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30 April 2004 Connecticut: "Former Trooper Awarded $225,000"
This article by Hartford Courant staff writer Tracy Gordon Fox is cited here in full.

BRIDGEPORT -- In what her attorney called "a victory for the rights of whistleblowers," a jury awarded a former state trooper $225,000 Thursday for being punished after she raised concerns about the accuracy of the state police polygraph unit.

Adrienne LaMorte sued her former supervisor, state police Major John Leonard, for transferring her after she complained about Sgt. Randolph Howell, her immediate superior in the polygraph unit. She said he was conducting polygraph examinations in an incompetent manner, according to the lawsuit.

The case, which was heard in federal court, raised some serious issues within the state polygraph unit, which Howell still supervises. The jury found that LaMorte's rights to free speech were violated.

LaMorte's attorney, Karen Lee Torre of New Haven, said the lawsuit was "a victory for the rights of state employees to freely speak about what their agencies are doing wrong."

"Instead of doing the right thing, they ended up punishing the whistleblower."

Leonard is now retired from the state police. Assistant Attorney General Joseph Jordiano, who represented Leonard in the trial, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Thursday that his office would determine whether an appeal was necessary.

"We will review the evidence presented at trial and recommend the state police do so as well."

Sgt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman, said he knew of no problems within the polygraph unit.

Among the questionable polygraph tests were those given to suspected child molesters, who Howell said had passed when the evidence showed they had scored in the failing range, Torre said. Although polygraphs are not used in criminal trials, they are often used as an investigative tool for police and prosecutors. During the trial, another former state trooper testified that he also had concerns about how the polygraphs were being done.

"These were important cases and decisions were made based on those," Torre said.

In June 2000, LaMorte told Leonard, who was then commanding officer of the division of the state police that oversees the polygraph unit, that Howell "did not possess the knowledge, skill or competence to perform polygraph examinations and had conducted examinations in a manner which fell far below the standards."

According to the lawsuit, two months after LaMorte complained about the polygraph unit, Leonard brought charges against her for allegedly violating rules of confidentiality for polygraph examinations and being rude to an examinee. As a result of those two complaints, LaMorte was issued a written reprimand and transferred from the unit.

It should be noted that the Connecticut State Police (CSP) polygraph unit headed by Sgt. Randolph Howell brands some 60% of CSP applicants who advance as far in the hiring process as the polygraph as liars.

30 April 2004 Manchester, NH: "Amie's boyfriend told he failed lie detector"
Union Leader staff writer Kathryn Marchocki reports. Excerpt:

MANCHESTER ?The boyfriend of Amie Lynn Riley, whose decomposed body was found in a swamp Saturday, voluntarily submitted to nearly three hours of questioning by Manchester police detectives yesterday and took a polygraph, which he was told he failed, he said.

"I got nothing to hide. Absolutely nothing to hide," said Joseph A. Pelletier IV, 22, of Lincoln.

Sobbing in his father's arms outside the police station after the grueling session, Pelletier said police told him he missed one question.

Pelletier's father, Joseph A. Pelletier III, said his son was asked "does he feel he may have had some impact on her death or something like that and he (his son) said 'no' and it spiked."

Polygraph results are not admissible in court and often are regarded as questionable, said Manchester attorney Richard McNamara. Moreover, that Pelletier said police told him he failed the test doesn't necessarily mean he had.

Police are permitted under the Constitution to lie to people they interview, Manchester criminal defense attorney Cathy Green said, speaking generally.

"They can lie about their investigation. They can lie about the results of their investigation. And that's generally held to be a permissible interrogation technique," Green said.

Assistant Attorney General David A. Ruoff, who is in charge of the case, would not confirm or deny whether Pelletier took a polygraph. Nor would he confirm or deny Pelletier's account that he was told he failed it.

Pelletier said he also gave police a DNA sample during his interview.

A composite sketch was made of a man about two to three months ago based on a description given by a female witness at the Hog's Trough Saloon, a source said.

Ruoff acknowledged a composite exists, but said it hasn't been made public because there is no evidence of a link to Riley's disappearance.

"We have no evidence that the composite we have, which is the result of an interview from an unrelated incident not involving Amie Riley, is connected to her disappearance," Ruoff said.

The composite is based on information given by a female cook at the club interviewed weeks to a month after Riley's disappearance.

"Because the interview was generated as part of the background investigation on this case, it's still part of the case file even though we think it's part of the file that doesn't bear any relevance to her disappearance," he added.

Riley's death is being treated as suspicious. Experts have yet to rule on cause and manner of death given the body's advanced decomposition.

Pelletier said he first reported Riley, 20, missing to Manchester police after he couldn't find her at the Hog's Trough Saloon on Lincoln Street where he earlier dropped her and a friend off on Aug. 15.

Pelletier said he agreed to take a polygraph last month when a Manchester detective came to Lincoln to go over the statement he gave police.

Riley's nude body was found six days before the scheduled polygraph lying face down in the water off Stark Lane near Interstate 293. A small purse, black bustier and other dark-colored garments were scattered along the dirt trail leading to the water.

Pelletier said Riley, who dressed almost exclusively in the "Goth" look, was wearing a black bustier, black skirt and long, black coat with a feathery boa fringe when he dropped her off at the Hog's Trough Saloon.

Pelletier had been living with Riley, first at his father's Londonderry townhouse and then in their own apartment at 315 Cedar St., before she went missing on Aug. 15.

"I loved her, you know?" a weeping Pelletier said.

"She's unique. She's beautiful. She's brilliant," he said.

12 April 2004 "FBI test detects Colombia 'liars'"
This short BBC News article is cited here in full:

A lie detector test carried out on employees at Colombia's Prosecutor General's office has produced an embarrassing 20% failure rate.

The FBI-administered test was designed to root out corruption, including involvement in drugs trafficking or guerrilla and paramilitary groups.

Employees have complained that the test represented an "unacceptable interference" in their personal lives.

And Prosecutor General Luis Camilo Osorio has played down the results.

Corrupt past

The test was designed to assess the honesty of some of the 18,000 people employed by Colombia's state prosecution service.

The employees were asked questions about bribe-taking and any involvement in the drugs trade or Colombia's civil war.

A former head of Colombia's anti-corruption programme has condemned the "plague of corruption".

About 90% of crimes in the country - wracked by a long-running murderous civil war - are estimated to go unpunished.

Osorio: agrees the prosecution is having a "bad moment"

The revelation that one in five of the employees who took the test failed has put the authorities in a difficult position, says the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Bogota.

If they sack all those who failed, justice in Colombia - such as it is - would grind to a halt, he says.

Mr Osorio has admitted that the institution is going through a "bad moment".

But he denied that the results were a disaster and said those that failed would not automatically lose their jobs.


The El Tiempo newspaper reports that a group of employees in the National Counter Narcotics and Maritime Interdiction Unit (Unaim) have complained about the tests.

In a letter, they spoke of the "disrespect" and "humiliation" of being tested, and insisted that the test constituted "unacceptable interference in our personal life".

In response, Mr Osorio agreed to ask the FBI agents not to delve into intimate matters, but said the tests would continue, particularly for individuals holding or aspiring to top posts and others involved in US programmes.

With regard to 20% of Colombian Prosecutor General's Office employees failing lie detector tests administered by the FBI, it is worth noting that when the FBI began such screening of FBI applicants back in 1994, it began by testing a class new employees who had just begun training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Reportedly, about half of the class failed! What did they FBI do? They quietly swept it under the rug. Which is just as well, since polygraph screening has zero diagnostic value.

9 April 2004 "Lie detectors are likely lying themselves"
USA Today technology writer Andrew Kantor comments on polygraphs in his weekly CyberTalk column. Excerpt:

I learn a lot watching television. That is, I learn a lot by watching television and thinking, "That can't be right!" then doing the research to find the full story.

Television butchers technology. It has to. There's no time in your average crime drama, say, to go into the details of tracking a cell phone or running someone's DNA; what takes seconds on TV often takes hours in the real world. (I understand that they've only got 42 minutes to work with, so I don't sweat the time thing.) It's when they deviate from reality so much that my goat gets got.

For example, I gather I'm one of the few Americans who doesn't watch 24. I stopped after the first episode of the first season, when Jack Bauer (that's Kiefer Sutherland to you and me) demanded of his geek-in-residence, "I need every Internet password associated with this phone number!" And he got it. It just doesn't work like that.

One thing occasionally comes up on TV that I wasn't sure which category it belonged to--"accurate but glossed over" or "totally wrong." That was polygraphs. Lie detectors. On TV, the suspect is hooked up to a machine that traces a dozen or so lines on scrolling graph paper. When she tells the truth, the lines barely move. When she lies, the lines vibrate like a seismograph in an 8.0 earthquake.

My guess was that in the real world a lie isn't quite so obvious, but that a trained examiner would be able to spot it right away.

Boy was I wrong.

It turns out that polygraphy is not only an incredibly inexact science, but that reading the results of a lie detector is almost entirely subjective. In short, lie detectors don't work. But people's lives have been ruined by them.

The problem isn't that the machines don't record something--they do: heart rate, respiration, sweat-gland activity, and so on. But what the changes in those numbers mean is entirely up to interpretation.

Obviously there are two sides to this. On the one you have the American Polygraph Association (APA) and some law enforcement agencies. Neither of these are what you would call objective. The APA's existence depends on people accepting that lie detectors work, and as we've seen all too often, police and district attorneys are happy to have something that appears to provide evidence that can convict someone. (Lie detector tests are rarely allowed as evidence against someone in court -- that should tell you something -- but "failing" a test can sway public opinion, and jury members aren't hermits.)

On the other side you have, well, dozens of groups and organizations with names like and If you're like me, you might at first blush think these are fringe groups with their own (hidden) agenda, and that they aren't about to provide unbiased information. After all, there's always a conspiracy theorist to be found.

Except that also on the anti-polygraph side I found the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and 60 Minutes. They all found essentially the same thing: Lie detectors show what the examiners want them to show.

25 March 2004 A Rejoinder on Polygraph
Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy comments in his Secrecy News e-mail publication:


It is not correct to say that no spy has ever been caught as a result of polygraph testing.

John F. Sullivan, who served as a CIA polygrapher for 31 years, wrote to set the record straight, noting that the polygraph played a role in the identification of spies such as Sharon Scranage and James Nicholson.

See his "Rejoinder on Polygraph" here:

Mr. Sullivan is not an uncritical proponent of polygraph testing. Nor does he insist, against the findings of the National Academy of Sciences and others, that the polygraph is scientifically valid in the way that other diagnostic tools are.

"I have always believed that trying to sell polygraph as a science was a mistake, and as I stated in my book, polygraph is 92% art and 8% science," he told Secrecy News.

"There are Rembrandts and finger painters among polygraph examiners, and when done by a 'Rembrandt,' polygraph is very effective," he wrote in an email. "When done by a finger painter, polygraph is ineffective, often abusive, and can be dangerous."

This is a striking analogy since it places the emphasis on the intuitive gifts of the examiner rather than on the technique or technology of the test. One can study and teach painting, but no training program can reliably produce "Rembrandts" at will.

18 March 2004 "Outspoken nuclear scientist 'forced out' over polygraph row"
Jonathan Knight reports in the news section of the journal Nature, Vol. 428, p. 243. This short article is cited here in full:

A national security expert says he was forced to resign last year because of his vocal opposition to the use of lie detectors at his nuclear weapons lab.

Alan Zelicoff, formerly a senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, last week spoke for the first time about his resignation last July. He quit following disciplinary action against him for public criticism of polygraph testing. The lab denies any link between Zelicoff's departure and his public statements.

The Department of Energy instituted routine polygraph screening for employees at all nuclear weapons laboratories in 1999 to check for leaks of classified information. Zelicoff headed the many scientists at Sandia who objected to the move.

He published opinion pieces and cited research that suggested polygraph tests might finger innocent employees rather than catching spies.

A series of disciplinary actions followed the outbursts, culminating in a week-long suspension from the lab in June 2003, according to internal memos provided by Zelicoff. When he returned, he was barred from working on the disease-surveillance software he had developed (see Nature 411, 228; 2001). The lab claimed there was a commercial conflict of interest, which he denies.

John German, a spokesman for Sandia, said that while he could not discuss Zelicoff's case, lab employees must follow procedures before speaking publicly on matters of national security. The lab memos refer to failures in this area, as well as to an alleged security infraction.

Zelicoff insists that he followed necessary procedures and says the charges in the memos are groundless. He spoke out about the affair after becoming frustrated that members of Congress to whom he had complained failed to act. Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, is dismayed by Zelicoff's claims: "It tells scientists not to rock the boat."

11 March 2004 The Polygraph vs. National Security
Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy comments in his Secrecy News e-mail publication:


As a technology for counterintelligence security screening, the polygraph has been a spectacular failure. It is hard to recall the last time that polygraph screening uncovered an actual spy, and easy to think of spies who had no difficulty escaping its clutches.

But U.S. government polygraph policy continues to penalize innocent individuals, and those who presume to challenge that policy.

Alan P. Zelicoff, a distinguished physician and expert on biological weapons arms control, was driven to resign his position as Senior Scientist at Sandia National Laboratories last year as a consequence of his outspoken criticism of polygraph testing.

For his diverse technical contributions, Zelicoff had been awarded Sandia's Meritorious Achievement Award on several occasions as recently as 2002.

But after publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post last year criticizing the Lab's polygraph policy, he was suspended and accused of "insubordination."

Zelicoff was banned from working on a counterterrorism software tool he had invented to facilitate rapid reporting of disease outbreaks. When he continued to speak out on the polygraph, he was suspended a second time. Finally, he quit.

The polygraph won, but the Lab, and the nation that turns to it for scientific expertise, lost.

"As the only senior [Sandia] scientist who had also practiced medicine, I knew that continuation of polygraphs was going to be a disaster for individuals at Sandia and elsewhere in the DOE complex," Dr. Zelicoff wrote recently. "And indeed it was."

See his account of the episode in "The Polygraph Vs. National Security," March 11, here:

Convicted spy Aldrich Ames offered an impudent but rather perceptive commentary on the polygraph in this 2000 letter he wrote to FAS from Allenwood federal penitentiary, where he is incarcerated:

In recent years, CIA polygraph examiners have added a new question to their standard exam, which is also asked in some official background investigations: Do you have friends in the media?

3 March 2004 Mississippi: "Bill Would Ease Lie Detector Rules"
Geoff Pender reports for the Sun Herald:

JACKSON - A bill before the House would more clearly give law enforcement officers permission to use the latest in "lie detector" technology.

Many police departments in Mississippi, including Biloxi's, already use computerized voice stress analysis equipment, instead of the older Polygraph machines, for hiring interviews and questioning of suspects. The new law would allow police who have had CVSA training to use the equipment without being certified Polygraph operators.

Both tests are inadmissible as evidence in court but can provide police with information on where to focus an investigation.

"We have used the Polygraph since the 1980s," said Biloxi Police Chief Bruce Dunagan, who was at the Capitol on Tuesday. "We now have five or six trained CVSA operators. They're not foolproof. A person who is a very good liar or convinced they are telling the truth can pass. But they are a useful tool."

Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett, former Biloxi chief, said his department also uses the new equipment.

The bill referred to in this article is Mississippi House Bill 309, details of which are available here: Home Page > Polygraph News