Representative Darrell Issa Proposes Polygraph Screening for Congress

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)
Rep. Darrell Issa

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has proposed polygraph screening for members of Congress who receive CIA briefings. Susan Crabtree reports for The Hill:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants fellow lawmakers who receive classified CIA briefings to submit to polygraph tests.

“We should have a very high standard for those who are briefed by CIA — to make sure the information isn’t compromised and [lawmakers] who are briefed are telling the truth about what they’ve been told,” he said. “Fact-finding and oversight is only as good as the group of people able to do it.”


Issa said he first believed all members of Congress with oversight over the CIA should submit to polygraph tests during former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s (R-Calif.) bribery scandal that ultimately landed him in jail. Issa, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, won a seat on the Intelligence panel after Cunningham resigned his seat in Congress and pleaded guilty to taking $2 million in bribes in a criminal conspiracy involving at least three defense contractors.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member on Intelligence, quickly shot down the idea of forcing members to submit to polygraph tests, arguing that constitutional separation-of-powers protections would prevent the FBI or the CIA from administering the test to federal lawmakers. Hoesktra, an outspoken defender of the agency, had spent weeks hammering Pelosi over her charges that the CIA lied in its congressional briefings.

“We’re not talking about leaks — that’s a very different issue,” he said. “[The idea of polygraphs] open[s] a whole series of separation-of-powers questions. The FBI cannot be evaluating the people who manage them.”

Issa said he believed that Congress could develop and administer its own polygraphs.

Rep. Issa’s assumption that polygraph screening increases security is deeply flawed. As the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed, polygraphy has no scientific basis. It’s inherently biased against the truthful, yet easily fooled through the use of simple, readily available countermeasures.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), a member of the Intelligence panel, was even more blunt.

“Cut me some slack,” he said when asked whether he believed members on the Intelligence panel should submit to polygraph tests. “We take an oath to uphold the Constitution when we’re elected.”

But military, intelligence, and law enforcement officers subject to polygraph screening also take an oath to uphold the Constitution when they are hired. That doesn’t immunize them from having their honesty and integrity assessed through the pseudoscience of polygraphy.

If members of Congress are unwilling to subject themselves to polygraph screening, then they should close the giant loophole in the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act that allows federal, state, and local government agencies to use this voodoo science on applicants and employees.