Created: 6/1/1960

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TITLE: The Polygraph In Agent Interrogation

AUTHOR: Chester C. Crawford




A collection ol articles on ths historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol intelligence.



All statements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of

ihe authors They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.

Some past results and future prospects for technical



Philosophers and psychologists, and indeed most ofhave always been fascinated with the phenomenonying as an aspect of human behavior. It Is only duringast sixty years, however, that researchers and Investigators have proceeded beyond the study of its cognitive phaseecision to lie) and behavioral phase (the overt act whichcives) to examine its emotional phase (the ensuing bodily agi-tathich is the most significant of the three for purposes of detection. It is therefore only recently that attempts todetect deception have advanced from the uncertainty ofonal Judgment and the brutality of primitive physical ordealsnd torture lo the use of scientific aids In humaneThe "lie detector" or polygraph in useimple but sensitive device for tracing blood pressure, respiration, and perspiration, is the most advanced instrument thus far developed for the detection of deception.

Deception Is intrinsic to espionage activity: tbe abilitylandestine operator to deceive his opponent Is bis most critical qualification. Conversely, however, the ability to detect the deceptions of the opposition is the most critical requirementounterintelligence force, and it was inevitable thatolygraph wouldounterintelligence aid.he use of this Instrumental technique is associated In tbe popular mind primarily with criminal apprehension, theof Its application in clandestine government operations is almost as long as that of its connection with police matters.

Onc of the first plans for Instrumental means to detectwas in connection with clandestine operations. Int the request of the Psychological Committee of the National Research Councfi, research was undertaken, at Harvard University to investigate the value of using instru-

The Polygraph

ments in deception tests on Worldourt-niartlal cases and in Military irfSfilgence Department mvestifationi^enemy agents. Early in Worldn officer of the Berkeley Police Department In California advocated the use of the lie detector in the interests of national defense.5 Leonarde Keeler carried out polygraphlcon several hundred prisoners of war in Rhode Island with an eye to assessing the practicability of lie detection programs in government agencies.

SuccessesIA Program

On8 CIA ran its first polygraphroutine security screening of an applicant.9 it began planning the use of the technique in Europe to test theof agents recruited for clandestine operations.1 It conducted polygraph experiments in the Far East2 the CIA polygraph program was operatingorld-wide basis. Its effectiveness In practice has firmly established italuable adjunct to clandestine operations.

Its achievements can be illustrated in three studiesthe results of polygraphlc interrogation over sampleof time in operational cases from particularareas. The first, covering the period from inaugurations based on the area Interrogators' reports for some three hundred cases. The use of the polygraphlc technique elicited not otherwise obtainable admissions of deception in the following categories from the indicated numbers ofgents.

Falsification of vital statistics (age, birthplace, employment.

education, etc.)

Concealment of past membership in Communist andorganizations

Concealment of other past Commurdst

DecepUon regarding past association with hostile or friendly

foreign Intelligence services18

DecepUon regarding past criminal

Concealment of past undetected

Concealment of aliases H

Deception regarding security elobtUons

DecepUon regarding medical or mental

Tbe filing of falsa*

DecepUon regarding use of

The Polygraph

In addition,nstances of deception indicated by thebut not admitted were*'later conflrmed through'other sources.nstances of Indicated deception remained unconfirmed.

Thus more than one in ten of the agents and prospective agents had deliberately falsified his biographic data; honest biographic mistakes were not counted as deception. Moresix percent of them had hidden their pastwith other intelligence services. It is obvious thatpolygraphlc interrogation this sampleould not have been properly assessed.

In anothergent interrogation reports madeifferent geographic area from January to8 were carefully examined. With the aid of the polygraph the interrogators had obtained previously unknown Information in the following categories from the indicated numbers ofubjects:



Past employmentoreign intelligence

Present employmentoreign Intelligence4

Fabrication of reports 6

Hidden ideological 5

This time at least half the agents were shown to havedeception of some kind, and the percentage is stilltheisted as having misrepresented theirnot include all the deceivers in other categories.had worked for foreign mtelligence services, andwere still so employed At least ten agentsesult of these polygraph interviews. Butthis Is an Important positive product of thecleared of allegations that hadagainst them.

Biographic mfonnatlon

Connteresplonage information

Fast employment by another service

Current employment by another service

Fabrication of operational 'reports';.

Hidden Ideological affiliations (usually CoramnnisUe)

The third study coversgents Interrogated betweenandho revealed previously unknownas follows:

2 10





at least one agent In every three was shown to have practiced deception of some kind. One'm'|seven*was fouhdi to have had past connections with other Intelligence services and one in fourteen to have current affiliations. Theraph Interrogations led to the termination of at least five' of them, and twenty-three were cleared of allegations against; them.

In summary, out of about five hundred agents and pros-whose polygrapbic Interrogations were analyzed instudies, from ten to fifty percent revealedotal of thirty-six agents werehave previously unknown connections with otherservices, some of them current affiliations whichmade them instruments of

Procedures and Limitations

It should be strongly emphasized that these results,unobtainable without tbe polygraph, must not beted to the polygraph fn vacuo. They were achieved byinterrogators using the instrument as an aid todeception in their agent subjects. The interrogator is thoroughly briefed on all aspects of the subject's personality, from sense of humor to skill at sports, on all availabledata, on questionable and verified items in theaccount of bis background, and on the extent of bis access to other intelligence services. He studies the reports from any previous medical or psychiatric examinations and from any previous interrogations, particularly any previous polygraph tests. In consultation with the case officer hethe topics to be covered in the test and constructs questions designed to elicit Information on them. He Isto probe for detail regarding the modus operandi,and tradecraftoreign Intelligence service with which the subject is suspected of having past or present *

The examination beginsre-test period in which the interrogator and the subject preview the questions forand qualification. The examiner often takesof this opportunity to make his own first-handof the subject, chatting about apparently unimportant matters and watching for any tell-tale reactions or idiosyn-


The Polygraph

cxacies that may be exploited in tbe test. Thehen connectedtselfwice, four times, or on occasion many more. Then,tudy of the charts, thereost-testwherein an explanation, admission, or clarification of recorded emotional responses Is sought

The polygraph lays no claim to one-hundred-percentbility. Test results can be as varied as the individualsnd the Interpretation of the charts isimple question of deciding whether the subject reacted or did notany charts are quite definitive; but some indicaterobability, and from two to five percent of the cases tested end up being classified as inconclusive, with crucial areas left unresolved.

Although sources of error in the instrument itself can beis not hard toerfectlyhuman variables In the 'Interrogator and the subject are less easily controlled. And while errorIn the Interrogator can be reduced by careful selection and long training, the endless variety of human subjects and their endless variety of reactions to human situations will not ever be subject to measurement with infallible precision. Different subjects tend to put different weights on the value of individual questions; deceivers may show emotionalonly at the points where they know their fabrication is weakest, and sometimes not even then.

For all this reservation, the polygraph technique hasits place in clandestine operations. Although in many situations there Is no need for polygrapbic scrutiny, theof veracity being more easily resoluble through other sources, in many others, as these studies show, the duplicity of an agent cannot be discovered without the use of theAdd to these revelations the previouslyositive nature thaty-product of an agent's polygraph test and the many cases of confirmedThatroject to get under way, and tbe value of the technique to clandestine operationshing beyond debate.

A more general dividend.realized from the polygraph isjts disciplinary effect on the agent He Isetter clan-

about security for itself and for him. He sees that he will be expected to account for his activities. Loyal agentslways appreciate this attitude and look with greater respect on the American service after their "ordeal"

An even greater role may be played by the technicalof deception in clandestine operations of the future.are Indications that sensational developments areoccur in its instrumentation, and drastic changes inmade possible by the utilization of new recordingThe polygraph of the future may require no physicalon the subject, perhaps utilizing electronic cir-to tap physiological phenomena far more subtlebit as diagnostic as the currently used blood pressurerespiration recordings, etc. It Is unlikely thatwill ever fully eliminate the human variablesany technical assessment less than Infallible, but awritten on this subject ten years from now may showuncertainties and limitations still further


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The Polygraph

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