Feds Indict Another Person For Teaching People How To Beat Polygraph Tests

from the it's-blue-it's-blue-the-goddamn-pen-is-blue dept

Polygraph technology is far from infallible and has been for so long that it’s practically common knowledge. And yet, the federal government still wants everyone to believe polygraphs tests separate the honest from the liars with incredibly high accuracy. So, it cracks down on those who claim to be able to help others beat the tests.

In 2012, federal agents began investigating Chad Dixon and Doug Williams, two men who sold books, videos and personal instruction sessions on beating polygraph tests. Late last year, Dixon was sentenced to eight months in prison for obstruction and wire fraud charges. The government claimed his actions jeopardized national security, pointing to a client list that included intelligence employees, law enforcement agents and sex offenders.

The government has just handed down an indictment [pdf link] of its second target — former Oklahoma City police polygraph administrator Doug Williams.

The 69-year-old Norman, Oklahoma, man is the owner of Polygraph.com and charged customers thousands of dollars for instructions on how to beat lie detector tests administered for federal employment suitability assessments, federal security background investigations, and internal federal agency investigations, court documents show.

The government wants to see Williams locked up for fraud, claiming his polygraph-beating business allowed unqualified applicants to “obtain and maintain positions of Federal employment” and the “salary attendant to such positions.”

The 23-page indictments details the fed’s sting operation, which utilized two undercover agents posing as potential government employees with shady pasts. In both cases, the agents made Williams aware of past wrongdoing (over his initial objections) that should disqualify them from positions in the DHS or Border Patrol. Williams, unfortunately, decided to follow through with personally training both agents, despite his initial hesitance to knowingly assist admitted criminals with obtaining government jobs.

The indictment said that, during a telephone call with an undercover federal agent, Williams said, “I haven’t lived this long and fucked the government this long, and done such a controversial thing that I do for this long, and got away with it without any trouble whatsoever, by being a dumb ass.”

Well, if the indictment is legit, Williams made some dumbass moves. The unanswered question, though, is if providing instructions on how to beat polygraph tests is illegal or protected speech. The judge handling the conviction of Chad Dixon had a hard time finding a “bright line” between the two.

O’Grady acknowledged “the gray areas” between the constitutional right to discuss the techniques and the crime of teaching someone to lie while undergoing a government polygraph. “There’s nothing unlawful about maybe 95 percent of the business he conducted,” the judge said.

Despite this, Judge O’Grady still gave the government what it wanted: a prison sentence to “deter” activities that were “95 percent” free speech. Obviously, the government is hoping for the same outcome here.

The real weakness here is the government’s reliance on polygraph testing, but no one’s interested in addressing that. The government farms out employee vetting to private contractors who can’t be bothered to do the job properly. Negative results are ignored by government agencies when they stand in the way of hiring the people they want to hire.

A system that can be successfully gamed shouldn’t be afforded as much deference (bordering on reverence) as the government gives to polygraph testing. It’s a method that’s just as likely to reject legitimate candidates as it is to be duped by criminals. Prosecuting those who show others how the test can be beaten is nothing more than punishing the symptom because it’s so much easier than dealing with the disease.

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Companies: polygraph.com

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Comments on “Feds Indict Another Person For Teaching People How To Beat Polygraph Tests”

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52 Comments
Anti-Interrogated LLC. says:

Re: Re: Have I got a deal for you

Forget the Emperor and his clothes!

There’s a naked French captain who keeps yelling that there are four lights, and that’s after an extended period of privation and abuse.

Why is that important you might ask?

Because he’s our latest graduate of my course in beating enhanced interrogation techniques! Now you too can learn the simple techniques the pros use when the Feds decide that you’re with the enemy and they really need to know what you know, whether you know it or not!

Polygraphs are finicky, out-dated, and impricise, and intelligence agencies know it. Since then they have worked hard to innovate new inquiry solutions involving extreme temperatures, extreme yoga, and extreme loops of annoying music. For new ways of asking questions, new ways of resisting them are needed.

Stay ahead of the curve, be Anti-InterrogatedTM.

Anti-Interrogated LLC is clearly not real, but federal overreach clearly is.

Anti-Interrogated LLC says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Have I got a deal for you

Thank you for your testimony! Glad you stayed Anti-Interrogated!

These days it’s hard not wedging the tin-foil hat on tight. Considering the feds are also doing their best to bury the Senate torture report, could the lawsuit also double as a distraction?

It probably isn’t, but there would be a kind of audacity to cover-up overreaches by performing other, slightly less heinous, overreaches.

Anonymous Coward says:

For them to charge thousands of dollars for these “secrets” is a ripoff bordering on fraud (That “how to pick up girls” guru only charges $400 for the complete package).

What gives these guys any real authority on the subject anyway? Polygraphs measure stress, nothing more, so the question is, what proof do their polygraph-busting methods have of success in real-life high-stress conditions? I think I’d rather put my money behind someone like CIA spy Aldrich Ames, who actually beat lie detector tests for years and never got caught (lying, that is). Too bad Ames is in prison for life, and no doubt any possible future parole conditions would not look too kindly on him demonstrating his expertise on the subject.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The question isn’t how hyperbolic his marketing efforts are or how much he’s overcharging by, but whether or not he’s teaching techniques that work. I think the odds are excellent that he is, since the techniques are very simple and readily available to begin with. It would take more effort to come up with plausible fake ones than just to teach the real ones.

Anonymous Coward says:

Borderline speech

I think the government’s case is sound, and note that he wasn’t indicted for his public speech — but for knowingly aiding fraud.

If 95 percent of your speech is protected, then so good, but you can still be punished for that remaining unprotected speech.

The lesson kids, if you want to discuss or publish information which may be of use to breaking the law, don’t answer any questions from individuals inquiring about how your information may solve their problem.

I also think it’s beside the point if the fraud is likely to succeed.

If I try to counterfeit money or fake documents, but am really bad at it, or my method doesn’t work, I do not get off the hook because I am a stupid criminal.

The First Amendment is not a get out of jail card for unprotected speech, just because you happen to engage in protected speech.

Pegr (profile) says:

Re: Borderline speech

Nope. He did not facilitate fraud. If he had, could you point to the defrauded party? He spoke to an undercover government witness. At no time was fraud even possible, let alone likely. If it were, would they not be forced to prosecute the government witness for illegal knowledge?

This thing stinks, and the Feds are going to lose badly. This is not a defendant that will roll over like the last guy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Borderline speech


Nope. He did not facilitate fraud. If he had, could you point to the defrauded party? He spoke to an undercover government witness.

The defrauded party is the government employer, and it is of no consequence that the person initiating the conversation was a law enforcement undercover agent.

You are welcome to argue that the government’s case is legally unsound, but we shall see, I expect that he will either plead guilty or that the courts will uphold the sting operation as constitutional.

Anonymous Coward says:

deja vu

No, the cookbook like other bomb making information is legal, but if someone asks in a private conversation if you can provide him with the book and he says he needs the information to build a bomb, you are guilty of conspiracy whether or not he succeeds.

Providing information to the public itself is not illegal, but providing same to a law enforcement agent in a sting operation is illegal after you have been informed about the intended (fictitious) crime.

Beech says:

Nuance

It’s more nuanced than many here make it out to be. Analogy time!

SCENARIO 1:) You are a professional locksmith. Mike Masnick is interested in learning how to pick a lock out of pure curiosity. He gives you money to teach him.

SCENARIO 2:) You are a professional locksmith. I tell you I am interested in learning how to pick a lock because there’s some houses I would like to rob. I give you money to teach me.

I think most would agree that scenario 1 is probably pretty legal, but scenario 2 would probably make you an accomplice or co-conspirator or something.

And this isn’t about whether or not the polygraph is the pinnacle or reliability or not. It’s about a man who willingly accepted money to help someone else defraud the government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nuance

Would you be an “accomplice or co-conspirator or something” if you sold urine cleanser to a help someone get clean piss to get a .GOV job even after they told you they had an just happened to take a few bong rips, a dab or two and a fat joint with friends the week before so they needed the “cleanser” to pass?

Anonymous Coward says:

deja vu

yes, and do you see the difference?

The book is legal, otherwise you couldn’t loan it.

However, building a bomb is likely illegal, and aiding a bombmaker with the tools is also illegal.

And that’s regardless of the ‘tool’ being instructions or a map.

Just because words are printed on paper or uttered orally, does not mean that they are protected speech when integral to criminal conduct.

If the government attempted to ban or punish the publishing of the information the issue would be different.

George Maschke (user link) says:

U.S. v. Doug Williams Has Serious Implications for Freedom of Speech

Whatever the legal merits of the government’s allegations against Doug Williams, it seems clear that he has been targeted in order to suppress speech that the government doesn’t like. The only alleged crimes are those that the government itself orchestrated. Despite having seized all of Williams’ business records, including the names of thousands of customers, the indictment doesn’t allege any crime involving an actual customer. Instead the government had to engineer a crime for which to prosecute Williams.

The fact that the government has gone to such great lengths to prosecute a senior citizen is strong circumstantial evidence that 1) the techniques he teaches for passing the polygraph are effective, 2) the government lacks effective means for detecting such techniques, and 3) the government finds this state of affairs deeply troubling. It’s no coincidence that the lead investigators in the case were themselves federal polygraph operators (John R. Schwartz and Fred C. Ball of the Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs polygraph unit).

Rather than using the criminal justice system to silence the person pointing out that the polygraph emperor is naked, perhaps it’s time the U.S. government reassess its misplaced reliance on the pseudoscience of polygraphy.

Incidentally, I’m a co-founder of AntiPolygraph.org, a non-profit, public interest website dedicated to exposing and ending polygraph-related waste, fraud, and abuse. We also provide information to the public (all for free) regarding how to pass or beat a polygraph test. (See our book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 MB PDF)) We make this information available not to help liars beat the system, but to afford truthful persons a means to protect themselves against the random error associated with an invalid test. I have reason to believe that I, too, was the target of an attempted entrapment, as documented here:

https://antipolygraph.org/blog/2013/11/03/an-attempted-entrapment/

I also have reason to believe that visitors to AntiPolygraph.org have been subjected to electronic eavesdropping:

https://antipolygraph.org/blog/2013/10/20/is-antipolygraph-org-being-targeted-by-the-nsa/

I think that everything we’re doing at AntiPolygraph.org is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The criminal justice system should not be wielded as a weapon to stifle speech the government dislikes.

Deputy Dickwad says:

Hang those traitorous terrorist aiding scumbags HIGH!

’cause the prolly taught some Teahadis to avoid the TSA behavior detection officers too!

So charge’em with providing material support to terrorists while they are at it!

Now I’ve taken their course and used plenty of goldenseal, and cathed myself with the urine of a 5yr old to keep my job, but that was all different.

‘Cause I’m here to protect you Citizens!

Anonymous Coward says:

"Assessment" Techniques(??!)

In other news, the Federal Government is exploring goat ranching with an eye to the potential assessment of job candidates by more traditional forms of augury. When asked, unnamed officials replied that they were contemplating the practice, “‘cuz everybody know you can’t fake out goat entrails, or at least nobody’s published a how-to that we can find.” PETA has not yet commented on the possible addition of this technique to the government’s panoply of modern measurement techniques.

Groaker (profile) says:

“It is said that Thoreau’s friend and fellow writer and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived nearby and had given Thoreau the land by Walden Pond, came to visit Thoreau during his brief stay in the Concord jail after Emerson heard what had happened. Upon seeing Thoreau in his cell, Emerson exclaimed “What are you doing in there?” Thoreau immediately responded “What are you doing out there?”

Pretty soon we will all be asking Thoreau’s question, and there will be no one left outside.

Anonymous Coward says:

JUNK SCIENCE

If the US Gov’t continues to use JUNK SCIENCE like the polygraph, they deserve to lose. They deserve to lose out on the very best and brightest employees who are curious enough to go and read the academic psychological literature when they are subjected to JUNK SCIENCE in order to maintain their jobs, or obtain a new job.

Come on! Try to hire the very most intelligent people and subject them to such nonsense and witch trials? And pretend with a straight face that it isn’t JUNK SCIENCE when everybody knows and all the evidence shows otherwise? And expect the very best and brightest won’t figure it out by reading the academic literature???

Lastly, how can people with any honesty and intelligence at all be so-called polygraph “examiners”? Have they no integrity? Obviously not!

What a complete waste of taxpayer money!!! I resent it both as a taxpayer and as a victim of the JUNK SCIENCE witch hunt.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: JUNK SCIENCE

Polygraphs are absolutely junk science. However, when people believed that they were effective, they could be used to good effect. Here’s how it usually goes: after administering the polygraph, the person being tested is told that there are signs of deception (whether or not that’s true). They are told further that they can correct their statements and retake the test. If they do so, then the lie is revealed.

The effectiveness of polygraphs relies entirely on the subject’s belief in the effectiveness of polygraphs. That belief can then be leveraged in order to get them to volunteer that they’ve lied.

The feds know all this, and that’s why they’re so concerned — they need everyone to believe the the polygraph actually functions as an objective lie detector or the process doesn’t work.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: JUNK SCIENCE

Nixon got this started. When the Polygraph first came out he made it a requirement of Hoover’s Special Agents and people with security clearances. When advised that they don’t work very well he expressed that he didn’t care so long as they scared the Hell out of people.

And that may be what the feds are arguing in this case, that training to allegedly fake-out polygraph tests takes away the fear by which they work.

It’s the same sort of logic that incriminates Snowden in some people’s minds and not the people doing the terrible practices he uncovered.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: I dunno. Psychology not only helps people manage issues...

…it also sells people their beer — and their representatives. The whole Republican campaigning strategy is about getting people to think not about their own best interests but voting a certain way because honor or faith or to get back at them damn liberals.

See? Psychology.

Anonymous Coward says:

i wonder, is there anything at all that the feds DONT want to lock people up for? they have this option sitting there all the time, regardless. instead of building new prisons to cater for the increase in jailbirds, it would be easier, cheaper and quicker to just turn the prisons we have already, into work places and the rest of the nation into prisons!

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