screening test.

Despite this overwhelming finding, and a congressional mandate to reevaluate use of the test, the Department of Energy has stuck by the polygraph.

Its policy, released in April, is essentially unchanged: Thousands of nuclear weapons employees must take the test to keep their top security clearance.

The agency, which oversees nuclear weapons labs and production plants, said its mission of protecting nuclear secrets overrides the risks, and it can't take away the polygraph until something better replaces it.

"The DOE does not believe that the issues the (National Academy) raised about the polygraph's accuracy are sufficient to warrant a decision by DOE to abandon it as a screening tool," was the agency's official statement.

Lab employees and other critics say Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's decision was misguided. A bad test is worse than no test at all, they say, especially because some polygraph test givers have abused their position by asking inappropriate questions.

It hurts morale of the employees the agency says it values -- longtime scientists with nuclear weapons design and testing experience.

"We want an end to screening with polygraph testing entirely," said Jeff Colvin, a Lawrence Livermore Laboratory scientist who follows the issue for the Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers.

The rule could still change. The DOE is taking comments until June 13. Several congressmen, including Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., are calling for hearings to force the DOE to explain its choice and are calling for legislation to prevent polygraph tests from continuing. But few believe the agency will reverse itself on its own.

"If the National Academy of Sciences doesn't convince them, I don't know what is going to," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who represents the area that includes Lawrence Livermore and Sandia/California labs and wants House hearings. "It's voodoo. And voodoo doesn't protect our secrets."

Lab scientists have long been subjected to polygraph tests, but until 1999 it was only a small number with special security clearance. Then, in the wake of a security and espionage scandal surrounding Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, someone slipped a mandate into a congressional bill that required up to 15,000 DOE employees be tested. The subsequent uproar caused a policy change, and DOE commissioned the National Academy study.

The 18-month review said polygraphs are occasionally useful in interrogations. But there is no evidence to suggest they can sort spies from loyal employees or to deter those who might become spies.

Panel members say they are "disappointed" that DOE essentially ignored the study, and that the agency shouldn't rely on 1920s technology.

Polygraph testing isn't like treating a cold with grandma's chicken soup, which may help but won't hurt, said David Faigman, a panel member who studies science and law at UC's Hastings College of the Law. Negative polygraph tests can lead security officials to believe secrets are safe when they're not, endangering security.

"I think (DOE's choice) is a naive approach to the problem," Faigman said. "There are bones in this particular chicken soup."

27 May 2003 "Polygraphs: Worse than Worthless"
Dr. Alan P. Zelicoff comments on polygraph screening in this Washington Post op-ed piece. Excerpt:

In 1999, in the midst of alleged leaks of nuclear weapons information from his department's national laboratories, the secretary of energy, Bill Richardson, set out to show that he could be "tough" on national security matters. He sought congressional funding for a wide-ranging polygraph program to cover all employees with high-level clearances -- about 15,000 people in all.

Congress agreed -- despite the absence of any evidence that polygraphs have ever detected a spy operating anywhere in the U.S. government. But Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) managed to get the Senate to stipulate two important conditions -- first, that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review the medical and scientific literature to determine whether use of polygraph tests for screening was in any way worthwhile and, second, that the secretary report back to Congress after the NAS report was completed.

Late last year the NAS published its findings. It determined that the polygraph was not a worthless tool -- indeed, that it was much worse than worthless. The report said that "available evidence indicates that polygraph testing as currently used has extremely serious limitations . . . if the intent is both to identify security risks and protect valued employees." The NAS panel, made up of internationally respected psychologists and statisticians, further determined that the test was so nonspecific that even if the polygraphers managed to finally uncover their first spy, at least 100 innocent laboratory employees would have their clearances yanked because of the "false positives" inherent in the test. The NAS concluded: "Polygraph testing yields an unacceptable choice . . . between too many loyal employees falsely judged deceptive and too many major security threats left undetected. Its accuracy . . . is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies." It doesn't get much clearer than that.

Spencer Abraham, the current energy secretary, was faced with a dilemma: If he did the right thing by openly recommending that Congress trash his predecessor's polygraph program, he would embarrass his counterparts in the CIA and the Defense Department, where faith in the polygraph long ago reached cult status. If he kept the polygraphs, he would do so in the face of the academy's clear rejection and more than 60 years of evidence that they waste taxpayers' money while destroying the careers and lives of countless loyal Americans.

Abraham opted instead for a third course. In a memo to the national laboratory directors in late March, the secretary said he had decided to "defer" his decision on polygraphs until "after hostilities in Iraq had ended." That wasn't quite true. Just two weeks later, an official Energy Department "proposed rule" appeared in the Federal Register, in which the secretary gave it as his opinion that "DOE [the Energy Department] does not believe that the issues that the NAS has raised about the polygraph's accuracy are sufficient to warrant a decision by DOE to abandon it as a screening tool. Doing so would mean that DOE would be giving up a tool that, while far from perfect, will help identify some individuals who should not be given access to classified data, materials, or information."

There is supposedly an opportunity for the public to comment on the Energy Department's proposal to do nothing. But there is little reason to believe the department has any intention of listening, given its willingness to dismiss all credible science on the issue without any explanation.

19 May 2003 "CIA does not reveal truths regarding polygraph tests"
The Daily Northwestern published the following letter by George Maschke in response to Sheila Burt's 16 May 2003 article, "CIA recruiters more Moneypenny than Bond.":

CIA recruiter Elizabeth was less than candid when she told Northwestern students that "those who tell the truth have nothing to worry about" regarding the polygraph. The National Academy of Sciences recently completed a thorough review of the scientific evidence and concluded that polygraph screening is completely invalid and that governmental reliance on it is a danger to national security.

Elizabeth's failure to mention the NAS report is not surprising. As a matter of policy, the CIA does not inform those seeking employment (or even its own employees) that polygraph "testing" actually depends on the polygrapher lying to and otherwise deceiving the person being "tested" about the nature of the procedure. Nor does the CIA inform applicants that polygraphy has an inherent bias against the truthful. (Perversely, the more honestly one answers the so-called "control" questions, and as a consequence shows weaker physiological reactions to them, the more likely one is to fail.) This notwithstanding, anyone can pass (or beat) the polygraph using easily-learned countermeasures that polygraphers cannot detect. And importantly, the CIA does not inform applicants in advance that their polygraph interrogators may ambush them with questions about the most intimate details of their private lives.

Persons considering employment with the CIA should ponder just how intimate a relationship they are willing to have with their government.

George W. Maschke

18 May 2003 "DOE plan keeps the lie detector: Security needs override questions about reliability of the polygraphs"
Frank Munger reports for the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Excerpt:

OAK RIDGE - It's a real-life variation of the game truth or consequences.

The Department of Energy figures the potential consequences of a security breach in the nuclear weapons program are so grave that extraordinary precautions must be taken. That includes truth testing for key employees.

Despite a running controversy over lie-detector tests and a negative report from the National Academy of Sciences, DOE plans to retain polygraphs as a screening tool and possibly expand their use at high-risk operations - such as the Y-12 weapons plant in Oak Ridge.

At least 2,000 Oak Ridge employees are subject to the exams, Steven Wyatt, a DOE spokesman, confirmed last week.

Wyatt declined to specify which jobholders are tested or which contractors are involved, but most of the targeted employees in Oak Ridge apparently work at Y-12. The federal plant produces parts for nuclear warheads, and it is the nation's main repository for bomb-grade uranium.

DOE rushed to implement a polygraph program in 1999 because of intense pressure from Congress to respond to concerns raised by a spy scandal at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The federal agency now is reshaping its counterintelligence program to protect classified data and materials. It is part of a mandate from the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act, which ordered DOE to take into account a polygraph review by the National Academy of Sciences.

The academy's panel looked at scientific evidence regarding the validity of polygraph exams and concluded that the exams are too inaccurate to be used for employee screening.

The national academy was more accepting of "exculpatory'' polygraphs applied to specific incidents, in which a person may be asked questions related to an allegation of wrongdoing. But, overall, reviewers argued against using polygraphs to ferret out transgressions among employees.

DOE acknowledged the academy's arguments in a Federal Register notice published last month, but the agency said those arguments weren't enough to make it abandon the use of polygraphs.

"Doing so would mean that DOE would be giving up a tool that, while far from perfect, will help identify some individuals who should not be given access to classified data, materials or information,'' the notice of proposed rulemaking said.

DOE said it was instructed by Congress to develop a polygraph program that could minimize those risks. The agency said it's particularly important not to weaken controls at a time when the United States "is engaged in hostilities precisely in order to address the potentially disastrous consequences that may flow from weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands.''

Doug Hinckley, head of DOE's counterintelligence programs, said the agency uses polygraph testing primarily for deterrence, not detection.

"We've been using it now for several years, and we would not continue to use if it we didn't think it had value,'' Hinckley said in a telephone interview from his Washington office.

The federal official would not reveal the number of negative findings identified by polygraph exams during the past three years. "That's something I wouldn't want to comment on,'' he said.

Hinckley and other officials emphasized that DOE does not use lie-detector tests to explore lifestyle issues with employees or ask about a person's thoughts or beliefs.

In its original set of rules for polygraph exams, the agency promised to limit questions to an individual's involvement in espionage, sabotage, terrorism, disclosure of classified information, unauthorized foreign contacts and "deliberate damage to or malicious misuse of U.S. government information or defense system.''

Officials at DOE and its sub-unit, the National Nuclear Security Administration, refused to discuss details of the tests. Hinckley acknowledged that Oak Ridge has a regional polygraph center, but he declined to say what company or companies supply the polygraphers for the testing.

While not identifying individuals or job titles subject to testing, DOE listed eight categories of jobs included in the polygraph program. Among them are jobs related to counterintelligence activities and participants in the Personnel Security Assurance Program, which includes many of the weapons-related jobs in Oak Ridge.

The PSAP list is tightly held, partly because of privacy concerns, but it includes those with access to special nuclear materials or information on weapons production.

Carl "Bubba'' Scarbrough, president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, represents hourly workers at Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He said he doesn't know how many of his union members hold PSAP jobs, even though he's tried to find out.

"It's kind of a mystery,'' Scarbrough said.

The union official said he's supposed to meet this week with a top security official at Y-12 to discuss concerns. Scarbrough said there haven't been a lot of complaints about polygraph questioning, but he said some workers are worried about their job status if they refuse to take part in the PSAP program.

Although polygraphs are used widely today, even in a new generation of reality shows on television, they remain controversial.

Bill Bibb, a retired Department of Energy official who held top defense positions in Washington and Oak Ridge, said he never advocated polygraphs as a screening tool.

"DOE is a big damn jungle out there, and who is going to do it? There's always a chance for retribution with all this stuff,'' Bibb said.

He said he could support using polygraphs for certain investigations, such as material missing from a storage facility, but not broadly applied to a workforce.

"They scare people to death,'' Bibb said.

16 May 2003 CIA Recruiter Tells Students Truth-tellers Have No Reason to Worry About Polygraph
Sheila Burt reports for the Daily Northwestern on the campus visit of two CIA recruiters, Marcus and Elizabeth, in an article titled, "CIA recruiters more Moneypenny than Bond." Excerpt:

...applicants must go through a rather extensive interview process before becoming official CIA agents. The process includes a background check, a lie detector test and a medical exam.

Although Elizabeth assured the group that those who tell the truth have nothing to worry about, she offered some advice for the nervous.

"Some (prospects) get nervous about the polygraph so they smoke a joint the night before," she said. "That's not a good thing."

Perhaps Elizabeth is not aware of the National Academy of Sciences report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, that concluded polygraph screening is completely invalid? Or perhaps she is unaware of the experiences of people like "No Such Author," "False +," "Fnord," and "A Disillusioned Polyglot?" Or perhaps she is unaware of the many CIA employees who have spent time in "polygraph limbo" -- barred from doing meaningful work because their polygraph squiggles zigged when they should have zagged?

Or could it be that Elizabeth is well aware that the polygraph is highly unreliable and wrongly brands many truthful persons as liars, but that she deliberately misled her audience of wide-eyed students?

Elizabeth is right that it is "not a good thing" for nervous applicants to "smoke a joint" the night before a CIA polygraph. Instead, they should arm themselves with knowledge. Download The Lie Behind the Lie Detector for the truth about polygraphs that Elizabeth doesn't want you to know.

15 May 2003 Polygraphs - truth or lie?
Chris Ingalls reports for Excerpt:

SEATTLE - The polygraph promises to find the answer and that's why it is widely used in Washington state to screen potential employees for high-security jobs.

But there are new doubts about whether lie detectors really work. In today's security-conscious environment, much of the tax money is used to pay for lie detector tests.

Now, scientists who put polygraphs to the test came up with surprising results.

Since its invention decades ago, the polygraph has earned a place in the American imagination and psyche.

The computer-based descendant of the so-called lie-detector is widely used in Washington state - and not just for criminal investigations.

Many government agencies - like Tacoma Police - use lie detectors to screen potential employees. They say the instrument does weed out some applicants.

"I think it's very reliable and I have complete confidence in it," said Det. Steve Shake, Tacoma polygraph examiner.

But hard science is raising new questions about the polygraph's reliability.

The prestigious Academy of Sciences has released its long-awaited study on the "truth" about lie detectors.

Congress ordered a thorough review after a spy scandal rocked the Department of Energy, which uses polygraphs to screen employees.

The study's conclusion was that the lie detector is a "blunt" instrument and its "serious limitations" in employment screening underscore the need to look for more effective methods.

"I pretty much at that point went in there knowing I was gonna get this job. There was nothing that was gonna stop me from getting this job," said Karen who has no criminal record. But she was wrong.

Earlier this year, she was accepted for a job by King County Juvenile Detention, subject to a polygraph.

After the test, she was told she failed a standard question about inappropriate contact with minors.

"I went white. I couldn't breathe and I felt like I was gonna throw up," she said.

Karen says she became too distrustful of the polygraph to agree to a follow-up exam, and she lost the job.

Bob, on the other hand, a former casual drug user, admits he lied during a polygraph, but still was offered a job as a King County jailer.

"They told me that I had passed, right there on the spot," said Bob.

"From my perspective, I would describe is as quackery," said Dr. Drew Richardson, former FBI agent.

Dr. Richardson, who studied polygraphs for the bureau, says the instrument cannot help answer the types of broad questions that are asked when screening employees.

"It's nothing but a fishing expedition. When used to screen people about large numbers of issues, about national security, of personal life style, I think it has absolutely no diagnostic value," he added.

The KING 5 Investigators found that hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are spent on lie detector screenings.

The American Polygraph Association says the recent scientific findings are flawed, but that pro-polygraph organization did not respond to repeated interview requests from KING 5, nor did the Northwest Polygraph Examiners Association. The Association of Police Polygraphists and the King County Sheriff's Department declined interviews.

14 May 2003 Senate Bill Envisages Research into Polygraph Alternatives
U.S. Senate Bill 1025, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, envisages future research into alternative technologies to the polygraph. The relevant section of S. 1025 is cited in full here:


The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has also published a Report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2004 that explains the provisions of Section 355 as follows:
Coordination of United States Government research on security evaluations

In October 2002, the National Academies of Science released a report entitled, `The Polygraph and Lie Detection'--`a scientific review of the research on polygraph examinations that pertains to their validity and reliability, in particular for personnel security screening.' In the report--the first comprehensive assessment of the polygraph since the 1983 study by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment--the National Academies stated:

[W]e recommend an expanded research effort directed at methods for deterring and detecting major security threats, including efforts to improve techniques for security screening. * * * We cannot guarantee that research related to techniques for detecting deception will yield valuable practical payoff for national security, even in the long term. However, given the seriousness of the national need, an expanded research effort appears worthwhile. * * * The research program we envision would seek any edge that science can provide for deterring and detecting security threats. It would have two major objectives: (1) to provide Federal agencies with methods of the highest possible scientific validity for protecting national security by deterring and detecting espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and other major security threats; and (2) to make these agencies fully aware of the strengths and limitations of the techniques they use.

In Section 355, the Committee authorizes $500,000 from the Intelligence Community Management Account for the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science and Technology to convene components of the U.S. Government to provide a forum to catalogue and coordinate Federally-funded research activities relating to the development of new techniques in the behavioral, psychological, or physiological assessment of individuals to be used in security evaluations. This effort is intended to serve as an important step in developing a more focused research effort leading to the development of alternatives to the polygraph as a security evaluation tool for the U.S. Government. By March 1, 2004, the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science and Technology are required to jointly submit to Congress a written report identifying the research most likely to advance the understanding of the use of such assessments of individuals in security evaluations; distinguish between short-term and long-term areas of research in order to maximize the utility of short-term and long-term research on such assessments; identify the Federal departments and agencies best suited to support such research; and develop recommendations for coordinating future Federally-funded research for the development, improvement, or enhancement of security evaluations. The components of the Federal Government who will participate in this effort include DoD, DoE, the Department of State, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Counterintelligence Executive.

13 May 2003 FBI Policy of Not Recording Polygraph Interrogations an Issue in Colorado Murder Case
Denver Post reporter Nancy Lofholm reports in an article titled, "Blagg interrogation at issue." Excerpt:

GRAND JUNCTION - On the morning of Feb. 5, 2002, Michael Blagg failed a two-hour polygraph exam conducted by an FBI expert. Later that day, after more than 10 total hours of interrogation, Blagg allegedly broke down, sobbed, prayed and came close to confessing that he killed his wife and daughter, according to investigators.

Jurors will not be told the results of the polygraph exam because it is not admissible in court. And if defense attorneys have their way, jurors also won't hear about Blagg's alleged near-confession about four months after he reported his wife and daughter missing.

Blagg, 40, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Jennifer Blagg, whose body was found in the Mesa County landfill near Grand Junction in June. She had been shot in the head at close range while she slept at the couple's home. Their 6-year-old daughter, Abby, is still missing and presumed dead.

In a day of testimony on a defense motion to suppress information, Blagg's attorney, Mesa County Public Defender David Eisner, attempted to show that Blagg's Feb. 5 statements were coerced and may not have been reported accurately because they were not recorded.

FBI agent Bill Irwin was called in to test Blagg after officers with the Mesa County Sheriff's Department administered a polygraph to Blagg on Nov. 13, 2001, the day he reported his wife and daughter missing. One officer concluded from the first exam that Blagg was being deceptive. A second officer who reviewed the exam results said they were inconclusive.

Irwin said he didn't doubt the results of his test.

"I confronted him (Blagg) when he failed the polygraph," Irwin said on the stand Monday. "I told him 'It's clearly obvious you know where Jennifer and Abby are. and you can take me to them."'

Irwin said that because of the results of the polygraph, he spent the next two hours interrogating Blagg. Investigators with the Sheriff's Department took over and questioned Blagg for another four hours.

One of Eisner's key contentions is that the polygraph and subsequent interrogation were not recorded and thus might not be accurate. Another FBI agent and two sheriff's investigators took notes during the polygraph and questioning from a video feed.

The questioning was not taped because the FBI has a policy of not allowing video or audio taping of polygraphs unless FBI administrators grant special permission. Irwin said he has never recorded any of the more than 700 polygraph exams he has administered in nearly 17 years with the FBI.

An FBI spokeswoman in Denver said she doesn't have an explanation for the no-recording policy. "We've just never done it," spokeswoman Ann Atanasio said. "That's always been our policy."

The FBI's deliberate policy of not recording polygraph interrogations gives FBI polygraphers carte blanche to use coercive (and even illegal) interrogation tactics secure in the knowledge that any misconduct on the polygrapher's part can never be proven in court. For more on FBI Special Agent Bill Irwin, see the public statement of Captain Christopher J. Stein, whom SA Irwin accused of being a spy.

For more on the harm that the FBI's policy of not recording polygraph examinations has caused, see U.S. Attorney James B. Comey's Report to Judge Jed S. Rakoff on the Polygraph Interrogation of Abdallah Higazy and the discussion thread, Polygraph helps coerce false confession.

11 May 2003 Two Agents in FBI's Los Angeles Chinese Counterintelligence Unit Reportedly Failed Polygraph
Washington Post staff writer Susan Schmidt reports in an article titled, "Physicist's Case Examined for Link to Alleged Spy." Excerpt:

FBI inspectors are now poring over the activities of [former Supervisory Special Agent James J.] Smith's squad. According to sources with knowledge of the FBI's Los Angeles office, two other agents who worked with the Chinese counterintelligence unit failed polygraph examinations in the past several years and were assigned less sensitive duties. One of the agents was put on administrative leave and has left the bureau, the sources said.

8 May 2003 73% Polygraph Failure Rate Reported for Yolo Co., Calif. Sheriff's Office Applicants
Davis Enterprise staff writer Elisabeth Sherwin reports in an article titled, "Sheriff Prieto pushes high standards." Excerpt:

[Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto] said 15 people interviewed recently to become deputy sheriffs. As part of the screening process, candidates are routinely given polygraph tests. Out of the 15 who took the test, only four passed and maybe one will be hired, he said.

7 May 2003 Polygraph at Issue in U.S. v. James J. Smith
On Wednesday, 7 May 2003, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted former FBI supervisory special agent James J. Smith over his handling of confidential informant and accused Chinese double agent Katrina M. Leung. The indictment alleges Smith failed to report Leung's refusal in 1991 to submit to a polygraph examination and instead represented to the FBI that the information provided by Leung was supported by polygraph results. Excerpt:

X. On or about May 31, 1991, defendant SMITH requested that Katrina Leung take a polygraph examination to establish her continuing bona fides and reliability. Katrina Leung refused to take a polygraph examination. Defendant SMITH never reported Katrina Leung's refusal to take a polygraph examination to the FBI.

XI. On or about June 7, 1991, defendant SMITH submitted to the FBI a required periodic asset evaluation report relating to Katrina Leung. In this report, defendant SMITH stated that Leung was "reliable" and that her reliability and bona fides had been tested, checked, and reviewed in part through the use of a polygraph examination. Defendant SMITH failed to disclose material information in this report, including: (1) that he was involved in a sexual relationship with Katrina Leung; (2) that Katrina Leung had admitted secret unauthorized communications with an MSS officer "Mao"; (3) that Katrina Leung had stated that the MSS officer "Mao" had learned Leung was an FBI asset; and (4) that, in May 1991, Katrina Leung had refused to take a polygraph examination.

The full text of the indictment in U.S. v. James J. Smith may be downloaded here:

4 May 2003 "Lies, damned lies ... and truth?"
Jeff Daniel reports for the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. Excerpt:

Now that the Modesto, Calif., case involving Laci Peterson has evolved into the latest high-profile murder turned media spectacle, one of the questions surrounding defendant/husband Scott Peterson will likely be this: Why hasn't he taken a lie detector test to back up that "not guilty" plea?

At this point, we expect such a move. After all, the polygraph has a history of making its way into these crime-of-the-century cases. Lindbergh baby kidnaper Bruno Hauptmann reportedly wanted to take one, but never got the chance. O.J. Simpson supposedly failed his but denied that it ever took place. John and Patsy Ramsey passed one administered under their own terms, as did former congressman Gary Condit - but skeptical authorities questioned the defendants' home-field advantage in both instances.

As for the public expecting a polygraph to enter the picture once again ... well, actual events and those portrayed on television and in the movies - from "Law and Order" to "Meet the Parents" - have teamed up to make that little box of wires a pop culture icon. This, despite the fact that the vast majority of us will never come into personal contact with a polygraph. This, despite the fact that the validity of the process itself has sometimes come under fire.

"Popular culture and the mass media often portray lie detectors as magical mind-reading machines," the National Academy of Sciences said in a research report released last year. "The mystique surrounding the exams - instead of a solid scientific foundation - may account for much of their usefulness to authorities."

To be fair, the report also said that in specific event testing, as opposed to general screening, the results are "well above chance, but they are far from perfect."

What comes across in the media, then, obviously is a lot less complicated than the behind-the-scenes reality of the lie detection business. On TV and on the big screen, results come quickly and are rarely challenged. Accused adulterers get swift justice after being tested on the daytime talk-show carnivals. Criminals break under the polygraph pressure on the nightly detective shows.

"What people are seeing is probably about 80 percent myth and strictly for entertainment purposes," says Dan Sosnowski, a board member of the American Polygraph Association. "The vast majority of criminal polygraph examinations take anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours. Sometimes longer."

A correctly administered test also shouldn't involve multiple questioners and rapid-fire questions, a staple of the fictional lie detector process, Sosnowski says.

Test operator "is key"

What is pretty much true to form, however, is the look of the machine itself. Rubber tubes are placed around the subject's abdomen and chest, and a blood pressure cuff goes on the arm. Tiny metal plates are clipped to the finger tips. During the exam, the polygrapher records breathing rate, heart rate and perspiration rate. These are measured in response to a series of relevant questions ("Did you harm your wife?"), control questions ("Have you ever harmed anything before?") and irrelevant questions ("Is your shirt blue?").

Sosnowski says the accuracy rate of a test designed for a specific incident - say, a murder - is about 94 percent.

"That's if you follow the rules and the procedures," explains the former Chicago-area police officer. "The individual giving the test is the key. If that person can't formulate the proper questions, then the other guy is going to beat him."

Those formulating the questions will have completed training at one of the approximately 20 schools that the polygraph association recognizes and accredits. As for government regulation, 29 states require a license for operation. Illinois does, Missouri does not. While Sosnowski has a private practice, a large number of polygraphers in the United States work for federal, state and local agencies. Many are hired to do internal screening of employees and potential employees at such places as the FBI and CIA, a process barred in private workplaces by Congress in 1988.

The polygraph screening tests, as evidenced by the NAS report, have regularly come under fire, and even Sosnowski admits that not enough evidence exists to completely support the process: "All our studies and research, for the most part, have addressed criminal type cases."

Former FBI agent Drew Richardson, now a leading opponent of the polygraph tests that he once researched at the FBI, calls the examinations not only worthless, but harmful.

"Polygraph depends on a universal bluff," Richardson says. "And that bluff is that there is some diagnostic value to (the test.) Of course, that bluff is continually reduced as people become more aware of the whole thing."

Those who are aware include some of the testers, adds Richardson, but he feels they ignore this because they see utility in terms of getting confessions.

"Well, in order to do that, you have to maintain this almost comical bluff that it does have meaning - or else nobody would confess to something that didn't have any."

"Trickery - not science"

Richardson's writings and congressional testimony often end up on the Internet site Co-founded in 2000 by Gino Scalabrini and George Maschke, the site serves as a clearinghouse for news stories and personal testimonials that challenge lie detection's credibility.

Maschke's involvement stems from a polygraph test that he says kept him from joining the FBI in 1995. He was accused of deception - a charge he vehemently denies. He soon discovered that others out there shared his fate.

"I think most Americans see the polygraph as I once did: as an admittedly imperfect but nonetheless science-based technique that has some, perhaps even a high degree, of validity," the Netherlands-based Maschke wrote in a recent e-mail exchange. "We're trying to change that perception by informing the public about the trickery - not science - behind the polygraph."

2 May 2003 "Lie Detector Test an Issue in Spy Case"
Los Angeles Times staff writers Greg Krikorian and Scott Glover report. Excerpt:

Years before Katrina Leung's arrest for allegedly obtaining secret documents for China, officials at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., suggested that she submit to a polygraph test because of questions about her reliability, according to federal law enforcement officials.

But Leung, who allegedly worked for China for decades while the FBI thought she was spying for the United States, never took the test in the mid-1990s.

One former Justice Department official involved in the Leung case said she refused to take the test. Other sources close to the investigation say that although it is certain she did not take a test, the reason is unclear. The sources said they could find no written record of any refusal by Leung.

"All we know is that she didn't take it," said one official.

Janet I. Levine, one of Leung's lawyers, said her client had never refused an order to take a polygraph test. "Katrina Leung did as she was directed, and was at all times a loyal American," Levine wrote in a prepared statement.

In a telephone interview, Levine said she knew neither whether the topic of a polygraph had been broached on a less formal basis nor whether Leung may have said she preferred not to take the exam.

Leung was arrested April 9 with her longtime handler, former FBI agent James J. Smith. Smith's attorney, Brian Sun, said that his client never received a directive from FBI headquarters in the mid-1990s to have Leung take a polygraph.

It was unclear whether a lie detector test could have helped the FBI uncover Leung's alleged treachery years before May 2000, when the bureau launched an investigation into her and Smith, her longtime FBI contact and alleged lover.

Sources close to the investigation say that Leung, a highly regarded informant for nearly two decades, passed two lie detector tests in the 1980s. The suggestion that she be given another exam in the mid-1990s was prompted by "inconsistencies" in some of her reports to the FBI, but it was never pressed by headquarters, according to one official. Home Page > Polygraph News