The following is the statement of an individual who underwent a Department of Energy polygraph screening interrogation in 2000.
Polygraph Statement of John Doe #1
The method and questions were very similar to those described by [deleted name]. Let me elaborate on the uncomfortable parts.
State of mind: The results of this determine if I will have a job or not. I am a quite nervous person. Just thinking that I am in some way not telling the whole truth could set off the equipment. I did no special preparation, because I am not a spy. However, I was somewhat nervous, because I thought there was a possibility that I had inadvertently disclosed minor classified words or information when talking about my work to my spouse.
The chair: the exam was held in a small office. The first thing I saw upon entering was a very large black chair with enormously wide arm rests and electronics equipment and wiring off to the side. First thought: it looks like an electric chair. Not a good way to start off.
The length: It seemed to take forever. I had read a little about it and had read that the basis of the test is to make you believe that it works. So it makes sense that you have to endure listening to them repeat over and over again how natural it is to tell the truth and how unnatural it is to lie and how your body reacts, etc.... Actually, after the second or third time, I couldn't take it and argued that it did not seem at all unnatural for my young daughter to lie. He had to backpedal then and emphasize that children were different and had not learned that lying is wrong. (That kind of defeats the whole natural argument that he started with). During the whole thing, he very deliberately (but smoothly) tried to relate everything to the bits of my personal data that he knew. That made me feel very uncomfortable also - he was showing off that he knew far more about me than I knew about him and he was very in-control of this anyway. The constant repetition made me feel degraded - I was being treated like a child.
The practice lie: Again, this proves that they are just trying to convince you that the test works, but also to cover their butts and make sure they can justify you passing. When I chose the number from 1 to 5, I had to write it down (with my left hand which had finger monitors on it) he then posted the paper across from my chair. I was instructed to answer "no" quickly to the numbers that I had not picked, but when it came to my number, I was to pause and mentally think through drawing the number then slowly and deliberately say "no". The same sort of instructions were given for the lie during the real test, but that time the lie also involved something that would be associated with another kind of guilt. The questions I was instructed to lie about were "have you ever lost your temper" and "have you ever committed a traffic violation". Again, I was to pause, think through a specific (undoubtedly traumatic) experience, and then lie. If they really wanted to see if they could catch me in a lie, it seems that I should answer smoothly and evenly just like to all other questions! These obvious inconsistencies just added more stress to the situation and made me more convinced that they were in control and could do whatever they wanted.
The test: the first set of questions went smoothly, although stressful. The interrogator pauses about 30 seconds between each question. The questions are asked repeatedly, in various order, 3-4 times each. Then he stopped and we went over the questions for the second set of testing. Since I had the nagging thought of possible disclosure to my spouse, I caved when he said that I should talk about anything that was bothering me and that they could emphasize or even reword the questions as needed to make me more comfortable. So I talked about it, and although he questioned pretty hard at first, he allayed my fears and the second set of questions went well.
The interrogation: after a short break, we sat down again. He said that the results were good, but there was a slight indication on one of the repeats of one questions that something was bothering me and he asked if I thinking of the stuff I told my [spouse]. I think he was lying, but it did not matter because my answer was truthfully No. This lead into a thorough and relentless grilling about what I may have said, when I may have said it, did my [spouse] specifically ask any questions, etc, etc, etc. I did not have an answer, it was just fuzzy memories of cutting of conversations because I suddenly realized that they were starting to get classified. I couldn't remember any specifics. He took copious notes and kept asking, until I halfway made something up just to get him to stop. It was finally over and I left unsure if I passed the test. Even worse, I had gone against the advice I read and let him draw me into saying stuff I probably should have just left alone. I felt stupid, nervous, lied-to, and exhausted. Between answering co- workers questions about the test and being so drained, I was completely unproductive the rest of the day. Although I am much more prepared for what to expect next time, I really hate the thought of having to do it again in a matter of years.