Polygraph PolicyPolygraph testing is widely used in the intelligence community to screen employees, to establish eligibility for access to classified intelligence information, and for general counterintelligence purposes. It is also used as a tool in the investigation of unauthorized disclosures of classified information and other offenses.
Growing awareness of the limitations of polygraph testing, coupled with official efforts to expand its application, have produced a new degree of controversy over this technology.
Public Summary: Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Response to Unresolved Results in Polygraph Examinations, Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, March 2018
Special Review of the NRO Polygraph Program, NRO Office of Inspector General, 31 March 2014
Department of Defense Polygraph Program Process and Compliance Study, prepared for Office of Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence), December 19, 2011
Court Rejects Legal Challenge to Polygraph Testing, memorandum opinion in Croddy, et al, v. FBI, October 2, 2006
Dept of Energy Counterintelligence Polygraph Policy, Federal Register, September 29, 2006. "The question of whether and to what extent DOE should use the polygraph as a tool for screening individuals for access to our most sensitive information is the latest manifestation of this perennial struggle."
Use of Polygraph Examinations in the Department of Justice, DoJ Office of Inspector General, September 2006. "In this report, we provide a detailed description of how polygraphs are used throughout the Department."
Hearing on Department of Energy Polygraph Program
04 September 2003 -- Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
- Statement of Sen. Pete Domenici, news release
- Statement of Kyle E. McSlarrow, Deputy Secretary of Energy
- Statement of Stephen E. Fienberg, Chair, NRC Committee on Polygraph
Department of Defense Polygraph Program
- FY 2002 Annual Report to Congress
- FY 2001 Annual Report to Congress
- FY 2000 Annual Report to Congress
- FY 1999 Annual Report to Congress
- FY 1998 Annual Report to Congress
- FY 1997 Annual Report to Congress
Polygraph Studies and Related Commentary
- The Polygraph Vs. National Security by Alan P. Zelicoff, March 11, 2004.
- Too Hot of a Potato: A Citizen Soldier's Encounter With the Polygraph by George W. Maschke, 2 February 2004
- Polygraph Use by the Department of Energy: Issues for Congress (2009), Congressional Research Service
- The Polygraph and Lie Detection, report of a National Academy of Sciences panel, 2002.
- The Lie Behind the Lie Detector by George W. Maschke and Gino J. Scalabrini, 2nd edition, March 2002. A scathing critique of the polygraph and its application.
- Teller on Polygraph, a letter from the late Edward Teller to the Secretary of Energy, October 27, 1999
- Federal Agency Views on the Potential Application of "Brain Fingerprinting" (PDF), U.S. General Accounting Office, Report No. GAO-02-22, October 2001.
- A Letter from Aldrich Ames on Polygraph Testing, written from Allenwood federal penitentiary, November 28, 2000 (PDF Version).
- Polygraph Testing and the DOE National Laboratories by Steven Aftergood, Science, November 3, 2000. "The Congressional requirement for polygraph testing of certain employees has arguably diminished both science and security at the national labs."
- Scientific Validity of Polygraph Testing: A Research Review and Evaluation, Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, November 1983. An excellent critical study of polygraph techniques, applications, countermeasures, and more.
- Polygraphs and Security, A Study by a Subpanel of Sandia's Senior Scientists and Engineers, Sandia National Laboratories, October 21, 1999. "We believe that if polygraph testing is implemented by DOE, national security is likely to decrease."
- United States v. Scheffer, Supreme Court of the United States, 1998. "There is simply no way to know in a particular case whether a polygraph examiner's conclusion is accurate, because certain doubts and uncertainties plague even the best polygraph exams."
- Can We Trust Counterintelligence Polygraph Tests? by Vance MacLaren, Polygraph, 29, 2. "Current polygraph screening procedures make a valuable contribution to the maintenance of national security."
- Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Accuracy Rates Obtained Using the Test for Espionage and Sabotage: A Replication (1.3 MB, PDF), Department of Defense Polygraph Institute Report No. DoDPI97-P-0009, 1997. Provides background on one of the most widely used polygraph examination formats. Appendix I (Eye) explains in some detail how the examiner conducts the TES polygraph examination from beginning to end. This information will be of particular interest to those facing polygraph screening.
- Joint Security Commission Report on the Polygraph, an excerpt from Redefining Security, 1994, provides a cautious endorsement of polygraph testing. A stronger endorsement appears in a separate Statement of Commissioner Anthony A. Lapham.
- Statement of Steven Aftergood on the Proposed DOE Polygraph Policy, September 22, 1999. "If it is imposed against the will of the affected employees, polygraph testing could actually damage the national security that it is intended to protect."
- A Critique of the New DOE Polygraph Policy by James L. Munroe, Los Alamos, New Mexico, December 1999. A Los Alamos employee blasts the new DOE rule as "a fearful and Orwellian document."
- The North American Polygraph as Entrails Reading: Some Home Truths and Practical Advice to Potential Users and Victims by John J. Furedy, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto. A skeptical commentary and warning about polygraph testing.
- A Comparison of Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Accuracy Rates Obtained Using the Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph and the Test for Espionage and Sabotage Question Formats, Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, June 1995. A study of the accuracy rates for several polygraph exam formats, including the Test for Espionage and Sabotage (TES) to be used at the Department of Energy.
- Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Accuracy Rates Obtained Using the Test for Espionage and Sabotage, Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, August 1995. Further investigation of accuracy rates in the TES polygraph exam.
- An Assessment of Lie Detection Capability (declassified version) by Jesse Orlansky, Institute for Defense Analyses, July 1964
- "Issues Surrounding the Use of Polygraphs"
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
April 25, 2001
- Statement of Chairman Orrin G. Hatch
- Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
- Mike Capps, Deputy Director for Developmental Programs, Defense Security Service, Alexandria, VA
- Dr. William Iacono, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
- Jeffrey H. Smith, Esq., Partner, Arnold & Porter, Washington, D.C.
- Mark S. Zaid, Esq., Lobel, Novins & LaMont, Washington, D.C.
- Richard Keifer, President, American Polygraph Association, Apopka, FL
- George W. Maschke, AntiPolygraph.org (submitted for the record)
Polygraph Legislation, Rules and Regulations
- DOE Proposed Rulemaking on Polygraph Policy, published in the Federal Register, April 14, 2003.
- Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual on Polygraph Testing, 12 FAM 251, Polygraph Policy
- Counterintelligence Polygraph Program at DOE, section 3154 of Public Law 106-65, the Defense Authorization Act for FY 2000. Requires polygraph testing of "covered persons" who have access to high-risk programs.
- DOE Polygraph Examination Regulation; Final Rule, Federal Register, December 17, 1999. "The regulation describes the categories of individuals who will be eligible for polygraph testing and controls for the use of such testing and for prevention of unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of individuals."
- DOE Counterintelligence Polygraph Implementation Plan, memorandum from Energy Secretary Richardson, December 13, 1999. "This implementation plan identifies the specific positions within the eight counterintelligence categories that will be polygraphed."
- Use of Polygraph Examinations, DOE Notice 472.2, March 1999. "This Notice provides policy on the voluntary use of polygraph examinations by the Department of Energy (DOE), listing the circumstances under which these examinations may be used, establishing controls for their use and...."
- DoD Directive 5210.48, Department of Defense Polygraph Program, December 24, 1984.
- DoD Directive 5200.32, Department of Defense Security Countermeasures (SCM) and Polygraph Education, Training, and Program Support, February 26, 1996.
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, 29 US Code, Chapter 22. This legislation prohibits most private sector employers from requiring their employees to submit to polygraph testing. Government employees and certain contractors lack equivalent protection.
Old Polygraph News
- Domenici Wants NAS to Weigh Polygraph Benefits to Lab Security, press release, January 26, 2001. "Senator Pete Domenici today reiterated his concerns that polygraph tests mandated as a means of improving security at the Energy Departmentís national laboratories may ultimately be counterproductive."
- National Academy Begins Review of Polygraph Validity, January 2001 (offsite). The 18 month review, which was proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman and funded by the Department of Energy, will examine the controversial use of polygraph testing for personnel security screening. And it "will include what is known about the effect of medications, sleep deprivation, and illnesses on the physiological responses measured."
- The Truth About Polygraphs? by Vernon Loeb, Washington Post online, December 8, 2000 (offsite).
- DoD Seeks Contractors for Polygraph Validity Study, Commerce Business Daily, December 6, 2000 (offsite). "The objective is to test up to 100 volunteers over a two month period. The goal of this project is to manipulate volunteers into telling specific lies during polygraph examination to test the accuracy of the polygraph examination procedure."
- $860,000 DOE Study to Evaluate Polygraphs by Jennifer McKee, Albuquerque Journal, December 5, 2000. "The Department of Energy intends to sink almost a million dollars into an upcoming study to determine -- once and for all -- how well widespread lie detector tests work in preventing espionage."
- DOE Agrees to Fund Bingaman-Urged Polygraph Validity Study, press release, December 4, 2000. "The distinguished scientists and engineers who work at Sandia and Los Alamos deserve to know whether polygraphs produce valid results and this study will help make that determination."
- Polygraph Lawsuit Filed, March 15, 2000 (offsite). Plaintiffs, represented by Mark S. Zaid, challenge the use of the polygraph by the FBI, the DEA and the Secret Service. As a result of current policy, they argue, "innocent individuals are falsely labeled drug users, drug dealers, terrorists and/or spies without any reasonable opportunity to ever clear their name."
- DOE Polygraph Implementation Plan Announced, DOE press release, December 13, 1999. "Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson said he has significantly reduced the number of employees affected so that approximately 800 federal and contractor employees will be subjected to the polygraph test."
- Senate Calls for Study of Polygraph Validity, an amendment introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, October 7, 1999. "The National Institutes of Health should enter into appropriate arrangements with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a comprehensive study and investigation into the scientific validity of polygraphy as a screening tool for federal and federal contractor personnel."
- Bingaman Amendments on Polygraph, September 30, 1999. Two proposed amendments offered by Senator Bingaman would assess the validity of polygraph testing for employee screening, and the potential use of countermeasures.
- Lawmaker Wants DOE to Abandon Expanded Polygraph Testing at Labs by Keith J. Costa, Inside the Pentagon, September 30, 1999. Calling the Energy Department's plans to expand polygraph testing at the agency nuclear labs "overly broad," Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) calls for a moratorium on polygraph tests.
- Rep. Ellen Tauscher Calls for Moratorium on Expanded Polygraph Testing at Nuclear Labs, letter to Energy Secretary Richardson, September 28, 1999. "I urge you to enact a complete moratorium on all polygraph tests until an acceptable, limited polygraph plan is developed and vetted."
- Remarks on Polygraph Testing by Senator Jeff Bingaman, September 22, 1999. "The proposed DOE rule on polygraphs ... is not based on sound science and does not represent reasoned decision making, in my view."
- DOE Lie-detector Tests for Employees Criticized by Katy Saldarini, Government Executive, September 22, 1999. Critics "say a new policy requiring employees of the nation's nuclear weapons complex to submit to lie-detector tests is a misguided approach that could damage, rather than protect, national security."
- Senate Intel Committee Calls for "Alternatives" to Polygraph Testing, Senate Report 106-48, May 1999 (excerpt). "Given the potential unreliability of the polygraph system, the Committee believes that alternatives to the polygraph should be explored."
Updated April 2, 2018