Marisa Taylor on FBI Pre-Employment Polygraph Screening

fbi-polygraphMarisa Taylor reports for McClatchy on the high failure rate of the FBI’s pre-employment polygraph screening program using, among other sources, a 198-page document containing complaints of discrimination associated with the Bureau’s polygraph program. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON — Thousands of job applicants come to FBI offices all across the country every year, eager to work for the top law enforcement agency in the U.S.

But many of them have their hopes dashed, and it’s not because of their work experience or education or criminal records. They’re turned down because they’ve failed their polygraph tests.

The FBI’s policy of barring job candidates who fail their polygraph tests clashes with the view of many scientists that government agencies shouldn’t be relying on polygraph testing to decide whether to hire or fire someone. Experts say polygraph testing isn’t a reliable indicator of whether someone is lying – especially in employment screening.

Further, a little-known technical glitch in one of the leading polygraphs that the bureau and many other government agencies have used could give applicants who fail polygraphs even more reason to assert that they were inaccurately and unfairly labeled liars.

“I was called a lazy, lying, drug dealing junkie by a man who doesn’t know me , my stellar background or my societal contributions,” wrote one black applicant in Baltimore, who said he was told he qualified for a job except for his polygraph test failure. “Just because I am young and black does not automatically denote that I have ever used any illegal drugs.”

Government agencies use polygraph testing not only to weed out job applicants but also to question criminal suspects and to determine whether sex offenders are complying with psychological treatment or probation.

Although all polygraph testing is controversial, many scientists are highly critical of its use in job screening, saying it’s especially prone to inaccuracies because the questions are often more vague than they are in criminal investigations and therefore they’re more likely to provoke reactions from the innocent that might seem like deception.

Adding to the skepticism, polygraphers have documented problems with the measurement of sweat by the LX4000, a polygraph that the FBI and many other federal agencies and police departments across the country have used, McClatchy found. Polygraphers also interpret measurements of respiration and blood pressure for their decisions on whether someone is lying, but many see the sweat measurement as especially indicative of deception. The manufacturer of the LX4000, Lafayette Instrument Co. Inc., describes the problem as rare but it isn’t able to specify what that means. The company also points out that other polygraphs that use the same technology might have the problem as well.

For the rest of the story, see “FBI Turns Away Many Who Fail Lie-Detector Tests.” (Actually, the article might better have been titled “FBI Permanently Bars from Employment All Who Fail Lie-Detector Tests.” There is no appeal process.

Comments 3

  • Don’t be fooled, the polygraph is not a “lie detector” – nor is it a “test”! In fact, it is nothing but a sick joke! It is an interrogation, an intimidation, an inquisition, a trial by ordeal – and the polygraph operator is the judge, jury, and executioner! If you are found guilty of lying, there is no appeal from his decision! And to make matters worse, even if you tell the complete truth you will probably still fail! Yet, millions of people are denied employment with the government because a polygraph operator said they lied! That is a crime in the private sector, but not in the government! It is time to PROTECT everyone from this arbitrary and capricious abuse by polygraph operators by expanding the EMPLOYEE POLYGRAPH PROTECTION ACT to cover everyone! In fact it is time to completely ban ALL polygraph “testing” completely!

  • Estas loca,,,,si fallastes es porque te has portado mal, o has cometido algun delito

  • Tu si que estas loca Ruben, con policias como tu para que queremos delincuentes en Ecuador, eres el mas vivo ejemplo de la incompetencia.
    Acabo de ver tu web site, jajaja, pero si tienes una kk de equipo Lafayette LX 4000, el mismo que viene fallando y no saben como solucionar su error!!!
    Te das cuenta, todos tus examenes de polígrafo han sido erroneos y todo porque usas ese artefacto defectuoso.
    Bueno loquita, te dejo pensar un rato, seguro que acabas metiendote el neumografo por el unico sitio que te gusta.

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