US goes after schools that teach how to beat polygraph tests

Polygraph examinationBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The United States government has launched an extensive criminal investigation of companies and individuals who coach job applicants on how to deceive polygraph examiners. It is believed that the government administers about 70,000 polygraph tests a year to candidates seeking security-related jobs, or to employees who wish to maintain their security clearances. The significance of the tests, which can sometimes make or break a security or intelligence employee’s career, have given rise to the phenomenon of polygraph coaches. There are several dozen companies and individual instructors in the US, who claim to be able to teach people how to pass polygraph examinations. They train test-takers in methods such as controlling their breathing, tensing and relaxing their muscles, focusing their thoughts, or biting their tongue, in order to skew the results of the test in their favor. In the past, government agencies have largely ignored these instruction techniques, claiming that there is no proof they actually work (critics question whether polygraph tests themselves work, pointing to the fact that they are rarely permissible in court). But the US government’s attitude to these techniques appears to be changing, judging by a criminal investigation that was recently launched against polygraph coaches. The government has refused to acknowledge the existence of the investigation, but McClatchy newspapers said last week that its existence had been confirmed by “several people familiar” with the probe. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #815 (analysis edition)

Polygraph testBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Should polygraph tests be trusted?  US federal polygraph programs have flourished, targeting a growing number of private contractors with more intensely personal questions than ever before. More than 70,000 people are now screened yearly in the US. Yet thousands of people a year could be identified as lying in polygraph screenings when they are not, according to statistical models by the National Academies, which advises the federal government on scientific matters. Under the current system, many of them would have no way to legally challenge polygraphists’ conclusions, especially in the intelligence world.
►►Why the US does not need another law against intelligence leaks. Leonard Downie Jr., vice president at large of The Washington Post, warns that the 2013 Intelligence Authorization Act “would make it a crime for career intelligence officers to provide almost any type of information to the news media, whether the information is classified or not”. He argues that the proposed legislation would “end contacts that often benefit both the government and the public by allowing the exchange of accurate information about vital national security issues and intelligence activities, including abuses requiring attention”.
►►The preventable decline of British defense intelligence. Defense intelligence refers to something rather different from ‘military intelligence’. It takes place at the topmost levels of defense coordination and decision-making and draws together participation from all of the armed services with civilian subject-matter and technical experts and produce consolidated assessments for senior civil servants, ministers and the service chiefs of staff. Philip Davies, director of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies in the United Kingdom, argues that, in Britain, defense and military intelligence remains “something of a poor cousin in the intelligence community, the eternal Peter robbed to pay the Paul of other, seemingly more urgent, defense expenditure and policy priorities”.

News you may have missed #799

Russell TiceBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Is NSA using UK spy base to guide predator drones? Surrounded by farmland and sheep, hundreds of National Security Agency staff go to work every day at RAF Menwith Hill, where they eavesdrop on communications intercepted by satellite dishes contained in about 30 huge golf ball-like domes. Menwith Hill has been used by the NSA since the 1960s; but lately there is growing disquiet in Britain over whether intelligence gathered at the base is being used to help with the CIA’s controversial clandestine drone strikes. And the British government is keeping mum.
►►Aussie envoy seduced by spy feared her phone was bugged. Former senior Austrade commissioner to Hanoi Elizabeth Masamune, who recently admitted before an Australian court that she had sexual relations with a Vietnamese intelligence officer, told police she feared her Hanoi offices were bugged. In her statement during the trial of eight former Reserve Bank company executives on bribery charges, she said that after receiving a call from a journalist she recalled “being concerned of the level of information which she had. I was also more concerned about whether my phone was being monitored”, she said.
►►NSA whistleblower describes beating polygraph test. Russell Tice, the National Security Agency whistleblower who helped blow the lid open on warrantless wiretapping conducted by the federal government on US citizens post-9/11, says that he took between 12 and 15 polygraph tests during his nearly 20-year-long government career. The tests mellowed over time, Tice says, and they may have also gotten easier to beat. Tice, who is no longer at the NSA, says he, along with those still in contact with at the agency, marvel at how easy it is to beat the lie detector.

News you may have missed #777

KH-9 HexagonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt sacks spy chief after border attacks.  Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi sacked the Director of the General Intelligence Directorate, Murad Muwafi, two generals and the governor of north Sinai region on Wednesday, after gunmen killed 16 border guards there on Sunday before last. Mowafi was the most high-profile official who lost his job, forced into early retirement as Egypt’s intelligence agencies were criticized for missing or ignoring warnings about the attack.
►►Photos reveal CIA deep-sea rescue of a spy satellite. On July 10, 1971, America’s newest photo reconnaissance satellite, the KH-9 Hexagon, dropped a capsule loaded with film toward the Earth. Due to a technical error, the capsule sunk in the Pacific Ocean. Last week, the CIA declassified documents and photographs showing how it went 16,000 feet into the sea to recover the Hexagon capsule.
►►Pre-inquest review into death of ex-KGB officer Litvinenko. A British High Court judge will soon hold a pre-inquest review into the death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, officials have said. Litvinenko, who was working for MI6 following his defection from Russia, is believed to have been poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in London, in November 2006. British prosecutors accuse former KGB operatives Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun for the murder. However, earlier this year Lugovoy reportedly passed a lie detector test on the subject of Litvinenko’s death, which was administered in Moscow by the British Polygraph Association.

News you may have missed #758

Heinz FrommBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►NSA head claims Americans’ emails ‘won’t be read’. The House of Representatives in April approved a bill that would allow the government and companies to share information about hacking. Critics have raised privacy concerns about the sharing of such information, fearing it would allow the National Security Agency, which also protects government computer networks, to collect data on American communications, which is generally prohibited by law. But in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, NSA Director Keith Alexander said that the new law would not mean that the NSA would read their personal email.
►►German spy chief quits in neo-Nazi files scandal. The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, Heinz Fromm, resigned last week, after admitting that his agency had shredded files on a neo-Nazi cell whose killing spree targeting immigrants rocked the country late last year. The “National Socialist Underground” (NSU), which went undetected for more than a decade despite its murder of 10 people, mostly ethnic Turkish immigrants. German media have said an official working in the intelligence agency is suspected of having destroyed files on an operation to recruit far-right informants just one day after the involvement of the NSU in the murders became public. Fromm had led the Verfassungsschutz since 2000.
►►US spy agency accused of illegally collecting data. The US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is pressuring its polygraphers to obtain intimate details of the private lives of thousands of job applicants and employees, pushing the ethical and legal boundaries of a program that is designed to catch spies and terrorists, an investigation has found. The NRO appears so intent on extracting confessions of personal or illicit behavior of its employees, that its officials have admonished polygraphers who refused to go after them and rewarded those who did, sometimes with cash bonuses. And in other cases, when it seems the NRO should notify law enforcement agencies of its candidates’ or employees’ past criminal behavior, it has failed to do so.

News you may have missed #753

James ClapperBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US spy agencies consider new polygraph questions. The US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is considering a proposal to force intelligence agency employees to answer a direct question in their polygraph examinations about whether they have disclosed information to reporters. The Los Angeles Times quotes “officials familiar with the matter”, who say that Clapper is preparing “changes to the counterintelligence polygraph policy”, though “no final decisions have been made”.
►►Ex-”New Republic” editor speaks out against Pollard release. Few American journals can claim to have stood more staunchly by Israel than The New Republic. So we should be paying attention when Martin Peretz, who edited the magazine from 1974 until 2011, comes out against the proposed release of Jonathan Jay Pollard. Pollard is a former US Navy analyst, who is serving a life sentence for spying on the US for Israel. Peretz calls Pollard “a scoundrel spy” and reminds his readers that “before he decided to deliver reams of sensitive [US] intelligence and defense documents to Israel’s security apparatus, [Pollard] was negotiating with Pakistan [...] to do similar chores for it”.
►►UK leader considered using special forces to seize Russian ship. British Prime Minister David Cameron considered ordering British special forces to board and impound a Russian ship suspected of carrying arms to Russian ally Syria, it has emerged. The ship, MV Alaed, was sailing in British waters when the US placed pressure on Britain to halt it. But the Russian ship suddenly changed course about 50 miles off the north coast of Scotland and it is showing that its next port of call is Murmansk, in Russia.

News you may have missed #295

  • US spies want super-sensitive human lie detectors. IARPA, the research unit of the US intelligence community is soliciting proposals for a five-year, three-phased overhaul of current deception-detection technology, which will include research on what is called “pre-conscious human assessment of trustworthiness”.
  • UK may purchase IP monitoring system from CIA-linked company. A security startup with close links to the CIA is touting a system to the UK government that monitors every IP address on the internet for malware, as part of its declared aim of improving cyber war capabilities. The firm has built a massive database of security breaches across the globe and is currently monitoring about 250 million compromised machines.
  • No Americans on CIA’s assassination list. The Washington Post has corrected an earlier report, flagged by intelNews earlier this month, which claimed that the US President has authorized the CIA to kill Americans abroad. According to new information, there are no Americans currently on the CIA hit list, but there are four on the list of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). It is worth noting that JSOC, which some say is gradually taking over the CIA’s paramilitary mission, lacks the CIA’s mandatory Congressional oversight and has a history of being run directly out of the White House.

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Writings by CIA defector Edward Lee Howard published

Edward Lee Howard

E.L. Howard

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An extensive article on spy tradecraft, written by CIA case officer Edward Lee Howard, after he defected to the Soviet Union in 1985, has been published for the first time. Howard, the only intelligence agent known to have been trained by both the CIA and the Soviet KGB, joined the CIA in 1980, but began collaborating with the KGB in 1983, after the CIA fired him for repeatedly failing to pass a polygraph test. After he was exposed by Vitaly Yurchenko, a KGB officer who allegedly defected to the US in Rome, Italy, Howard employed his CIA training to evade FBI counterintelligence agents and escape to Russia, where he lived until his death in 2002. In the early 1990s, the FBI tried to lure Howard to capture, using, among others, Bureau counterintelligence agent Robert Eringer. Eringer befriended Howard and, as part of the luring operation, commissioned the former CIA agent to write a book entitled Spy’s Guide to Central Europe. Read more of this post

Canadian intelligence agency admits withholding evidence in terrorism case

Hassan Almrei

Hassan Almrei

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Less than a month after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was found to have omitted polygraph evidence in an alleged terrorism case, the scandal-prone agency has admitted even worse shortcomings in a second investigation. Specifically, it has acknowledged that it “failed to disclose evidence” in the case of Hassan Almrei, a Syrian immigrant who was arrested in Canada in 2001 on suspicion of belonging to an Islamist-tied forgery group. Almrei was the first terrorism suspect to be arrested under Canada’s security certificate provision, which allows the government to use secret evidence in order to detain and deport foreigners living in Canada and deemed dangerous for national security. Security certificates prevent even the suspects themselves from being exposed to the secret evidence against them. Read more of this post

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