CIA recruiter Elizabeth was less than candid when she told Northwestern students that “those who tell the truth have nothing to worry about” regarding the polygraph. The National Academy of Sciences recently completed a thorough review of the scientific evidence and concluded that polygraph screening is completely invalid and that governmental reliance on it is a danger to national security.
Elizabeth’s failure to mention the NAS report is not surprising. As a matter of policy, the CIA does not inform those seeking employment (or even its own employees) that polygraph “testing” actually depends on the polygrapher lying to and otherwise 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 ambush them with questions about the most intimate details of their private lives.
Persons considering employment with the CIA should ponder just how intimate a relationship they are willing to have with their government.
George W. Maschke