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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 12:32pm

    help me out here...

    How does the government look any different from thugs in this case?

    Maybe I am missing something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pegr, 17 Nov 2014 @ 12:41pm

    Citation needed

    "crime of teaching someone to lie while undergoing a government polygraph"

    I am unfamiliar with that law. Could someone please cite it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris Brand, 17 Nov 2014 @ 12:46pm

    Hmmm

    Isn't that rather like prosecuting somebody for telling people 'When they ask you "what number am I thinking of ?" during your interview, the answer is usually "7"'.
    It's the reliance on a test that can be beaten so easily that's wrong, not the person telling people how to do it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 12:49pm

    So while insisting that the Polygraph is an effective test, they pursue charges against someone for teaching people how to beat it. That level of doublethink is reserved for biblical literalists and the Federal government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:18pm

      Re:

      C.f., The Emperor Ha No Clothes

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anti-Interrogated LLC., 17 Nov 2014 @ 2:08pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          orbitalinsertion (profile), 17 Nov 2014 @ 4:04pm

          Re: Have I got a deal for you

          I'd like to offer a small testimonial and thanks for the course section How to remain calm yet pretend you are drowning while being waterboarded and/or keelhauled. It really works!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anti-Interrogated LLC, 18 Nov 2014 @ 7:10am

            Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 12:52pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:06pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 12:58pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pegr, 17 Nov 2014 @ 3:25pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 6:25pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 8:49pm

      Re: Borderline speech

      For the government to prove fraud, they first have to prove the polygraph is scientifically valid.
      Voodoo would be more scientific, due to ritualistic use of pharmaceuticals that can be duplicated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hoare (profile), 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:11pm

    Anyone that can read a .pdf can beat a polygraph.
    https://antipolygraph.org/lie-behind-the-lie-detector.pdf

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:13pm

    deja vu

    Isn't this the same stink people raised about the "Anarchist Cookbook"?

    ie: "You're teaching people information already easily available via a number of sources, such as the library or the internet!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:24pm

      Re: deja vu

      I've lived your comment. I'm missing a few fingertips from playing with home-made explosives when I was 13. This with information found entirely within my school library.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:13pm

    Polygraph? Tea leaves? Oujia board? Palm reading?

    No difference, really.

    And these are the people that we're supposed to trust with national security?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:16pm

    Really?

    > "obtain and maintain positions of Federal employment"

    They must be referring to every politician ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:21pm

    Re: 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Beech, 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:24pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 10:31pm

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:33pm

    Re: 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:43pm

      Re: Re: deja vu

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


      Is Loomponics Books still around? Check their catalog if they are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    George Maschke, 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:35pm

    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-n sa/

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:40pm

    Re: deja vu

    He could have avoided the trouble by not responding to individual inquiries or have terminated the conversation when the purported customer mentioned his unclean motives.

    Sting operations as proof of thought crimes are only effective, because people keep being stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Deputy Dickwad (profile), 17 Nov 2014 @ 1:57pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 2:16pm

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    k-h, 17 Nov 2014 @ 2:42pm

    By doing this, aren't they admtting

    By doing this, aren't they admitting that the polygraph is ineffective?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 2:42pm

    How about a map?

    Are we going to prosecute people who teach others how to read a map? After all, a map can show a criminal where to hide and how to get there, where the police are most likely to be, where high value targets are and which direction the nearest law enforcement evading national border is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 17 Nov 2014 @ 3:55pm

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 5:22pm

    Infallible

    To say, "Polygraph technology is far from infallible," is like saying, "I am far from inheriting the throne of Britain (through the German side of my family lineage)."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2014 @ 11:36pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 9:50am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 12:01pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2014 @ 11:14pm

      Re: JUNK SCIENCE

      Because most of them are psychology types, masquerading as someone with a real science degree. Psychology is not a formal science. It more like fishing with an accordion, makes a lot of noice, but does nothing really.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 6 Dec 2014 @ 12:26pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Prashanth (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 4:59am

    George Costanza's response

    I'll just post a Seinfeld quote, made by George Costanza, as it seems quite relevant regarding the federal government's stance on polygraph effectiveness. (Plus, it was George's own advice on beating the polygraph.)
    "Jerry, just remember, it's not a lie if you believe it."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 18 Nov 2014 @ 5:21am

    If the test is beatable how is it not fallible

    As in inaccurate, and therefore their whole case seems to be nonsense and fearmongering

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2014 @ 8:05am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 11:40am

      Don't give them ideas.

      No, I'm waiting for the Prison Question, which is very similar to the Jewish Question.

      I mean the environment we stuff our convicts into is already a miserable, inhumane place, right? So processing our prisoners more permanently would be a more humane solution.

      Right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 9:37pm

        Re: Don't give them ideas.

        Corpses can't be forced to work to 'help pay the costs of their incarceration'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Nov 2014 @ 9:52pm

          The cost of incarceration...

          Is probably more than the value of the labor... to the state. To the company that runs the prison, the labor is pure gravy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 19 Nov 2014 @ 2:46am

            Re: The cost of incarceration...

            To the state as a whole, probably not. However, individual politicians aren't the ones paying out those costs, but they are the ones getting generous 'campaign contributions' from the private prisons in order to support or 'help along' their 'tough on crime' stance.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Dec 2014 @ 11:09pm

    What a load of BS !! Beaten the polygraph multiple times, used countermeasures, and the idiot running the machine was none the wiser. Teaching someone to beat the machine (its really the operator) is not a crime. Doug will prevail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Financial Education, 24 Mar 2015 @ 4:20am

    Magnifique!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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