Did Edward Snowden’s 2011 Background Check Include Polygraph Exam?

Today, seven weeks after I claimed polygraph exams should have caught Edward Snowden, I came to realize I might have been wrong.  Why?  Because it appears he might not have taken one as part of his 2011 background check.

Aldrich Ames

Aldrich Ames

“As far as I’m concerned,” I explained June 18, “the 29-year-old deserves a special place in history, positioned alongside notorious spies — including John Anthony Walker Jr., Jonathan Jay Pollard and Ana Belen Montes — who were able to defeat both the polygraph and the best efforts of their government.”  Note: I could have added convicted CIA spy Aldrich Ames (right) to the list as well, but you get the point.

This post-publication realization of mine came to fruition after I had read two separate articles — one in Government Executive and the other at NewsMax.com — which had cited a third article in The Wall Street Journal as their primary source of details about an investigation into the background check conducted on former National Security Agency contractor Snowden.

Because I won’t pay to read articles behind the Journal’s pay wall, I am forced to rely upon the two secondhand articles for key details; hence, my use of the word, might, in the first paragraph above and the slightly-convoluted language in the paragraphs below for which I beg your apologies in advance.

Both non-Journal articles reported that National Counterintelligence Executive Frank Montoya led the investigation into the 2011 background check of Snowden.  Likewise, both reported that US Investigative Services, a government contractor, conducted the background check of Snowden.  In addition, both listed several failures on the part of USIS related to the background check.  Note:  I’ll let you look at the articles if you’re interested in those other failures, because I want to move on to the important stuff.

Nowhere, however, was it reported in either of the non-Journal articles that the Journal article had mentioned any details about the Montoya report mentioning Snowden had been subjected to a polygraph examination(s) as part of the USIS-conducted background investigation.  Why?

It was the polygraph, after all, that was at the center of a June 2012 announcement by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., the nation’s top intelligence official.  Clapper said he would implement tough new measures aimed at stemming the spate of unauthorized disclosures of national security information that had dogged the 17-agency Intelligence Community during his watch. In short, those measured consisted of adding more questions during polygraph exams of existing and and prospective employees.

Again, why wasn’t Snowden’s polygraph exam(s) mentioned?

While that question hangs in the air for a moment, consider the words of a retired counterintelligence expert/friend of mine who is familiar with the background investigation process.  When I shared news about the Journal‘s reporting on the Montoya report with this man, whose name I cannot share his name for reasons of his personal security, he offered some feedback which included the comments below:

I think the real problem is that the system is broken, and they are using USIS as a scapegoat — although I am sure they are partially to blame.  The real question still remains how did Snowden pass a polygraph for both the CIA and NSA… and why isn’t anyone asking this question.  The people who would normally ask this question are scared out of their wits due to the ongoing polygraph countermeasures investigations by federal agencies.  So I guess mum is the word.

Am I surprised to learn an expert thinks “the system is broken” when it comes to conducting background checks?  Hardly.

During the exhaustive four-year investigation that preceded the release of my second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, I discovered several areas inside the federal government that are broken and need to be fixed.

To learn more about what I uncovered, order a copy of THE CLAPPER MEMO.  It’s available in paperback and ebook versions.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct '11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May '13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct ’11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May ’13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

THE CLAPPER MEMO: 36 Reasons to Read It

Below are 36 reasons why you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO:

TCM Graphic 2-17-131. If you have ever had to submit to a polygraph examination in order to land or keep a job, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

2. If you hold a security clearance and are subject to periodic polygraph examinations, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

3. If you are now serving in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

4. If you are a veteran who served in any branch of in the Armed Forces of the United States, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

5. If you know someone who has served in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

6. If you are considering joining the Armed Forces of the United States, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

7. If you have ever been subjected to a polygraph examination as part of a criminal investigation, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

8. If you expect to undergo a polygraph examination as part of a criminal investigation, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

9. If you know someone who was convicted of a crime based upon the results of a polygraph examination, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

10. If you have ever wondered about the validity of the polygraph, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

11. If you are interested in learning about countermeasures that enable anyone to beat the polygraph, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

12. If you are interested in reading details of what I learned about a non-polygraph credibility assessment technology for which no countermeasures exist, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

13. If you are interested in what I learned during my exclusive interview with the man who interrogated Tariq Aziz and other members of Saddam Hussein’s infamous “Deck of Cards,” you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

14. If you are interested in what I learned during my exclusive interview with the former Army Green Beret who set the record for the most interrogations (500+) of enemy combatants in Iraq, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

15. If you are interested in what I learned during my exclusive interview with a man who has used covert interrogation methods to help resolve more than 300 kidnapping cases in Mexico and send 450 criminals to prison, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

16. If you are interested in what I learned by reading hundreds of email messages exchanged between top Justice Department officials and the academics they paid to conduct taxpayer-funded studies, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

17. If you are interested in understanding one of the root causes of the deadly “Green-on-Blue” attacks against American warfighters in Afghanistan, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

18. If you are interested in reading about apparent conflicts of interest and ethical lapses by some of our nation’s top intelligence officials, you might want to read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

19. If you are interested in reading an example of why ABC News’ Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross has been labeled “America’s Wrongest Reporter,” you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

20. If you are interested in reading what I learned about how U.S. Government agencies made a mockery out of the Freedom of Information Act during the four years I spent conducting research for my book, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

21. If you are interested in reading what I learned about how U.S. Government agencies dole out research dollars in the form of non-competitive grants to academics, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

22. If you are interested in learning about a non-polygraph technology that, despite being embraced by more than 1,800 local and state law enforcement agencies is banned for use by Department of Defense personnel, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

23. If you are interested in reading about how a top Department of Defense counterintelligence official used his position to promote his private investigation business, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

24. If you are interested in reading about a non-polygraph technology proven to accurately detect stress in the human voice, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

25. If you are interested in what senior interrogation officials at Guantanamo Bay had to say about the non-polygraph technology that was taken away from them after proving very successful, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

26. If you are interested in what several members of our nation’s Special Forces community (i.e., Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets) had to say about the non-polygraph technology that was taken away from them after proving very successful, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

27. If you think the United States should use the best technology available to interrogate detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

28. If you think the United States should use the best technology available to interrogate enemy combatants, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

29. If you think the United States should use the best technology available to interrogate suspected terrorists, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

30. If you think the United States should use the best technology available to interrogate criminal suspects, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

31. If you think the United States should stop relying upon century-old polygraph technology, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

32. If you find it difficult to believe members of the American Polygraph Association are objective in their criticism of non-polygraph technology, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

33. If you want to read the bloody details of a technological “turf war” that’s been raging quietly for more than 40 years between backers of the polygraph and those behind competing technologies, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

34. If you trust people who put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens more than you trust academics, bureaucrats and politicians, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

35. If you appreciate thorough investigative reporting that relies upon one-on-one interviews, thorough research and thousands of documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act and various state “sunshine” laws, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

36. If you want to find out why the face of Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., our nation’s top intelligence official, appears on the cover of this book and why his name appears in the title of this book, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

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Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

BONUS: If you enjoyed reading my first nonfiction book, Three Days In August, you should read THE CLAPPER MEMO.

To receive the latest updates about THE CLAPPER MEMO, subscribe to the book’s website feed by clicking here.

‘The CLAPPER MEMO’ Trailer Released

Below is the trailer for my next nonfiction book, The CLAPPER MEMO, in which I connect the dots between the deaths of dozens of Americans at the hands of our so-called “allies” in Afghanistan and a memo signed by James R. Clapper Jr., the man now serving as our nation’s top intelligence official.

The book’s fall release is anticipated to take place one year after the release of my first book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.

Stay tuned for more details.