Cablegate: Anti-Narcotics Unit Members Object to Polygraphs

Published: Wed 7 Apr 2004 12:16 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) On April 4, Bogota's El Espectador newspaper
published an article about complaints by members of the
Fiscalia's Anti-Narcotics and Maritime Interdiction Unit
(UNAIM) about polygraph exams recently administered by the
FBI. The exams were mandated by Prosecutor General ("Fiscal
General") Luis Camilo Osorio following allegations of
corruption and collusion with criminal organizations in the
Prosecutor General's Office ("Fiscalia"). The UNAIM members
objected to personal questions and complained that examiners
intimidated and pressured them. However, the professional
FBI polygraphers used standard techniques ) the same as are
used on FBI employees. End Summary.
The Offended Fiscalia Employees' Grievances
2. (SBU) On April 4, Bogota's El Espectador newspaper
published an article written by members of the Office of the
Prosecutor General's ("Fiscalia") Anti-Narcotics and Maritime
Interdiction Unit (UNAIM). The article, entitled "Secrets of
the FBI Polygraph," painted a negative picture of recent
FBI-administered polygraph exams administered to over 120
senior officials and members of USG-assisted units in the
Fiscalia. In a letter to Prosecutor General Luis Camilo
Osorio published alongside the article, the UNAIM members
raised the following objections: (1) the polygraph exams were
administered by a foreign government; (2) they were an
invasion of privacy; (3) they violated individual rights,
including the presumption of innocence; (4) they served to
intimidate and threaten public servants; and (5) they lack
scientific reliability. The employees expressed particular
objections to alleged questions about drug and alcohol abuse
and sexual conduct. According to FBI representatives at
post, the Fiscalia employees' assertions are false on several
counts, some of which are probably attributable to a lack of
familiarity with polygraph exams.
A Misunderstood Process
3. (SBU) Among the complaints raised by the Fiscalia
employees were that polygraphers pried into their personal
lives, were intimidating, and pressured them to provide
answers to uncomfortable questions. In fact, the examiners
used standard polygraph techniques, including asking a set of
control questions, providing the questions to each individual
prior to the exam to give them a chance to ask for
clarifications, and interviewing individuals for 30 minutes
before beginning the formal exam. Aside from questions about
drug use while a government official, the examiners asked no
embarrassing personal questions. The FBI rejects allegations
that the polygraphers used intimidation tactics, threatened
examinees, or harangued individuals until a specific response
was elicited. As is standard practice, polygraphers may have
been insistent on particular questions or sets of questions
in order to: (1) evoke emotions that ensure proper readings
by the polygraph machine, or (2) overcome inconclusive
readings. If an individual test was inconclusive, the
polygrapher asked more questions until getting a definitive
reading. Some test-takers may have misunderstood this
standard practice.
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