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Topic Summary - Displaying 1 post(s).
Posted by: George W. Maschke
Posted on: Jul 29th, 2022 at 9:53am
  Mark & Quote
Today's New York Times features an article by filmmaker and U.S. Navy veteran Khalid Abdulqaadir titled, "The Polygraph Test that Saved My Marriage."

During a polygraph for a security clearance, and apparently unaware that answers to probable-lie "control" questions (in this case, "Have you ever kept a secret from your wife?") are secretly expected to be untrue, Abdulqaadir answered "yes" and provided deeply personal information that was not actually relevant, but that is now part of his permanent record. Excerpt;

Quote:
“Have you ever kept a secret from your wife?” asked the polygraph examiner.

For nearly two decades I had been grooming myself to be the perfect candidate for one of the premier U.S. government intelligence agencies. These institutions require absolute loyalty, which means you are supposed to keep secrets for them, not from them.

“Yes, I have,” I replied.

I was seated upright, brown knuckling the plastic arms of the chair. A black coiled wire had been placed snugly across my chest and another contraption was attached to my fingertips. My heart thumped so loudly that it nearly drowned out all sound. I felt a bead of sweat roll from my armpit down my side underneath my shirt.

I was experiencing the telling of truth.

While every fiber of my being strained to keep my secrets, I knew I had to be honest and just answer his question.

Fumbling through my response, I explained how I hadn’t told my wife about my family’s complicated past, how my father’s associations had led him to be charged with terrorist-related crimes after the attacks of Sept. 11, and how I, as his son, was placed on a terrorist suspect list when I turned 18.

Although my father ultimately was found not guilty of these charges in federal court (while being convicted on a gun-related charge), the stigma remained. In fact, one of the main reasons I joined the military and pursued work in the intelligence community was to try to cleanse us of all that by creating a long record of loyalty in serving my country, a record I did create and that I’m proud of.

I had been interrogated by intelligence officers when I was in the Navy, but that was nothing compared to this. Back then, I sweated and cried, but I was innocent, and I knew it. This was different. I was guilty of having hidden things from my wife — and not only about me but my family’s past.

She and I had long been distant in our marriage — a distance that came from a lack of self-disclosure. We met in Japan when I was stationed there. Early on, I had good reason to be quiet and cagey about my personal life; it’s not exactly an appealing come-on to tell a new date that you were placed on a terrorist suspect list or that your father was accused of terrorist ties. Once you’re accustomed to hiding your past, you tend to keep hiding in all kinds of ways.

I had done research before the polygraph and learned that the reason they want to know how we deal with secrets we may be keeping from loved ones is to understand how we would behave with secrets between ourselves and the agency. Could we protect U.S. national security? Would we be susceptible to blackmail or coercion?

“Why have you kept this from your wife?” the examiner asked.

“I was afraid she wouldn’t love me in the same way.”

That, too, was the truth. I have always been terrified of how people might respond to my true self, which is why for most of my life I have tried to offer a version of myself that I believed others wanted to see. When I was growing up in Oklahoma, I would think, “I’m black, ugly, short and have an Islamic name. How could anyone find me attractive?” Having such an attitude could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As it turned out, it was my struggle to break free from the shame placed on my family that ultimately delivered me from my inferiority complex.

“Have you ever been part of an organization with the purpose of overthrowing the U.S. government?” the examiner asked.

“No,” I said.

“What is it you’re not telling me?” he asked.

I could have started with my excuses. How losing my mother at age 3 made me seek the nurturing affection of women, and how that became a particular kind of weakness. But no. What would be the point of that? I just had to say it: “I had an extramarital affair.”

This was not something I had told anyone. And under normal circumstances, I believed this admission would be a deal breaker for a marriage or this job. It indicates the untrustworthiness and overall lack of character of someone who was likely unfit for a job or a union.

When it came to the job, though, coming clean could work in my favor, as I presumably would be less vulnerable to coercion or blackmail. What my admission would mean for my marriage, however, was decidedly less certain.

I have to say that had it not been for this top-secret security clearance process, I probably never would have told my wife — or anyone else — that I had cheated on her. And in taking full responsibility for my actions, I wasn’t hoping to absolve myself from shaming or criticism. I am a man who behaved badly but now takes ownership of his betrayals and failures; it’s as simple as that. Thus began the real clearance process, which was seeking passage into the bureau of marriage.

“He’s good,” the examiner said, giving a thumbs-up to another agent.

I was surprised that I passed the polygraph test, but later I realized of course I did — because I had told the truth.


Although Abdulqaadir professes to have "done research before the polygraph," it is clear that he didn't look very deeply into polygraphy, as he evidently didn't understand the function of probable-lie "control" questions. Had he done his homework, he would not have allowed the polygraph operator to turn the polygraph suite into a confessional booth.

In addition, his statement that "of course" he passed, because he had told the truth, betrays deep naïveté about the validity of polygraphy. As retired CIA polygrapher John Sullivan has opined, "...an honest subject has no better chance than a dishonest subject of getting through the process."

Abdulqaadir's passing the polygraph likely has as much (or more) to do with good luck (and his years in the navy) as it does with his candor.
 
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