I was presented with what I considered to be the opportunity of a lifetime by the National Security Agency. Mind you, I wasn't out looking for a job, but this was just one of those things that you can't pass up. Every engineer loves to build things, but working for the NSA would be like being "Q" from the James Bond movies -- hard to compare any job to that!
So, I began the process and started the background documentation. I had previously held a job with a secret clearance, so I've done some similar paperwork in the past -- this application was a bit longer, but seemed worth the effort. Many of my friends and family members had been called as character references and everything was going smoothly.
I went in for my first polygraph looking forward to the process -- there was nothing for me to hide, so I figured that this would be painless. Unfortunately, my polygrapher must have had some other ideas. She showed up to the lobby and was very friendly while we walked back to the room. Throughout the pre-test interview she was very insistent on saying that she "was on my side" and "was there to help me" -- that attitude changed quickly though. After running a few charts, she wanted to get some more info out of me -- namely my history of illegal drug use. I was honest when I told her I've never tried any type of drug, but friends of mine use them around me all the time, and it doesn't bother me one bit. Shortly though, an argument ensued about the fact that I don't disagree with my friends' drug use and that I could really care less what people do with their lives. I have a firm belief that drugs should all be legal and what people want to do with their bodies is their own business, just don't harm other people in the process.
Eventually, the drug use argument was dropped and she decided to get on me for a new topic. Realizing that I'm a single guy who currently lives alone, there must be something going on in my personal life. She mentioned that she was not allowed to ask me about my personal life, but maybe my sexual orientation could be the reason I was failing the test. I told her that she was barking up the wrong tree, but she just kept trying to get me to admit to her that I was gay. After another half hour or so of badgering about this topic, she finally dropped it -- another useless argument.
After about four hours being in that room the test was ended. I knew that I failed, but I was sure that when I came in for a re-test I wouldn't have a problem.
Meanwhile, I was still in the background-check process and had to admit to my boss what was going on -- I would be leaving once I pass my polygraph. He talked to the investigator on my behalf but seemed a little upset by the fact that I was leaving. I hoped that he wouldn't completely snap by firing me, but he knew this was a good opportunity and that I had to take a shot at grabbing the "brass ring."
A month later, I was given the chance for a second polygraph -- the polygrapher seemed much friendlier. Again, the drug use topic came up and he was telling me over and over how he grew up in the 60s, and he used all the drugs that were possible. I told him that that was nice to know, but I still didn't experiment with anything at all! So, he started asking if I have ever even inhaled pot smoke in the past, and I said, "Sure, it's in the air at every concert you go to." That must have ignited a fire in him because he then asked me how many times pot smoke had been in the air around me. Of course, he started off with a wild estimate of "a million times?" then "how about a hundred thousand times?" I told him more like a hundred times but even that was a severe exaggeration. Finally, he said to just assume I've inhaled the smoke ten times -- let's run one more set of charts. Sure enough, I took the test and it looked like a bigger lie than before! When I said that I had never used drugs it showed a small reaction, but when I said that I've smoked pot ten times it looked like a horrific lie! I decided to give up again and go home until I get the official results.
Of course, I failed the second poly as well. But I was called in for a third test and was told by my future boss that I can take as many polygraphs as I need until I pass -- obviously, they wanted to hire me. Third test went pretty smoothly, the drug thing came up again, but this time it didn't seem as bad -- maybe I would get through this test eventually.
I got a call from the NSA recruiter to let me know that I was in the next stage of the process -- I had passed (at least I thought). That was until I received a strange call from one of the background investigators for the NSA. She wanted me to come in for some more interviews before taking the fourth polygraph.
I met with this woman to basically discuss every opportunity in my past where I had the chance to experiment with drugs. Obviously, it's hard to recall exact dates and times from college, but I did the best I could. She also wanted me to give her the names and phone numbers of all my friends who have used drugs around me -- just to make sure that I wasn't lying about my past. I told her to forget it, because I wasn't going to give out info of people I know who are committing crimes to investigators of the NSA. She told me that I was paranoid and shouldn't worry about it, but I said that I would think about it and call her back later.
So, I called this investigator the next day and told her to pull my application from the process. She mentioned to me that I'm making a big mistake, but I knew it was the NSA's loss. I wanted nothing more than to use my engineering skills to protect the citizens of this country, and all I got was a bad taste in my mouth. Never again will I apply for a position that involves the use of a polygraph to screen applicants.
Two good things did come of all this though. I registered a complaint against the first woman who hounded me and have since found out that she has been "re-assigned to another position" -- I hope that it's somewhere near the unemployment line. Plus, I'm still employed at the job I had when this whole process started -- glad that I never left.
AntiPolygraph.org Home Page > Personal Statements