On 29 September 2006, United States District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan granted summary judgment (90 kb PDF) to the defendants in Croddy, et al. v. FBI et al. (Civil Action No. 00-651 [EGS]), dismissing the lawsuit which challenged the FBI’s and U.S. Secret Services’ pre-employment polygraph policies whereby applicants are denied employment based solely on the results of polygraph screening — a procedure that the National Academy of Sciences found to be completely invalid. In a footnote (no. 2 at p. 2), Judge Sullivan with a wave of the hand dismisses all concerns over the reliability of polygraphy:
Though Plaintiffs have introduced significant evidence on the question of whether polygraph examinations are reliable, the Court need not answer that question to resolve Plaintiffs’ claims. Therefore, the Court will not delve into the details of the polygraph examination process.
This is strange justice. Past filings documenting the plaintiffs’ claims are available here.
The Associated Press has published the following report on the court’s decision:
FBI Can Use Polygraphs On ApplicantsWASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2006(AP) The FBI and Secret Service may continue to use lie-detector tests to screen potential employees, a federal judge ruled Monday.U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s ruling ends a six-year lawsuit brought by six applicants who failed polygraph tests and were denied jobs. They said the policy violated their rights to privacy and due process.The Secret Service has required polygraph tests for potential agents since 1985. All FBI employees have been tested since 1994.Applicants are asked questions about their medical histories, finances, sex lives, drug use and mental health. Secret Service applicants are asked whether they have committed adultery or other sex crimes.
While those questions are personal, Sullivan said, they’re not an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. Because the applicants sought positions of public trust, the agencies have the right to inquire about the backgrounds of their agents, he said.
“With regard to the Secret Service’s specific questions, the agency has made a reasonable determination that there is a danger if its employees in sensitive positions could be blackmailed for some reason,” Sullivan wrote. “The court will not second-guess that conclusion.”
Four of the six applicants who brought the case probably were turned down based on their answers to drug-related questions, according to court documents. All denied using drugs.
“Three people know you’re lying: me, you and God,” a Secret Service polygraph agent said to one applicant, according to court documents.
“No, God and I know I’m telling the truth,” the applicant, Eileen Moynahan replied.
A fifth applicant was denied because she had lied about marijuana use on a Baltimore police application, prosecutors said. The sixth applicant was accused of holding his breath to try to beat the polygraph.
The lawsuit claimed the tests are unreliable, yet there is no way for applicants to clear their name. They said the stigma attached to failing the test would prevent them from getting other law enforcement jobs.
Sullivan denied that claim, noting that some of the applicants who brought the lawsuit now work in federal law enforcement jobs.
“Ultimately this will be an issue for the Supreme Court or Congress to take care of,” attorney Mark Zaid said.