You’ve probably never wondered why the Department of Defense relies so heavily on the polygraph. Likewise, you’ve probably never thought about how polygraph technology has maintained its place as the only DoD-approved credibility assessment technology. After reading the details in my latest nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, you’ll know why and how.
On no fewer than three occasions since 2004, top DoD officials — including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper while he was serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence in 2007 — have declared the polygraph to be the only such technology approved for use by DoD personnel. Though many on the front lines, including elite U.S. Special Operations personnel I interviewed for the book, ignored the DoD declarations for as long as they possibly could (see Sample Chapter for details), the Pentagon’s polygraph-only stance remains in place today and is having an often-deadly impact in the form of “Green-on-Blue” attacks against American and Coalition Forces personnel in Afghanistan.
As I explained yesterday, part of the blame for DoD’s polygraph-only stance lies in the fact that DoD officials withheld critical information from members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee when they were conducting an inquiry into the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and at other detention facilities in Iraq (i.e., Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca) in 2008.
That wasn’t all they kept to themselves. DoD officials also withheld critical information about an Air Force talking paper on Relevant/Irrelevant Screening Tests (R/IST) conducted on detainees in the Iraqi theater of operations from Aug. 1, 2004, to Oct. 15, 2006.
Notable among the 50-page document’s results, found after conducting polygraph tests on 768 detainees, was the finding that “detainee personnel are just as likely to have committed the suspected act as not.” That finding stemmed from the fact that 47 percent of the tests yielded “No Deception Indicated” results while 46 percent yielded “Deception Indicated” and seven percent “No Opinion.”
In addition to the fact the tests yielded results showing polygraph no more effective than flipping a coin, a quarter of the polygraph examiners surveyed pointed out problems posed by language barriers.
“The Arabic language itself presents an obstacle due to the different translations and dialect and at times the wrong translation of the question was noted by other interpreters,” one examiner said.
“Many interpreters were not fluent in the written Arabic language, precluding them being used by polygraph,” another reported. “They could not translate questions from English to Arabic and back again.”
“I was fortunate to have had motivated interpreters,” a third responded. “Without them we can’t do the job (without language/culture knowledge).”
A fourth examiner reported, “there was definitely a difference in the level of interpreter experience. Some knew the language and some had a hard time.”
In THE CLAPPER MEMO, a 268-page product of an exhaustive four-year investigation, I highlight the fact that a non-polygraph technology was used at GITMO more than 90 times and achieved a success rate — defined as developing new, previously-unknown intelligence which was independently confirmed or confirmed existing information that otherwise could not be verified — of 92 percent despite the fact most exams were conducted using interpreters.
Now, I ask again: Have you ever wondered how polygraph technology has maintained its position as the only Department of Defense-approved credibility assessment technology?
In their endorsement of THE CLAPPER MEMO, Gold Star parents Billy and Karen Vaughn used words such as “dirty little secrets of politics and greed” and “filthy backroom deals” to describe events and actions that have enabled the polygraph to remain DoD’s credibility assessment technology of choice. The Vaughns lost their son, U.S. Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn, two years and one day ago in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan that is the subject of a soon-to-be-published book, BETRAYED: The High Cost of the War on Terror, co-authored by Billy.
Retired U.S. Navy SEAL Capt. Larry W. Bailey, co-founder of Special Operations Speaks and former commander of the U.S. Navy SEALs Basic Underwater Demoliton/SEALs (“BUD/S”) Training Program, describes what I uncovered in THE CLAPPER MEMO as “an unconscionable cover-up.”