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Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner
     

Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner

3.5 4
by John F. Sullivan
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Sullivan] gives an insightful view of the problems the polygraph experience creates and the extensive efforts undertaken to minimize their impact on the subjects. No other book gives such a comprehensive look at the polygraph and its utility as a security tool in the community."

“This is a well-written work that should prove a most valuable source for those interested in intelligence matters.”

“. . . .this book can help us better understand the dark underside of the CIA’s operations during the war of aggression in Vietnam.”

"An intriguing, unusual survey which moves beyond 'memoir' status to examine the foundations of CIA quality and strengths."

"....fascinating and troubling....Sullivan opens bare the controversy, including within the agency itself, over the validity of the polygraph. Gatekeeper sheds considerable light on aspects of what was—and remains—one of the most secretive and controversial U.S. government organizations."

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“The CIA censors have taken the handcuffs off John Sullivan. The whole story is out, warts and all, including Operation Bad Apples.”

Miami Herald - Don Bohning

"Fascinating and troubling. . . . Sullivan opens bare the controversy, including within the agency itself, over the validity of the polygraph. Gatekeeper sheds considerable light on aspects of what was—and remains—one of the most secretive and controversial U.S. government organizations."—Don Bohning, the Miami Herald
World Security [An Ninh The Gioi]

“This book can help us better understand the dark underside of the CIA’s operations during the war of aggression in Vietnam.”—World Security [An Ninh The Gioi]
Proceedings

“This is a well-written work that should prove a most valuable source for those interested in intelligence matters.”—Proceedings
Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies

"[Sullivan] gives an insightful view of the problems the polygraph experience creates and the extensive efforts undertaken to minimize their impact on the subjects. No other book gives such a comprehensive look at the polygraph and its utility as a security tool in the community."—Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies
James M. Olson

“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
Merle Pribbenow

“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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781597973267
Publisher:
Potomac Books Inc.
Publication date:
04/30/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

Meet 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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Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
John F. Sullivan evidently spent years in government service as a polygraph operator with lots of frustrations, and personalty conflicts with numerous of his fellow workers. To be fair, he relates some interesting cases which no doubt contributed to the mission of the service. I got the impression that he just couldn't wait to retire, and get all those frustrations off his chest. I hope he feels better, but as a reader I don't feel over enlightened by reading about his career and the various personnel with whom he worked.
FELIXX More than 1 year ago
I found this a very interesting historical review and the less understood preparation for a good examination. Somewhat disconnected in some areas but very infomative for the casually interested.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago