Jun 4, 2007

The LANL Zone

Dear Pinky and Doc,
There is, allegedly, a new "random" probe being prepared for LANL workers, in addition to drug tests and "lie-detector" tests, namely, the Random Proctological Exam (RaPE, which has been humorously labeled the "Bechtel rectal," though how this differs from the continual daily probe by our Corporate managers, I am not really sure). Nevertheless, appended below is an interesting e-mail from a respected colleague on the polygraph issue, submitted for your consideration.
-Brad Lee Holian
Dear Colleagues,

A few of you have asked me about the polygraph policy presentation to X-division last week. I think that you will find the following links useful. I have read parts of the NAS report and of the DOE polygraph policy (final issue was last fall) and found them quite interesting and informative.

NAS report on polygraph (requested by DOE):

Statement of DOE counter-intelligence (includes polygraph) policy:

LANL Office of counter intelligence:
On the links at the right, you'll find the viewgraphs of the presentation (Polygraph Presentation.ppt).

A bit of relevant humor (highly recommended weekly commentary)

And remember, it is not because you're not paranoid that they're not out to get you.

Best regards,



Anonymous said...

P&TB and Brad, Thanks for getting this blog back on track. The last polygraph thread is now on page 3 and its last comment was 5/31. The old info on the strip club beating is an unnecessary distraction. The highest calling for this blog is that it be a primary instrument in eliminating polygraphs not only for LANL and other DOE employees, but all government employees. Polygraphs should be allowed only within Department of Justice guidelines, which would completely eliminate the use of polygraph except for situations which are already slam-dunk. In other words no polygraphs at random and also not for screening purposes. Essentially all uses of polygraph detract from rather than enhance national security.

Note: an outsider cannot get to the int. link listed. Can someone, without getting into trouble, make that available to ordinary citizens, such as me?

Anonymous said...

What follows are letters from the LANL Readers Forum sent by LANL employees. Note the last one puts the blame fully on Congress. Can this be verified? And can it be verified that Congress does not accept polygraph results? Finally, the last letter contains a very long URL which I had to split to get all of it in the comment. Maybe someone more clever than I am can figure out how to put a long URL in a comment.

Editor's Note: Mr. Jenning's letter was forwarded to the Laboratory's Chief Security Officer. The CSO is developing a set of frequently asked questions to address these and other concerns raised. The CSO and Office of Counter Intelligence have scheduled information sessions at 10 a.m. May 15 and May 17 in the NSSB auditorium regarding the DOE polygraph program.

May 3, 2007

Concerns regarding Lab polygraph testing

Some concerns exist about the mandatory polygraph testing just announced for 5,000 Laboratory employees. They are expressed here in the form of a short series of questions:

Why are polygraph tests not admissible as evidence in court, and not regarded as acceptable evidence to Congress?

Is it correct that to calibrate the polygraph at the beginning of a session, the employee is required to lie?

What is the rate of false positives for polygraph tests? Has a false positive ever occurred to a Laboratory employee that caused them trouble?

How will a false positive be recognized, and how will an employee with a false positive be treated? How will the appeals process work?

Can the examiner influence the outcome of polygraph tests?

What questions will employees be required to answer in a polygraph test, and on what general subjects?

Under what conditions is the Laboratory/LANS, a contractor to NNSA/DOE, able to say "no" to unreasonable, risky, or unjustifiable requests from our DOE/NNSA sponsor?

--George Jennings Jr.

May 16, 2007

Polygraph testing
What would happen if I went to management and said I wanted to take a few scientific principles, put them together and sprinkle some pixie dust on them and then use this system to determine the future of an employees life? I would hope that management would laugh me out of their office. Given that we are going ahead with polygraph testing, unchallenged, I can't say that they would laugh at me.

It amazes me how the nation's premier scientific laboratory can be forced to use an unscientific parlor game to intimidate its employees. Our government's justice system will not allow the polygraph to be used to convict or clear criminals, yet another branch of that same government will allow it to be used to determine the future of ones career.

With the polygraph being proved ineffective and forced upon the Lab, you would think that employees would have at least some of their rights left intact. This is not the case. The victim can not have anyone at the “test” to advocate for them. They can not have a copy of the exam or results chart. In our justice system, the accused has the right to an appeal. With a polygraph, it appears they have no recourse at all.

--Tony Heaton
May 23, 2007

Polygraph testing vs. drug testing

Since the Department of Energy apparently believes that the usage of pseudo-scientific methods like polygraph testing is an appropriate way to prevent espionage, implying that they believe that the probability of "false negatives" in a polygraph test is low, I suggest the following solution to concerns about "false positives" in the Lab's drug testing program: all employees who have a positive drug test result will be given the opportunity to take a polygraph exam. In said polygraph exam, they will be asked the question "Did you intentionally ingest any illegal drugs during the last month?" (a month being the maximum period which the drug test could possibly be sensitive to even the fat soluble marijuana metabolites, which I understand are the longest lasting class of illegal drug tracers detectable by urine testing..)

If the employee responds "no" and the polygraph machine "affirms" the validity of their answer, then their drug test result would be changed to negative. If the Lab and DOE management do not adopt the policy I suggest here due to lack of confidence in polygraph testing, they would be utterly hypocritical.

--Mark A. Nelson
May 23, 2007

More on polygraphs

Recognizing the need to uncover the spies among us, I am puzzled by the renewed pressure to subject a majority of Laboratory employees to yet another round of pseudoscientific polygraph testing. I personally know individuals who have "failed" Department of Energy mandated polygraphs. Were those individuals spies? Were they cases of a false positive? Who knows?

Aside from the voodoo science, one of the most troubling aspects of this initiative is captured well by the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).
"One area of special concern in personnel security screening is the incorrect identification of innocent persons as deceptive. All other factors being equal, the low base rates of guilt in screening situations would lead to high false positive rates, even assuming very high polygraph validity. For example, a typical polygraph screening situation might involve a base rate of guilt of one guilty person (e.g. one person engaging in unauthorized disclosure) out of 1,000 employees. Assuming that the polygraph is 95 percent valid, then one guilty person would be identified as deceptive but so would 50 innocent persons."
The report concludes that such a situation has a predictive accuracy of about 2 percent. Is this approach really considered useful? The National Academy of Science says no. The United States court system says no. Our local congressional representatives say no. The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment says, no. The DOE says, yes. Is it just a case of a false positive? Who knows?

--Scott Watson
May 30, 2007

Polygraphs and DOE

Recent letters in this forum have pinned the responsibility for the polygraph requirement on the Department of Energy. This is mistaken. The polygraph requirement is coming solely from Congress. It was initially passed as part of a Defense Authorization bill in 1999. This was part of Congress' over-reaction to the Wen Ho Lee case. Senator Pete Domenici opposed it, and even Bill Clinton, who signed the bill that required the polygraphs, opposed it. He complained that the requirements would be "counterproductive in their impact on our national security. The bill also micromanages the Secretary of Energy." See a copy of an Albuquerque Journal article on the FAS Web site.

DOE has not supported increased polygraph testing. That also should be evident by the fact that the increased testing is only now beginning, eight years after Congress first required it. Congress has been adamant in requiring increased testing in the face of opposition from the president, the New Mexico congressional delegation, the National Academy, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and all data and reason. Congress even faulted the DOE for failing to convince Lab staff to support polygraphs. See http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html
?res=9907E6D61030F93BA15755C0A9669C8B6 3&sec=technology&spon=&pagewanted=print.

So blaming DOE is mis-directed.

--Richard Stead

Eric said...

Is blaming the DOE for not protecting its own employees ( and therefore its need for money from Congress) misdirected?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't hang my hat on much of what comes out in the Lab's well filtered Forum. Just try getting something in there that's critical of Lab management.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that any of these posts were on the Reader's Forum.

And I think DOE should be blamed for not protecting its employees. However let's acknowledge that Congress is the real problem.

Anonymous said...

If I had to choose between taking a Bechtel Rectal, DOE Polygraph AND wee-wee test at the same time vs. sitting in another meeting in close quarters with Mr. Jennings after he rode his bike 20 miles to get to work and not showering.....

Just please make sure the gloves haven't been used on another victim!

ron said...

re Richard's comments on Congress and the polygraph, I can't find that article. The URL is somehow misdisplayed in the comments section. Can anyone repost the URL?

Thanks and best wishes to all my friends at LANL!


Anonymous said...

Do you mean this NYT article?