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Note that the director of the FBI Laboratory Division failed to comply with Sen. Grassley's request that he "respond in writing to the Subcommittee answering Dr. Richardson's charges on grounds of science." (emphasis added)

Dr. Kerr also misrepresents the FBI pre-employment polygraph program when he states, "It is not a substitute for, but merely one component of, a thorough and complete background investigation." For those accused of deception by the polygraph, it is a substitute for a thorough and complete background investigation. Their applications are peremptorily terminated.

Dr. Kerr's Reply to Sen. Grassley on Polygraph Validity

October 28, 1997

Honorable Charles E. Grassley
Subcommittee on Administrative
  Oversight and the Courts
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.


Dear Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for your letter of October 21, 1997, and for your continued interest in the FBI Laboratory. As the new Director of the FBI Laboratory, I am looking forward to meeting the challenges of the future and leading the Laboratory into the 21st Century stronger and more efficient than ever. I will, of course, be happy to address any concerns you may have about the Laboratory's operations, such as those raised in your letter.

With regard to the testimony provided to your Subcommittee on September 29, 1997, by the Chief of the FBI's Hazardous Materials and Response Unit, Dr. Drew Richardson, you have asked for my position regarding the use of polygraph examinations as an applicant screening procedure. For the reasons set forth below, I support the use of polygraph testing for applicants seeking employment with the FBI.

In March, 1994, Director Freeh authorized the use of polygraph examinations for all FBI employment applicants. Since that time, the FBI has conducted approximately 16,200 pre-employment polygraph examinations. Of those, 12,930 applicants (80 percent) passed and continued processing; 3,270 applicants (20 percent) were determined to be withholding pertinent information. When these individuals were interviewed about their unacceptable performance in the polygraph session, 1,170 (36 percent) admitted to withholding substantive information, thereby confirming the results of the polygraph examination.

The FBI's polygraph screening focuses exclusively on counterintelligence issues. the sale and/or use of illegal drugs, and the accuracy and completeness of information furnished by applicants in their employment applications. It is not a substitute for, but merely one component of, a thorough and complete background investigation. We have found that conventional investigative methods are not always capable of detecting certain national security risks and personal suitability issues, which have been discerned through polygraph interviews.

The following examples illustrate this point.

These examples illustrate the types of information that the FBI has learned through the use of polygraph screening that we otherwise may never have detected through traditional investigative means. In my opinion, the quality of the information developed demonstrates the value and utility of the polygraph in pre-employment screening.

You have also inquired as to the proposed relocation of the Latent Fingerprint Section from the Laboratory Division to the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division in West Virginia. Upon receipt of the September 22, 1997, letter from the President of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, Frank Fitzpatrick, Director Freeh ordered that the transfer of the Latent Fingerprint Section be reconsidered. I will keep you advised of Director Freeh's final decision in this regard.

I hope that my response on these matters has been helpful to you in performing your oversight responsibilities. If you should have additional concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.




Donald M. Kerr
Assistant Director
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