On October 3, 2002, I arrived at the Denver FBI office for a pre-employment polygraph for a Special Agent position. After two days of interrogation, I was informed that I had failed my polygraph for reasons of "national security." I was accused of being a spy.
I was a Military Intelligence Officer in the United States Army, honorably discharged at the end of my service obligation, decorated with many awards. I had an impeccable service record, constantly holding positions above my rank and granted with responsibilities reserved for those senior in time served. I held a Top Secret Security Clearance from 4/17/1997 to 4/16/2002, all of those years with Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) access. Never once was my integrity and dedication to my nation questioned, and never once was my clearance in jeopardy. It is for these reasons that I was a top candidate for the position of Special Agent.
After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1997, I began my service in the Army with the Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course at the US Army Intelligence Center, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Upon completion, I was assigned to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado.
My years in the Army were spent as a Tactical Intelligence Officer, or S2, of combat units. As a Lieutenant, I served as the Senior Intelligence Officer (S2) of 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3/3 ACR). We trained and deployed to serve as part of Stabilization Force (SFOR) 7 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. My area of responsibility included towns such as Tuzla, Zvornik, and even the infamous Srebrenica. Upon returning from Bosnia and still a Lieutenant, I became the S2 for 4/3 ACR (Aviation). I was promoted to Captain, continuing the success of my earlier years. After witnessing the events of 9/11, I was sure how I wanted to move on in life. Even though my service obligation to the Army was ending, my desire to serve my country had not. I filled out and sent in my initial application for a Special Agent position with the FBI.
After months of tests, applications, and a structured interview in Kansas City, MO, I had received a conditional letter of employment. I was ecstatic, knowing that only a paperwork drill stood between me and a class date at Quantico. I was scheduled for my pre-employment polygraph in early October, 2002. Before I went in for my pre-employment polygraph, I sat down with a Special Agent named Chris (his first name) to review my application, which I had sent in nearly 6 months prior. He went over every question, making sure that I had not made any mistakes. There were a few minor errors and a few corrections to be made; however, things were going smoothly. But then Special Agent Chris stopped at the question about contact with foreign governments. He looked very surprised, saying to me, "How could you have gone to Bosnia and not had contact with foreign governments?" I told him that I did, of course, have extensive contact with foreign governments. He asked me why I hadn't listed them, because the question said I needed to list all of my foreign contacts. I felt humiliated for having made such a huge mistake on such an important application and then listed for him the 30-35 countries whose representatives I had had contact with.
Special Agent Bill Irwin was the polygrapher doing my examination that day. He told me that Special Agent Chris told him, prior to my arrival, that I had made a mistake on my application regarding my foreign contacts. After a few hours of testing, Special Agent Irwin sat down in front of me and told me that I was having problems with "unauthorized contact with foreign nationals." He said he was going to "fax my results off to DC" and see what they thought about my test results. After sitting for half an hour, he came back in and said that my test was inconclusive. He told me to get a good night's sleep and return the next day to retake the test.
I came back the next day ready to pass. I sat in the chair and we started the test. I answered every question with 100% honesty. After running through the questions a few times, Special Agent Irwin sat in front of me and said, "Well, today your results are conclusive: a conclusive failure. You react very strongly to 'having unauthorized contact with persons you knew were spies' and 'giving classified information to persons you knew were spies.'" I was in shock. Then he started interrogating me. He left the room to "fax my results to DC" again. This time, he returned with Special Agent Chris. Together, they continued the interrogation. They made all kinds of accusations against me. They even threatened a criminal espionage investigation. I, of course, welcomed it as an opportunity to clear this situation up. They informed me that if I didn't have anything to tell them, we would be done and that I would fail. I said I would have to lie to give them the kind of information they were looking for. Then they escorted me out of the Denver FBI office like a common criminal.
I was crushed. I had decided to put all of this behind me, chalking one up to governmental bureaucracy. Knowing the Bureau's position regarding the pre-employment polygraph, I knew that my chance of making it to Quantico was gone. But I could not forget that I had made such a huge error on my application regarding foreign contacts, possibly the root of my polygraph failure. I decided I ought to re-read the question that I had answered "incorrectly." To my surprise, the question concludes with the clause "for other than government business." I made no mistake. All of my foreign contacts were within government business, and as far as the application is concerned, they did not have to be listed. Of course, I was very forthcoming with disclosing my contacts, but the fact is that I did not err on my application.
When Special Agent Chris told Special Agent Irwin that I had omitted my information about foreign contacts from my application, the initial indication of deception regarding my foreign contacts could have been generated there. I was most likely doomed to fail my polygraph for reasons of national security before I even sat down in the chair, because the polygrapher was already under the assumption that I had something to hide regarding my foreign contacts.
I understand the tactics employed by Special Agent Irwin during my interrogation. His threats and accusations might have caused a guilty party great duress, possibly enough to convince them to uncover their secrets. But for someone innocent of such accusations, the tactics were demeaning and humiliating. Never in my life have I felt as terrible as that day. I am a proud American, one who gave an oath to my country and served with pride and dignity. To be accused of such atrocities as "sleeping with Bosnian women and giving them classified information" is as degrading as it is ridiculous.
The fact that I have failed an FBI polygraph will become public record. I left the military to pursue a career in the FBI. This failed polygraph has taken that career opportunity away from me, and subsequently, many more. With a failed polygraph on my record, the ability for me to regain my security clearance will be severely hindered. Only a background investigation can nullify this negative report from the FBI. I know this because one of my responsibilities as a Military Intelligence Officer was to process soldiers for security clearances. I know what a negative report from the FBI generated by a National Agency Check can do a person's career. Since I am forced now to look for civilian career opportunities, my Intelligence background drives me toward government and defense contract jobs, most of which require security clearances. My chances of getting one of these jobs, because of this failed polygraph, is seriously diminished.
Only 3 days after I failed my polygraph, my friend (who will remain nameless), whom I met during the FBI application process, went to the Denver FBI office for his polygraph. I called him and told him I failed, but I left out the details regarding my failure. He was an infantryman in the Army, a dedicated soldier, and a graduate of the Army Ranger School and Drill Instructor School. His military resume reads like a TV commercial for the Army, full of action and special missions. His career in the infantry crossed him with Military Intelligence, as he served in a Long Range Surveillance Detachment (LRS-D). For a job like that, he gained a Top Secret clearance. I didn't want my national security failure to bother him.
My friend was very honest. While stationed in Germany, he took some performance enhancing supplements that his friend gave him during their workouts. He later found out from his friend that the supplements were over-the-counter steroids purchased on the German economy. My friend wanted to be sure the supplements were legal and safe, as German laws regarding these pills differ from those in the States. He took them to the US doctor on his post, who checked them and cleared them as legal. He admitted to all of this on his application, pre-polygraph interview, and during his polygraph. He was failed as being "deceptive" regarding drug usage on his polygraph. Again, Special Agent Irwin, the same polygrapher that I had, made wild accusations, telling my friend "well, if you were willing to take those pills, you're willing to take anything." Accusations included taking methamphetamines and marijuana, which Special Agent Irwin insisted were proven by the polygraph. Ironically, less than a year before, my friend had taken and passed a polygraph for a local police department, a polygraph that included the same questions and admissions regarding drugs and supplements.
Luckily for my friend, he was already pursuing a career as a Special Agent with US Customs. They don't care about the FBI or their polygraph. My friend told me I ought to pursue a career with them. After speaking with the Applicant Coordinator for US Customs Service in Denver, I was sent the initial computerized application. The Coordinator didn't care that I failed a bogus polygraph, and said he thought it would have no impact on my career with Customs. While filling out the application, I noticed a problem. Section IV, Question #19 asks if I was "ever denied employment by any Federal law enforcement agency." It goes on to define denial of employment as "issued an offer of employment that was rescinded by the issuing agency due to failure of the medical examination, drug test, background investigation or polygraph examination." For my friend, none of this applied, as he had filled this computer application out prior to his polygraph. For me, this question lumps me, an honest man falsely accused of espionage, in with the medical rejects, druggies, and criminals.
Clearing my name will be a very difficult process. I have already appealed the polygraph findings with the FBI, but I have received no response. I'm sure that I will eventually get a form letter denying my appeal, since the accusations against me were of the most unforgivable in nature. My only hope is that the FBI understands that the basis of the accusation was due to a bureau clerical error and not based in fact. But I have little faith that an organization that believes in such methods of screening applicants will have enough faith in me to help me clear my name.
I wish I had seen this website (AntiPolygraph.org) before I had gone for my polygraph. After reading all of the information on the site, I feel duped. There was no polygraph examination going on in that office that day, there was only elaborate mind games. If I wanted to have someone poorly read my mind, I'd call Ms. Cleo. This way I know what I'm getting myself into, and I can hang up when I'm done. But I was naïve -- I thought that I could sit in the chair, tell the truth, and all would be well. After reading The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, I was amazed to see how many tactics were employed on me during this "test." But overall, my responses were all truthful, so I don't know where their false accusations of espionage could have come from besides the pre-polygraph clerical error by Special Agent Chris. In a game of voodoo science, the assumption by Special Agent Chris that I had omitted my foreign contacts was the only piece of hard evidence the polygrapher had to go on. If he's basing his polygraph findings on poor information gathered by someone else, how much faith does he have in his skills as an interrogator? And how much faith does he have in his machine? Probably as much as we all do.
Christopher J. Stein
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