The Truth About the Polygraph (According to the NSA)

The National Security Agency (NSA) has produced a video about its polygraph screening program. Watch it here, along with’s commentary:

The original source video is available here. For commentary on the NSA’s accompanying polygraph leaflet, see our earlier blog post, NSA Leaflet: Your Polygraph Examination.

For a thorough debunking of polygraphy, with extensive citations (including the U.S. Government’s own polygraph literature) that you may check for yourself, see’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (1 mb PDF).

See also these public statements by individuals who have gone through the NSA polygraph process:

And for discussion of polygraph matters, see the message board.

Comments 3

  • I have just searched Google and come up with your website. I am right now, a devastated law enforcement officer of 35 years experience. I just completed a polygraph test, the first I have ever done. I answered all the questions honestly and completely and yet, I was told that I failed the question “Have you withheld any information about your personal criminal involvement in drugs?”

    I have been a police officer for all my adult life. I worked for about a year as a lab technician prior to that. I grew up in Jamaica and worked for 8 years there as a police officer. I know everything about ganja. As a youth (up to about 12-14 years) I must have drank teas with ganja in it, maybe 5 times, certainly not more than 10. This was discounted in the preliminaries of the test. I have relatives who are involved in various ways in drugs/criminality, but I have walked the straight and narrow my entire life. I do not associate with them. In any case, this information was also declared and said to be discounted. But even if I was asked more probing questions on these, I would have had no problem telling the whole truth. The simple fact is that I have never had any criminal involvement in drug use or activity, before, during or after the fact. Yet I failed!!!!

    I was so confused after the test that I found my way to the beach instead of the parking lot where my car was located. I have a terrible headache and cannot work, go home or even discuss it with anyone, and I mean anyone!

    I came back to my office after driving around for about 20 minutes, and googled ‘polygraph testing’ and came up with your site. I found an example (Didn’t Believe the Hype Until Today, I failed the Polygraph – March 11, 2010) that was almost identical to mine. I was do completely trusting of the process, and was so completely convinced of my innocence and integrity, that I simply waited for the test and did it. No preparation at all. Now after the fact, I am discovering your site. Before, I would not have believed a word on here.

    In my current job, I am a very highly placed intelligence officer. I have been working in this jurisdiction for 26 years. When it comes to criminality of any description, I could describe myelf as Mr. Integrity. I have never even contemplated corruption of any stripe. Precisely because of this, and because of my outspokeness on issues of corruption and transparency, I have very few friends within my organization. For the very first time in my life, I am seriously challenged. I thought I was going to leave that test with a failure and realized that I would have to resign my job in disgrace, and immediately. The impact on my personal and family life is incalculable.

    Yesterday was a very special and happy day for me. My son signed a contract to begin a proper job in this job starved environment. We celebrated. This morning I came to work on a high, although I was a bit apprehensive as it drew close to my polygraph test. I am not sure why, but it clearly had to do with being unfamiliar with the process and possibly a dread as to the consequences of failing. I never consiously thought of this, but this was probably the reason for some anxiety. Now, I am awaiting a second test, and if I fail that, I am certain that I will have to resign my job!

  • I had the same issue! Myself, a non-drug user and law enforcement officer. The administrator told me that I “hit” on the drug question. First hand proof that the polygraph has flaws! I am learning of many people who are falsly accused of drugs or other illegal activity due to the discrepencies of the polygraph test. You are not alone!

  • Going through it now. Helping my neighbor who is a 94 year old WWII Veteran who has been stripped of his rights and taken control of by Social Services. I’m a Deputy here in my county. While my Veteran friend has been placed in a Nursing Assistant home (by Social Services) and refuse to let him go back home…money was taken from his wallet. We made a police report (like we suppose to) to only later be labeled as suspects. I was asked to take a polygraph and didn’t refuse due to I had nothing to hide or lie about. Was only to be told that I didn’t pass and was being deceitful. The Social Service person was allowed to view the interrogation?? Now my job is on the line, I’m currently suspended, my name marred and Social service nursing assistant home gets no red marks. They didn’t want any public news about their nursing home having workers stealing from the elderly. Here’s the kicker: Social Services, the social services warrior, and the Police Department would have never known that any money was missing if we hadn’t reported it!! But I’m the reporter of the crime and guilty due to the polygraph says so.

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