Monday, July 28, 2014

The Trouble with the Polygraph

My first disappointment with polygraph conclusions came in 1950, with the defection of the youngest Soviet Navy destroyer captain, who took his own captain's boat across more than 100 miles of the Baltic Sea with his Polish girlfriend from Gdynia to Sweden. He was then transferred to the Defector Reception Center in Frankfurt, where he underwent the polygraph interview which was standard practice in the handling of defectors. The polygraph complication of Artamonov's (renamed Shadrin) debriefing was described in the book “Shadrin, the Spy Who Never Came Back”, by Henry Hurt: “But on at least one occasion, in Frankfurt, Artamonov flunked his polygraph test, a fact that was resolved at the time, but which would pop up nearly two decades (sic, 16 years) later as evidence to suggest doubts about his bona fides.” (Actually, he did lie about his age, as he had given his girlfriend a younger age!).

In a footnote, Hurt states:

"Simple failure of a polygraph test certainly carried no great significance in the minds of the top CIA management under Admiral Stansfield Turner. When one of his appointees for chief of a major division was unable to pass a polygraph test in 1979, Turner waived the results and put him in the post anyway—after ordering new questions and a new polygraph operator. The case is not dissimilar to what appears to have happened to Shadrin's case in Frankfurt, as well as in other cases of initial polygraph failure”.

Between our debriefing of Artamonov and that by the Navy, the top priority intelligence we expected on the Soviet Navy, of which the U.S, was practically ignorant, was produced.

When a KGB officer in Washington phoned DD/P Helms in April 1969 and offered to work for CIA if Artamonov would pretend to work for him, Artamonov was persuaded by D/DCI Admiral Taylor to accept the proposal. Artamonov then met several times with the KGB officer, including two meetings in Canada. In December 1975, at a meeting with the KGB in Vienna, they kidnapped him, and killed him in the car with an overdose of chloroform as they were driving him to Czechoslovakia. The CI Staff, even DCI Turner, indicated that Artamonov was probably working for the KGB when he defected. That was unanimously contradicted by all subsequent defectors and assets, including the chief of the Soviet KGB division which killed him, who admitted to having been personally involved in the kidnapping in Vienna; that officer subsequently defected and is now a U.S. citizen.

My first direct conflict with our polygraph procedures came in July 1961. During the second series of meetings with GRU colonel Oleg Penkovskiy in London I was called in by COS Wisner and handed a HQ cable which raised another of our operations then going on in London, of which I was totally unaware. That was with the interpreter for Soviet cosmonaut Yuriy Gagarin, who was then visiting London. Boris Belitskiy was a Radio Moscow announcer who had learned English in high school in Brooklyn when his father was an Amtorg businessman/agent there. Belitskiy (AEWIRELESS) had walked in to us at the Brussels World Fair in 1958. The message directed me to contact our case officer and MI-5/MI-6 and review and evaluate the intelligence provided by Belitskiy (which would have been my routine assignment at HQ). As I reviewed the information, I was informed that Belitskiy had just been polygraphed and that there was “no deception indicated”. The information dealt with some topics of priority interest, but the more I read, the more I realized that Belitskiy was under KGB control, providing information which was not consistent with what we already knew, was certainly partially false, and, in several cases was information to which Belitskiy would not have normal access. I sent that evaluation to HQ, with the conclusion that he was under KGB control. HO came back with instructions that I provide the information to HQ so they could decide whether or not he was under control.

When we returned to HQ, the Soviet Division chief took case officers Bulik and Kisevalter, and me, to report to DD/P Helms on the Penkovskiy meeting. After we had all made brief statements about the series of meetings, the division chief told Helms that I had concluded that Belitskiy was under KGB control. Fortunately for me, Helms reacted angrily, throwing his hands into the air and saying loudly that he had no time for that. Then I was called in by CI Staff chief Angleton and asked to come down and discuss Belitskiy with him and his CI analyst. I did that and they seemed to agree with my evaluation. The next day, the Soviet Division chief called me up to his office and reprimanded me for having given Angleton an evaluation which was not the position of the Soviet Division. In the Europe Division staff meetings, I was orally attacked for “personally denigrating a valuable Soviet source acquired in the Europe Division geographic area”.

In December 1961, KGB officer Golitsyn defected and told us that the KGB was running a double agent against us who walked in to us at the 1958 Brussels World Fair. That had to be Belitskiy, but that was not accepted immediately. In June 1962, a KGB walk-in told us that Belitskiy was being run against us by the KGB (which I learned from Kisevalter, who had met with the June 1962 walkin.). Meanwhile, meetings with Belitskiy continued, and his information eventually was published with the word “FABRICATION” printed diagonally in large red letters across each page. The division chief, apparently puzzled as to how I had reached my conclusion, called me in and asked for an explanation (unaware that Kisevalter had already informed me). He said Belitskiy had told us that the Soviets were providing the Cubans five million dollars a day— another bit of information which there was no reason for Belitskiy to know. CIA never thanked me for having provided the initial warning about the operation. It was over 30 years later that I lunched with the case officer and he finally admitted to having been fooled by Belitskiy when he walked in in Brussels in

March 1958.

During the second series of meetings with Penkovskiy in London in July 1961, HQ raised the question of polygraphing Penkovskiy. In view of the documents and other information which Penkovskiy had provided by that time, there was no reason at all for polygraphing him. MI-6 asked my opinion and I said just that, adding that we had just polygraphed Belitskiy (they were totally witting of that operation), and that I considered the polygraph conclusion to be entirely false—that Belitskiy actually was under KGB control. That became part of the basis for the MI-6 opinion about polygraphing Penkovskiy, and MI-6 then strongly resisted the plan to polygraph Penkovskiy (as did CIA case officers Bulik and Kisevalter).

Meanwhile, KGB officer Nosenko had defected in February 1964 and been interviewed several times by the Soviet Division, then taken in late 1965 to solitary confinement at the Farm. He had been subjected to a number of polygraph tests, all intended to disprove his bona fides.

In November 1965, the Soviet Division chief came to me and said that I was wrong to consider Nosenko bona fide, and that he would have me read the analysis done so far, which would prove that to me. The division C/CI then brought me the relevant notebooks, containing about 1,000 pages, and I reviewed them quickly. Immediately I saw that there was analysis and argumentation which was not valid, often even contradicting itself. Realizing that my access to these memos would not last long, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday reading them and taking notes so that I could write a counterargument. Indeed, quite early Monday morning, the division C/CI came in, said that I should never had access to the documents, and took them away. I then wrote up my comments on the documents, some 19 pages in all, and took that memo to the division chief the next day. He reacted immediately, calling me, my superior, Katharine Hart (nee Colvin), and her other deputy, Bob Lubbehusen, to his office. He said that I was completely wrong in my analysis, that all copies of my memo were to be brought to him at once, and that, if it was ever mentioned to anyone, that person who mentioned it would be fired. We were all severely shaken by that meeting.

General reports on Nosenko's handling at the Farm over the next few months came to me regularly from Dick Kovich, who had been assigned there to bar his access to sensitive operational information, as he was one of three officers with Soviet Division experience who were (falsely) suspected by Angleton of working for the KGB. He made contact regularly in the cafeteria and around the base with the Security officers guarding Nosenko, and used his exceptional elicitation capability to keep informed of Nosenko's treatment and visits by HO officers to try to further develop their case against him.

In January 1966, our secretary came in with a carbon copy of my Nosenko memo, explaining that she always kept an extra copy of everything she typed, and did I want it? I kept it nervously for a month or two, then decided that the time had come to bring the matter to the attention of Helms, who was to leave in a couple of months to become DCI. I took the copy to his office, gave it to his secretary, and asked her to give it to him. He called me the next day and asked if I would object to its being passed to our psychologist!

Of course not. The psychologist read my memo and called me a few days later and asked if I would like to go downtown with him for lunch. We did, he asked a few questions, and it was obvious that he saw my side of the analysis.

Then I was informed that the GS-15 promotion which I had just received had been revoked by Helms' replacement as DD/P, Karamessines. I then made an appointment with him, went over the case with him, and he reprimanded me for not having gone through proper channels to get a memo to Helms, but said that I should go to division chief Murphy and apologize, and tell him that my promotion had been restored.

Nosenko remained in solitary confinement. Meanwhile, my memo was being used to correct certain aspects of the 1,000-page case against him. The three officers assigned to do that, none previously aware of it, were told not to talk to me about the case. In spite of that, two of them did, and my impression was that both of them were beginning to have doubts about the case. More and more concerned about Nosenko's situation, I wrote another memo, pointing out that, no matter whether Nosenko was bona fide or not, our handling of him was not only inappropriate, but no doubt illegal. I took the memo up in August 1967 and gave it to Helms' secretary, who had come up with him from DD/P, and asked her to pass it to Helms. Helms called a few days later, I went to his office, and he advised me that he had turned the case over to the D/DCI, Admiral Taylor, who would work with the Office of Security to resolve it.

Admiral Taylor called me in and asked why Murphy would do such a thing. All I could say was that he was being consistent with the conclusions of CI Staff chief Angleton, who had cast doubts on every operation we had, including Penkovskiy, and had initiated investigations of all of us Soviet Division officers who had Russian-language capability. In October 1968, Bruce Solie of Security, whom Angleton had turned to operationally ( having suspected most Soviet Division officers), interviewed Nosenko, polygraphed him, found him bona fide, and secretly removed him from the Farm without informing the CI Staff or the Soviet Division.

A few months later, not long before he left for Iran, Helms held a meeting of senior-level officers who had participated in review of the case, and made the official CIA decision that Nosenko was bona fide. He then gave a medal to my psychologist friend “for having helped to resolve one of the most difficult cases we ever had”—the Nosenko case. (When I congratulated the psychologist at the medal ceremony, he said: “This medal belongs to you”. A recent book, “Circle of Treason”. claims that I was entirely responsible for resolution of the Nosenko case, but no credit at all has ever been acknowledged by CIA!)

In July 1977, we lost a potentially very valuable asset, when the case officer was detained in Moscow while she was picking up a dead drop (Martha Peterson, “Widow Spy”). The asset had been recruited in Bogota (with which I participated to develop the case), was then assigned to the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs central mail distribution room, and we put him on ice for a year before meeting him in Moscow. One of the last cables he (allegedly) gave us, in April 1977, was a very strange Soviet cable from Washington to Moscow purportedly reporting a meeting of Secretary of State Kissinger with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin.

In that meeting, Kissinger was apparently providing Dobrynin with our strategy for the START talks in Geneva. My initial evaluation of the cable was that, if it happened, it would be "tantamount to treason”. (a comment which somehow appeared in Henry Hurt. “Shadrin, the Spy Who Never Came Back”, and in an op-ed article in the Post.)

A few weeks after the arrest of this asset and capture of our case officer, I was visited in my office in the CI Staff by DI analyst David Sullivan. Our relationship went back to my management of the prioritizing, translation, and dissemination of Penkovskiy's and, later, Kuklinski's, documents. At my request, my chief had asked the Dl to assign an analyst with appropriate background and knowledge for me to consult on the more complicated information we received, and Sullivan was selected by Chief, OSR and I consulted him several times.

Sullivan had learned of the arrest of the Foreign Ministry asset and the Kissinger cable. He said that he regularly visited the NSA special branch working on Soviet communications traffic, and would be glad to check out that cable with them. That was a very welcome offer, at least a potential way of determining whether any such cable had ever been sent, so I got the print of the cable from the Soviet Division and gave it to Sullivan to take to NSA. He asked for the translation of the cable, but I told him that I did not have it and that NSA would not need it—all they had to do was check Soviet traffic for the day the cable allegedly was sent —the English translation was of no use for that purpose. Sullivan took the copy, came back the next day, and said that NSA could not determine whether the cable had been sent.

In Late 1977, as deputy chief/CI Staff, I was visited by a Security officer who asked if I had given the Kissinger cable to David Sullivan. Yes, I had (the original Russian version), and that was the end of the discussion—no reason given for the question. A couple of weeks later, the Director of Security called and asked if I knew that I was to be called up the next day by DCI Turner to be fired.

The next day, I was called to the 7" floor and told to wait outside the Senior Staff conference room. After 15-20 minutes, Sullivan came out of the conference room looking very upset, barely said hello, and left. About 15-20 minutes later, Chief/CI Staff came out of the conference room and said I could return to work.

About three weeks later, I was called up to meet with the DCi and D/DCI. DCI Turner said that he was demoting me from GS-17 to GS-16 for having collaborated with Sullivan in giving the (translated) Kissinger cable to Senator Jackson. I told him that I had not done that, but he reached for an envelope on his desk and said that I had done so, as the cable was right there in his hand. There was no further discussion.

Undoubtedly, the cable translation had been given to Jackson (or his aide) by Sullivan, but where did he get it? I checked with the Soviet Division Reports Branch, which had issued the translation in an extremely limited dissemination, and they had not given it to Sullivan. Only much later did I learn that the Soviet Division case officer who was in charge of the case which produced the cable had been Sullivan's classmate at Columbia University.

In early 1979, I left for Europe, an assignment which lasted six years. In early 1983, I was repolygraphed and, throughout the home leave, I spent 21 hours on the polygraph, the next-to-last interview devoted to determining if I actually was working for the Chinese! Then a senior polygraph officer (the branch chief and I had worked well on several cases) came in, conducted a brief interview, and told me there was no problem. I returned to Europe, retiring in May 1985, when HQ did not offer me another assignment.

In 2000, I returned to Washington to accompany my son through his senior year in high school. I was then employed on CIA declassification projects, and was, by coincidence, consulted by the History Staff on Penkovskiy, Popov, and some other, minor, cases, during which I met Ben Fisher. When the case came up in which the Kissinger cable figured, he said that Sullivan now lived on Whidbey Island, and that he had consulted Sullivan on some cases via email. I told him the story of my demotion based on the false polygraph report, and he suggested that I contact Sullivan. So I emailed Sullivan, and told him what had happened to me after he was fired. He apologized and said that he would send me the facts, explaining that I had no part in the passage of the Kissinger cable to Senator Jackson. Then he did so.

When I returned to Europe, I sent Sullivan's email to HQ. In July 2001, I received a cable originated by Mike Sulick, stating that he had asked Jack Downing to take my cable to Turner and discuss it with him. Turner then concurred in cancelling the demotion (23 years after it had done it).

The modest loss of income which the demotion had cost me was paid to me, and my annuity was adjusted accordingly. There was no way at this point, sixteen years after my retirement, to recover the loss to my career, restore my reputation among all of my former and current colleagues who were aware of my alleged security violation and demotion, or to compensate for the shame and loss of self-respect with which I had had to live for 23 years.

The polygraph of Sullivan was the cause of this catastrophe. It would appear that, as soon as Sullivan admitted having passed the cable to Senator Jackson (or aide), my name entered into his admission, whether as his deliberate accomplice, or simply to protect the former classmate who had given him the translation. Whatever he said, the polygraph clearly did not result in the determination of the truth, thereby leading to the permanent damage to my career and reputation, and to my continuing contribution to CIA priorities.

Conclusion: Considering the above experiences with the polygraph in the 60 years during which I have worked on and off in the Clandestine Service in some 30 countries around the world, I would recommend that the bona fides of all clandestine assets be evaluated using the following methods, in descending priority:

  1. Is the asset reporting everything of intelligence significance to which he should have access?
  2. Is it really likely that the asset has access to everything which he is reporting?
    (If the answers to the above questions are positive, no polygraph test should be conducted. The asset may view it as a sign of distrust.)
  3. Is the asset reporting only what we already know?
  4. What is the case officer's evaluation of the asset?
  5. If doubts arise in any of the above evaluations, a polygraph test might be conducted. However, its conclusion should not automatically be accepted as accurate. Instead, consider which aspects of the polygraph examination indicate uncertainty or hesitation on the part of the asset, and review those with the asset to determine their relevance to his reporting.