Paul R. Hollrah, O.E.
The Pentagon War on CVSA: An Analysis
January 7, 2010
By Policy Memorandum 08-11, dated 16 June 2008, Admiral Eric T. Olson,
Commanding Officer of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), has
prohibited the use of Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) as a credibility
assessment tool throughout his command.
The memorandum states as follows: "In accordance with DOD and USD(I) regulations
and guidance outlined in references (a) through (c) (of the memorandum), the use
of CVSA… is strictly prohibited under all circumstances, with no exceptions. The
polygraph and the PCASS (Preliminary Credibility Assessment Screening System)
are the only approved credibility assessment technologies in DOD.
"Pursuant to USD(I) policy, however, research and improvements on other
potential credibility assessment tools continue to be a priority for DOD.”
The memorandum is addressed to the commanding officers of the United States Army
Special Operations Command, the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command,
the Naval Special Warfare Command, the Air Force Special Operations Command, the
Joint Special Operations Command, the Special Operations Command – Pacific (SOCPAC),
the Special Operations Command – Korea (SOC-K), the Special Operations Command –
Europe (SOCEUR), the Special Operations Command – Joint Forces (JFCOM), the
Special Operations Command – Central (SOCCENT), the Joint Military Information
Support Command, and Special Operations – South (SOCSOUTH), as well as the
Center Directors of the United States Special Operations Command, and the
president of the Joint Special Operations University.
Why is this important? It is important because, in the global war against
Islamic terrorism, the most important weapon any government can have is solid
actionable intelligence. And to the extent that interrogation of detainees is a
major source of that intelligence, the single most effective tool our military
has is CVSA. Its significance is such that Special Forces interrogators who have
used CVSA in the field insist that there are two primary reasons for the major
reduction in violence in Iraq: 1) the surge, and 2) CVSA technology.
Defense Secretary Gates has stressed the importance of getting more
and better intelligence into the hands of our troops on the ground. In a 21
April 2008 speech at the Air War College, he said, "My concern is that our
services are still not moving aggressively in wartime to provide resources
needed now on the battlefield. I’ve been wrestling for months to get more
intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets into the theatre. Because
people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it’s been like pulling teeth…
so last week I established a Department of Defense-wide task force… to find more
innovative and bold ways to help those whose lives are on the line.”
The Olson memorandum is but the latest in a long succession of internal Pentagon
intrigues, conceived and implemented by civilian officials with strong personal
ties to the polygraph industry, whose only purpose is to maintain a monopoly for
polygraph use within the military services. This in spite of a 2004 report by
the National Academy of Sciences, commissioned by the U.S. Dept. of Energy,
which alleges that over a period of twenty years, officials of the Department of
Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI) purposely manipulated study results so as to
enhance the accuracy rates of polygraph examinations and understate the accuracy
of competing systems, most notably CVSA.
The Olson memorandum is a disservice to all who wear the uniforms of the U.S.
military and to all who’ve served in the past. Clearly, Admiral Olson has been
seriously and purposely misled by junior staff officers and by civilian
employees of the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) and the
Defense Academy for Credibility Assessment (DACA), formerly the Department of
Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI).
In the past three decades, and more, DACA (DoDPI) has wasted millions of
taxpayer dollars in an ongoing effort to promote the polygraph industry over
competing technologies that are not only faster and more accurate, but far less
expensive. Not only have their efforts served to interfere in the normal
business operations of manufacturers of competing technologies… technologies
that are widely used and accepted throughout the civilian law enforcement
community… the denial of CVSA technology to our armed forces in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and elsewhere represents a serious breach of the responsibility to
provide our troops with the best available war-fighting tools.
The efforts by CIFA and DACA to create an undeserved monopoly for polygraph use
within the U.S. military and other federal agencies comes at the cost of untold
lives, both coalition military personnel and in the Iraqi and Afghan civilian
communities. It is a reckless and self-serving dereliction of duty that borders
on criminal conduct.
CVSA technology is the computer age equivalent of a voice stress analyzer (VSA)
developed in 1971 by retired colonels Allen D. Bell,
McQuiston, and Wilson Henry Ford, the senior executives of Dektor
Counterintelligence and Security Inc., of Springfield, Virginia. The device they
invented was known and marketed as the Psychological Stress Evaluator (PSE), a
voice stress analyzer often referred
to as a "voice lie detector.”
CVSA, the PSE was far easier to use, it was far less expensive, and the training
and certification of examiners was far simpler and faster. As civilian law
enforcement agencies and private investigators learned of the PSE and began to
utilize it in their day-to-day investigations, manufacturers and users of the
polygraph came to see it as an economic threat to their industry.
1975, the American Polygraph Association (APA), led by Frank Horvath (who later
became Chief Scientific Officer for the Department of Defense Polygraph
Institute), introduced model state licensing legislation designed to regulate
the polygraphy profession. However, under the "Instrumentation” section of the
model statute, the APA included a requirement that any person utilizing any
device for the purpose of assessing truthfulness or credibility must use a
device that measured cardiovascular and respiratory activity, as well as
galvanic skin response. It was a definition that restricted the science of
credibility assessment to a single device… the polygraph.
Thirty-five states rejected the legislation and fifteen approved. In the
intervening years, of the fifteen states that adopted the legislation, all but
seven… Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont, and
Texas… have repealed it.
1988, the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), a system which operates on the
same principle as the PSE, but with computerized circuitry, entered the market.
In a very short time, and with little or no market promotion, the CVSA made
dramatic inroads in the civilian law enforcement community. By 1994, more than
500 law enforcement agencies were using the CVSA and more were acquiring it each
the success of CVSA came to the attention of officials at APA and DoDPI, a new
"study” was commissioned. During the conduct of that study, participants were
advised not to use "parlor games,” since neither the polygraph nor CVSA were
accurate "unless real-life jeopardy was present.” That statement was true
only of the polygraph. To the contrary, CVSA training emphasizes the
importance of VSA examinations in a stress-free (or reduced stress) environment
to achieve optimal results.
the guidelines and protocols of the study having been "poisoned” from the
outset, the final report asserted, as expected, that the CVSA was no better than
chance at truth verification.
participants were then required to sign a statement, on a separate document
attached to the report, asserting that, "The views expressed in this ‘article’
are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of
the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government (emphasis added).”
However, in spite of that disclaimer, the study, signed by DoDPI Director
Michael Capps and distributed under DoDPI letterhead, was then sent to all state
polygraph associations and to all polygraph examiners within the federal
government, including those at the FBI and the CIA.
1996, and again in 2001, DoDPI conducted studies of CVSA, each time using mock
crimes or other protocols which they knew in advance would produce poor or
useless results. Instead of testing the CVSA in the field, under real life
conditions, DoDPI chose again to use inferior techniques and protocols
apparently designed to produce a bad result. Again, these reports were
distributed to law enforcement polygraph examiners across the country with the
obvious intention of damaging the credibility of CVSA.
spite of Pentagon efforts to the contrary, CVSA is now used successfully as a
credibility assessment tool by more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies across
the United States. Many law enforcement organizations, such as the New Orleans
P.D. (18 CVSAs), Nashville P.D. (11 CVSAs), Cincinnati P.D. (5 CVSAs),
Miami-Dade P.D. (11 CVSAs), Atlanta P.D. (5 CVSAs), and the California Highway
Patrol (32 CVSAs), have either discontinued or greatly reduced the use of the
polygraph in their criminal investigations. However, because of efforts by DoDPI
to discredit CVSA, the FBI and the CIA remain solidly committed to the
should be noted that, because those agencies use only the polygraph, all of
their pre-Iraq War vetting was conducted on the polygraph… and critical elements
of it were wrong.
In 2003, Lt. Col.
Buikema, USMC, Intelligence Operations Division Chief, US Southern Command,
contacted the National Institute for Truth Verification (NITV), manufacturer of
the CVSA, requesting a CVSA briefing. The briefing was conducted and the
decision was made to conduct a sixty-day Proof of Principle evaluation of CVSA
at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Lt. Col. Buikema disclosed that, prior
to the training of interrogators, he was contacted by U.S. Army G2 and
instructed that the polygraph was the only authorized truth verification system
and that he was prohibited from using the CVSA. Lt. Col. Buikema responded that
the G2 guidance was not relevant and proceeded to authorize the purchase of five
CVSA’s and the training of eight interrogators.
The CVSA was so successful at GTMO that the Proof of Principle was cut short and
full deployment was ordered.
2003, NITV was invited to conduct CVSA briefings at both the U.S. Army G2 and at
the Battle Lab, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. However, before the scheduling of the G2
briefing could be finalized, NITV received a telephone call cancelling the
briefing. No explanation was given. NITV officials then traveled to Fort
Huachuca where they managed to conduct the briefing without Pentagon
Chief of Language and Technology at the Battle Lab was so impressed with the
performance of CVSA that she placed an order for five CVSA units to be deployed
immediately to Iraq. The Chief informed NITV officials that, prior to the
briefing, she too had received instructions from G2, directing her to cancel the
Immediately upon deployment to Iraq, the CVSA proved so successful in the hands
of Special Operations and Intelligence Units that 32 additional units were
later, NITV received a telephone call from the Chief advising them that an
effort was under way at the Pentagon (DoDPI working through CIFA) to have an
Undersecretary of Defense sign a directive prohibiting the use of any device
other than the polygraph in U.S. military credibility assessment applications.
In 2004, after the
CVSA had proved successful in numerous detainee examinations at GTMO, NITV was
contacted by the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Chief of Interrogators, Steve
Rodriquez. Rodriguez proposed that NITV enter into a two-year contract to
provide a CVSA Subject Matter Expert (SME) at GTMO for the purpose of training
additional interrogators and to provide additional expertise as needed.
NITV signed a two-year contract and sent one of its senior instructors to GTMO
as the SME. At the end of the first year, Mr. Rodriquez, a staunch supporter of
CVSA, was re-assigned to DIA Headquarters in Virginia. The week after Mr.
Rodriquez left GTMO, a team of individuals, headed by Dr. John Capps… the
brother of Michael Capps, former head of DoDPI and a senior member of CIFA… was
sent by CIFA to "assess” the situation. Within a week of Capps’ arrival the
contract with NITV was cancelled, NITV’s SME was ordered off the island, and the
use of the CVSA was discontinued. Records produced in this project indicate a
greater than 90% success rate with the CVSA at GTMO.
Major James Rogers, Operations Officer of the Interrogation Control Element at
GTMO, was so incensed that he stated in a letter, "My opinion, based upon my
observation, is that CVSA is superior to the polygraph when used as a tool in
the interrogation process. Consequently, I conclude that those who wish to
remove CVSA from the ‘interrogator’s tool box’ are more interested in protecting
their turf than they are in gathering intelligence that protects the American
Subsequently, NITV was asked to provide a CVSA briefing for the 650th
Military Intelligence Group, headquartered in Mons, Belgium. Two NITV staff
members traveled to Belgium to conduct the briefing. However, upon their arrival
in Belgium they were informed that the briefing had been cancelled. The
commanding officer of the 650th had received a telephone call from
G2, prohibiting him from purchasing the CVSA. The 650th had been
prepared to purchase 10 CVSA units and to train 20 examiners.
Finally, on 8 June 2004, Undersecretary of Defense (Intelligence) Stephen A.
published an interim
policy directive (Reference "1b” in Adm. Eric T. Olson’s 15 June 2008
memorandum) declaring that "the polygraph is the only instrument approved in the
DoD for use as a credibility assessment tool.”
Two months later,
in August, 2004, at the request of the Special Operations Command, Tampa, FL,
NITV conducted a briefing on the CVSA for the SOCOM Intelligence
leadership/staff. The SOCOM members were impressed with the CVSA but wanted the
laptop version modified to a hand-held system, complete with NITV’s unique
automatic scoring algorithm.
Since NITV was at
that time initiating research and development of a hand-held system… to be
called the "Field Interrogation Support Tool” (FIST)… they were asked to submit
the FIST technology for the "Defense Acquisition Challenge Program” (DACP). The
FIST was later selected under DACP as the top technology for development and
funding was approved for this effort. This approval is documented in DACP budget
documents, as well as in the August 2005 edition of the Special Operations
However, after the
FIST was selected for the DACP, NITV advised SOCOM that, if DoDPI or the Army G2
learned of the project and the approval of funding, they would attempt to have
it blocked. The SOCOM staff responded that they had never had any of their top
priority projects blocked and that NITV’s concerns were unwarranted.
Although there were
rumblings that DoDPI was working behind the scenes, through CIFA and the USD(I),
to have the project killed, the funding was subsequently approved
commissioned an independent survey of U.S. law enforcement organizations to
determine the effectiveness of the CVSA in the field. Law enforcement agencies
in eight states were surveyed by Dr. Gary Gallagher and an assistant. The result
of the survey was an assessed reliability and validity rating for the CSVA of
Based on the survey
results, SOCOM requested that Ms. Carol Haave, then a deputy to the USD(I) in
charge of CIFA and DoDPI, should receive the same briefing that the SOCOM staff
had received. The briefing was scheduled; however, one day prior to the meeting
SOCOM was informed that Ms. Haave had to cancel due to an unscheduled
out-of-town trip. SOCOM set a second date for the briefing and Ms. Haave
cancelled it. A third meeting was set for 25 May 2005 and Ms. Haave cancelled
that briefing, as well.
In spite of Ms.
Haave’s unavailability, the funding was approved and sent to SOCOM. However, on
the day that SOCOM received the funding, Ms. Haave called and ordered that the
funds not be released to NITV. After some discussion, the decision was made to
move ahead. Gen. Brown, Commander of SOCOM, then received a call from USD(I)
Cambone, ordering him to cease all activity related to CVSA
Subsequent to the publication of the interim policy directive by USD(I) Cambone,
eight members of the U.S. Senate requested a meeting with Acting Director of
Counterintelligence Toby Sullivan to discuss the issue. The meeting was attended
by Mr. Sullivan; Frank Horvath, then Chief of Special Studies for DoDPI and
former president of the American Polygraph Association; Bill Norris, Director of
DoDPI; and aides for eight senators and one congressman. A representative of
NITV was invited to attend but was not allowed to participate in the meeting.
The meeting was described by one senate aide as "one of the most contentious I
have been in since coming to the Hill.”
The result of the meeting was an agreement by Mr. Sullivan to re-write the
policy directive to allow for the limited use of CVSA. The promised
"clarification” memo was never distributed.
At a subsequent meeting in Mr. Sullivan’s Washington office, a meeting attended
by NITV, Gene Bissette, Polygraph Program Manager for the Counterintelligence
Field Activity (CIFA); and Michael Capps, former Director of DoDPI and Director
of Management and Development for CIFA, it was made clear that all CIFA
officials in attendance were opposed to the use of CVSA. That meeting too was
described as "contentious.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Sullivan stated that anyone, including
those then utilizing CVSA, could call him and he would grant permission for the
continued use of CVSA. In addition, he disclosed that CIFA would advertise for
organizations capable of conducting an independent study to determine the
viability of CVSA before it could be used as a final determinant of truth or
Sullivan stated, emphatically, that the study would be done "above-board,”
without interference from DoDPI, and that the study would be viewed as the
"final word” on CVSA use within the DoD. However, when a copy of the
solicitation was reviewed by NITV, it appeared from the language and the study
parameters/protocols that the proposal had been written by Michael Capps, of
CIFA, or another senior member of the DoD polygraph bureaucracy. It basically
replicated the two tainted studies done by DoDPI in 1996 and 2001.
After months of deliberation, CIFA eventually selected the University of Florida
(CIFA Contract – FA 4814-04-0011) to assess the validity and reliability of
voice stress analysis. This action is reiterated and supported in Admiral
Olson’s 15 June 2008 memorandum under Section 4. Policies and Procedures, to
wit, "… research and improvements on other potential credibility assessment
tools continue to be a priority for DOD.”
However, in spite of Acting Director Sullivan’s assurance that the new study
would be done "above board,” CIFA failed to report that the principal researcher
at the University of Florida responsible for the study would be Dr. Harry
Hollien, the principal author of a 1987 University of Florida study evaluating
the Psychological Stress Evaluator (PSE), the forerunner of CVSA.
In that study, Dr. Hollien et al wrote, "As can be seen, the voice of a stressed
individual tends to change: speaking fundamental frequency (SFF) rises; vocal
intensity increases; speech rate increases slightly; nonfluencies can be
observed; and the number of speech bursts is reduced.”
Hollien goes on to say, "In a sense, it is immaterial how a system operates if
it can perform the tasks required of it…”
Nevertheless, in the concluding paragraphs of the 1987 study, Hollien and his
associates wrote, "… it must be concluded that voice analyzers are not very good
tools (if they are effective at all) for the detection of deception… individuals
who make claims about a device, any device, must demonstrate the validity of
Had Dr. Hollien and his associates been true to their own counsel… that it is
immaterial how a system operates if it can perform the tasks required of it, and
that individuals who make claims about a device must demonstrate the validity of
their contentions… they would have reached an entirely different conclusion in
their 2005-06 study. They would have known of the widespread use of CVSA in the
civilian law enforcement community and the almost universal acceptance of CVSA
as a critical tool among military Special Operations interrogators.
As expected, the new University of Florida study, completed in February 2006,
was so seriously flawed in its methodology as to be all but meaningless. In
fact, in a 15 December 2005 article in The American Spectator, titled
"Nothing but the Truth,” it was reported that the University of Florida study
was conducted under the supervision of Dr. John Capps, the brother of Michael
Capps, former director of the DoD Polygraph Institute. That assertion of
potential conflict of interest was later confirmed by the Pentagon.
University of Florida researchers were aware that the Pentagon had in its
possession nearly 100 detailed "after action” reports prepared by CVSA examiners
at Guantanamo Bay, all providing solid evidence of the value of CVSA as a
credibility assessment tool. However, when University of Florida researchers
requested copies of those documents the Pentagon refused to make them available.
It was also learned that UF researchers had administered electric shock to test
subjects in the process of obtaining recorded voice samples. It was unclear why
this was done since this procedure violates the basic tenets of CVSA testing and
would undoubtedly skew the test data collected. CVSA testing protocols state
emphatically that the best CVSA results are obtained in the absence of stress.
A subsequent independent technical evaluation of the study (not published
because the University of Florida study was not widely circulated by the
Pentagon) states as follows: "… the UF research and resulting study have no
scientific merit or validity and appear to be another attempt by the DoD
Polygraph bureaucracy to discredit VSA technologies which directly compete with
and threaten the polygraph monopoly within the federal government.”
Nevertheless, in a letter dated 27 October 2006, Robert Andrews, Deputy
Undersecretary of Defense for Counterintelligence and Security, relied heavily
on the University of Florida study, concluding that CVSA performed at "chance
levels,” at roughly the same level as "random guessing.” This in spite of a
seriously flawed study.
During the month of
October 2006, the same year that the University of Florida study was completed,
the NITV began receiving reports from civilian law enforcement agencies that
they were being contacted by Mr. Robert Dodd, of Dodd & Associates, Gambrills,
Maryland, asking them to participate in a survey regarding their experience with
Since NITV had not
been advised of the survey they contacted Mr. Dodd, who stated that he had been
subcontracted by a major defense contractor to conduct a survey of CVSA users
for the federal government. He further stated that, although he believed the
survey was for a different government agency, DoDPI had been assigned to oversee
his work. Regardless, he insisted that an impartial survey would be conducted
and that he would provide NITV with a copy of the final report.
Based on Dodd’s
assurances, NITV recommended to their clients – many of whom were wary of
speaking with Dodd about their use of CVSA – that they cooperate with the
When NITV had not
received a copy of the survey by early 2007, they contacted Mr. Dodd. He advised
that he had completed the survey and had forwarded the results to the defense
contractor. He also advised that, in spite of his initial promise to do so, he
had been specifically prohibited from providing NITV with a copy of the survey
results. Dodd provided NITV with a point of contact to request a copy of his
report; however, their requests were ignored.
In June 2007, NITV
contacted the office of Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and requested his
assistance. Rep. Diaz-Balart was able to obtain a copy of the survey, dated
March 2007, and forwarded it to NITV. The results of Dodd’s survey were so
overwhelmingly positive that DoDPI and the Army G2 wanted the survey "buried.”
survey stated as follows:
86% of the respondents indicated they thought the CVSA® was either "very
effective” or "extremely effective” in detecting stress.
▪ 84% of
respondents believed their initial training from NITV had been either "very
effective” or "extremely effective.” (NOTE: None of the respondents
characterized their training as "not effective” or "slightly effective.”)
▪ The respondents
reported that 75% of the CVSA® deception indicated results were verified by
obtaining a confession.
▪ The survey
cited the CVSA® as having "a remarkably low error rate.” The survey
respondents further reported a 0.4% (less than 1%) false negative or false
positive rate from the CVSA®.
concluded: "It is clear that the majority of the survey respondents believe
the CVSA is a useful tool. Key factors in this usefulness appear to be its ease
of use, timeliness, affordability, and ability to help convince guilty subjects
to confess. It appears to be very helpful in clearing cases.”
One might infer from what CIFA and DoDPI researchers have written that they are
interested in embracing private sector research and development in their search
for new and innovative truth assessment technologies. Perhaps they are, but
apparently only if their researchers are given the lion’s share of the credit.
The old "not-invented-here” syndrome appears to be alive and well in the
Following the resignation of USD(I) Cambone, a staunch ally of the DoD polygraph
program, the use of the CVSA was reconsidered since the polygraph had failed
miserably at GTMO and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following a new investigation of
CVSA by the U.S. Army Special Forces Command at Ft. Bragg, a decision was made
to purchase the CVSA and to train Special Forces personnel. Elements of the 3rd,
5th, 7th and 10th Special Forces Groups were
trained. As reports of the success of the CVSA on the battlefield were received,
more were purchased and additional personnel were trained. From late-2006
through mid-2007 approximately 50 CVSAs were purchased and more than 100 Special
Forces Personnel were trained. CVSA operational successes, particularly in Iraq,
continued to mount.
In September 2007, a biometrics assessment team from Naval Special Warfare (NSW)
was trained on the CVSA and deployed to Iraq to conduct, among other tests, an
independent Proof of Principle of the system under combat conditions. During the
course of that evaluation the team was able to utilize the CVSA on a High Value
Detainee (HVD) who had resisted all previous interrogation attempts for over a
week. Within hours of employing the CVSA, a trained military CVSA operator had a
full confession from the HVD and was able to develop additional intelligence
leads regarding other terrorists and bombers. This information was briefed up to
the highest military command levels in Iraq. Based on these results and others,
NSW immediately began purchasing CVSAs and training personnel.
In February 2008,
officials of DACA (DoDPI) traveled to Iraq with a memorandum signed by the new
USD(I), James R Clapper. The memo was based upon information from the Cambone
regime and was essentially the same as the 8 June 2004 interim policy issued by
Cambone, restricting all DoD credibility assessment activities to the polygraph.
The memo was presented to field commanders, ordering them to discontinue the use
The field commanders initially complied. However, CVSA had become such a
critical tool that operators in the field requested a meeting with the Commander of the
Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq. In March 2008, after the
Task Force Commander was apprised of the success and legality of the CVSA, he
authorized its continued use by Special Operations personnel under his command.
He then forwarded his determination to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Special
Operations Command, who concurred and issued further written guidance that CVSA
could be used by U.S. Army Special Operations Command personnel.
In June 2008, elements of the 5th Special Forces Group returned from
Iraq and reported conducting some 400 CVSA examinations of suspected terrorists,
infiltrators, collaborators, and recruited HUMINT sources during their
deployment. The collective result of their 400 CVSA examinations was a validated
accuracy rate of 98% (based on confessions and related evidence, independently
obtained). This success rate is consistent with reported accuracy rates from
other military operators in Iraq, as well as U.S. civilian law enforcement
However, in spite of this impressive record of success, the Pentagon has placed
an order for 94 hand-held polygraph "gadgets” called PCASS (Preliminary
Credibility Assessment Screening System), mentioned prominently in Admiral
Olson’s 16 June 2008 memorandum. The PCASS is a direct response to the hand-held
CVSA FIST (Field Interrogation Support Tool), developed by NITV.
Unlike CVSA, the new PCASS devices have not been field tested under combat
conditions where the lives of U.S. military personnel are at stake.
Nevertheless, the Pentagon is proceeding with the acquisition of the unproven
devices, at a price of $7,500 each, and will soon deploy them to military
interrogators in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, the PCASS has not been a success. The PCASS system is 60-65%
accurate in DoDPI controlled tests, whereas the CVSA is 95% accurate in real
world military applications. Further, reports from Special Forces, NSW, and
SOCOM are that they are unable to obtain either the PCASS or the required
training to use it. NITV has been advised by SOCOM personnel that the PCASS was
rushed through the R&D process to provide an excuse to block CVSA use in the
In a 9 April 2008 report, MSNBC investigative reporter Bill Dedman describes the
data sent "up the chain of command” by Pentagon polygraph proponents during the
PCASS approval process. According to Dedman,
Pentagon presentation, obtained by MSNBC through a Freedom of Information Act
request, claimed that the PCASS is "82 to 90 percent accurate.” However, in
other Pentagon studies obtained by MSNBC, data show that, in evaluating the
PCASS, scientists conducting the tests fudged the numbers by ignoring all
"inconclusive” readings and using only those responses showing clear deception
When "inconclusive” responses are included, the accuracy rate
of PCASS falls to a level of 63 to 79 percent. Damning with faint praise,
Pentagon officials have been quoted as saying that the use of PCASS is "still
better than relying on human intuition.”
more than 1,800 federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations
utilizing CVSA as an important investigative tool, there is no shortage of
glowing testimonials to the efficacy of CVSA technology. The same is true of
Special Operations interrogators (Navy SEALS and Green Berets) who have used
CVSA in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One returning Special Forces interrogator who claims to have used CVSA "day and
night” for two months reports essentially 100% success in obtaining confessions
and actionable intelligence… all subsequently confirmed by independent
on-the-ground evidence and events.
In one instance, a suspected al Qaeda terrorist demonstrated less than complete
truthfulness when asked if he had planted a roadside bomb (IED) that had killed
and wounded American troops. Upon rephrasing his questions, the interrogator was
able to determine that the subject did not actually plant the IED in question…
but knew who did. Probing further, the interrogator learned that the subject had
the name of the guilty party in his address book.
Another high value detainee (HVD), who initially denied any link to al Qaeda,
was subjected to CVSA examination. When repeated denials indicated clear
deception, interrogators persisted. They eventually learned that, not only had
the suspect served as a driver for a senior al Qaeda leader, he admitted to
having participated in the planting of roadside bombs and in the planning and
execution of ambushes in which U.S. military personnel were killed or wounded.
Military interrogators have found CVSA to be particularly effective in locating
insurgency safe-houses. When known al Qaeda operatives are subjected to CVSA
examination, interrogators are able to divide cities and provinces into
quadrants and inquire, sector-by-sector, in which area terrorist leaders are
hiding. Then, as interrogators find deception in the subject’s negative
responses, they are able to narrow their search to neighborhoods, even to
When making door-to-door sweeps, female suspects represent an especially
difficult problem. Under strict Islamic law, females are not allowed to go
outdoors without being accompanied by a male member of their family. When U.S.
and Iraqi troops have taken Iraqi women into custody, forcibly removing them
from their homes, there have been angry repercussions in the streets. However,
with the introduction of CVSA, the highly portable units can be taken directly
into the homes and female suspects can be quickly evaluated. CVSA has an
additional advantage over the polygraph in that it is not necessary for
interrogators to touch their subjects in any way.
Those who have either used CVSA technology in Iraq, or trained others in its
use, are quick to point out that, not only has CVSA been effective in obtaining
solid leads to major terror cells, it has been equally effective in clearing the
innocent… those detained because they happened to be in the wrong place at the
wrong time. Hundreds of al Qaeda suspects are held in detainee centers
throughout Iraq, many for as long as eighteen months, with no definitive results
from repeated polygraph interrogations. U.S. military commanders are now
hesitant to release any suspects until they have passed a final exit screening
by an interrogator armed with a CVSA unit.
Upon learning of the successes of U.S. military interrogators using CVSA, Iraqi
Interior Ministry officials asked to be briefed on CVSA technology. Briefings
were scheduled, but before the briefings could occur, DACA officials arrived in
Baghdad and ordered that they be cancelled.
A subsequent report in the Stars and Stripes (Iraqi officials given
polygraph training, 12 June 2008) tells the rest of the story. American forces
are now training Iraqi Defense Ministry employees to administer polygraph
examinations. According to the Stars and Stripes, "The six-month-long
training program is one of several measures U.S. officials are taking with Iraqi
ministries, which have been accused of corruption and sectarian agendas within
CVSA examiners could be trained within two weeks, while the first Iraqi
polygraph examiners will not be operational until sometime near years end. If
time is of the essence in perfecting democratic institutions in Iraq, DACA alone
seems not to be concerned.
What the Stars
and Strips editors don’t know is that they are tiptoeing around the edges of
a major Pentagon procurement scandal… one that has been ongoing for some twenty
years. The memorandum signed by Admiral Olson on 16 June 2008 was prepared by
U.S. Army G2 officers assigned to the SOCOM staff without regard for the well
documented successes of the CVSA. If Admiral Olson will look into the matter and
find out exactly who and what was behind the unsupported memorandum that was put
before him for his signature, he will be performing a great service for those
who are risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.