Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner

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9781597970464: Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner

John F. Sullivan was a polygraph examiner with the CIA for thirty-one years, during which time he conducted more tests than anyone in the history of the CIA's program. The lie detectors act as the Agency's gatekeepers, preventing foreign agents, unsuitable applicants, and employees guilty of misconduct from penetrating or harming the Agency. Here Sullivan describes his methods, emphasizing the importance of psychology and the examiners' skills in a successful polygraph program. Sullivan acknowledges that using the polygraph effectively is an art as much as a science, yet he convincingly argues that it remains a highly reliable screening device, more successful and less costly than the other primary method, background investigation. In the thousands of tests that Sullivan conducted, he discovered double agents, applicants with criminal backgrounds, and employee misconduct, including compromising affairs and the mishandling of classified information.

But Gatekeeper is more than Sullivan's memoirs. It is also a window to the often acrimonious and sometimes alarming internal politics of the CIA: the turf wars over resources, personnel, and mandate; the slow implementation of quality control; the aversion to risk-taking; and the overzealous pursuit of disqualifying information. In an age when the intelligence community's conduct is rightly being questioned, Sullivan contributes a fascinating personal account of one of the Agency's many important tasks.

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From the Publisher:

"The polygraph is a much-maligned procedure, but I shudder to think what security and counterintelligence at the CIA would have been without it. John Sullivan was a virtuoso of the `box,' the best examiner we ever produced. He has an amazing inside story to tell, as only he could tell it. His book is a major contribution to the intelligence literature. I found it absolutely riveting." --James M. Olson, former chief of CIA counterintelligence and author of Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying

"I learned more about the workings of the CIA's polygraph program from reading Gatekeeper than I learned during the twenty-seven years I served in the Agency's Directorate of Operations. The polygraph is the CIA's most important tool for validating the intelligence information it collects and for protecting itself from hostile penetration and peddlers of false information. This book provides a wealth of detail about the growth and maturation of the Agency's polygraph program." --Merle Pribbenow, former CIA case officer and translator of Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People's Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975

"Only John Sullivan would have written Gatekeeper. He had the experience of the perfect insider, and his conscience did not make him a coward unwilling to tell the bad as well as the good. Having often worked closely with John, I agree with his premise that evaluating polygraph results is much more of an art than a science. Among the examiners I have known, John Sullivan was a Rembrandt." --Charles Gillen, former CIA case officer and author of Saigon Station

"CIA's most experienced polygrapher lifts the shroud surrounding an instrument which plays a pivotal and often greatly misunderstood role in the agency's personal vetting and agent validation systems. Sullivan demystifies many of the misconceptions about this instrument and the role played by its practitioners. Counterintelligence historians will learn much new and useful information as to how the polygraph was employed in the investigations of CIA turncoats Ames, Nicholson, and Scranage." --Brian J. Kelley, retired officer with forty years of counterintelligence experience at CIA and the U.S. Air Force

"The CIA censors have taken the handcuffs off John Sullivan. The whole story is out, warts and all, including Operation Bad Apples." --Sheriff Bob Pickell, Flint, Michigan

About the Author:

John F. Sullivan retired from the CIA's polygraph division after thirty-one years of service. His previous book is Of Spies and Lies: A CIA Lie Detector Remembers Vietnam. He lives in Reston, Virginia.

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