Polygraph Statement of a CIA Applicant

17 June 2021

I write this to share my traumatic polygraph experience and to confirm that the polygraph methodology is a no-win scenario for a person who goes into it being completely 100% honest and candid.

One day during the Covid pandemic, I received a phone call from a CIA recruiter regarding a position I had applied for at least a year prior. In fact, I had completely forgotten about applying for the position and initially thought the phone call to be a scam or hoax. But the person on the line assured me it was real and they would follow up with an email with instructions for an assessment test.

I will skip all the various steps in between that assessment and eventually going out to Washington Dulles… The pertinent information is what happened when I finally got there and went through the in-person processing.

The morning of the first day was good. I felt confident and proud that I had been selected to get this far. The first polygraph was scheduled for the mid-morning. When the time arrived, a young man came out to greet me and said he would by my examiner. As he walked me to the area where they administer the poly, he made a lot of small talk. He then ushered me into the designated room, had me sit in the chair, and asked me what I thought of the polygraph process and whether I had any concerns.

I told him that all I knew about it was from watching TV dramas, which is true, and that I had a general understanding that it "measured" things but had no idea how it really worked. Up to that point I personally believed it to be a valid tool, but that was just based completely on ignorance. (While I had run across a reference or two online to, I completely avoided the site/forum as I didn't want to do anything to ruin my employment chances as I figured it would probably result in a major strike against me.)

I then briefly touch on items in my security forms so he could understand that I was onboard with this process and that I had revealed everything to the Agency up to this point. I had nothing to hide and would continue to be candid about everything.

He then hooked me up, gave an explanation of how the machine supposedly worked, and proceeded with the number test—where I had to draw in a missing number and lie about having written that number so he could "calibrate" the machine specifically to my biometrics. He then proceeded to inflate the arm cuff to an incredibly painful level. I mentioned this to him and he asked if it was really painful or just uncomfortable. I told him it really hurt, and so he backed off the pressure a bit.

To calm my nervous anxiety, I took a few deep breaths and was ready to begin. I would be ok, I mentally said to myself, since I was 100% honest with them. I had disclosed everything in my forms. I had no intention of lying at all. It should just be an easy routine of answering yes or no to whatever was asked. The questioning commenced and lasted about an hour or so. I answered truthfully to EVERY SINGLE question.

At the end of it all, he said he needed to go look at the charts on the big screen and to sit tight. I sat alone for about fifteen minutes. I felt good at that point and wasn't worried at all. I remember thinking that wasn't so bad at all!

The examiner came back and said it did not look good. I had failed. In fact, he said, it was terrible and I had failed miserably, and he started to accuse me of recent drug use and committing a serious crime. In fact, it was so bad he said that it probably rose to the level of national security.

I thought he was just joking, that he would suddenly smile, and then tell me I had actually passed. But such was not to be the case. Instead, I sat there stunned and scared! Why was this happening?!?! I had been honest. I had told them everything. I was definitely NOT a criminal nor a drug user. I tried to calmly explain that I had told the truth and that he was wrong. He would have none of it… He went on another accusatory tirade on how I just needed to confess.

Then he accused me of being a drug dealer! No—even better—that I was a member of a drug cartel! At that point I took a moment and laughed at him as to how ludicrous it all was. He kept on about it though, and time passed with us both deadlocked in our corners. I was completely honest, and I sure as heck wasn't going to confess to that stuff. These people are completely cracked, I thought.

At the end, he said he could see that I was a good person and so he'd offer me another polygraph the next day to prove my innocence. At that point I was thoroughly depressed and deflated. "Sure, whatever," I said. We walked back to the common area with the other applicants, I ate my lunch, and then I finished up the day with the rest of the scheduled medical screenings. I walked around in a state of disbelief.

That evening was horrible. I replayed the whole event in my head, going over every little detail trying to figure out what had happened. I couldn't sleep at all. I couldn't reconcile that I had been honest and yet they attacked me with accusations of drug use, being a drug dealer in a cartel, and hiding a major crime. I went over it again and again and again. Was I missing something? Was this some kind of weird CIA psychological test? Should I even continue with my employment application with them? I mean if these people really believed this crap, what would happen to me? I had no idea what to do. I felt fear and utter confusion.

In the morning, I decided the only explanation was that the polygraph guy didn't know what he was doing. I knew for a FACT that it wasn't me. I hadn't committed any of those things, and so maybe today would be better. Maybe the machine was faulty. Maybe it was a test of some kind. In any event, today would be ok. I would give them another chance.

So in the morning, I got a cab and headed back to the processing center. The only thing scheduled that morning was the second polygraph session. This time a lady came out and said she'd be my examiner for the day. She went on to explain the process again, how the machine worked, etc. She said I'd need to be 100% honest to be successful. I said that wasn't a problem. I told her I would be truthful, just as I been the day before. She said just to stay focused on the questions and all would be well.

Then the session began. Questions were asked, I would respond, and lots of pauses in between. Two or three rounds passed. I naively I thought this time all would go well. She then launched into the same crazy stuff they accused me of the day before. It was like she was reading from the same script! On and on she went… I was a recent drug user. I was a member of a cartel. I was a dealer. I committed some serious crime that had I been caught would have resulted in jail time. The nightmare from the day before started all over again…

I just sat there. I couldn't believe that this was happening to me… I couldn't believe it was happening at all. How was this even possible? My mind tried to make sense of it.

Then suddenly I had a crystal-clear understanding that I could not get out of this unjust situation unless I quit the polygraph session.

She thought I was lying. I was not lying—and I had NO WAY to prove it. This would go on indefinitely unless I quit. So I told her that I was done. She was not happy to say the least.  She said she needed to talk to her supervisor. I said that would be fine; I didn't care. After about ten minutes a guy came in all agitated. He explained he was the supervisor and that I needed to continue with the polygraph process. I said that, no, since I was 100% honest and they didn't care to believe it, I was quitting. Done. Finished.

He said that all he wanted me to do was to continue and to confess! I politely told him again that I was done and wanted out. He then left to get a sheet for me to read and sign. He said he needed me to verbally state I was quitting as well. He said that by quitting I was ending all current and future job opportunities with them. In essence, I would be blacklisted. I verbally confirmed that I was done. At that point I didn't care and wouldn't work for them if it was the last job on the planet.

And that was that. The lady at the processing desk must have immediately gotten the memo, as she was very rude and terse. She said I was done, to get on the shuttle back to the front of the property, and to leave. I grabbed my hotel reimbursement and did as instructed.

I can't express adequately enough how angry, hurt, and dejected I felt. In a matter of hours, my dream of working for this organization was thoroughly destroyed. All I did was tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But it didn't matter. They made up their own version of what they thought the truth was, and I had no way to prove otherwise.

Only later did I go to and read the Lie Behind the Lie Detector book. Now it all finally made perfect sense. I was doomed from the very start! If you are completely truthful and show a false positive, there is nothing you can do. The only option is to quit the polygraph. You know you are telling the truth, but you have no means to prove it to anyone. The polygraph methodology is biased against the honest, and I am proof of that.

So think again if you are interested in joining any organization that requires a polygraph for pre-employment screening. Do not be naïve like I was in thinking that all you need to do is tell the truth and be completely candid. That is not the way this works. In the end you may be accused of all sorts of terrible things you didn't do, have to go through horrible mental anguish trying to prove otherwise, lose your employment opportunities/be blacklisted, and feel completely traumatized and terribly scarred from the whole situation.