The passage of a polygraph by Christine Blasey Ford has been a key factor for many in believing her story — a fact cited by various members of Congress. New details of the polygraph however have been released and some contradictions are being cited within Ford’s account. However, my main interest is the polygraph itself, which does not sound like any legitimate polygraph that I have encountered. I have handled a number of polygraph cases in my career and the description of these questions are nothing short of bizarre as a reliable test.
The examination was administered by former FBI agent Jeremiah Hanafin in a Hilton hotel in Maryland. The polygraph was administered either the day or the day after Dr. Ford went to a family funeral for her grandmother.
It appears that Hanafin worked off a handwritten statement that Ford signed. That statement refers to “4 boys and a couple of girls” at the party. That is different from her account to the Committee that the party consisted of “me and 4 others.” An earlier report indicated that Ford told a therapist that there were four boys in the room when she was assaulted. She blamed the therapist as misunderstanding or poorly recorded her statement for the discrepancy.
None of the witnesses have supported Ford’s account and the most recently named witness, Leland Ingham Keyser, a former classmate of Ford’s at the Holton-Arms all-girls school in Maryland, denies knowing Kavanaugh or remembering being at the party with him.
The most notable aspect of the story however is the only two “relevant” questions asked by Hanafin “Is any part of your statement false?” and “Did you make up any part of your statement?”
Those questions would be effectively useless in an actual case. Good polygraphers ask specific, clear, insular questions. They do not use overarching language. He did not ask specific questions on whether she was assaulted by Kavanaugh — a rather curious omission.
It is not natural way to frame such an examination and the question is whether the examination was framed or limited by Ford’s counsel. The guidelines discourage such crafting or the dropping of details:
When the questions are agreed upon, and they exclude details or the wording is a bit unusual, be sure the missing details and a discussion of the development of the relevant questions are in the report. Details that were agreed upon, but were deleted from the question, must be in the report. Persons who were not present may criticize the relevant question wording because the report does not adequately describe the question development.
I have never met a polygrapher who would structure questions like these for use in a test. If this is truly the content of the examination, I would view it as largely useless in an actual case. None of this means that Dr. Ford is not telling the truth, but rather the details released, thus far, raise serious questions over the administration of the examination.