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Douglas Williams Pleads Guilty To Training Customers To Beat Polygraph 246

For quite a while, we've been following the case of Douglas Gene Williams, accused of and indicted for teaching people to pass polygraph tests that they might otherwise have been unable to, and for the claims he made in advertising this training -- and specifically for showing his techniques to some undercover Federal agents. Now, reports Ars Technica, Williams has pleaded guilty to five charges of obstruction of justice and mail fraud. From the article: Williams isn't the first person prosecuted for these type of allegations. An Indiana man was accused of offering similar services and was sentenced in 2013 to eight months in prison. The judge presiding over the case said the case blended a "gray area" of First Amendment speech and the unlawful act of instructing people to lie on polygraph tests issued by the federal government. Williams' site, Polygraph.com, is now defunct.
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Douglas Williams Pleads Guilty To Training Customers To Beat Polygraph

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:41PM (#49691171)

    The indictment says Williams told an undercover agent that "I haven't lived this long and fucked the government this long, and done such a controversial thing that I do for this long, and got away with it without any trouble whatsoever, by being a dumb ass." The authorities said he told another undercover agent that "I've taught a lot of those guys. In fact, there's a lot of government agents—FBI, Secret Service, NSA, all of those alphabet agencies—that have already retired, that I taught, years ago. And I know what I'm doing, and you will pass with no problem."

    That's called "puffery" in the law or marketing to the rest of us.

    Polygraph machines were invented in 1921 and their results are usually not admissible as evidence in court.

    And why was law enforement - the Fucked up Bureau of Idiocy - FBI wasting millions of taxpayer dollars going after this guy?! Hmmm?!

    The government wore this guy down, buried him in legal fees, stress, harassment, and just plain assholishness over a man that has shown polygraphs to be pseudo scientific bullshit.

    Douglas Williams is actually innocent but just made a plea to get the grunts with the badges and guns off his back.

    • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:56PM (#49691345)

      Lie detectors are weird. They are kind of like Monty Pythons faith based apartment blocks.

      They work (more or less) on people who believe they work. If someone publicly exposes how much they don't work, they will stop working at all.

    • I have heard more than one defense attorney who has gone up against federal prosecutions admit they recommended suicide to their clients as a preferable alternative to the nightmare of being hounded, persecuted, slowly destroyed, and turned into a pariah by the federal monster.

      I'm not even slightly joking.

  • WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Guy From V ( 1453391 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:42PM (#49691187) Homepage

    I'm saying this before I RTFA so I'll revisit this statement if it makes me rethink but...why the fuck is it unlawful to teach people to "defeat" a method that doesn't even hold water within the very same legal system he is forced to plead guilt?

    • Re:WTF (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Arbitary5664 ( 1979712 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:46PM (#49691245)
      Because in the US it's illegal to share true information, if people in power don't want you to have it. And if it isn't illegal, they make it illegal fast if it affects say, senators. e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org] "During debate over his nomination, Bork's video rental history was leaked to the press. His video rental history was unremarkable, and included such harmless titles as A Day at the Races, Ruthless People, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Writer Michael Dolan, who obtained a copy of the hand-written list of rentals, wrote about it for the Washington City Paper.[29] Dolan justified accessing the list on the ground that Bork himself had stated that Americans only had such privacy rights as afforded them by direct legislation. The incident led to the enactment of the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act.[30]"
    • Re:WTF (Score:5, Informative)

      by will_die ( 586523 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @02:03PM (#49691421) Homepage
      He could teach people how to defeat them all he wants with no problem. The problem was he had people come to him and they told him they were going to being taking a government issued test and need to know how to lie about specific crimes they had committed.
      At that point he is assisting in that person committing fraud.
      It is the same for lock picking. You can teach it all you want. However if a person comes up to you and says I want to learn how to pick lock type X so I can break into my neighbors house, you are now in trouble if you teach them how to do so.
      • This makes sense in a technical way, I concede. I guess it only brings me back to thinking how wrong (morally and technically) it is that something like polygraph test results are enshrined by law.

      • by njnnja ( 2833511 )

        They should have hooked him up to a polygraph machine and asked him if he had ever given someone information about how to lie about a specific crime. If he passed, then he didn't do it!

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I would think that a lot of the government agent type job applicants are very familiar with polygraphs already and likely know how to minimize their effectiveness already.

      Maybe somebody applying to be a file clerk at the DEA wouldn't, but my guess is also most of those kinds of jobs aren't subject to this level of scrutiny.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Couldn't he just pledged innocent and prove it with a polygraph test?

    • He probably couldn't have passed the test, since the test is so subjective, the examiner knows he can cheat the test, they would just say that the detected him cheating, therefore he has something to hide, therefore he must be lying.

      Part of his technique (if you are going to lie) is to not tell the examiner that you know how to bet the test

  • Knowledge is bad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Let's not prosecute people who lie under oath.

    Or review our policy of using a technology that can be fooled.

    No, no. Let's prosecute the guy sharing information. Yeah, that'll make us safe.

  • by jetkust ( 596906 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @01:48PM (#49691281)
    I can't believe people take these seriously. A polygraph is supposed to be a lie detector test, but all it does is tests vital signs. There is absolutely no way to prove if it's correct or not, so what is the point? If a polygraph was worth anything whatsoever, they wouldn't be worried about somebody being trained to beat it.
    • It's one small part of the background check when you apply for certain sensitive government jobs. It may not be a very effective part. However, having people take actions to compromise the background checks is a problem. Depending on what access somebody is potentially being given, these things range from almost nothing to very thorough interviews with close acquaintances. Pass and work for the government. Fail and move on. No harm no foul. But cheating is a different story.
    • by Zeorge ( 1954266 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @02:20PM (#49691547)
      Both an older, 3-channel, analog type. As well as, a more advanced computerized one tracking many metrics of the human body. No one defeated the poly.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Mythbusters won't air anything that might show people how to break the law without getting caught. So of course they're not going to show someone beating the poly. (Penn & Teller's Bullshit, otoh, did show folks beating a poly.)

        For example, their episode on masking license plates from speed cameras was pretty bogus. They showed a few stupid devices, that wouldn't be expected to work, failing (surprise!), then "to prove it could be done" showed a jet-powered dragster passing the speed camera at like

        • by Trogre ( 513942 )

          Interesting to note also that the tests were conducted by Michael Martin, president of âZPresident of the Global Polygraph Network, an advocacy group so far as I can tell.

    • The polygraph as used by the DoD and related agencies has very little to do with 'detecting lies'. It is MUCH more a grueling personality test in the guise of a lie detector test. It may use the same equipment that local law enforcement uses, but the intent of the session is very different. The #1 key to passing is to not punch the examiner in the nose. By the end of the day this is more difficult than it sounds.
      • What spy novels are you reading...

        Not nearly true... They ask you a series of questions that you know in advance and nothing the operator says need be taken personally. If they do anything else, it's not really a polygraph.

  • I'm the first to stand up for first amendment rights even when the defendant isn't very sympathetic. But this isn't a case of undesirable political speech. It's a business whose only product is helping people produce altered polygraph results and polygraphs are only used by government agencies. There aren't any substantial other uses for these classes. I don't think that the use of polygraphs in government employment is good policy. I don't think that prosecuting this guy is good policy. I'd like to s
    • So what? If i create a new business that sells tin toil hats designed to thwart government mind control beams, how is that any different than teaching people how to pass some voodoo science polygraph test?

    • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

      I don't see how they could possibly convict him for publishing or selling information that simply described how to defeat a polygraph. That's a definite First Amendment issue.

      He screwed himself by running his mouth about how he had "F****d the government" and by coaching someone to pass the polygraph test, knowing(believing) that their intent in doing so was to get a government job.

    • And polygraph results aren't admissible in court.

      I hope this guys techniques are all over the internet for everyone to learn and practice.

    • polygraphs are only used by government agencies

      That's not true. There are private outfits that will administer polygraphs.

      • There may be people who will do this privately but the information can't be used in most contexts. Outside of government agencies in the US, they can't be used as a condition of employment. They can't be used as courtroom evidence. I guess my wife could think I'm cheating on her and if we wanted to spend our own resources we could pay somebody to operate a polygraph to help us settle it. And if I wanted to take a class on cheating the polygraph prior to doing this, probably nobody would care. On the ot
    • by mjm1231 ( 751545 )

      I can improve the truth of your statements by redacting some of the excess verbiage:

      Polygraphs are only used by government agencies. There aren't any substantial uses for these. Just adding inefficiency to the process.

      • I agree with your point. I don't think that polygraphs are good policy. It's also the case that government employees in certain situations can't have debts that exceed a certain percentage of their income. May or may not be a good policy. But if I were to help somebody try to hide their debts in this situation I would expect to face legal consequences. This doesn't seem to be about polygraphs per se but rather about the express purpose of helping people circumvent the processes that attempt to protect
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Prosecutors were not amused when Douglas volunteered to take a polygraph test to prove that he wasn't teaching people how to beat polygraph tests.

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @02:18PM (#49691535)
    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

    I took a look at the actual indictment. Well, at least the first few pages. Remember how people still insist to this day that Bill Clinton wasn't impeached (he was - impeaching does not mean convicting) or that he was impeached for "cheating on his wife"? Years later, the lies spun by his spin doctors still hold fast in many minds. Clinton was impeached for committing perjury in a civil trial. Now the event he committed perjury about was cheating on Hilary, but he was impeached for lying about it while under oath, not for the actual act of cheating on her. Similarly, this indictment isn't really and truly about beating lie detector tests. The government's contention is that Williams had a business whose purpose was to enable people ineligible for certain government jobs to get those jobs through lying and deception. This is defrauding the US government because salaries would be paid to those ineligible people. The government also contends that he enriched himself (through fees he charged) by encouraging people to lie to and deceive the federal government into hiring ineligible people for jobs. The first 6 or so pages I looked at don't actually mention anything about lie detector tests.
    • Selling information on how to cheat isn't the same as cheating. In the case of those who used his information, those individuals should be subject to sanction. for example, I can tell you how to hotwire a car. I can even demonstrate it on my own vehicle and provide teaching aids that can allow you to be able to do it yourself. However if you steal a car using the methods I teach, you're committing the crime. I realize that free speech only goes so far such as yelling "fire" in a crowded theater but he

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @03:07PM (#49692029) Journal

        Selling information on how to cheat isn't the same as cheating. In the case of those who used his information, those individuals should be subject to sanction. for example, I can tell you how to hotwire a car. I can even demonstrate it on my own vehicle and provide teaching aids that can allow you to be able to do it yourself.

        Scenario #1: "Can you teach me how to hot wire a car? I think it's a neat technical exercise." <--- No crime.
        Scenario #2: "Can you teach me how to hot wire a car so I can steal my neighbor's slick ride?" <--- You're now an accessory.

        It's no different than the difference between, "Will you sell me that rifle so I can go deer hunting?" and "Will you sell me that rifle so I can shoot my bitch ex-wife?"

      • Selling information on how to cheat isn't the same as cheating.

        No, but selling information on how to break the law is against the law. It's called being an accessory.

    • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @03:09PM (#49692063)

      While yes, Bill Clinton was impeached for lying on a civil case -- it was a foregone conclusion BEFORE they impeached him that there was no perjury nor would he be able to be convicted.

      Perjury charges are usually very difficult for prosecutors to prove because perjury is a crime of intent. This means that a defendant charged with perjury can only be found guilty if the prosecutor shows beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she intended to make the false statement under oath, or, that the witness told the lie on purpose. As such, criminal attorneys often defend their clients by arguing that the defendant did not intend to lie, or that the party believed the statement to be the truth at the time they made it.

      The other thing is that it was not a Material Matter and it was not a criminal case. Having sex or not with Monica Lewinsky had beans to do with whether he forced himself on Jennifer Flowers (her own sister said she was trying to climb that pole for months).

      Additionally, the Judge instructed that "sex was copulation between a man and a woman" -- so by the court rules laid out, Clinton's BJ was not considered "sex."

      He was impeached, but he did not perjure himself. But he Republicans did, no numerous occasions in order to get him in the hot seat to talk about his penis.

      This is just a public service announcement from people sick of us worrying about crap that doesn't matter instead of WAR CRIMES and an asshat like Bush that destroyed our economy, hired mercenaries, profited on war, approved torture, and made a fortune for oil companies and weapons dealers with a direct material benefit back to him -- and YET, we cannot investigate this unless there is a penis involved.

      And we have another one of these scumbags from this rotten family in the pipe to go into office again and half the country thinks the Clintons are "more corrupt" even though they were exonerated on all 5 charges that Kenneth Starr spent 5 long years and more money than the 9.11 committee investigating.

    • "His situation was not under oath. The bottom line, though, is he still lied. He lied under a different oath, and that is the oath to his wife. So it’s got to be taken very, very seriously.” Mark Sanford, Congressman from SC1 at the time.

      (This is the same Mark Sanford who as Governor of SC was censured by the General Assembly for using public funds for travel to conduct an extramartial affair.)

    • The government's contention is that Williams had a business whose purpose was to enable people ineligible for certain government jobs to get those jobs through lying and deception.

      What was the result when they hooked him up to a lie detector and asked him if this was his intention?

  • This is plain stupid. Period.
  • beating a lie detector should be taught in elementary school...

    • beating a lie detector should be taught in elementary school...

      It is, in Catholic schools. They just don't call it that.

      Back at St Genevieve, I learned how to look Sister Margaret dead in the eyes and tell her, "No, sister, I didn't touch Donna Tomasina's ass in the hallway". And let me tell you, Sister Mags was a lot more accurate than any polygraph. And her punishment more swift and sure.

  • Ban plea deals (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orgasmatron ( 8103 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @03:53PM (#49692443)

    No one should be coerced to plead guilty against the threat of huge sanctions.

    Prosecutions are stacked against the defendant, particularly federal prosecutions. They are alone with their own resources against buildings full of government lawyers drawing a salary, with no incentive to seek justice, just convictions to pad their stats.

    By forcing him to plead guilty to a lesser charge (to avoid something silly like 18 consecutive death sentences, or whatever they came up with), the rest of us are duped into believing that he actually did something wrong. Pleas should only be allowed on all charges, or none. Anything in between is institutional coercion, a corruption of justice.

    Further, there should be a very, very high bar against charging someone for going about their ordinary business. If his business isn't illegal in general, it shouldn't be illegal when government agents lie to him.

    If you pre-pay at a gas station and tell the cashier that you are filling up because you like your getaway car to be in top condition before you rob a bank, is that guy now a felon for not refusing your business? By the logic of this case, if you are an undercover cop he is.

    We should be pissed about this. But we aren't. Why not?

  • It is legal to teach people how to build weapons of war - from machine guns to bacterial weapons, to nuclear weapons.

    It is legal to teach people how to cheat at cards - they are called 'magic' lessons.

    But illegal to teach people how to defeat a machine that is not allowable in a court of law?

    Does anyone know of any other skill that it is illegal to teach? Anything?

    • I'm going to call BS on at least part of this statement. It is not illegal to build your own firearm, one of the primary weapons used in war. How could teaching how to build one be illegal?

  • Say a lie detector is correct 90% of the time. That would certainly be useful in a variety of situations as long as the results were supplemented by other information.

    But would you want to use that in court? Juries would be so biased to follow whatever the lie detector said, no matter what the other evidence showed.

    There is a reason we still use them, just not in court proceeding.

  • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @04:22PM (#49692761)
    1. Insinuate that someone is guilty if they are not willing to take a polygraph test, and note how enthusiastic they are to take the test. 2. If they take the test, tell them they failed the polygraph test, and see if they are willing to confess to something, even if it is not the thing yu thought they may have done.

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