Aldrich Ames on Beating a Polygraph

The CIA double agent Aldrich Ames famously passed two lie-detector tests.

The first time he had a test scheduled he asked for advice from his KGB handlers, who wrote back, “Get a good night’s sleep, and rest, and go into the test rested and relaxed. Be nice to the polygraph examiner, develop a rapport, and be cooperative and try to maintain your calm.”

“Dear Mr. Aftergood,

Having had considerable experience with the polygraph (well beyond that which you referred to), I read your very sensible essay in Science with great interest. I offer you a few comments on the topic for whatever interest or use they may have.

Like most junk science that just won’t die (graphology, astrology and homeopathy come to mind), because of the usefulness or profit their practitioners enjoy, the polygraph stays with us.

Its most obvious use is as a coercive aid to interrogators, lying somewhere on the scale between the rubber truncheon and the diploma on the wall behind the interrogator’s desk. It depends upon the overall coerciveness of the setting — you’ll be fired, you won’t get the job, you’ll be prosecuted, you’ll go to prison — and the credulous fear the device inspires. This is why the Redmond report ventures into the simultaneously ludicrous and sinister reality that citizens’ belief in what is untrue must be fostered and strengthened. Rarely admitted, this proposition is of general application for our national security apparatus.

You didn’t mention one of the intriguing elements of the interrogations of Dr. Lee which is in fact quite common — the false representation to the subject of the polygraph results. Because interrogations are intended to coerce confessions of one sort or another, interrogators feel themselves entirely justified in using their coercive means as flexibly as possible to extract them. Consistency regarding the particular technique is not important; inducing anxiety and fear is the point.

Polygraphers are fond of the technique used by psychics called cold reading, as a slightly less dramatic practice than actually lying to the subject about the results. In this sort of cold reading, the interrogator will suggest to the subject that there may be a potential problem, an ambiguous result, to one of the questions and inquire whether the subject knows of anything that might help clear it up, etc, etc.

Your account of the Redmond report — I haven’t seen it — shows how another hoary slider is thrown past the public. The polygraph is asserted to have been a useful tool in counterintelligence investigations. This is a nice example of retreating into secret knowledge: we know it works, but it’s too secret to explain. To my own knowledge and experience over a thirty year career this statement is a false one. The use of the polygraph (which is inevitably to say, its misuse) has done little more than create confusion, ambiguity and mistakes. I’d love to lay out this case for you, but unfortunately I cannot — it’s a secret too…

…Deciding whether to trust or credit a person is always an uncertain task, and in a variety ofI’ve seen these bureaucratically-driven flights from accountability operating for years, much to the cost of our intelligence and counterintelligence effectiveness. The US is, so far as I know, the only nation which places such extensive reliance on the polygraph. (The FBI, to its credit in a self-serving sort of way, also rejects the routine use of the polygraph on its own people.) It has gotten us into a lot of trouble.

On the other hand, there have been episodes in which high-level pressures to use or acquire certain persons entirely override pious belief in the polygraph. One instance which made the press is that of the Iranian connection in the Iran-Contra affair.

I wish you well in this particularly important theater of the struggle against pseudoscience: the national security state has many unfair and cruel weapons in its arsenal, but that of junk science is one which can be fought and perhaps defeated by honest and forthright efforts like yours.

    • Sincerely,

Aldrich H. Ames
40087-083
P.O. Box 3000
White Deer, PA 17887

P.S. I should say that all my outgoing mail goes through the CIA — unlawfully — for review, censorship and whatever use it chooses to make of it.”

Letter to Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, November 28, 2000.

Advertisements

Fifty Shades of Grey: The Vancouver Sign Blooper

The film adaptation of the book Fifty Shades of Grey recently made its cable debut in the UK. Yeah, I watched it. As befitting a story originally published on a Twilight fan-fiction site, the movie is set in Seattle, Washington, but the film was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia.

A meticulously lit and art-directed film, the scene of the wine-glass-wielding*-self-made-billionaire-and-sadist Christian Grey addressing his inamorata’s graduating class was obviously shot at a real university. A university which is– as the sign below the podium clearly states–located in Vancouver.

*If nothing else, Grey offers real insight into the romantic road map of a piss artist.

Arthur Miller Marries Marilyn Monroe, June 29, 1956

“WHITE PLAINS, June 29 — Marilyn Monroe, film actress, and Arthur Miller, playwright, slipped quietly into the Westchester County Courthouse here tonight and were married by a city judge. Miss Monroe wore a sweater and a skirt and no hat. Mr. Miller wore a blue suite and a white shirt but no tie.

The screen star, who is 30 years old, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist, who is 40, were married at 7:21 P.M. by Judge Seymour Robinowitz in a ceremony that lasted less than five minutes. Mr. and Mrs. Miller then got into their sports car and disappeared into traffic.

This was Miss Monroe’s third marriage and Mr. Miller’s second.

Only a few persons attended the wedding. The first news of it came from the New York public relations firm for Marilyn Monroe Productions.

Attendants for the Millers were the playwright’s cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Morton A. Miller of Roxbury, Conn. Also present at the single-ring ceremony were the judge’s wife, Mrs. Robinowitz; Milton Green, a business associate of Miss Monroe, who took pictures of the service; Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Slavitt and their son, David, of White Plains; and a man who was not immediately identified.

Mr. Slavitt, who is Mr. Miller’s attorney, had obtained earlier in the day a waiver of the twenty-four-hour waiting period required between getting a marriage license and the ceremony.

New York Times, June 30, 1956. Wedding footage by Milton Greene.

Top 10 Restaurants in America for Adulterous Affairs

ImageDisgraced cheating website Ashley Madison surveyed its members and discovered the most popular places for adulterous dates are chain restaurants at least twenty miles from home. Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey’s favourite locale for his “Friday Night Specials,” TGI Fridays, did not make the top ten. 

10. Fleming’s
9. Red Lobster
8. Outback Steakhouse
7. Chili’s
6. Del Frisco’s
5. The Cheesecake Factory
4. P.F. Chang’s
3. Houston’s
2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House
1. Morton’s The Steakhouse

The Twin Brothers Restaurant, London, 51 Church Street W8

Ffiona’s restaurant, formerly Twin Brothers

This review of London’s Twin Brothers restaurant appeared in Cheap Eats in London, 1976. Helge Schmidt remained the owner-manager for twelve years. His daughter later wrote, “It was at the Twin Brothers that Helge met his Australian wife, my mum – Jan.”

“The Twin Brothers Restaurant is recognizable from the outside by a little striped awning and red fringed lamps in the windows. It is situated in Kensington Church Street, just where the road has a kink in it. Inside, there are more fringed lamps on gilded brackets, dark green and gold wallpaper, Murillo-like portraits and still lives of fruit. Spindly wrought-iron chairs and gilt-framed mirrors give the place an air of a Viennese café , for this restaurant is owned and run by Helge and Detlef Schmidt, who are from Berlin and are, as the name of the restaurant implies, twin brothers. Helge, a blond giant who would look well as Siegfried, does the waiting, Detlef, who remains unseen, but who is presumably also a blond giant, does the cooking…

… Service, as performed by Helge and a charming Australian waitress called Jane, is something of an entertainment in itself. Gentlemen customers, of whatever age, are welcomed by Helge with a loud, ‘Hello young man!’ and if he’s met them before, he kisses the ladies. On being told that they have booked, he is invariably and vociferously astonished. ‘You booked! Mein Gott! Gif me one minute of my life!’… to which customers might well need to add half an hour of their own. They must wait patiently with a glass of wine while their patron intermittently informs the rest of the company that ‘Evvysing iss under German control–jawohl!- evvysing iss in my hants!’ Eventually they will be given a table (‘I am leading you now into Paradise!’) and their dinners brought more or less promptly, depending perhaps on pressures down in the kitchen. Dishes are presented gracefully, with the hope that you will enjoy your meal prettily expressed. Orders are taken either by Jane or Helge in a friendly kneeling position with their elbows on the table and their eyes shinning into yours. One might be churlish and wish that if the service was a bit rougher the food would be ready all the sooner, but it looks as if half the attraction of this immensely popular restaurant, for most of the customers, is the near-cabaret turn but on by its dazzling proprietor.”

Cheap Eats in London, Susan Campbell with Alexandra Towle, Penguin Books, 1976.

Palomino Espresso: http://palominoespresso.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/my-family-history-in-world-of.html

Gore Vidal and George Plimpton at Phillips Exeter Academy

“Gore Vidal was a class ahead of me. He was so persuaded of his own abilities way back then that he sent in his own pieces to the school’s literary magazine, the Review, signing them with a fictitious name, perhaps that of a first year boy who lived in Dunbar, and then sat at the editorial meeting glorying in the praise heaped by the other editors on what was actually his own work (‘Who is this kid?’). Vidal later read a long, epic free-verse saga of mine about being lost in the Exeter woods one night, far beyond the river. Although the other editors dismissed it out of hand, he wrote me a note or spoke to me about it–a faint note of praise, but it was like a thunderclap from above.”

George Plimpton, “Exeter Remembered” The Man in the Flying Lawn Chair and other Excursions and Observations, Random House, 2004.

The Permanent Stains 30th Anniversary Tour


The Permanent Stains were formed thirty years ago in Ottawa. At various times the members have consisted of Adam Clarke (“Ferdinand Fleming”), brothers Nick (“Bruford T. Justice”) and Malcolm Fraser (“Malstain”), Mark Haney (“The Mighty Moose of Ages”), Adam Traynor (“Rolled Oats”), Brian Leonard, Erik “the Savior” Otto, Peaches, Fraser Robinson (“Tex Styles”), and a mascot known as Yogurt Boy, who danced with salad tongs wearing an insectoid crash helmet and a bathrobe. I spoke to four members of the Stains, Malcolm Fraser, Mark Haney, Fraser Robinson, and Adam Traynor ahead of their 30th anniversary tour.

What’s your most memorable gig?
MH: For me it’s the baby pool show at Glebe High School. I had a baby pool full of soapy water to frolic in, got a blender full of fish and lime juice dumped on me, Mal demonstrated the “Yo Joe!” sodomy position on me in the pool and (most importantly) we crossed over from being theoretically dangerous to literally so.

MF: There are lots but one of my favourites is when we had a Montreal gig cancelled. We decided then and there that we would play a show that night no matter what. We went around to a couple of bars and in the second one, Nick knew a member of the band so we hustled our way onto the bill. We passed the hat and made $28, which I was pretty impressed with until I found out that our friend had put in $20. Nonetheless, I’m glad we had the moxie to make that happen.

FR: I still have the fondest memories for a show we played in this garage across from a strip club in Sherbrooke, Quebec in 2000. Full of drunk, underage francophone kids who got really into the set, we played with a primal energy that I haven’t quite channeled since. Bruford won a bunch of money on the fruit machine at the strip club beforehand and later the cops broke up the gig. Couldn’t ask for a better night.

AT: At a Gong Show-themed event in Toronto, I got in to a shoving match with a burly meathead who was heckling our opener, Mike Foxxx. Having antagonised the audience, the vibe was already charged when we took the stage, and became literally so while we played: some grounding problem with (or sabotage of!?) the electrical current caused my fingers to conduct electricity via my guitar stings, and I received a jarring shock of electrocution with every note I played.

Tell me about some venues you have played at?
MF: Skinhead basement party, karaoke boozecan in a church basement, teenage drinking party in a strip club basement… hmm, I sense a theme here…

FR: One of my favourites was this Karaoke Bar that wasn’t even a Karaoke Bar. Ottawa’s best Karaoke host, Carmen (RIP), relocated at one point to a boozecan that some old Chinese guys set up in a community centre gym. We managed to sort out a gig there opening for him and it was amazing, we opened for Karaoke – and brought a decent crowd too. The regulars didn’t really know what to make of the whole thing.

AT: Carman’s karaoke speakeasy in the back room of Christ The Saviour Orthodox Church in Ottawa’s Chinatown. An all-ages punk basement speakeasy in Sherbrooke (while the cops circled outside). Club Zone, a cheesy bar next to Concordia University in Montreal where we successfully crashed the bill on the day our scheduled gig fell through. Planet Kensington in Toronto (several times). Saw Gallery, Café Alternatif and Porter Hall in Ottawa throughout the 90s, Tex Mex’s parents’ basement in Ottawa, and Dave Dawson’s parents’ basement in Ottawa.

Please list some of your favourite stage costumes.
MH:
My first Stains costume will forever be my favourite. Fuzzy white fur hat, coconut bra, hollowed out cucumber. Everything since then has been a disappointment.

MF: Nick covering his face in Band-Aids, Mark wearing a hollowed-out cucumber taped to his penis, Yogurt Boy’s iconic helmet… there was also a time when Nick and I dressed as riot grrls – we had torn shirts, miniskirts and the words “SLUT” and “WHORE” written on our midriffs in black marker. Somehow I don’t feel like that would go over well today, but I guess you had to be there…

FR: My Spiderman with moustache and mohawk remains my best look. Not just on stage, but in life.

AT: Australian flag diaper. Artificial flesh mask made of Band-Aids. Superman doll codpiece. Hollow cucumber codpiece with edible tip. Singing telegram tux & tails. Royal Canadian Airborne t-shirt with hazing slogans scrawled in faeces

Did you ever have any groupies?
MH:
You mean other than Fraser?

FR: Not sure about groupies but I think Bruford started a relationship with a long term girlfriend right after he and The Mighty Moose of Ages made out in the peanut butter and chocolate sauce filled kiddie-pool at the ’93 Glebe Fringe Festival show in Ottawa. That kind of thing really says “good boyfriend material.”  

AT: 97.

What’s on your rider?
MH:
In a perfect world, a large deli spread with a selection of alcohol; this may sound stupidly modest but since the reality is going to be “you can change in the washroom” it seems like a dream.

AT: White sports socks (x6 pair). Locally-sourced artisanal maraschinos. Goofballs.

In the Another Video video, what were you pouring on each other and rolling in? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceUoed9z4DI
MH:
Part of that is the soapy water, fish and lime described above. There is a also a snippet of Nick and I wrestling and covering each other in peanut butter and chocolate sauce.

MF: I can’t remember all the ingredients, but it definitely contained frozen fish sticks.

AT: I believe that’s Captain Highliner frozen breaded fish sticks, puréed.

What is your personal favourite song? Lyric?
MH: Super Christ Brothers, “You can all fucking suck me” from the same.

MF: I really like a lyric that Nick sang on the recorded version of “Super Christ Brothers.” He was just ranting incoherently for the most part, but the only decipherable lyrics are “That’s all right, do what you want. Why is that what you want?” I’m quite sure it was just off the top of his head, but I still think it’s pretty deep.

FR:  Song: “Why.” Lyric: Why

AT: Song: “Cold Frankfurter.” Lyric: “That’s alright/do what you want/why is that what you want?” (from “Super Christ Brothers”).

Will there be nudity at any of your upcoming shows?
MH: Not sure. Gratuitous nudity was always my department, and while I’m not planning anything at this time I’m certainly not opposed to it. At all.

FR: We’re not quite the lithe young studs we once were but it shouldn’t be ruled out.

AT: Only the truth will be naked.

Most memorable Permanent Stains concert attendees or events at concerts (ie. bar brawls).
MH: I think Mal losing his shit and beating on Nick and I in Ottawa during our 14th Anniversary Tour is my most memorable. Nick was getting it for trying to shave Mal’s head, I was getting it because Mal just assumed I was involved.

FR: On the bar brawl front: Malstain and Bruford once got into a full-on tussle on-stage after Bruford tried to shave Malstain’s head as a surprise during a song. The razor gouged into Mal’s head and cut him open, he responded with a wild haymaker in Bruford’s direction and a donnybrook ensued. Fortunately Yogurt Boy (actually a stand-in for an AWOL Yogurt in the form of Christian Moreton, our tour manager) jumped into the fray and diffused it with a sort of blanket hug that cleared the red mist.

AT: Members of Mighty Moose’s church group, in attendance at the Liam’s basement show in Ottawa, where they witnessed Mal biting the tip off Mighty Moose’s hollow cucumber codpiece.

Are you familiar with the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo? Who do the Stains most resemble? 

FR: I am familiar with this franchise. We’re the musical equivalent of Lisa Rinna’s lips.

So there you have it. Fulsome, mesmerizing, notorious, and cherished by Harry Hamlin, The Permanent Stains’ 30th anniversary tour will visit:

Wednesday August 9 – OttawaPressed 8pm 
Thursday August 10 – MontrealLa Vitrola  9pm
Friday August 11 – North BayWhite Water Gallery 8:30 pm
Saturday August 12 – TorontoBurdock 8:30 pm
Sunday August 13 – PeterboroughThe Spill 

The Stains’ 2004 autobiography: https://permanentstains.bandcamp.com/merch/lets-get-greasy
“Super Christ Bros”: https://permanentstains.bandcamp.com/track/super-christ-brothers-2
“Why”: https://permanentstains.bandcamp.com/track/why-2