“Polygraphs Are Unfair”

AntiPolygraph.org’s George Maschke comments on CIA pre-employment polygraph screening in a letter to the editor of The Dartmouth, Dartmouth College’s independent student newspaper. This short letter is cited here in full:

To the Editor:

Tara Kyle wrote about a resurgence in interest in the CIA following the events of Sept. 11 (“CIA gets bombarded with spy wannabes after attacks,” Nov. 14). Kyle touched upon the issue of fairness in employment, and it is with this in mind that I am writing to bring to your attention a grossly unfair hiring practice that should be of concern to Dartmouth students (and indeed to anyone) seeking employment with the CIA: polygraph “testing.”

The CIA does not inform those seeking employment (or indeed, its own employees) that polygraph “testing” actually depends on the polygrapher lying to and deceiving the person being “tested” about the nature of the procedure. Nor does the CIA inform applicants that polygraphy has an inherent bias against the truthful. (Perversely, the more honestly one answers the so-called “control” questions, and as a consequence shows weaker physiological reactions to them, the more likely one is to fail.) This notwithstanding, anyone can pass (or beat) the polygraph using easily-learned countermeasures that polygraphers cannot detect. And importantly, the CIA does not inform applicants in advance that their polygraph interrogators may ask about the most intimate details of their private lives. Persons considering employment with the CIA should ponder how intimate a relationship they are willing to have with their government.

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