Message from discussion Ruby's Polygraph
From: Robert Harris <reharr...@yahoo.com>
Subject: Ruby's Polygraph
Date: 16 Jan 2009 16:08:22 -0500
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In 1978, the HSCA polygraph panel of 9 experts was asked to reexamine
the polygraph test given to Jack Ruby in 1964, by FBI polygraph expert,
Bell P. Herndon. To say that the panel was shocked and outraged by
Herndon's procedures, is an enormous understatement. It is my belief,
based on their report, that first, Ruby was indeed being deceitful when
he denied any relationship to Oswald, or to the assassination, and
second, that Herndon deliberately tried to hide evidence that Ruby lied.
It is important to understand, that Herndon was no amateur at this. He
was in fact one of the very best and most experienced polygraph people
the FBI had, describing himself as, "presently the polygraph supervisor
and polygraph examiner assigned to the FBI laboratory, Washington,
D.C.".When asked about his experience, he replied, " I have either
given, supervised, or reviewed several thousand polygraph examinations.".
Keeping in mind then, that Herndon knew exactly what he was doing,
consider this part of the HSCA report:
"A third factor the panel finds impaired the Ruby polygraph examination
concerned the number of relevant test questions asked.The panel members
believe it showed total disregard of basic polygraph principles.
(47) The crux of every polygraph examination is the number of test
questions and how they are worded. When the Ruby examination was
conducted, the primary textbook on the subject was "Lie Detection and
Criminal Interrogation," by Fred E. Inbau and John E. Reid (3ded.,
1953). This book recommends three relevant questions, since the more a
person is tested, the less he tends to react when lying. That is, sooner
or later, liars become so "test-tired,"they no longer produce
significant physiological reactions when lying. "
That last sentence is critical. As we will see, Herndon knew all too
well, that by wearing Ruby down with control questions, he could reduce
his measurable reactions when he lied. The report continued,
"One panel member, Archer, said that in his 27 years of experience he
had never heard of polygraph examinations with more than 17 relevant
questions. Yet, in the Ruby examination, Herndon ask some 55 relevant
questions. As Herndon himself stated:
'In normal polygraph procedure it is usual to keep the relevant
questions down to perhaps several specific critical relevant questions
and work strictly on those.'"
So, as we might expect, Herndon knew very well that by asking far too
many test questions, he might cause Ruby to suppress the symptoms of his
deceptions. But that was only a start. Just in case Ruby had not been
"worn down" enough to hide his lies, Herndon took other steps to
minimize those peaks on the printout:
"The panel found the galvanic skin response (GSR) tracing to be of
minimal help in analyzing Ruby's charts. The main problem with the GSR
in the first session (before the break) is a lack of sensitivity due to
Herndon's setting the sensitivity at one-fourth of maximum. He decreased
it to one-fifth for the third series of questions. The panel noted that
it should have been tried at a maximum sensitivity prior to the first
test, where probably it should have remained for the entire examination."
So, for some reason, Herndon turned the sensitivity to 1/4th of what it
should have been. He then turned it down even further, for the third set
of questions. The panel continued,
"The panel could provide no explanation for why Herndon decreased the
sensitivity for the third series. In fact, generally recognized
principles in 1964 called for the sensitivity to be continually
But if all else failed, and those nasty signs of deception still became
visible, the FBI had a final fallback position. They could simply
declare that the machinery was defective,
"The panel concluded that during this entire session, the GSR was
completely defective. At best the polygraph appeared to be in extremely
poor condition. In an examination of this importance, a backup polygraph
should have been available and in the panel's view, should have been
used. The examination should have been stopped until another polygraph
could be obtained."
Of course, if this fact was known to the HSCA experts, it was certainly
known to Herndon. What possible reason could he have had, for conducting
the most important polygraph test of his career, and perhaps, of this
century, on equipment he knew to be faulty? Certainly, the FBI would
have had no problem at all, procuring a machine that was in perfect
working order. What possible reason could there have been for this,
other than to give Herndon an out, or a form of plausible denial?
These are not the only examples of Herndon's flagrant attempts to
disguise the nature of Ruby's responses. Keeping in mind, that he was an
expert, who had administered or studied, "thousands" of polygraph tests,
look at the way he used his control questions to produce artificially
high standards for where on his graphs, he would have to admit that Ruby
"Further, Herndon violated a basic rule that surprise questions should
never be used as controls. For example, while asking a series, he says,
during the test, "have you ever been known by another name? Don't answer
that question. Skip it. Just sit and relax." (112)
(74) Such talk by the expert should automatically prevent this question
from being used in the chart analysis. Yet Herndon uses it as a control.
He testified: 'The only significant change physiologically during series
No. 2 was in Mr. Ruby's response to the question, "Have you ever been
known by another name?,"portrayed by an increase in his blood pressure.'
(75) Such a procedure can easily lead to a mistake, particularly in
indicating a liar to be truthful. ".
As we will see, that was not the only time that Herndon used improper,
and provocative "control" questions, for the purpose of raising the
"(69) 4. Herndon's definition of a "control" question goes far beyond
the generally recognized definition, as discussed in the leading book of
the day by Inbau and Reid. The "control" question,developed by Reid in
1943, is one similar but unrelated to the crime being investigated to
which the expert knows the correct answer and to which the person will
probably lie. If the person's reaction to a properly worded control is
more pronounced than to the relevant questions, he is considered to be
truthful. On the other hand, if his reaction to the relevant questions
is more pronounced, he is considered to be lying to the relevant
To understand what Herndon was up to, the following paragraph is
"(70) If the control questions are properly worded, it is very possible
that a person lying to the relevant questions will appear to be
truthful. (71) Herndon's control questions were not correctly worded. He
defined a "control" question as one to which the person will have some
emotional response. (105) Thus, he used such controls as:
1. Have you ever been arrested? (106)2. Are you married? (107)3. While
in the service did you receive any disciplinary action?(108)4. Have you
served time in jail? (109)5. Did you attend the synagogue regularly?
(72) It is obvious that not one of the above questions is a control, as
defined by Inbau and Reid. For example, to the question, "have you ever
been arrested?", Ruby answered "yes."Therefore, it is not a lie, yet
Herndon considered it to be a control question. (111)"
As the panel pointed out, the correct use of control questions had been
defined decades prior to this test. Herndon, as a well trained,
experienced expert, who had studied polygraph techniques under Phd's,
must certainly, have been aware that he was violating the most
fundamental principles of polygraph administration.
Worse, Herndon was filling his chart with artificially high test points,
which he would later use to for the avowed purpose of determining
whether Ruby lied or not. In short, he was doing everything in his
power, to make it virtually impossible for Ruby to appear to have been
deceptive. His efforts would pay off, when he was faced with Ruby's
blatantly deceptive reactions after answering the following two,
1. Did you know Oswald before November 22, 1963?
2. Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?
Herndon concluded that Ruby's replies were honest, despite an immediate
and normally, damning rise in Ruby's blood pressure. But, the FBI
operator dismissed that reaction by pointing to a similar rise in blood
pressure following one of his provocative control questions.
This is how the panel described it:
"Herndon concluded from his analysis of the charts that Ruby was
truthful in answering these two relevant questions. He arrived at this
conclusion by comparing Ruby's response to the control question, "Have
you ever been arrested?" Answer: Yes.
(99) As previously noted, the panel believed this to be an extremely
poor control question.
(100) Herndon testified that Ruby's physiological response to this
control question was recorded on the charts in terms of a"noticeable
rise in his blood pressure." (127) The panel took issue with this
conclusion because the rise in blood pressure occurred at least 7
seconds after Ruby answered. A response normally never occurs this long
after the question. The typical reaction, would be in 1 or 2 seconds.
Further, the panel noted that at the point of the rise in blood
pressure, Herndon indicated on the chart (as "MF") that Ruby moved his
feet. The panel believed that the rise in blood pressure most likely was
caused by Ruby's movement and not his physiological reaction to
the"control" question. This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that
Ruby's breathing remained relaxed at the time of the rise in blood
pressure, and the Galvanic skin response showed no reaction."
IOW, Herndon was trying very lamely, to rationalize why he did not call
Ruby's answers to these questions, out and out lies. The panel continued,
"In fact, the reactions to the preceding question--(Did you assist
Oswald in the assassination?)--showed the largest valid GS reaction in
test series No. 1. In addition, there is a constant suppression of
breathing and a rise in blood pressure at the time of this crucial
relevant question. From this test, it appeared to the panel that Ruby
was possibly lying when answering "no" to the question, 'Did you assist
Oswald in the assassination ?' This is contrary to Herndon's opinion
that Ruby was truthful when answering that question."
Although the panel stopped short of labeling Herndon the liar he
obviously was, it is clear that Ruby's response to his critical denial,
1. A rapid increase in blood pressure.
2. A subconscious effort by Ruby to suppress his breathing.
3. The highest GSR (galvanic skin response) measured during that
Needless to say, all three of those reactions were symptomatic of
deliberate deception. Yet, Herndon testified to a clueless Warren
Commission, that he had no problem at all, interpreting Ruby's chart to
mean that there was "..no area of deception present with regard to his
response to the relevant questions during the polygraph examination.".
Of course, like Rubyıs denials, that was a flagrant lie.