You’ve probably never wondered why the Department of Defense relies so heavily on the polygraph. Likewise, you’ve probably never thought about how polygraph technology has maintained its place as the only DoD-approved credibility assessment technology. After reading the details in my latest nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, you’ll know why and how.
On no fewer than three occasions since 2004, top DoD officials — including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper while he was serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence in 2007 — have declared the polygraph to be the only such technology approved for use by DoD personnel. Though many on the front lines, including elite U.S. Special Operations personnel I interviewed for the book, ignored the DoD declarations for as long as they possibly could (see Sample Chapter for details), the Pentagon’s polygraph-only stance remains in place today and is having an often-deadly impact in the form of “Green-on-Blue” attacks against American and Coalition Forces personnel in Afghanistan.
As I explained yesterday, part of the blame for DoD’s polygraph-only stance lies in the fact that DoD officials withheld critical information from members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee when they were conducting an inquiry into the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and at other detention facilities in Iraq (i.e., Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca) in 2008.
That wasn’t all they kept to themselves. DoD officials also withheld critical information about an Air Force talking paper on Relevant/Irrelevant Screening Tests (R/IST) conducted on detainees in the Iraqi theater of operations from Aug. 1, 2004, to Oct. 15, 2006.
Notable among the 50-page document’s results, found after conducting polygraph tests on 768 detainees, was the finding that “detainee personnel are just as likely to have committed the suspected act as not.” That finding stemmed from the fact that 47 percent of the tests yielded “No Deception Indicated” results while 46 percent yielded “Deception Indicated” and seven percent “No Opinion.”
In addition to the fact the tests yielded results showing polygraph no more effective than flipping a coin, a quarter of the polygraph examiners surveyed pointed out problems posed by language barriers.
“The Arabic language itself presents an obstacle due to the different translations and dialect and at times the wrong translation of the question was noted by other interpreters,” one examiner said.
“Many interpreters were not fluent in the written Arabic language, precluding them being used by polygraph,” another reported. “They could not translate questions from English to Arabic and back again.”
“I was fortunate to have had motivated interpreters,” a third responded. “Without them we can’t do the job (without language/culture knowledge).”
A fourth examiner reported, “there was definitely a difference in the level of interpreter experience. Some knew the language and some had a hard time.”
In THE CLAPPER MEMO, a 268-page product of an exhaustive four-year investigation, I highlight the fact that a non-polygraph technology was used at GITMO more than 90 times and achieved a success rate — defined as developing new, previously-unknown intelligence which was independently confirmed or confirmed existing information that otherwise could not be verified — of 92 percent despite the fact most exams were conducted using interpreters.
Now, I ask again: Have you ever wondered how polygraph technology has maintained its position as the only Department of Defense-approved credibility assessment technology?
In theirendorsement of THE CLAPPER MEMO, Gold Star parents Billy and Karen Vaughn used words such as “dirty little secrets of politics and greed” and “filthy backroom deals” to describe events and actions that have enabled the polygraph to remain DoD’s credibility assessment technology of choice. The Vaughns lost their son, U.S. Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn, two years and one day ago in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan that is the subject of a soon-to-be-published book, BETRAYED: The High Cost of the War on Terror.
Thirty Americans died in Afghanistan Aug. 6, 2011, according to a DoD news release issued five days later. All had been aboard a U.S. military helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17.” Among those on board were 25 Special Operations Forces personnel, including 17 U.S. Navy SEALs. Though it became the most-deadly incident in the history of Naval Special Warfare, it has received scant public attention.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Scorza
As a former Air Force public affairs officer, I have virtually no first-hand familiarity with SOF, though I have had many opportunities to speak with SOF members and even wrote a book, Three Days In August, about one of them.
Today, I count as friends many veterans boasting decades of SOF experience under their belts. In an email message yesterday, one of those friends, a former Army Green Beret, shared his expert observations and raised some serious questions about the extremely-controversial of the Extortion 17 mission. The text of his sometimes-graphic message appears below:
What makes Special Operations Forces (SOF) great is the attention to detail — every detail.
All SOF missions require isolation prior to missions. In my community, we isolated all parties involved until wheels up. Our host-nation military guys never knew where we were going or who was going until we got off the aircraft, vehicle, boat, etc. No need to tell them, because you train for many different types of missions (i.e., raid, ambush, hostage rescue, etc.). The person or place doesn’t matter.
On a typical mission, the team conducts mission planning down to infiltration and exfiltration. We, the team, decide how it will be done. We, the team, submit our plan to our group commander who, depending on risk assessment and who it is we are going after, contacts the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF). Every theater has one. The CJSOTF person makes direct contact with the Secretary of Defense. Once the “green light” is given for the plan, it is the responsibility of CJSOTF to arrange the assets needed to conduct the mission. Once the team is notified of the green light, “dry runs” are conducted — if, that is, it isn’t a time-sensitive mission. The dry runs involve everyone on the team.
Half the team conducts infiltration, actions on the objective and exfiltration with host-nation personnel. At no time are the host-nation personnel told the mission’s five W’s — who, what, where, when and why. Meanwhile, the other half of the team gets current intelligence reports and works to coordinate needed assets (i.e., air, MEDEVAC, artillery, fast movers, etc.).
Generally, two to three team members go to the aviation unit and conduct an “air brief” with the commander of the aviation unit as well as their intelligence, weather and flight operations personnel. There, they are briefed on the five W’s and instructed by team members about where and how they will fly, where they will land, the location of pick-up points and about contingencies. They are given Rules of Engagement for the escort gun ships on “gun runs,” and the communication frequency for all is shared at this time.
Once the air brief is completed, those personnel link back up with the whole team for a mission brief. After final checks are done, movement to the flight line takes place. Weapons are placed in “red” status (i.e., has a round in the chamber and the safety is on), communication is checked, accountability is checked, and away you go.
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Devon Popielarczyk.
Now, there is a large distinction between a Green Beret mission and a Navy SEALs mission. Green Berets primarily train and conduct various missions with host-nation soldiers. SEALs and Delta primarily do not. Delta uses Ranger Regiment, and SEALs use more of their own — or Green Beret or some host-nation personnel. In all of my time with SOF, I never saw a SEAL team conduct a mission with host-nation personnel UNLESS the SEALs were assigned to us.
I have worked with, through, and by SEALs, and I’m sure every SEAL has done the same with Green Berets. My point: The SEALs were directed by someone to take these host-nation troops with them. Now, that same person allowed those personnel to change out. This violates the Mission Decision-Making Process, the Bible for all military operations.
Now I know the family is upset about the age of the aircraft and the fact it was a “D” model versus an “H” model. The ONLY unit with the MH-47H is the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), a group known as the Night Stalkers. While every SOF unit (i.e., Green Beret, SEAL, Delta) team requests them for their missions, there are not enough of those aircraft to meet all of the requests.
When the team says they are doing a air infiltration, they request the air assets required. Prior to the air brief, they will know what platforms are available. For instance, they will be told, “You asked for 10 helicopters and you only get 3,” or “You asked for fast movers at 0330 hrs, but they can’t get on station until 0415 hrs,” and so on. By the end of the briefing, team members know who is available to cover their asses all the way down to the drone in the sky.
The MH-47H is a SOF-only aircraft built specifically for night operations. It emits a small radar signature and carries formidable countermeasures, including — but not limited to — two mini-guns and one .50-caliber machine gun. All crew members, including the flight crew, are assigned and trained by SOF.
Conversely, crew members aboard the CH-47D come from the ranks of the conventional forces and are not trained in the MH-47H capabilities. The CH-47D is equipped with basic countermeasures, including two 5.56mm M249 SAW machine guns. That’s it!
To be in the 160th, everyone — pilots included — must pass the same rigorous selection process as everyone else in SOF. Pilots, who go through Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion (SERE) School, must have been a regular aviation brigade member for at least four years before applying. In most cases, and depending upon the risk assessment, non-SOF aircraft would not be allowed to go on missions involving high-value targets in hostile areas. Long and short, the CJSOTF air commander would be the one coordinating this, responsible to locate and coordinate all air assets to include Quick-Reaction Force (QRF) air frames as well as fast movers, drones, etc.
U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook.
By now, you’re asking, “What does all of this mean?” The items below explain things in a nutshell while raising important questions:
1) No aircraft goes out without escorts or layers of escorts.
2) The team commander had to be ordered to take host-nation personnel with him and to change out those personnel. Who gave that order?
3) Someone in the aviation unit would also have to approve the manifest change and would have the name of the person who authorized the change on the manifest. Who changed the manifest?
4) When, until now, was there ever a funeral with U.S. and host-nation personnel together. In all of my time in combat, I never saw it happen. Why did it happen in this case?
5) How many personnel since this war started has the government cremated? Again, I personally worked a crash with four U.S. personnel and one host-nation soldier that burned. I personally pulled three torsos out of the wreckage — there were no legs, arms or skull above the jaws — and I placed them into three separate body bags. I waited for the the forensic doctor who would perform the autopsy to arrive and, for four hours, we sifted through the wreckage for the remaining body parts and personnel effects. We had a sixth bag that we put the pieces in for DNA testing. I went to the funeral for the four U.S. personnel. The host nation held a funeral at a mosque on the installation. I tell you this to let you know great care is given to the dead, no matter how the person dies or how gruesome it is. Every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman deserves to rest on American soil, and deserves to come home.
6) What assets were deployed to recover the personnel and what was the time line for those efforts?
7) The operations order would have listed a QRF assigned to the mission. Who were they and from what base/location did they come?
These are but a few of the questions that remain about Extortion 17.
During a May 9 news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., several family members of the fallen warriors raised similar questions and were joined by a number of high-ranking, now-retired SOF members who did the same. The news conference is captured in its entirety in the 3-hour video below. Worth every minute of time you spend watching it, I hope you will watch it, share it and demand your elected officials in Washington obtain answers from the Pentagon and the Obama Administration to the questions raised about Extortion 17.
Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.
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.
Senior Special Operations commanders recently called on the defense industry to provide technologies that, according to an article published today, give their forces more situational awareness, better networking and communications and more precise location and targeting capabilities. I detail a similar set of circumstances in my recently released second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO.
Guantanamo Bay (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Sarah Cleveland)
U.S. Special Operations Command leaders knew they needed technology better than the century-old polygraph for use in interrogating enemy combatants, terror suspects and others in hotspots around the world. In 2004, they found themselves wondering if they had a legitimate new investigative tool on their hands. They had, after all, seen a non-polygraph technology exceed expectations as a tool for interrogating detainees at Guantanamo Bay, members of Saddam Hussein‘s inner circle (a.k.a., “The Deck of Cards”) in Iraq, and many others. More importantly, they had seen it outperform the polygraph by leaps and bounds.
After much interaction with SOCOM leaders, the manufacturer of the non-polygraph technology was able to earn a contract worth almost $700,000 via the extremely-competitive Defense Acquisition Challenge Program. Early in 2005, however, polygraph loyalists inside the Pentagon inexplicably nixed that contract.
In THE CLAPPER MEMO, I provide blow-by-blow details about the people and events involved in this skirmish and many others that have taken place during a “turf war” that’s been raging silently for more than 40 years between polygraph loyalists and all challengers to their century-old technology.
Further, I offer detailed explanations of how this turf war shows no signs of easing and is having an often-deadly impact on Americans around the world, including U.S. military and intelligence professionals in Afghanistan.
To learn more about these findings and others that surfaced during my exhaustive four-year investigation, order a copy of THE CLAPPER MEMO. Already endorsed by three heavyweight Americans, two of whom are former Special Operations officers, it’s available in paperback and ebook versions at Amazon.
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.
Mark Zuckerberg‘s social networking gurus at Facebook seem to think the men and women of Special Operations Speaks, who’ve spent much of their lives fighting on behalf of their fellow Americans do not deserve the freedom to exercise the rights guaranteed them under the First Amendment — at least, not when that exercise involves criticizing President Barack Obama days before an election about his mishandling of and lying about Sept. 11 events in Benghazi, Libya.
On Saturday, a Benghazi-focused meme (above) was posted on the organization’s website by Political Media Inc. President Larry Ward, the man who handles SOS social media and publicity efforts. It’s message: “Obama called the SEALs and they got Bin Laden. When the SEALs called Obama, they got denied.”
Twenty-four hours later, Ward was informed by Facebook monitors that he had violated Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities with the meme. As a result, the SOS account was suspended for 24 hours. At last check, the meme is back up on the SOS Facebook page.
Before the election next Tuesday, please consider donating to Special Operations Speaks and spread the word about how Obama denied assistance to people on the ground, including one U.S. ambassador and two former Navy SEALs, in Benghazi.
Wednesday was a banner day during which I was able to get closer to two Special Operations veterans groups doing battle with politicians and others who are reckless with national security secrets and related matters.
Late Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to watch “Dishonorable Disclosures,” a 22-minutes video produced by Special Ops (OPSEC), a similarly-comprised group with nearly identical aims — to STOP the politicians from politically capitalizing on U.S. national security operations and secrets! Among those politicians, front and center, is President Barack Obama.
Please share news about these two fine organizations and support them as best you can before election day.
Many of the same Special Operations veterans who helped derail Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign as members of Swift Vets and POWs for Truth released a video today in which they blasted President Barack Obama and members of his White House staff for leaking national security secrets that put American troops in danger.
The video was released barely three weeks after I shared news about the launch of SpecialOperationsSpeaks.com, the website bearing the new group’s name, and the fact that leaders of the group had pledged to champion the causes of several wrongfully-imprisoned soldiers, including Michael Behenna, the Army Ranger officer about whom I’ve written dozens of posts, and Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, the man whose life story is chronicled in my book, Three Days In August.
Please share this important video as often as you can before election day in November. Thanks in advance!
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.
Many of the same people who helped derail the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as members of Swift Vets and POWs for Truth are back in 2012 as members of Special Operations Speaks. As part of an effort to combat what one leader of the group describes as “a government that has gone rogue,” the group’s members have decided to champion the causes of two soldiers about whom I’ve written much over the past three-plus years: 1LT Michael Behenna and Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Stewart.
The good news came this morning in the form of an email from Beverly Perlson, founder of the pro-troops organization, The Band of Mothers, who had received the news from Larry Bailey, one of the leaders of Special Operations Speaks who is a retired Navy captain and also chairs the pro-military group, Gathering of Eagles.
Behenna is the Army Ranger officer about whom I have written and published more than 60 articles during the past three years. He is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for killing Ali Mansur, a known Al-Qaeda operative, in self-defense in Iraq in 2008.
Based on extensive interviews and never-before-published details taken from the actual Record of Trial, Three Days in August paints a portrait of military justice gone awry that’s certain to make your blood boil. The most-recent update on his case can be found here.