Polygraph testing is here to stay, judging from a new directive issued by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The directive governs the use of polygraph testing in vetting executive branch agency personnel for security clearances or determining their eligibility for “sensitive” positions.
The new Security Executive Agent Directive 2 on the use of the polygraph was obtained by Marisa Taylor of McClatchy News, who has done a series of in-depth news reports on polygraph testing over the past couple of years.
The directive does not seem to entail any major departures from current polygraph policy, but it has several noteworthy features.
Above all, it signals that polygraph testing is not going away. Despite significant skepticism among scientists about the validity of using the polygraph for employee screening, the directive envisions continued reliance on polygraph testing. It states that agencies may even “expand an existing polygraph program” or “establish a new program.”
The directive also represents the further consolidation of the authority of the DNI in his capacity as “Security Executive Agent.” The new directive applies to all executive branch agencies, not just those that are formally members of the U.S. intelligence community.
Finally, among all the possible occasions for use of polygraph testing, the directive singles out “espionage, sabotage, [and] unauthorized disclosure of classified information,” suggesting that these diverse offenses are of comparable significance and concern.
In another recent issuance, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence produced a Strategy and Schedule for Security Clearance Reciprocity in response to a congressional mandate. Reciprocity here refers to the mutual recognition by executive branch agencies of each other’s security clearance approvals, which has been a longstanding but elusive goal.