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Full Details of My Attempted Entrapment For Teaching Polygraph Countermeasures 465

George Maschke writes "In May of this year, I was the target of an attempted entrapment, evidently in connection with material support for terrorism. Marisa Taylor of McClatchy reported briefly on this in August. I've now published a full public accounting, including the raw source of the e-mails received and the IP addresses involved. Comments from Slashdot readers more technically savvy than I are welcome."
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Full Details of My Attempted Entrapment For Teaching Polygraph Countermeasures

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2013 @04:55PM (#45319813)

    I have no special expertise, but this seems a little ham fisted to be agents of the state, don't you think? Seems more likely they'd go with tried and true techniques of human intelligence. I'd beware of any attractive women suddenly taking an interest, or people who appear to have money who want to support the cause, etc. And if you don't already, get a good lawyer and vet everything through him/her. Also, if the authorities do come knocking, make sure you know how to handle the situation so you don't incriminate yourself or make the situation worse (talk to your lawyer, but it amounts to keep your cool and your mouth shut).

  • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @05:15PM (#45319933)

    We would never have had PGP or encryption research outside government labs if everyone followed such rules.

    The way I see it, no one would be using encryption nowadays if Obama managed to be president in the nineties.

    Were you around in the nineties? That was when Clinton used CALEA to force telecoms to build the exact infrastructure that was exploited after 9/11 by Bush, and later Obama. That was when Clinton pushed the ultimately doomed "Clipper Chip", with all other strong encryption to be criminalized. Turns out, something as ham-handed as Clipper turned out to be un-necessary, since the NSA was just able to (apparently) subvert certification authorities and cripple hardware-based random number generators.

    If Clinton had allowed a secure digital infrastructure to be built in the first place, none of the current shenanigans would have been possible, or at least would have been way harder.

  • Dousing rods (Score:5, Informative)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @05:16PM (#45319939)

    Some fraudster in the UK went down recently for selling dousing rods as bomb detectors to the Iraqis. There were quite a few people credulous twits in the media who went after skeptics who were against this transparent ripoff, but it took a good ten years for enough momentum to build, to get this investigated, and for the criminal who ran this, to get charged with anything.

    As far as I can tell, polygraphy is just as full of woo as phrenology, and it was invented roughly around the same time. I do wonder how long it'll take for the stupidity to be debunked sufficiently hard, for the public outcry to overcome the True Believers and have this snake oil abolished?

  • by M1FCJ ( 586251 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @05:27PM (#45320007) Homepage

    In the modern world, (i.e., Europe) polygraphs are not considered reliable evidence, in some countries completely forbidden.
    Mainly in the Americas it's much more trusted.

  • Re:tacit admission (Score:3, Informative)

    by Titus Groan ( 2834723 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @05:34PM (#45320059)
    polygraphs don't work, it's pseudoscience. A real justice system wouldn't allow such nonsense anywhere near it.
  • Re:Dousing rods (Score:4, Informative)

    by M1FCJ ( 586251 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @05:36PM (#45320067) Homepage

    The problem with the dousing rod bomb detectors were not because they were shite, they were accepted by the UK Gov as legitimate, making it a political problem as well as a technical & ethical problem. The bastard selling them was an ex-Met police officer, had connections and even though anyone with two brain cells and a technical background could clearly say they were fake, they managed to catch the bombs roughly 50% of the time. Of course, if you flip a coin you'll get it 50% of the time but for people who don't understand probability, this sounds like a very high catch rate. The alarming reports have been around for years and years but it took a BBC documentary for people to wake up and pay attention.

    Any politician who had authorized the purchase of the fake systems were just too corrupt to accept they made a huge cockup. I wonder how much money was paid in bribes, worldwide.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2013 @06:15PM (#45320297)

    CALEA (1994) was the bargain for foregoing the Clipper Chip (1993).

    That's no defense of CALEA. But it's worthwhile to get the history correct, because the politicians and officials who compromised in 1994 are going to want to know what they're going to get if you discard CALEA. Of course, it's unlikely CALEA is going anywhere.

  • by ArbitraryName ( 3391191 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @06:30PM (#45320399)
    They certainly are in many places in the US. Nineteen states allow them under various circumstances and the Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceutical set the Federal standard to be the discretion of the judge.
  • by davecb ( 6526 ) <> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @06:32PM (#45320425) Homepage Journal

    An Attempted Entrapment
    Posted by George Maschke on 3 November 2013, 1:34 pm

    In May 2013, I was the target of an attempted entrapment.1 Whether it was a federal agent attempting to entrap me on a contrived material support for terrorism charge or simply an individual’s attempt to embarrass me and discredit remains unclear. In this post, I will provide a full public accounting of the attempt, including the raw source of communications received and the IP addresses involved.

    As background, it should be borne in mind that a federal criminal investigation into providers of information on polygraph countermeasures, dubbed “Operation Lie Busters,” has been underway since at least November 2011, when an undercover U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent, posing as a job applicant, contacted Chad Dixon of Marion, Indiana for help on passing the polygraph. In December, 2012, Dixon pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and obstruction of an agency proceeding, for which he has been sentenced to 8 months in federal prison.

    Doug Williams of Norman, Oklahoma, a former police polygrapher who has been teaching people how to pass polygraph examinations for some three decades and operates the website, was also the target of a sting operation and in February 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection executed search warrants on his home and office, seizing business records. He has been threatened with prosecution but to date has not been charged with any crime.

    With this in mind, I received a most curious unsolicited communication on Saturday, 18 May 2013 from <>. The message was sent to my e-mail address <lt;> and was titled “help help help please” (155 kb EML file.) The message body was blank, but there was a PDF attachment with a short message written in Persian, the language of Iran:

    I know Persian, a fact of which the writer was evidently cognizant. Here is a translation:

    Greetings and respect to you, Mr. George Maschke,

    I am Mohammad Aghazadeh and have been living in Iraq for five years. I am a member of an Islamic group that seeks to restore freedom to Iraq. Because the federal police are suspicious of me, they want to do a lie detector test on me. I ask that you send me a copy of your book about the lie behind the lie so that I can use it, or that you help me in any other way. I am very grateful to you.

    The book to which the message refers is The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF),’s free e-book that, among other things, explains how to pass (or beat) a polygraph “test.” Factors that made me highly suspicious about this message include:

    Why would someone who supposedly fears the police send an unencrypted e-mail acknowledging that he’s a member of an Islamic group that is trying to change the government of Iraq?

    Why would such a person also provide his full name and how long he’s been in the country?

    To my knowledge, there aren’t any Iranian-backed Islamic groups seeking to “restore freedom to Iraq.” In fact, Iran and Iraq have good diplomatic relations.

    Why did this person ask me to send a book that is freely available on-line? Note that this message didn’t ask for a “Persian edition” of The Lie Behind the Lie Detector.

    I suspected the message was a likely attempt to set me up for prosecution on charges of material support for terrorism (or something similar).2 It seemed highly unlikely that the message could be genuine. Nonetheless, about half an hour after receiving the message, I provided “Mohammad Aghazadeh” the same advice I would give to anyone accused of a crime who has been asked to take a polygraph test:

    Dear Mr. Mohammad Aghazadeh,

    Our advice to everyone under such circumstances is not to submit to the so-called

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @06:45PM (#45320519)

    "I'm sorry, but in my country, I'd laugh at you if you asked me to take one."

    You seem to have a strange idea of the United States. The job he was referring to is a private employment position for a bank, which is a privately-owned business. They can hire (or not) any security guard they want.

    Personally, I would laugh at them too. Same with pre-employment drug screening. I simply won't do that. (And the practice has fallen out of favor, anyway.) But remember: it is private parties who did these things; it had nothing to do with government.

    "When did your boss get to control your life?"

    For a long time, a lot of people in the U.S. let employers get away with this kind of thing. I don't know why. I don't put up with it, nor do any of my friends. It isn't like that so much, anymore. I think the employers finally figured out that they were chasing away all the smart people.

    "The US must be much more stupid than I suspected."

    If you're judging an entire country by one person's anecdote, you must be much more stupid than I expected.

  • Re:tacit admission (Score:5, Informative)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @06:49PM (#45320551)

    It's a psychological spiel. What a polygraph does is to note down reactions, both voluntary and involuntary. When you get asked questions, your body reacts. The idea is now that lying requires more "work" from you than telling the truth, since you have to fabricate it.

    In reality, though, the way you react is dependent on so many facets that whether you lie or tell the truth plays a minor role, if any. It's like saying that you can tell what TV program someone is watching by looking at how much power he uses. While technically, in theory, possible, there are so many other appliances running in his house (or not) that their combination pretty much drowns out that information in way too much noise.

    What is left of the polygraph is that people might THINK it works, and hence react differently. The goal is to give you the impression that it not only can, but WILL tell, without a doubt, that you're lying if you lie. So you get told that it can easily spot when and how you lie (it cannot), that it will be used in court against you (it cannot), that they used it multiple times to convict people (they have not) and so on.

    The psychology around it is the actual "value" of it during an interrogation. Just like in medieval times showing the instruments of torture were usually enough to extract confessions, so does telling people about the polygraph. The main difference probably being that the instruments of torture can actually deliver what is promised, something the polygraph cannot.

  • by N_Piper ( 940061 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @07:27PM (#45320795)
    Not law enforcement or tax men but Hair dressers, middle managers, business men who spout nothing but buzz words in other words idiots.
    Idiots who adopted the leaf as a form of currency and then set about preventing inflation by burning down the forests around them.
    The only group that was exiled inappropriately were the janitors, Telephone sanitizers to be specific..
    Also the leftovers did not form a civilization they went feral breeding with the native cavemen and leaving no trace in the fossil record of their base civilization and ultimately corrupting the program of the biocomputer Earth.
    Go through the source material more than once before you make claims about the political meanings of science fiction.
  • Re: what about (Score:5, Informative)

    by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @07:49PM (#45320909)

    My reply to both you and the parent is that IMHO most people (including Greenspan, and all of Wall Street) misinterpret Rand. If you recall, the protagonists in each of her books is a builder, not a financier. They were virulently opposed to those who used manipulation of the economic and political system for their own gains. Her books were really about the importance of the creative and technical versus the political.

    I think it was Nietzche ("Man and Superman"?) who proposed the dichotomy between masters and slaves. I have always felt that he was wrong, that while those two groups may exist, there is a third group, the technical/creative, who does not want to be master and refuses to be slave.

  • Re:The US of A (Score:5, Informative)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @07:59PM (#45320949)

    Try asking anyone under 30 if they know what the phrase "Papers Please!" denotes

    It's just two words... It's a lot of things.

    It's when the Military place soldiers in a natural disaster area such as New Orleans after Katrina requiring you to show [] military ID or proof of government authorization, to avoid arrest, or having vehicles impounded

    It's an attack onAmerican birthright citizenship []

    It's two words that succinctly describe America's dark future.

    Personal and Professional Encounters with Surveillance [] May I See Your Papers Please? []

    It's what Mr. Hiibel of Nevada went to jail [] for refusing to comply with

    It's what police do now [] to ordinary people minding their own business.

    It's congress work on the REAL ID [] act

    It's a name given to a section of an Arizona law [] upheld by the Supreme court.

    It's the name of a complaint against changes the US is making starting this Fall 2013 to further restrict the free travel of Americans and greatly increase the difficulty of US citizens getting passports

    It's the name of a dystopian video game about communist immigration control.

    It's the name of an anti-TSA [] blog

    It's a request you comply with when asked by the police; otherwise, you face immediate arrest.

  • Re:Ha ha ha (Score:5, Informative)

    by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @09:03PM (#45321327)

    No. Capitalism has a host of feedback mechanisms - supply and demand being the archetypical one. Like any good complex adaptive system, when a new 'species' (for example a new technology and resulting new market) appears, the other entities in the system dynamically adapt. This is very similar to the evolutionary ecosystems model. Political feedback, to my mind, should mainly be of the sort that prevents fish that are too big from swimming up small creeks and blocking water flow. (I know that's a really obscure analogy, but I like it.

    A major distortion that exists presently is what I would consider incorrect government policies that encourage near-monopolies and effective monopolies. In the US, anti-trust laws are directed primarily at maintaining two things: preventing unfair advantage of a company's monopoly position, and maintaining a fiction of competition among two to four dominant players.

    If I had my druthers, I would prevent any company with more than 10% of a market to buy or take control of any other market participant for any reason.

    From my own studies of free enterprise as a CAS, it appears to me that if any company controls more than perhaps 20% of a market, or if fewer than 10 or so companies constitute a large percentage of a market, they have effectively too much monopoly power. I have not done the research in detail - I was prepared to work on the PhD in Economics and this was going to be my area of research, but I did not pursue it at that time, so these are 'back of the envelope' numbers.

    Nevertheless, it's instructive to use ecosystems as an analogy. A climax forest may have only a dozen or so tree species but it is very rare for it to have as few as four or five. Aspen trees are interesting - a particular aspen grove may in fact be a single genetic individual. But the environment varies enough that this grove can not take over 100 square miles. This is because the local environment changes constantly, so the area next to the Aspen grove may be better for maple, or fir, or scrub grassland.

    So to maintain the maximum diversity, and dynamic adaptability and efficiency, the role of government regulation is absolutely _not_ to provide a single market. (I.e., do _not_ normalize the laws across all jurisdictions.) That made sense when the economies of scale truly applied - it took a lot of money to build a steel mill. But economies of scale now are primarily tools of capitalist domination. If a large company is truly more competive than small companies, then this should be the case across many jurisdictions with differing local rules. Normalizing the rules across jurisdictions is unfairly (IMHO) handicapping smaller businesses, which as it happens often have lower unit costs these days than large companies. Case in point - labor productivity at a MacDonald's franchise is substantially _lower_ than at the old mom and pop hamburger joint - this is due to two things - MacDonald's already made your burger so it's faster, and every MacDonald's burger is the same - no guessing. But both of those are obsolete criteria in today's world of freely available information.

    At one time, the number of jurisdictions was large, and the information flow between them was relatively slow, so this was not such a large problem. But now we are close to having a single global economic model. This puts the entire economic system at constant risk - e.g. "Too big to fail". This idea is in itself a condemnation of the legal structure we have allowed to develop. And now with the availability of incredibly fast means to rationalize markets, that legal structure is, oddly enough, a bad idea. Today we need more diverse markets, not more similar markets. And that is where the political factor comes in. Or, as I've said to many of my friends, "All decisions should be made as locally as feasible," - whether economic or political.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @10:43PM (#45321885) Journal

    I sincerely hope that you never have occasion to lose your starry-eyed naiveté. Far too many people know first-hand how wrong you are.

    Cops are obedience enforcers and tax collectors. It's been a very long time since they were anything else.


  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @10:55PM (#45321953) Journal

    2) NEVER talk to the police.

    In what backwards dirtball nation does that rule apply?

    Perhaps the one where they promise "Anything you say CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU." (Notes: Hollywood version, emphasis mine.)

  • Re:We the people (Score:4, Informative)

    by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:38PM (#45322179)

    I think I'm a bit insulted, or else you misunderstood me. For that term paper (9th grade) I read Marx, Engels, and others. In fact I got in a lot of trouble for doing so, since this was back in the cold war era - the teacher flunked me for the paper and for the term, and screamed at me for an hour after school. Fortunately wiser heads prevailed and I was put in advanced placement classes after that. My "thing" has always been Systems Science in various forms, including most required classes for an MS in SS. I have continued to study this area, and in fact was on track to get the PhD in Economics, concentrating my research on the complex adaptive systems approach to economics. I'm tempted to respond with an expletive here, but I resist. "Central Planning" is really just a hack to try to make something work, which (as we have seen so many times it's a wonder anyone even bothers any more) is doomed to failure.

    (I'm amused by the fact that most large corporations operate internally via a central planning model, which is partly why they are so frustrating to work in. It will be interesting to see how the new post-capitalist networks of doers who just call each other up and assemble a structure-of-the-moment to accomplish a goal will compare.)

    "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need". A succinct, compassionate, and efficient "prime directive" for any "we the people" if you ask me

    is an example of the classic liberal confusion of wishes (or goals, if you prefer) with facts. Such a goal can only be reached as an outcome of a system that successfully promotes it, and communism doesn't - the lack of feedback again means it is irrevocably broken.

    A free enterprise system does a much better job of meeting those two criteria on a dynamic, stable basis. For instance, as a generality "from each according to his ability" is determined in a free enterprise system as an increasing cost factor as the "from" gets close to the maximum that person is willing to provide, where (as I noted), creating an internally damped feedback loop. In other words, as the demand for my services goes up, I charge more. Under the communist model there is no way to do that except by political means - i.e. management decides what your "ability" is, regardless of your opinion - again, no feedback loop. The quota must be met even if it kills you.

    Your example of China is misdirected. It was, in fact, more definitively WalMart and other companies who brought so many people into the global middle class - by some estimates 100 million people by WalMart alone. And this all happened _after_ China began to move away from the communist ideal and started to allow and encourage private enterprise. Today China is only communist in the sense that it is a police state that maintains itself on persistent corruption and its use of power to achieve wealth (a sure sign of a non-capitalist system). From what I've seen, central plannning in China is presently restricted to infrastructure and theft by the powers that be. But I will accept the _possibility_ that what central planning that is done in China today might be a necessary transitional phase while the Chinese gradually learn how to behave in a society of mutual trust and modern "middle class" economic values.

    As for being wrong, au contraire. The math on my side is well established and applies equally well to complex adaptive systems ranging from economies to forests. The 100+ years of the eventual failure of all attempts at communism - see Venezuela for a recent example also speaks to the issue.

    As an aside, I'm presently reading an SF novel "Accellerando" [] by Charles Stross, (available as a free e-book) which proposes a post-capitalist, post-communist economic system based on the freedome of information. He argues that with the vast availability of almost all information at a moment's notice, all economic systems based on scarcity and rationing may become obsolete.

  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Monday November 04, 2013 @02:12AM (#45322845)
    One thing to note is that your attorney needs to refuse the polygraph, not you. If you refuse, the prosecutor can and normally will use that as evidence in the trial. "The defendant refused to take a Polygraph!" is just as bad as "The defendant failed the polygraph" to a huge percentage of jurors.
  • by George Maschke ( 699175 ) on Monday November 04, 2013 @02:14AM (#45322851) Homepage
    I did, in fact, first use a PDF reader other than Adobe's. The PDF is available as a MIME attachment to the e-mail I received, the raw source of which can be downloaded here: [] . If any readers have the technical skills to analyze it for malware, I'd be grateful.
  • Re:We the people (Score:5, Informative)

    by Capsaicin ( 412918 ) * on Monday November 04, 2013 @02:44AM (#45322943)

    The opening line of Karl Mark's book...

    It's an excerpt from Marx' Critique of the Gotha Programme. []

    In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then then [sic] can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs! [Emphasis added]

    The point being that To each according to his contribution [] was necessarily to be the appropriate principle until that higher phase be accomplished! I.e. simply the elimination of exploitation (in the technical Marxist sense of that word). As you say, don't believe everything people tell you about Marx and, I would add, be careful about taking these slogans out of context. Our friend here seems especially to have had his recall of reading of Kapital (or was it Grundrisse?) coloured by popular misconception.

    The system we use says that the "free" in "free market" means anyone can participate ...

    Well ... that 'free' means many things to many people. I certainly agree that it implies a freedom of anyone to participate free from qualification (apart from having the requisite wealth). IMO it requires additionally (or perhaps essentially) that the buyer and seller are free to agree between themselves on the price. Thus the market for theatre tickets is a free market only when it involves a scalper.

    What you say about China is insightful and often forgotten. Not that I'd want to live under their system mind ...

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.