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John Sullivan was the master of the polygraph, having given more lie-detector tests in his 30-year tenure than almost any other CIA officer. But when Sullivan, who is now retired, wanted to publish a book detailing some of the mishaps with the agency’s use of polygraphs, the CIA canceled his security clearance in retribution, Sullivan alleges in a lawsuit filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Ironically, Sullivan claims the retaliation started when he was sitting on the other side of the table undergoing his own polygraph test. Though Sullivan’s first book about his tenure in Vietnam cleared CIA censors in a matter of weeks, his second book, titled Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner, took more than three years to be approved. While he was waiting for the approval, Sullivan says his security clearance came up for regular review, which he still needed to land a job in the private sector. The review required a polygraph test in 2004, but the CIA polygrapher began questioning Sullivan about his book, according to the suit. “This very clearly implied to Sullivan that he would be a �liar’ for as long as he was trying to have this book about the CIA’s polygraph program published,” Sullivan’s attorney, solo practitioner Mark Zaid, alleges in the suit. Nearly a year later, Sullivan’s clearance was denied. During his appeal, Sullivan claims he obtained his investigative file, which was full of factual errors, including that his wife was a foreign national he met in Vietnam. In fact, she was born in Texas and worked for the CIA for many years, the complaint states. While the agency overturned the denial a few months later, Sullivan claims the decision hurt his employment prospects and violated his First Amendment rights. Sullivan did get some consolation. His new book was published and hits the stands this month.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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