AFJAGS Podcast, Episode 27

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  • By Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Colon
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Busting Polygraph Myths with Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Colon – Part 2

Host: Major Rick Hanrahan
Guest: Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Colon

Part 2 continues where we left off from Part 1 as we continue to debunk the biggest polygraph examination myths. In this interview we discuss what polygraphs are, how they’re used in investigations and screening tests, how aspects of them can be admissible in court, the tech behind them, and the experts that use them.

Episode 27: Busting Polygraph Myths with Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Colon – Part 2

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AUDIO | 33:25 | Air Force Judge Advocate Generals School Podcast - 27. Busting Polygraph Myths with Lt Col Carlos Colon - Part 2

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Major Rick Hanrahan:

Welcome to part two of our interview with Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Colon, an Air Force JAG reservist and full-time FBI Special Agent and Polygraph Examiner and Coordinator. This part two continues where we left off in part one as we continue to debunk the biggest polygraph examination myths. Here are a few clips from part two.

[Upbeat Intro Music].

Show Excerpt, Lieutenant Colonel Colon:

That’s the biggest thing that’s lacking when it comes to polygraph is just people being educated on it and knowing what it actually can provide.

What we tend to see is where people withhold information. Give a little bit of the truth, but not the whole story. The body doesn’t differentiate between a big lie and a little lie. What we call white lie, right? A lie is a lie.


Welcome to The Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Reporter Podcast, where we interview leaders, innovators, and influencers on the law, leadership, and best practices of the day. And now to your host from The Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School.

Underutilized Tool

Maj Hanrahan:

So based on your years of experience and, you know, pushing up to nearly a thousand examinations at this point would you think that it’s an underutilized tool?

Lt Col Colon:

Absolutely. I see it in my agencies, and I speak with other examiners, cause in the FBI I’m assigned to the Tampa Division. Every division has at least one examiner, if not multiple depending on the size and the workload, and we hear that a lot, of not being utilized as much or as often as we could be. And I’ll sometimes, because through my collateral duties I have a lot of interaction with agents, and at times we’ll discuss things, and they’ll start talking about a case, and it’d be a perfect case for a polygraph, and they’re like, "You know what? I didn’t even think about it, cause it just wasn’t something that came to mind", or "I just don’t like polygraphs. I don’t—it’s voodoo." I get that a lot, its voodoo. It’s not based on any kind of science, not admissible, and I have to educate. I think that’s the biggest thing that’s lacking when it comes to polygraph is just people being educated on it and knowing what it actually can provide versus the myth of well, it’s not admissible in court. It’s just voodoo. This, that and the other. It serves its purpose, and if used appropriately can be a valuable asset for any type of investigation that’s going on.

Maj Hanrahan:

This is obviously a tool as you’ve mentioned, and it could actually—could be the break you need on an investigation. It could be the tool that is the right tool for that particular case at that particular time.

Lt Col Colon:

Correct. And I used that one case—that homicide case that I just mentioned. It was perfect, because instead of continuing going down that rabbit hole with that one subject—that first subject that we thought wow the circumstantial evidence is really pointing to him. Why does he keep denying that he’s had any kind of relations with her when we have witnesses saying that they were romantically involved with each other? Well after the polygraph it shed light on it. Well now we know why he was lying about their relationship, but he’s being truthful about not being involved in her murder. And it prevented us from wasting a lot of time, a lot of resources, continually going that rabbit hole chasing after him when he had nothing to do with it, and we were able to backtrack, reassess and then start going down other leads, and ultimately get the individual that was responsible for it.

Maj Hanrahan:

So kind of, you know, with our topic in mind about myths would you say that probably, maybe one of the main reasons or causes why the polygraph isn’t used in the Air Force or the military at large or even other agencies it’s because of a lack of awareness?

Lt Col Colon:

I believe so. In my opinion that would be—from what I’ve seen in my agency, recalling my time as an active duty JAG prosecutor, and even I’ve been a reservist ever since working at the legal office, working at higher headquarters, and it’s funny cause when I talk to JAGs—active duty JAGs about my civilian job and polygraph I get a lot of questions, and I’m glad. I’m grateful, and a lot of times they apologize for taking my time, but I’m like no, absolutely ask all the questions you want. I want to get more information out there. And I see active duty JAGs just don’t even know much about polygraph, or how is it based, or how could it be used. So I’ve seen that even as a reservist JAG, in my interactions with those active duty JAGs, and I try to do trainings and things like that just to shed more light on it.

And after I’ve talked with them you can kind of see a little bit more of that light bulb of hey, this is something that we can possibly use and maybe use more often. And I’m not saying it should be used every time. When used appropriately at the right time it’s very effective, but it’s not something that should be just a cookie cutter approach every time we use it. That’s not what I’m advocating for either, but it’s something that should be there in that tool box that whether it be the investigator or the prosecutor JAG looking at it as something that’s can be used specific for that case especially when you have one of those as they say the works a lot of circumstantial evidence, and you just kind of need that extra little nugget to get over the finish line.

“Lie Detector Test”

Maj Hanrahan:

And sir, we’ve touched on this a little bit, but keeping our myth theme in mind, is a polygraph a “lie detector test”?

Lt Col Colon:

Yes. I’m glad you asked that, because that is—I get that all the time. "Oh it’s a lie detector test—lie detector." Well, that’s not completely accurate in the sense that what we’re looking at is deception. Actually, the polygraph itself, the technical term we use, is psychophysiological detection of deception. Now that’s a mouthful, and really that kind of starts going into more of the science of what we’re doing and stuff, but it’s a combination of looking at somebody’s anatomy, physiology, psychology all being brought together here to approach that polygraph examination.

So what happens to an individual, as I kind of mentioned before, we’re all growing up for the most part as saying lying is wrong, and we know when we lie we’re doing something wrong. And the reality is, it's the way the body reacts when we’re talking about that autonomic response system, whenever we are lying we’re doing something deceptive the body is going to react, and when it comes to deception, if somebody flat out lies about something that’s pretty easy. It’s a pretty straightforward reaction. The individual clearly knows and stuff. But deception goes beyond just a flat out lie, and the example I like to use is if you think of for most of us we’ve all had that situation where we talk to somebody, they told us something, told us a story. Later on we go back and we find out from somebody else hey, there’s more to it. That wasn’t exactly the way that my buddy told me originally about it. So you go back to your buddy, and you say hey, when you were telling me this you told me this that, but you lied to me, because this is how it’s like, and their response is well, I didn’t lie to you. I just didn’t tell you the whole story.

Most of people have had that experience at some point in their life. Well that’s deception, and that’s where people deceive in a polygraph. A lot of times they can—deception they can exaggerate information. The example I like to use is where someone says oh hey, I was top of my graduating class, and when you really look into it yeah they went to school, they got a degree, but they were nowhere, you know, the top of the class. They were exaggerating their accomplishments. People do it to try to get employment, to impress an employer, a girlfriend, somebody their dating, whoever it may be. People do that.

In polygraph we don’t tend to see that too often. What we tend to see is where people withhold information. Give a little bit of the truth, but not the whole story. When it comes to an applicant with drug activity we get that a lot, where obviously that’s one of the questions we ask cause that’s important especially for a law enforcement agency to know what kind of drug history the individual has had, involvement in drugs, and a lot of times in order to minimize their behavior—cause human nature is we don’t want to ever believe we’re bad people so we try to minimize things. Minimize anything we did wrong. And instead of giving the full amount of whatever drugs they used, how often, things of that they’ll admit to having used, but not the full amount. Not to the extent—to the full extent of it. Well that’s deception. Are they flat out lying? No, because they are admitting that they used x drug, whatever it may be, but they’re not giving the full story, because they’re not telling the full extent of their use. So that’s where deception comes in.

So I even tell, especially applicants when I’m doing a screening test, I tell them I’m like, I’m not sitting here telling you’re lying. I’m not—I’ll never tell you that, because it’s deception. And at the end of the day if it’s something that’s on your mind that you’re not completely being straight forward with it is going to come out physiologically speaking. And it doesn’t matter. You could be 99% telling the truth. If there’s 1% of a lie to that or 1% of withholding information it’s still deception. You’re still withholding information possibly lying about something, and the body doesn’t differentiate between a big lie and a little lie. What we call white lie, right? A lie is a lie, and the body doesn’t react.

Like when I’m looking at charts I see that reaction, and the body I can’t tell. Was that a big, little lie, a half-truth? You know, withholding information? That is not something that the body differentiates. The body reacts, because it knows that there’s some deception going on. So that’s where we call it a detection of deception examination versus a lie detector test, because you may not be flat out lying about something, but if you’re withholding information about whatever subject matter it is that I’m asking about, you’re going to be DI [deception indicated]. You’re going to indicate as being deceptive on that examination, because yeah you’re not flat out lying about it but you’re withholding information that you know about that subject matter.

The Process

Maj Hanrahan:

Sir, you meant—you talked about this a little bit on the polygraph and what you look for, and I’m assuming you’re using a computer to do this. I can imagine some listeners may be thinking of those old black and white movies, right, where they were doing the polygraph examination and there’s some giant computer that’s—how would you say, sir? What would they—what do they usually give out?

Lt Col Colon:

Yeah. I know exactly what you’re saying is the old movies. The best movie most people understand is Meet the Parents, right? Where he’s brought down into the basement, and the future father-in-law sits him down and connects him to it, and you see that—what we call it that analog machine where the paper and the pens are going back and forth putting all those squiggly lines. So yeah. That is the old polygraph. That’s what we call analog system. What they used to use with the long paper.

What has happened now is, yeah, when I administer examination I’m using a laptop, and on that laptop on the screen it’s the same thing. It’s the same squiggly little lines that you saw on that analog sheet. It’s just now the software is on the actual computer screen.

But we’re looking at essentially the same stuff, and it goes back to your physiology, and there are different channels that we’re looking at; the respiration channel, your breathing, things of that nature. What we call electrodermal activity, that’s your sweat gland activity. So those are the finger plates that get put on your finger. Cardiovascular, your blood pressure, your heart rate, things of that nature, and we’ll put a cup on your arm similar to when you get a blood pressure taken. Those are all the different channels that we use.

So why we use multiple channels, when it comes to your physiology is this is one of those things to try to add more credibility, substantiate more of what we do is to counter those arguments of well, it’s not a valid test. It’s voodoo. Things like that and the other. The reality is there’s no test out there that’s 100 percent valid, especially when it comes to this field of trying to determine truth or deception. And research, a lot of research has been done on this, and that is why, especially for us, we are held to very strict protocols to follow in line with that research.

And I’m not going to sit here and say that it’s 100 percent accurate, in the sense of there are false positives, and there are false negatives. Research has shown that. But that percentage of false positives where it’s indicating somebody is being deceptive but they’re really not or false negative where it indicates that they’re not being deceptive when they really are, that percentage is very, very, very, low. And now there are things that the examiner, if is an unethical examiner, could do to try to manipulate things. Yes, that’s always possible, but that’s in any career field. Prosecutor could be unethical when dealing with defense counsel. Stuff like that. So putting that aside when you’re talking about the actual science and art of a polygraph and stuff, it is—research has shown that polygraph is one of the most accurate means available out there in order to determine truth and deception. And the reality is, as I said earlier, this is key too, as a polygraph examiner that data I know it’s not admissible anyway. So I’m not 100 percent putting everything on that, because I’ve done a lot of my work ahead of time during that pretest phase. Doing that interview and being a good interviewer. Seeing, you know, the indicators whether through verbal, nonverbals, all that behavioral stuff that is a whole 'nother area to discuss when you’re talking about actually conducting an interview.

So at that point the polygraph, the instrument, the data is just confirming what I already suspect prior to. But we use those multiple channels, cause if I just use one well, you know, that makes the accuracy a little bit less. The more channels I use when it comes to your physiology, again, that’s what we’re looking that is that physiological changes, the physiological reactions when I’m asking you specific questions that would indicate any kind of deception, make it a lot more accurate.

Quality Control

Maj Hanrahan:

And can you also speak to what I understand to be a two-step process on this? It sounds like there’s the actual exam, and then there’s a second review done by a QC control or quality control.

Lt Col Colon:

Correct. Yes. As we discussed when we were prepping for this, that is one of the things that holds me accountable that way, cause as you can imagine when someone goes south in the sense of their deception indicated and I—especially an applicant I let them know hey, you’re showing, you know, deception indicated here we need to talk about—find out, people get defensive, and "No I’m being truthful", this, that. And there is the times where they think I’m being personal—I’m making that call. I’m the one who’s saying that they’ve failed if you want to, you know, for lack of better terms. Well, I’m not the one determining that. The individual’s body, their physiology is, and in order to ensure that we maintain those protocols we add that two-step process as you indicated.

I do the examination. I’m there in that room with that individual. Once the examination is done that results—the data—all that data gets sent up to another individual. This is a senior examiner. He’s a supervisor. An examiner that’s experienced. He’s been trained to do what we’ll call quality control. That individual’s job is to review the examination, and they’re just looking at black and white, the charts. They don’t know the individual. They haven’t had any interaction. They weren’t in there when I was conducting the examination, so there is no bias on that individual—potential bias I should say on that individual. Well, I saw this person we, you know, we disliked them. Anything like that. It is completely black and white to the actual data, the charts. And that individual reviews it based upon the protocols that the National Center for Credibility Assessment has put in place to ensure that when I’m saying the person indicated deception or was non—NDI, non-deception indicated, that QC is looking to verify that.

Now, if the QC sees something that is off or is borderline they can always overturn me. What I mean by overturn—and usually what we see by overturn is never—hardly ever, unless it’s just extreme and the examiner just missed something and human error does happen. We’re all human and stuff like that, but we’re very good at focusing on the data, and it is what it is. It’s very rare you’re going to see an individual QC overturn an NDI to a DI. What tends to happen is, is again, we have strict protocols that we follow, a scoring system that’s in place and stuff, based upon the research and the reactions, and we ask the questions multiple times. I just don’t ask a question once and then we’re determining based upon that. I’ll ask the questions in various different formats, in you know, I mean, in different order, and then multiple times, so we’re getting good data set in order to make these determinations.

So what happens sometimes it could be kind of close where well, it’s kind of borderline based upon our protocol where it could be NDI or an inconclusive. And that’s where an individual may say well, it’s an NDI, and the QC comes in and says now, you know what, there was movement here, so I’m not going to score that channel, because the individual moved, so we can’t say was it the movement or was it a non-reaction or reaction. And then they may change it to an inconclusive. So there is that QC in place in order to have two set of eyes looking at the same data to ensure. It’s like two doctors making sure we concur with the same charts.

Maj Hanrahan:

And I presume this two-step process with this quality control is standardized at least from a federal law enforcement standpoint whether in the FBI or in the military.

Lt Col Colon:

Correct. Yes. On the federal level at least, and that’s a good point because on the federal level as federal examiners we are subject to that QC process. That is something that the National Center of Credibility Assessment checks for when they do their inspections to ensure we’re all following that protocol.

Now, on the state level, the local level, that is a whole different ball game. I know of some agencies that don’t have a QC process, and you got to remember too like anything, the unfortunate reality is there is budgetary constraints like anything. We are the government, and with an unlimited budget oh yeah, there’s all kinds of stuff you can do. Local departments don’t have as much of a budget to have an extra person that’s designated just to QC things like that.

So, but I’m totally glad and okay with having that QC process, because I want no problems and want my work to be critiqued. That way it keeps me fine-tuning my craft, first of all, and also keeps me in check. There’s nothing wrong with the checks and balances, and that’s where the QC process really benefits us, because it’s not just me making a subjective call. This is based upon objective criteria that’s been input in place over years of research and fine tuning polygraph as an overall program, so the QC is a great thing to have in place so that we can really say, yup, what we’re seeing here, this is the person’s physiology, this is the issues that we’re seeing and then go from there.

Where is a Polygraph Most Effective

Maj Hanrahan:

Sir, what cases and/or witnesses or subjects lend themselves best to the use of the polygraph?

Lt Col Colon:

Where a polygraph is most effective, as I stated there’s two types of polygraphs. There’s a screening test and a single-issue examination. Obviously screening tests are important for what we do because of the responsibility we’re given at, you know, the FBI, CIA, military, things like that nature in order to get security clearances. You’re going to be given access to some very sensitive information, so you have to have full trust and confidence in those individuals. Where it could become more effect—so those are effective tests and stuff, but if somebody goes DI on that, it could be for multiple reasons, and a screening test there’s very different questions.

For instance, when we’re talking suitability we may ask about criminal activity, drug activity, you know, truthfulness on their application. So that’s what I’m talking about screening. A lot of different issues, so if somebody does indicate deceptive well now it’s my job to narrow that down and try to figure out okay. Is it because of drug activity? Is it because of criminal activity? Is it because they’re falsifying some information on their application? And the test we don’t look at just one specific question say oh they’re failing this question. We look at the test as a whole.

So with the single-issue examinations where this would be your bank robber. Did you rob the bank? Did you rob the bank that day? That’s where it becomes the most effective in the format of examination, because the individual that indicates deception, I obviously know it has something to do with that bank robbery. Now, it could the individual they actually were involved themselves, or it could be they had knowledge of it either prior to the robbery happening or afterwards and stuff, but that’s still relevant obviously to the investigation.

Now, where in the investigation it may be best to do the polygraph that’s something that is totally on the case agent. Depending on where you are at the point of the investigation, best determines when the polygraph should come in. I’ve had agents come to me and say "Hey, I want to do a polygraph." We discuss and stuff, and it’s just my recommendation now, at the end of the day I’m a tool in the toolbox. If they want me to polygraph the individual I’ll polygraph them, but I’ll base it on my expertise. Sometimes I’ll tell them, you know, I think this is a little premature at this point. What I would do is I’d go back. I’d interview this person, that person, try to find this before you come in. Because the polygraph really should be one of the last phases of the investigation when much of the other investigative tools and techniques have already been exhausted and still not there to go over the finish line to get to an indictment, have that direct evidence against that individual.

So you don’t want to use a polygraph too early in the investigation, but that’s something as I tell the agents I work with is, call me, and most examiners in the Bureau, but also examiners I spoke with in other agencies feel the same way, is the best thing is to call the examiner. That’s what we’re there for. Call us. Discuss the case, the specifics, and based on our expertise we can give our opinion on hey, is this good to do this now, good to wait, whatever, based upon the facts of the case, cause every case is different. So determining on where they are in the investigation, what type of case, would determine whether polygraph is good to do at this time or not.

Learning More

Maj Hanrahan:

Well sir, I think we could go quite a bit longer here on the polygraph discussion. Fascinating so far, but to kind of wrap up, where could folks learn more about polygraphs? Are there any resources out there whether on the Internet or any type of other resources where you think folks could go to learn more about this topic?

Lt Col Colon:

Yeah. When it comes to you learning more information the one thing is because there are a lot of different formats of polygraphs, and you have the federal level, state level there’s not one repository per se of where you can get information. The Internet has a lot of good information on polygraph, but anything like—anything on the Internet there’s a lot good information, and there’s some not so good. There are anti-polygraph websites out there that go into a lot of these myths, and how inaccurate it is, and it’s subjective, and voodoo. And I tell people if you want to educate yourself by all means. I would never tell anybody not to go out there, but put it all in context like anything.

The best source to go to is your agency’s polygraph examiner whether it be the military, local law enforcement, federal, whatever it may be, cause they’re the individuals who can really shed a lot of light and ask a lot of specific questions that an individual may have. Because that’s what I tend to find when I start talking to individuals about polygraphs is I do see a lot of the similar themes, but a lot of times the individual has specific questions based upon whatever they have going on. Whether it’s one of the agents I’m working for and they’re working a criminal case or they have a witness or source. Obviously in the government or any law enforcement agency we use sources and stuff, and I’ll polygraph a source too to verify the information they’re providing. That is a use of the polygraph. I also have individuals who want to apply to the FBI, interns. I do presentations at colleges and get a lot of questions obviously about that.

So the best source is talk to an actual polygraph examiner. We love to talk. Most examiners because that’s all we do is we just talk to people all day long—that’s my job is just to talk to people, learn their behaviors, things of that nature, so that is probably the best source, because they can focus whatever answers your looking for specific to what questions you have.

Closing Thoughts

Maj Hanrahan:

And sir, could you provide any final thoughts on today’s topic and also anything you might want to gear towards our young trial counsel?

Lt Col Colon:

Yeah. The big thing is—and maybe be afraid is not the right question and stuff like that, but don’t be turned off by the polygraph. A lot of what I’ve seen in my career both as an FBI agent before I became an examiner, as an examiner, and then even as a JAG both on active duty and Reserves, it’s one of those things, is because of the myths that we talked about; oh it’s not admissible in court. It’s a lie detector test. It’s voodoo. It’s not based on science. All this, that, and the other. People just kind of shy away from it. I’ve had prosecutors tell me well, it’s just too much work. I’m going to have to fight a suppression hearing, which may happen. And this goes to young trial counsel, is I can guarantee you for the most part any defense counsel that’s worth their salt is going to try to suppress any kind of confession that comes from a polygraph. Most of those do not actually succeed, but the defense counsel is doing their job and can’t get angry about that. They’re doing their part to zealously advocate for their client, but the polygraph itself is such a valuable tool, again, if used effectively.

The information that comes out of that is very valuable, and remember that information is admissible. That information still is good. In the case that I had polygraph actually helped me go off of a subject that I thought was dead to rights and stuff based upon that circumstantial evidence and was able to gear my focus—refocus my investigation to the proper direction. So don’t be turned off by the polygraph. Don’t dismiss it. It’s a very valuable tool. And I think, as we discussed earlier, it’s so underutilized in a lot of our investigations just because people—feelings of it is like well, especially if they’ve been polygraphed, that wasn’t a fun experience. I don’t even want to talk to that guy. Remember that was—put it in perspective. That was for that purpose, and heck, you got the job so you passed the test, so understand that polygraph examiner is working very hard to get those clear results in that examination and determining whether you’re being truthful or not.

So at the end of the day, what I like to say is it’s a tool in the toolbox like anything especially for the investigators and even for a prosecutor. As a prosecutor just because your investigator that you’re working with hasn’t used it, cause ultimately, obviously it’s going to be the investigator who’s going to determine whether to use a polygraph or not, but don’t be turned off by the fact that the investigator has not used a polygraph. Talk, discuss it. It never hurts to talk about it, and even discuss and talk about it with the polygraph examiner. I tell the agents I work for all it is is a phone call. I’m available 24/7. And most the examiners I’ve spoken with feel the same way. Call me whenever, cause that’s what we do. It’s our bread and butter. It’s what we get paid for. That’s what we train for and what we love doing. So just reach out, ask whatever questions, and don’t be turned off or dismissive of polygraph just because of these myths that you hear a lot about. Talk, discuss it with that polygraph examiner, and you’ll see that it could become a very valuable tool for you.

Maj Hanrahan:

Well sir, thank you so much for coming on today to talk about today’s topic about busting polygraph myths. I think our listeners hopefully will have a new appreciation for what the polygraph can do as a new tool in their toolbox. So sir, thank you again for coming on today.

Lt Col Colon:

All right. Thank you. I appreciate it, and I’m glad I could assist in trying to bust some of these myths.


Maj Hanrahan:

That concludes our interview with Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Colon. For the takeaways from this interview I’d like to focus on the five biggest myths that I noticed in speaking with Lieutenant Colonel Colon. Myth number one; a polygraph is a lie detector test. This statement is only partially true. The technical term used in the industry and by Lieutenant Colonel Colon is a psychophysiological detection and deception test or in laymen’s terms a deception test, which is the more accurate term for a polygraph exam. In other words, it’s not just about outright lies but also encompasses deception such as omissions, exaggerations and the like.

As Lieutenant Colonel Colon stated, interviewees are much less likely to outright lie. Rather, they’re more likely to offer subtle white lies or omissions or exaggerations of the full truth. It’s really in the polygraph examiners ability to detect the subtler aspects of deception that makes it such a powerful tool.

Myth number two; polygraph exams are not admissible in court. This statement is also only partially true. While it is true that the polygraph test—i.e., the scientific data and charts derived from the exam—and the results of the test—i.e., whether they passed or failed or whether or not deception is indicated or not—are not admissible in court. The pretest and posttest phases are generally admissible. I also note the term quote unquote polygraph is generally not admissible in court.

As discussed, there are three phases of the polygraph exam. Number one; the pretest interview. Number two; the test itself. And number three; the posttest interview. What is said during the pretest and the posttest is generally admissible, because they’re just interviews. So to reiterate, aspects of a polygraph exam can be admissible in court. The proponent trying to get in aspects of a polygraph exam, which would likely be the government, will almost inevitably face a motion to suppress from defense counsel, but that’s just defense counsel doing their job in zealously protecting their client’s interests. So if the polygraph exam is done properly and there are no other circumstances that would preclude aspects of the pretest and posttest interviews from being admissible then the interview portions may be admissible in court.

Myth number three; polygraph exams are voodoo and not based on any science. As Lieutenant Colonel Colon stated on multiple occasions, the polygraph exam is not voodoo. It’s based on science and physiological changes going on through the autonomic response system in the interviewee. This is the system that regulates our bodily functions and does so primarily unconsciously. It’s the same system responsible for the flight, fight, freeze response in humans during traumatic events. As Lieutenant Colonel Colon stated, the body doesn’t differentiate between a big lie and a small lie. A lie is a lie, as he says, and deception is deception whether big or small. The body simply reacts because there is some level of a lie or deception going on. Yes, there are aspects of the test that involve psychology, the honesty of the polygraph examiner, and other non-science based factors. However, as Lieutenant Colonel Colon said, no test is perfect, but the studies indicate that the polygraph is the most accurate means to determine truth and deception in this field.

Myth number four; there’s no use for polygraph exams in modern investigations. This is simply untrue and a misconception likely based on ignorance and the utility of the polygraph exam. The polygraph has a place in modern investigations. The polygraph is, at its core, simply another investigative tool for the investigator and prosecuting attorney especially for cases with a lot of circumstantial evidence.

And myth number five; the military does not do polygraph exams. Again, this is simply untrue. Many positions within the military, both active duty and civilians, go through polygraph exams for certain jobs and security clearances. Further, federal law enforcement including the military are required to send certain agents through the same three and a half month polygraph training course. They almost follow the same protocols and procedures and are reviewed on them from time to time. So the military does use polygraphs for multiple reasons.

In conclusion, hopefully this interview helped to provide a newfound perspective on the polygraph exam. At a bare minimum, the polygraph exam is simply another tool in the investigator and prosecutor’s toolbox that can be used in investigations. If you’re unsure of where to go from here or have further questions on the polygraph exam consider identifying and reaching out to your local polygraph examiner for their consult. Thank you for listening to another episode. If you like this episode please let us know by leaving a review on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, and consider subscribing to the show. Last, if you have any interesting story on law, leadership, or innovation please reach out to the Professional Outreach Division at The Air Force JAG School to see if your idea might be a good fit for a podcast interview. We’ll see you on the next episode.

[Upbeat Music].


Thank you for listening to another episode of The Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Reporter Podcast. You can find this episode, transcription and show notes along with others at . We welcome your feedback. Please subscribe to our show on iTunes or Stitcher and leave a review. This helps us grow, innovate, and develop an even better JAG Corps. Until next time.


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  • DI: deception indicated
  • FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • JAG: judge advocate general
  • NDI: non-deception indicated
  • QC: quality control
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