My FBI Polygraph Experience

My name is Bill Crider. When I was 15 years old, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be an investigator. I majored in Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. I almost joined the Air Force ROTC my junior year with the goal of entering the intelligence service of the Air Force. I was a bit too immature at that point in my life to handle being an Air Force officer, so I did not take that route. Upon graduation, I applied to the FBI. I had several internship experiences that led to me the conclusion that the FBI would be the best place to fulfill my career goals and possibly to use my Russian language skills that I had developed. Of course, being 22 with not much work experience, I never heard anything back from my first application. After getting my MBA from Ohio State in 1995, I applied again, just to be told that there was a hiring freeze at that time. Over the next four years my 3 children were born and I settled into my life, and my past goals became mostly memories for a few years. Then 9/11 happened. It reminded me that I wanted to be in public service, not private enterprise. In February 2002, I submitted my third FBI application. This time I was invited to the Phase I testing and passed easily. I was quickly invited to the Phase II interview process, but took my name out for a year or so. When I jumped back into the process, I was invited in February 2004 to take the interview. When I passed, it was the greatest moment of personal fulfillment in my life. As far as I was concerned I was in. In March, 2004 I appeared at the Cincinnati field office to take my polygraph, urine test, and some other administrative matters.

I took the Personal Security Interview (PSI) that morning. There wasn't much to it. I had done a few dumb and/or immoral things in my late teens/early 20s, but nothing of a felonious nature. I detailed everything to the agent interviewing me. As for drug use, as far as I was concerned, I had never tried any sort of illegal drug in my entire life, though I did engage in underage drinking. Shocking isn't it? Okay, well it turns out, as I found out 10 minutes before my first polygraph, that when I took a valium pill in 1991 that was not my prescription, that is considered illegal drug use. I had no idea at the time that such an act was illegal, but fair enough. For the purposes of FBI screening, I have taken 1 illegal drug in my life. To this day however, I have never so much as touched any other sort of drug. I have never even taken a puff on a cigarette. I took my first polygraph and was deemed inconclusive. I reacted to the two drug questions and some of the control questions. I passed the completeness of the FD-140 (Application for Employment) and the spy questions. (The FBI polygraph covers five relevant questions over two series--two dealing with espionage, one dealing with the application, and two concerning drugs.)

Two months later I re-took the poly, as is automatically afforded all inconclusive results in the FBI employment process. This time, I failed all three relevants I was presented with--the drug use, drug selling, and the FD-140. The fact that I had "passed" the FD-140 question on a previous test was of no use since they lump that one in with the drug questions on what they call "Series II." So you pass or fail all three as a unit. It makes no sense to me since all three are seperate issues, but there you have it. Before poly #1 I had read a little on polygraph and was familiar with the concept of relevant vs. control questions. After not passing the first one, I read extensively about polygraph from this site and some "pro-polygraph" sites. I have never feared an opinion on any side of an issue. Thus I knew what the control questions were and the relevants and the order of the asking. I will tell you, whatever your opinion on polygraph, the information on this site as regards FBI polygraph is absolutely accurate. I submitted an appeal to the FBI stating that I think my knowledge of the control question test (CQT) format and previous non-success would make me senstive to the relevants for obvious reasons not related to lying.

While waiting for an appeal, I made a trip to Knoxville, TN to take a private polygraph with former head of FBI polygraph Ken Shull, a retired special agent. After my second test, which I had failed, I probably read over 500 pages of academic studies of polygraph as well as various books and corresponded with many of the academics you will find mentioned on this site: Drs. Charles Honts, William Iacono, John Furedy, Louis Rovner, and so on. I wanted to find out why I could not pass the polygraph. I thought this would be the way to do it. I also failed Mr. Shull's CQT test and left there with more questions than answers. Looking back, I think it's quite simple. Once you have an issue with a question, you are very sensitive to it, and once you understand the CQT format, the impact of control questions is very low. Mr. Shull went through all of my old charts with me and explained the scoring, the format, and everything I wanted to know. This is how I came to know that I had passed questions on some tests and later failed the same questions. Mr. Shull even remarked that he was surprised that I was retested on those items.

In any event, in the fall of 2004, I was afforded an interview with an FBI agent from the Cincinnati office to explain why I think I failed the last polygraph. Apparently, they were satisfied with my story because in April of 2005, I was afforded one final polygraph opportunity. Since FBI policy dictates you must use a different polygrapher each time, I journeyed to the Indianapolis field office. The fourth test (counting my private one as the third) was quite short. I told the examiner I knew how the test worked, how the machine worked, why I think I failed the last tests, and I looked him right in the eye and told him I don't like the polygraph, I think it is a deceptive practice, and I don't think it's accurate. Perhaps not the most politically correct move, but at that point I was more interested in vindication than FBI employment. I took the test and was told I failed. So there went my FBI career. Another candidate who meets every qualification flushed down the drain.