back to article Polygraph.com owner pleads guilty to helping others beat lie detector

A former cop and owner of the website Polygraph.com has pleaded guilty to five charges of obstruction of justice and mail fraud for teaching people how to cheat lie detector tests. Douglas Williams, 69, of Norman, Oklahoma, faces up to 20 years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine for selling polygraph-evasion training to two …

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  1. cd

    "Lying, deception and fraud cannot be allowed to influence the hiring of national security and law enforcement officials..."

    Wait until I get my breath back. Laughing that hard can really hurt.

    1. silent_count

      "Lying, deception and fraud"

      These are the very basis of polygraph tests. If they really were 'lie detectors' then it would not be possible for Mr Williams, or anyone else, to teach you how to 'cheat' the test.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Lying, deception and fraud"

        "If they really were 'lie detectors' then it would not be possible for Mr Williams, or anyone else, to teach you how to 'cheat' the test."

        But that doesn't matter. Pseudo science like this is great for the law enforcement authorities - if it supposedly shows you're guilty they'll use it against you, but it it says you're not then it won't be proof of innocence.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Lying, deception and fraud cannot be allowed to influence the hiring of national security and law enforcement officials..." that's prior to being hired. After, during the exercice of your duty, it is apparently okaccording to this article.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        "I am not a dumbass"

        Well, perhaps he would convince me if he made his clients take a polygraph about being undercover cops *before* training them.

        Arrogance is a gateway crime apparently.

        1. Little Mouse

          @Sir R. Spoon

          He probably did, albeit in a practicing-the-techniques-I've-tought-you kind of way whilst the training was taking place. If he truly knew his stuff he might have noticed that something was up.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Seems to me...

      ... that he should have first tested them them on the polygraph first to establish whether they are part of a sting operation against him.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lies

      "Are polygraph machines reliable?"

      'Yes.'

      BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!...

      1. MotionCompensation

        Re: Lies

        And the polygraph disappeared in a puff of logic.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    interesting justice

    It's not free speech, it's not knocking an outdated and immoral technology, it's "obstruction of justice".

    Sure thing, DoJ.

    Crap charges got Aaron Swartz to kill himself, and this old man to surrender his freedom.

    1. Eric Olson

      Re: interesting justice

      It's an interesting concept, because if these undercover agents didn't actually commit the crimes they admitted to, how can the guy be charged with obstruction?

      The official indictment indicates that there are two counts of mail fraud (pretty much any criminal use of the USPS is considered mail fraud... it's a nice two-for-one in many cases) and then three counts of witness tampering, which seem to be convincing the people who claimed to have committed crimes to try to convince the Federal Government they did not commit crimes.

      Seems off. While I have no doubt that actively working to help someone fraudulently obtain employment, government or otherwise, is at least grounds for a civil case, if not criminal depending on the means, I get a little bothered that he's being charged with obstructing justice for imaginary crimes. Based on the wording in the indictment, the act of doing a background check and polygraph is considered an "investigation" of the candidate, meaning that trying to hinder law enforcement's ability to investigate is obstruction... but again... no actual crime was committed and this should have been enough to at least get a search warrant to find real people he helped.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: interesting justice

        The two positions in question were for the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol. Both are law enforcement positions. Interfering with the police in any way, directly or indirectly, can be considered obstruction of justice. That's where the charge comes from, and the charge is in federal court since both are federal positions and because he crossed state lines to commit them.

        1. Eric Olson

          Re: interesting justice

          The two positions in question were for the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol. Both are law enforcement positions. Interfering with the police in any way, directly or indirectly, can be considered obstruction of justice. That's where the charge comes from, and the charge is in federal court since both are federal positions and because he crossed state lines to commit them.

          I misspoke in that the first undercover story was an already hired airport inspector (not an LEO in any way, shape, or form) being investigated for letting a friend through with contraband. So that would be an actual crime, though again, it never actually happened meaning there was no actual investigation being obstructed. It sure could be used as evidence for a search warrant to get actual records or access to actual cases where he tried to help someone fool the machine.

          The second one, however, is not because it's an LEO, but because the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has allowed the Border Patrol to flag some of their positions as being subject to deeper "suitability determinations" (their own description) that can include polygraph tests. The fact that it was an LEO made the position more likely to be subject to such checking, but there are other positions within the OPM's purview that can be subject to these requirements and have nothing to do with being an LEO or even working with them.

          My point is that as no actual crime or application was being investigated so no actual crime by Mr. Williams was committed. Unlike a sting operation where a perp is caught handing over a brick of cocaine or illegal weapons, the possession of which is a crime, this is a man who is trying to help someone impede something that doesn't exist. This should be a basis for further investigation, including wire taps and account monitoring, while they either wait for an actual situation where he's trying to help someone evade criminal charges or mislead an investigation or they can go through his history and tie him to someone they already investigated and charged or let go.

  3. elDog Silver badge

    Wow - this technique needs to go to Wikileaks, pronto!

    Of course the whole polygraph stuff along with the FBI hair analysis is a joke.

    Still, if there are techniques like meditating, thinking about your first good lay, etc. - let's get them out there!

    1. Mephistro Silver badge

      Re: Wow - this technique needs to go to Wikileaks, pronto!

      "...if there are techniques like meditating,..."

      Forget about meditation. Use the Penn & Teller method instead. Can be learned in one minute or so, and is so mainstream that it has been explained in several TV series. The Penn & Teller's videos are in Youtube,

      Can't understand why the USA is still using those devices for anything related to Law enforcement or security. It's a fucking scam!

      1. Lysenko

        Re: Wow - this technique needs to go to Wikileaks, pronto!

        Never seen the shows you're referring to but we messed around with one in the biomechanics lab when I was at University. It generally "worked" if one was totally cooperative with it and it took a while to suppress deviations on lies but it only took about 10 minutes to learn to create false positives on control questions and render the device entirely useless.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wow - this technique needs to go to Wikileaks, pronto!

          It generally "worked" if one was totally cooperative with it and it took a while to suppress deviations on lies but it only took about 10 minutes to learn to create false positives on control questions and render the device entirely useless.

          It is strongly dependent on the skills of the interrogator/operator to identify a baseline and then ask questions that give a sufficient deviation from that baseline to raise questions. The cause of that deviation is where the problem lies with polygraph testing. The issue is not that people lie, it is why.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The issue is not that people lie

            No, this issue is that these devices can't help you tell if they are lying.

            1. Just Enough

              Re: The issue is not that people lie

              If you are a pathological liar - won't work.

              If you are a sociopath - won't work.

              If you truly believe your own lie - won't work.

              If you simply don't care whether your questioner believes you or not - won't work.

              If you have other concerns on your mind (either deliberately or involuntarily) - won't work.

              If you have a medical condition that randomly affects your breathing/heart rate/sweating - won't work.

              The polygraph does not know if any of the above applies. So it can not detect lies.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: The issue is not that people lie

                Pathological liar who lies about everything - Include obvious questions. If the person lies about those, put him aside as such and investigate further.

                Sociopath - Use questions that may trigger alternate responses. Sociopaths rarely are perpetually calm; they merely react differently and can be tested for such.

                Delusion - Test for delusion using contextual questions. If subject is deluded enough to believe his own lie, set aside for psychiatric evaluation.

                Random/erratic pulse/breating for other reasons - Check for these before the polygraph. If they're like this before the test, you can predict inconsistency and try another way.

                1. Just Enough

                  Re: The issue is not that people lie

                  And how do you know what I am? I'm not going to tell you, am I?

                  Am I a pathological liar? What if I don't lie about obvious questions?

                  Am I sociopath? Maybe I appear calm because I'm telling the truth.

                  Am I delusional? I may be telling the truth, they might be my lies. You don't know.

                  Do I get breathless randomly? I don't have to be connected to a polygraph to be lying. Or maybe I'm a very ill person. Which is it?

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: The issue is not that people lie

                    The technique is very simple, I will teach it here, as I have successfully "beaten" them on several occasions. First, get comfortable and proficient with meditation. You need to be relaxed and stay that way. Second, when asked to "lie" on a control question, visualize something disturbing to initiate a nervous response. Then, no matter what you are asked, just stay relaxed, the machine DEPENDS on you to tell it you are lying. Finally, just for good measure, take a beta-blocker to help mask any remaining reaction. With these techniques you can sail through any test. This information is protected under the First Amendment, so you government goons can blow this out your ass.

                    1. x 7 Silver badge

                      Re: The issue is not that people lie

                      would taking viagra help? I'm just thinking of the way it relaxes sheet muscle and reduces blood pressure

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wow - this technique needs to go to Wikileaks, pronto!

        Can't understand why the USA is still using those devices for anything related to Law enforcement or security. It's a fucking scam!

        Maybe the real test is to see if you start looking up ways to beat the polygraph? BTW, it's a normal scam, a f*cking scam is entrapping a senator with someone who is not his partner :)

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: Wow - this technique needs to go to Wikileaks, pronto!

      I seem to recall Harry Harrison outlining a technique for beating a polygraph in The Stainless Steel Rats Revenge.

  4. YetAnotherLocksmith

    A sting that stinks. For a change.

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So, if he'd turned the supposed DHS guy into the FBI for attempting to learn how pass the polygraph, then he would have been ok? Or maybe turning in some or all of former clients? I'm puzzled by this whole thing because as I recall, polygraph tests cannot be used in a court of law as they are "unreliable" and based on the skill or lack of skill of the operator.

    I'm not sure where the mail fraud came in.. they paid, he delivered said services.

    I have very mixed feelings about this... my sense is they went after him because of the "ex-cop" part.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Polygraphs are unreliable for the purposes of court evidence, but another common use of a polygraph is to vet prospective hires for high-security positions, like federal law enforcement.

      As for the mail fraud, if you commit a crime using the mail, you are committing mail fraud, period.

      1. John G Imrie Silver badge

        if you commit a crime using the mail, you are committing mail fraud

        But the question is, did he commit a crime?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Interfering with a law enforcement agency is considered obstruction of justice. DHS and the Border Patrol are law enforcement agencies. He solicited his trade (interfering with DHS and Border Patrol screenings) by mail. Seems pretty clear to me.

        2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          But the question is, did he commit a crime?

          I think it is more probably along the lines of "did he intend to commit a crime or was he reckless as to whether it was a crime or not?"

          No wait: "Do we think he intended to commit ... "

          Hang-on: "Can we convince a jury he intended ... "

          Nailed it: "Will he cop to a plea rather than face 300 years without parole?."

        3. kryptonaut
          Holmes

          if you commit a crime using the mail, you are committing mail fraud

          But the question is, did he commit a crime?

          Yes... mail fraud.

          1. Mephistro Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            @ Kryptonaut

            ROFLMAO++

    2. Schultz

      "they went after him because of the "ex-cop" part"

      I think they went after him because they want to continue using the lie detector and they want to suppress anything that endangers their toy.

      The obvious value of the lie detector is not in detecting lies, but in scaring the people who believe in it. Who cares if it works if the tested subject believes it works (and will change his behavior or quit before taking the test). But maybe they'll get the Streisand effect with this case and more people take note of the ridiculous pseudo-scientific practices in the law enforcement agencies.

  6. Winkypop Silver badge
    WTF?

    Polygraphs

    LOL

    As if they even work!

    However, if you think they do:

    I have an IED detector for sale, you might THINK it's just a stick, but...

    1. Santa from Exeter
      Mushroom

      Re: Polygraphs

      But a stick *is* an IED detector, reliable as well.

      Just keep on prodding the ground where there are likely to be IED's and you'll find one.

      Surviving the result, that's the trick ----->

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Polygraphs

        That's a mine detector, and it only works for pressure-sensitive mines. Metal-detecting mines will need something seriously metallic to work. IEDs, meanwhile, tend to be remotely triggered, usually by hand to ensure a proper detonation.

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    D.I.Y. law

    They can make it up as they go along. And that's what we're getting in this country soon.

  8. SolidSquid

    I's be curious how this would up in court if he'd fought it. Generally something like this would be used for finding evidence of *other* crimes which the person could be charged for, otherwise the charges are made purely based on his intent to commit a crime and not his having committed the crime itself, which is somewhat questionable to say the least

  9. tony2heads

    trained people who he believed had criminal records

    How do they know what he believed? A lie detector perhaps?

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    I'm surprised he wasn't defended by a consortium

    of snake oil ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H polygraph manufacturers.

    Surely all this case has done, is enshrine in law that polygraphs are fallible and can be beated.

    Who'd waste time with one now ?

  11. Thesheep

    Bloody replicants getting everywhere

    You're in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a...

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Bloody replicants getting everywhere

      Which desert?

      1. Graham Marsden
        Alert

        Re: Bloody replicants getting everywhere

        I am *so* not going to ask about your mother...!

      2. Thesheep

        Re: Bloody replicants getting everywhere

        Doesn't make any difference what desert... its completely hypothetical.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: Bloody replicants getting everywhere

          Actually, it does. See, there are warm deserts and cold deserts. Desert just means that precipitation is slim to non-existent. Large parts of Canada's arctic, for example, are deserts. They just aren't the "hot Nevada sun" kind of desert. So which desert matters, as it gives me an idea of what is plausible to see at my feet, and I can then infer what the first thing I'd see might be by using my knowledge of flora and fauna statistical distribution for the various world deserts.

          For that matter, why be limited to Terran deserts? Most of our solar system is desert. That's a lot of different things I could see at my feet. There's some interesting geology out there!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bloody replicants getting everywhere

        Bread and butter pudding.

        With custard..

  12. Stu_Pendisdick

    So, it has happened. Thinking is now a crime.

    This man did not do anything more than provide *INFORMATION* that was his own.

    This conviction is bullshit on the highest possible order; it is the epitome of "prosecution of thought crimes".

    So much for the Constitution of the United States of America, and so much for any freedoms that we may have ever had.

    Remember kiddies, and learn the lesson here. Simply speaking, passing along instruction, that is to say, teaching someone how to do something by your words, can now be prosecuted by Big Brother.

    Even Orwell would be shaking his head in disbelief.

    1. Hyper72

      Re: So, it has happened. Thinking is now a crime.

      Hmmm, sounds to me like he encouraged them to lie while under oath. That's the crime.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: So, it has happened. Thinking is now a crime.

        Lying under oath in a court of law is a crime. Where's the crime in lying for a job interview, hmm?

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