Use of Polygraph Examinations in the Department of Justice

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2006-008
September 2006
Office of the Inspector General

Executive Summary

The Department of Justice (Department) and several of its components use and conduct polygraph examinations for a variety of administrative and investigative uses. In this Office of the Inspector General (OIG) review, we examined the polygraph programs in the Department and its components, including the components’ management and use of polygraph examinations, the Department’s policies governing the use of polygraph examinations, and the oversight mechanisms for ensuring that the components conduct and use polygraph examinations in accordance with established professional and technical standards.

In this report, we do not make recommendations regarding the Department’s polygraph use; rather, for informational purposes, we provide a detailed description of how polygraphs are used throughout the Department.

A polygraph is an examination process that uses a diagnostic instrument capable of measuring and recording a subject’s physiological reactions as the subject answers questions. Because physiological reactions can vary when subjects are telling the truth and when they are being deceptive, by comparing a subject’s reactions to different questions a polygraph examiner can detect reactions that may indicate deceptive responses to specific questions. The results of polygraph examinations are generally not admissible in court. However, various components of the Department use polygraph examinations, primarily for criminal, foreign counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations, administrative investigations (internal affairs and misconduct), and pre-employment and personnel security screening.

Four Department components – the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and the OIG – administer their own polygraph programs and have units that conduct polygraph examinations in support of their operations or at the request of other Department components and outside law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Seven other Department components do not operate their own polygraph programs but use the results of polygraph examinations conducted by the FBI, DEA, ATF, OIG, or an outside agency or private contractor. These seven components are the Department’s Criminal Division, Justice Command Center (JCC), Antitrust Division (ATR), National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

During fiscal years (FY) 2002 through 2005, Department components conducted over 49,000 polygraph examinations. The examinations were used for a variety of reasons, including making pre-employment and personnel security decisions; investigating criminal, administrative, and security violations; ensuring witness security; providing sex offender treatment; and providing operational support in examining or “vetting” foreign task force members and validating intelligence sources.

Polygraph Programs in the Department of Justice

In describing the four components that conduct their own polygraph examinations – the FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG – we provide information concerning the following key elements of each program’s:

  • history;
  • mission;
  • policies and regulations;
  • organization and staffing;
  • polygraph examination uses and procedures;
  • examiner qualifications and training;
  • workload and program costs;
  • quality control, quality assurance, and oversight; and
  • program performance and results.

We also discuss the Department’s limited policies regarding the use of polygraph examinations. Existing Department-level policies include guidance regarding the introduction of polygraph examinations as evidence and the use of polygraph for the Witness Security Program.1 There is no Department-wide policy concerning the conduct and use of polygraph examinations. Rather, each of the four components has its own policies and procedures governing its polygraph examinations. Those policies and procedures define who is subject to examination; the consequences of refusing to take a polygraph examination; professional, ethical, and technical standards for conducting an examination; quality control and assurance standards and procedures; and the rights to be afforded individuals who undergo polygraph testing. The four components also have specific policies defining the use and role of polygraph examinations in making investigative, personnel, and security decisions. Each policy notes that polygraph testing is an investigative tool and should not be the sole basis for investigative, personnel, or security decisions.

Purposes for Polygraph Examinations

History of Polygraph Examinations in the Department. For over 70 years, certain Department components have used polygraph examinations primarily as an investigation tool in criminal investigations and administrative misconduct investigations involving Department employees. The FBI first began using polygraph examiners in 1935 and established a centralized polygraph program for conducting testing in 1978. The DEA established a polygraph program in the early 1970s when it began conducting polygraph examinations in criminal drug and misconduct investigations. The OIG established its polygraph program and began conducting polygraph examinations in 1990 in both criminal and misconduct investigations. ATF, which was part of the Department of the Treasury until January 2003, began conducting polygraph examinations in criminal investigations in 1978. In more recent years, the four components have conducted polygraph examinations in foreign counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations, pre-employment screening, personnel security screening, foreign vetting, and supporting the polygraph needs of other agencies.

Criminal Investigations. The FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG conduct specific-issue polygraph examinations as a tool in criminal investigations. From FY 2002 though 2005, the four components conducted a total of 8,356 polygraph examinations of criminal suspects, witnesses, and informants in criminal investigations. The examinations were used to detect and identify criminal suspects, verify information furnished by an informant or witness, and to obtain additional information and investigational leads.

Administrative Investigations. The FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG conduct polygraph examinations in administrative investigations into allegations of misconduct by Department employees. From FY 2002 through 2005, the four polygraph units conducted 149 specific-issue polygraph examinations of employees who were subjects, witnesses, or complainants in investigations of personal misconduct in the performance of their official duties.

Foreign Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism Investigations. From FY 2002 through 2005, the FBI conducted 1,994 polygraph examinations of FBI and non-FBI personnel during foreign counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations. The examinations were used to resolve specific issues related to espionage or sabotage, to validate information sources, or to make resource decisions (such as whether to conduct surveillance).

Pre-Employment Screening. Between 1985 and 1998, the FBI, DEA, and ATF expanded their use of polygraphs to include pre-employment examinations for Special Agent candidates. By 1994, the FBI had extended its requirement for pre-employment testing to candidates for all FBI jobs. In 1996, the DEA extended its pre-employment examination requirement to applicants for DEA Intelligence Research Specialist positions. From FY 2002 through 2005, the FBI, DEA, and ATF conducted approximately 28,000 pre-employment polygraph examinations, which represented about 57 percent of all polygraph examinations conducted in that period.

Personnel Security and Counterintelligence Screening. The FBI is the only component that routinely conducts random and periodic personnel security and counterintelligence screening of its employees. In the wake of the arrest of FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen for espionage in February 2001, the FBI greatly expanded its Personnel Security Program to include a wider use of polygraph examinations for personnel security and counterintelligence purposes. From FY 2002 through 2005, the FBI conducted 4,721 examinations for personnel security purposes. That number represents an almost 750-percent increase from the 331 examinations conducted in FY 2002 to the 2,481 conducted in FY 2005. All personnel assigned to FBI counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and security programs, including state and local law enforcement personnel serving on Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), are now required to take personnel security polygraph examinations.2 FBI officials said they were considering extending the requirement for periodic and random personnel security polygraph examinations to all of the FBI’s approximately 35,000 employees and contractor personnel, as well as personnel from other organizations with access to FBI information, information systems, and space.

Foreign Vetting. From FY 2002 through 2005, the DEA and ATF conducted 4,403 polygraph examinations to assess foreign personnel selected by their countries for membership in DEA Sensitive Investigative Units (SIU) overseas. The SIUs work in sensitive bilateral investigations in countries critical to the counter-narcotics objectives of the United States. ATF conducted foreign vetting polygraphs in FY 2002 at the request of other agencies, but has not conducted any such examinations since that time.

Requested by Other Components. The FBI conducted approximately 1,661 polygraph examinations and the OIG conducted 33 polygraph examinations at the request of seven other Department components that do not have their own polygraph programs. The seven components used the results of those polygraph examinations for witness security screening; administrative investigations (misconduct and internal affairs); criminal investigations; personnel security screening; and vetting foreign witnesses, prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel. In addition, these seven components also occasionally used polygraph examinations conducted by the Secret Service, the Central Intelligence Agency, the BOP’s Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP), and a contractor working for the USMS on the Witness Security (WITSEC) Program. Those examination results were used for witness security, national security, and sex offender treatment.

Requirements for Polygraph Examinations

The consequences of polygraph examinations vary, depending on whether the examination is considered voluntary, mandatory, or compelled; the reason for the examination; and the examination results.

Voluntary Examinations. Polygraph examinations given to federal employees or other individuals may be voluntary, meaning that the examinee may refuse to take the examination with no adverse consequences. For example, witnesses or subjects in a criminal investigation are protected by the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and therefore can refuse to speak with investigators or take a polygraph examination.

Mandatory Examinations. In some cases, polygraph examinations conducted by the FBI, DEA, and ATF are mandatory. In these cases, completion of a successful examination is required for an individual to obtain a desired benefit such as consideration for employment, membership in a foreign investigative unit, or obtaining a security clearance. The consequences of refusing to take a mandatory polygraph examination – or of having results that indicate deception – vary according to the policy of the component requiring the test. For example:

  • All applicants for employment in the FBI must undergo and pass a pre-employment polygraph examination. Applicants who refuse to take a polygraph examination are ineligible for employment. When the final opinion is Deception Indicated, the results are reported to adjudication officials who decide whether to disqualify the applicant or, based on other information available to the adjudicators, request that the applicant be retested.

  • The FBI also requires selected employees and non-FBI personnel with access to national security or sensitive FBI information to undergo periodic and random personnel security polygraphs as a deterrent to espionage. FBI employees who refuse to submit to mandatory polygraph examinations, such as during periodic security reinvestigations or investigations of national security matters, may be transferred to positions that do not require access to sensitive information, have their security clearances denied or re-evaluated, or face disciplinary action for insubordination. Because holding a security clearance is a condition of employment at the FBI, FBI employees who lose their clearances may also be dismissed.

  • In the DEA, polygraph examinations are mandatory for applicants for Special Agent and Intelligence Research Specialist positions, and for foreign candidates for membership in foreign Sensitive Investigative Units. Applicants for Special Agent and Intelligence Research Specialist positions who refuse to take a polygraph examination are not eligible for DEA employment. Membership in a foreign investigative unit is contingent on taking and passing a polygraph examination.

  • ATF requires all applicants for Special Agent positions to undergo a mandatory pre-employment polygraph examination. Those who refuse are not eligible for employment. If an applicant’s examination results in indications of deception, or if the applicant admits to deception or to disqualifying behavior (such as abuse of illegal drugs), the individual may be ineligible for employment.

Compelled Examinations in Administrative Investigations. Compelled polygraph examinations are those in which employees are ordered to submit to examination under threat of adverse action (including suspension or dismissal) if the employees do not comply. Federal courts have reviewed a number of cases in which public employees were dismissed for refusing to take a polygraph examination when compelled in an administrative inquiry. Those courts have held that employees can be compelled to submit to polygraph examinations in investigations into the performance of their official duties, so long as they are not also required to relinquish their privilege against self-incrimination.

The Merit Systems Protection Board, which reviews adverse actions against federal employees covered by the Civil Service Reform Act, has never specifically addressed whether an employee may be removed for refusing to submit to a polygraph examination in an administrative inquiry.

Within the Department, the FBI was the only component that reported having policies and procedures for compelling its employees to undergo polygraph examinations in personnel security and misconduct investigations. The FBI’s policies cover all FBI employees, including attorneys. An FBI employee can be compelled to take the examination if the allegations under investigation involve one or more of seven specified violations of law or FBI policy.3 FBI employees who refuse to take a polygraph examination under these circumstances face potential administrative discipline, up to and including dismissal. FBI policies also state that designated FBI officials can “compel any Bureau or non-Bureau person with access to FBI information or facilities to submit to a polygraph examination to resolve specific issues which may impact a person’s trustworthiness for security matters.”

It is not clear whether employees of other Department components similarly can be compelled to take a polygraph in administrative investigations in the absence of a policy regarding compelled polygraphs. We found that the Department and components other than the FBI have not issued policies defining the circumstances under which employees can be compelled to submit to polygraph examinations in administrative misconduct investigations. We also found no evidence that an employee of any other Department component has been compelled to take a polygraph examination in an administrative investigation. While we are aware of several proposals to develop a Department-wide polygraph policy, none has been acted upon to date.

For example, in August 2001 the Justice Management Division (JMD) provided the Deputy Attorney General with a memorandum containing three options for developing a Department polygraph policy and proposing that the Deputy Attorney General discuss with the affected components whether the Department should adopt a polygraph policy. The Department did not act on that proposal. In July 2004, JMD responded to an OIG inquiry about the Department’s polygraph policy during an OIG investigation of potential misconduct by a Department attorney. The OIG asked JMD for the Department’s position on whether Department employees could be compelled to submit to a polygraph examination. JMD informed the OIG that it believed, in the absence of a Department polygraph policy, that the Department could not compel Department employees. JMD also stated that it was unlikely that disciplinary action against an employee based on information gained through a compelled polygraph examination would be sustained on appeal.4 Also in July 2004, JMD’s Security and Emergency Planning Staff stated its understanding that, absent a Department polygraph policy that was approved by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Department could not polygraph a competitive service employee, even with the employee’s consent.5 In response to the OIG’s 2004 inquiry, JMD again proposed developing a Department polygraph policy for submission to OPM, but the Department did not act on this proposal.

Finally, as part of this review, in June 2006 the OIG met with JMD officials to discuss whether the Department’s position on compelled polygraphs had changed since 2004. After discussing JMD’s 2004 position, JMD officials informed the OIG that they intended to ask JMD’s Office of General Counsel to reexamine whether the Department has the legal authority to compel employees to submit to polygraph examinations during investigations of administrative misconduct and, if so, what procedural steps would be required to exercise that authority.

Organization and Staffing of Polygraph Programs in Department Components

The FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG each have a polygraph unit that administers the component’s polygraph program. All of the polygraph units have a headquarters staff supervised by a polygraph unit chief (FBI, DEA, and ATF) or a polygraph program manager (OIG). These officials manage the day-to-day operations of the polygraph units and oversee the work of the headquarters staff and the examiners in the field. All polygraph examiners in the four agencies are Special Agents who may be collaterally assigned to participate in criminal investigations. A description of the staffing and structure of each program follows.

The FBI has the largest polygraph unit, consisting of 119 examiners, support staff, and contractors at FBI Headquarters and in field offices. The FBI’s Headquarters Polygraph Unit is located in the Personnel Security Adjudication Section of the Security Division and employees 18 personnel, which include 13 supervisory special agent examiners. The FBI polygraph program’s field structure comprises 5 Regional Polygraph Program Managers (regional managers) who oversee the operations of 96 field examiners in the FBI field offices.

The DEA’s Polygraph Support Unit has 27 examiners in its headquarters and field offices. The Chief of the Polygraph Support Unit and Polygraph Coordinators in the unit have authority over all technical issues involving the administration of polygraph examinations. The three Polygraph Coordinators conduct quality control reviews of all polygraph examinations conducted by the field examiners. The DEA’s field examiners work for the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the offices where they are assigned, but function under the technical supervision of the Chief of the Polygraph Support Unit.

The ATF Polygraph Branch has a staffing level of 16 certified polygraph examiners, including the SAC of the Polygraph Branch, 3 regional team leaders, and 12 field examiners. ATF’s Polygraph Branch is located in the Office of Field Operations, Special Operations Division. The Chief of the Special Operations Division has overall responsibility for ATF’s polygraph program. The SAC of the Polygraph Branch reports to the Chief of the Special Operations Division and is responsible for establishing and implementing policies and procedures for the Polygraph Branch.

As of July 2006, the OIG had three field examiner positions whose activities were coordinated by the SAC of the Special Operations Branch at OIG Headquarters. The SAC serves as the OIG’s Polygraph Program Manager and Coordinator, and is responsible for oversight of the polygraph program as well as management of its day-to-day operations. All requests, reports, and recommendations relating to polygraph activities are directed to the SAC for action. The OIG examiners are Special Agent criminal investigators as well as OIG-certified polygraph examiners.

Examiner Qualifications and Training

Each component has established qualification and training requirements for examiners. The FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG require that polygraph examiners be selected from Special Agent (GS-1811 series) personnel. All components require that polygraph examiner candidates complete training at a certified polygraph training facility. Since 1994, the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute (DoDPI) has been the central provider of training for federal polygraph examiners, research, and monitoring of technical and scientific developments in polygraphy. The DEA, ATF, and OIG policies specify that examiners receive their basic examiner training at DoDPI, while the FBI accepts training either from DoDPI or a school approved by the FBI or the American Polygraph Association. Before they are certified, all examiner candidates must also complete an internship, during which they work under the supervision of an experienced polygraph examiner.

Once certified, examiners must meet minimum training and performance standards to maintain certification. Federal polygraph continuing education standards require that examiners receive 80 hours of polygraph-related training every 2 years. For examiners to remain certified, the OIG requires that they conduct at least 12 examinations per year, the DEA requires that they conduct 25, ATF requires that they conduct 36 (a minimum of 18 in each six month period), and the FBI requires that they conduct at least 48. DoDPI has certified that all FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG examiners meet established federal qualifications and training requirements.

Polygraph Program Workload

From FY 2002 through 2005, the FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG reported conducting 49,197 polygraph examinations (Table 1). The FBI conducted most of those examinations (over 77 percent), followed by the DEA (17 percent), ATF (5 percent), and the OIG (under 1 percent). The number of examinations conducted each year increased by about 38 percent during the 4-year period, primarily due to a 45-percent increase in the number of examinations conducted by the FBI.

Table 1: Department of Justice Polygraph Use
FY 2002 through 2005
Fiscal Year FBI DEA ATF OIG Total































Source: FBI, DEA, ATF, OIG

Overall, about 57 percent of the examinations were conducted during pre-employment screening; 17 percent during criminal investigations; 10 percent during personnel security screening; 9 percent for vetting foreign agents; 4 percent during counterterrorism or counterintelligence investigations; and less than 1 percent during misconduct investigations. The remaining examinations (about 3 percent) were conducted at the request of other agencies and were not identified by these four components by purpose. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Purposes of Polygraph Examinations: Pre-employment screening-56.6%, Personnel security screening and investigations-9.6%, Criminal investigations-17%, Misconduct investigations-0.3%,	Counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations-4.1%, Requests by other organizations-3.4%, Foreign vetting-8.9%
Source: Component data

Quality Control, Quality Assurance, and Oversight

The quality control, quality assurance, and oversight mechanisms for the FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG polygraph programs are described below.

All of the components’ polygraph programs require that a supervisory polygraph official conduct an internal quality control review of all examination records and examiner opinions before rendering a final opinion on the results of a polygraph examination. The quality control reviews are intended to ensure satisfactory quality and the correctness of examiner opinions on the results of polygraphs. Each program has procedures for referring cases, in which the reviewer does not agree with the examiner, to a second reviewer before results are considered final. In addition, the polygraph programs of the FBI, DEA, and ATF are subject to internal oversight reviews conducted by the components’ internal inspection offices. These reviews examine general administrative management, operations management, and performance issues, but do not assess polygraph examiner performance or compliance with federal polygraph standards.

The FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG polygraph programs and examination records are reviewed under the DoDPI-administered federal Quality Assurance Program. However, the DoDPI has not reviewed the polygraph examinations conducted by a private contractor working for the USMS WITSEC Program nor those conducted for the BOP’s SOTP. Since 1996, inspectors working at DoDPI have conducted technical reviews of federal polygraph programs to ensure that they are managed in compliance with the standards in the Federal Examiner Handbook. The DEA and ATF began participating in the program in 1997, the OIG in 2000, and the FBI in 2002. After an inspection, agency officials are given a draft report and have 30 days to respond to any findings or recommendations. Once all issues are resolved, DoDPI certifies that the agency’s polygraph program complies with federal standards, a certification OPM requires for agencies seeking its approval to polygraph competitive service personnel.

The DoDPI inspection reports we reviewed generally stated that the internal quality control process of each component provided independent and objective reviews of all polygraph examinations. The programs of the DEA, ATF, and OIG were consistently certified as being in compliance with federal standards. However, the FBI’s program was not certified as complying with federal standard after the three inspections DoDPI conducted in FY 2003 through 2005 because of repeated instances of noncompliance with federal polygraph standards during polygraph examinations. The noncompliance included instances of improperly constructed questions, opinions on results (i.e., Deception Indicated, No Deception Indicated, or Inconclusive) that were not supported by standard test scoring techniques, and the routine destruction of the score sheets that examiners and supervisors prepared when examining polygraph test results. Although not all issues were finally resolved, the issues were sufficiently addressed so that in January 2006 DoDPI certified the FBI polygraph program for the first time.

The DEA and ATF must receive annual authorization from OPM because those two agencies use polygraph examinations for pre-employment screening of employees covered by the Civil Service Reform Act. For an agency to receive OPM authorization, OPM must first certify that the requesting agency has a national security mission and must approve the agency’s polygraph policies and regulations. In addition, agencies must demonstrate full compliance with federal polygraph standards, agree not to deny a clearance or employment based on an inconclusive polygraph result, and submit to a DoDPI quality assurance review at least every 2 years. Both the DEA and ATF have routinely received annual OPM reauthorizations to continue using polygraph examinations for pre-employment screening. The most recent reauthorizations were granted by OPM on May 12, 2006, for FY 2006. The FBI does not have to obtain OPM’s approval for its program because most FBI employees are members of the excepted service and are not covered by the Civil Service Reform Act. The OIG does not have to obtain OPM approval for its program because it does not use polygraph examinations for pre-employment or personnel security screening.

Program Performance and Results

In accord with federal polygraph standards, the FBI, DEA, ATF, and OIG collect statistical data on the type, purpose, and results of polygraph examinations they conduct. The data are used to identify trends, manage the examination workload, monitor the work of individual examiners, develop budget estimates, and track performance. Certain results data serve as indicators of the performance of the polygraph examiners. For example, the skill of examiners in using the polygraph technique can be assessed by their rate of conclusive opinions (i.e., the percentage of “Deception Indicated” or “No Deception Indicated” opinions versus “Inconclusive” results). We examined the components’ data on the outcomes of polygraph examinations from FY 2002 through 2005 and found that all met an industry standard of 80-percent conclusive opinions for screening examinations.

Seven Components that Do Not Conduct but Use Polygraph Examinations

Seven organizations in the Department reported using the results of polygraph examinations conducted by other federal agencies (usually the FBI) or by a private contractor. From FY 2002 through 2004, the Criminal Division, JCC, ATR, NDIC, OPR, BOP, and USMS asked other agencies to conduct a total of 1,728 polygraph examinations for various purposes, such as witness security (WITSEC) screening; administrative investigations (misconduct and internal affairs); criminal investigations; personnel security screening; sex offender treatment; and vetting foreign witnesses, prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel.6

There is no central review by the Department, and DoDPI has never conducted a quality assurance review of the seven components’ uses of polygraph examinations. DoDPI may have reviewed some of the examination records as a part of its quality assurance reviews of the FBI and OIG polygraph programs, as those offices conducted examinations for the seven components. However, although the FBI conducted approximately 96 percent of the examinations the seven users requested from FY 2002 through 2004, the FBI has not provided many of the records of those examinations for DoDPI review because of logistical problems with retrieving the records of criminal specific-issue, pre-employment, and personnel security polygraph examinations from the requesting agencies. Further, the FBI does not provide DoDPI with examination records associated with the WITSEC, Foreign Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism, and OPR programs for DoDPI review, whether the examinations were conducted for FBI purposes or for another agency, due to the sensitive nature of those programs.

Of the seven users, the BOP, JCC, and NDIC have internal policies and procedures governing the use of polygraph examinations.7 The seven components’ uses of polygraph examinations are discussed below.

Criminal Division. From FY 2002 through 2004, 4 of the 19 organizations within the Criminal Division requested that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies conduct a total of 1,200 polygraph examinations:

  • The Office of Enforcement Operations uses polygraph examinations to evaluate prisoner-witnesses seeking entry into the WITSEC Program.

  • The Domestic Security Section occasionally uses polygraph examinations in its investigations of criminal organizations that smuggle aliens, including those with ties to terrorist organizations, into the United States.

  • The Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (OPDAT) Section uses polygraph examinations in providing technical assistance to foreign counterparts as they establish their own investigative units. About 5 to 10 percent of the 50 to 60 countries that receive OPDAT technical assistance each year use polygraphs (generally conducted by the FBI at the request of OPDAT) to determine, for example, whether the foreign prosecutors have taken bribes or violated human rights laws in their countries.

  • The Public Integrity Section uses polygraph examinations in connection with criminal cases involving public corruption to verify the truthfulness of cooperating witnesses, informants, and subjects of criminal investigations.

Justice Command Center. The JCC, which serves as a crisis center for the Department and functions as an around-the-clock contact point for all Department operations worldwide, is a branch of the Justice Management Division’s Security and Emergency Planning Staff. Because the JCC handles highly classified intelligence information, it requires its employees and job candidates to pass a narrowly focused, counterintelligence-scope polygraph examination as part of the security clearance process. The JCC has 15 positions subject to mandatory polygraph examinations. The JCC is the only one of the seven users discussed in this section that OPM has ever authorized to use polygraph examinations for personnel security screening. Although OPM originally authorized the JCC’s use of polygraph examinations in October 1987, and reauthorized it annually through September 30, 1996, OPM officials said they had no record of any reauthorization requests from the Department from FY 1997 through 2004. On November 23, 2005, after we asked to review JCC records of reauthorization requests, the Department applied for reauthorization to use polygraph examinations for JCC personnel. On May 12, 2006, OPM officials granted the JCC’s reauthorization request to use pre-employment and personnel security screening polygraphs in FY 2006.

Antitrust Division. The ATR uses polygraph examinations infrequently in connection with criminal investigations related to its enforcement of antitrust laws. From FY 2002 through 2004, the Division used polygraph examinations only twice.

National Drug Intelligence Center. The NDIC’s Office of Security and Classified Programs uses polygraph examinations for pre-employment screening. From FY 2002 through 2004, the office asked the FBI to conduct 72 polygraph examinations for its use in screening job applicants who had received conditional offers of NDIC employment. The NDIC’s use of polygraph examinations does not require OPM’s approval because the NDIC’s employees are in the excepted service.

Office of Professional Responsibility. OPR has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of misconduct by Department of Justice attorneys that relate to the exercise of their authority to investigate, litigate, or provide legal advice. OPR also has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of misconduct by law enforcement personnel when they are related to allegations of misconduct by attorneys within the jurisdiction of OPR. OPR officials reported that it uses polygraph examinations as an investigative tool in criminal and administrative misconduct investigations. However, OPR officials told us that they had not requested a polygraph examination since before FY 2001. An OPR official told us that, in the past, polygraph examinations have only been conducted when the proposed test subject has consented to the examination.

Federal Bureau of Prisons. The BOP uses polygraph examinations as an investigative tool in administrative investigations of BOP employees, as a condition for inmates’ entry into the WITSEC Program, and as a condition for participation in the BOP’s Sex Offender Treatment Program. The following sections within the BOP used polygraph examinations in FY 2002 through 2004.

  • The BOP’s Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) used polygraph examinations of subjects, witnesses, and complainants in administrative investigations into alleged misconduct by BOP employees. The OIA requested 21 polygraph examinations during administrative investigations from FY 2002 through 2004. The OIG conducted 17 of the examinations, and the FBI conducted 4. Fifteen of the examinations were administered to subjects of investigations, four to victims, and two to complainants. According to BOP internal policy, neither BOP staff nor inmates can be compelled to take a polygraph examination. Both inmates and staff must sign consent forms before they take a polygraph examination.

  • BOP institutions use the results of polygraph examinations in determining whether prisoners can be placed in a Protective Custody Unit and before leaving a BOP facility. The Criminal Division, working through the BOP, uses these polygraph examinations as a tool for maintaining the security of prisoner-witnesses and to help determine whether an inmate seeking admission to the WITSEC Program intends to harm another inmate in the program. From FY 2002 through 2004, the FBI and the OIG conducted a total of 338 polygraph examinations of WITSEC inmates in BOP institutions.

  • The BOP’s Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) at the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina houses up to 112 federal inmates who are convicted sex offenders. All SOTP participants must agree to undergo and pass polygraph examinations when entering the program, upon release, and during probation after their release. From FY 2002 through 2004, the SOTP examiner conducted a total of 76 polygraph examinations.8 The SOTP uses polygraph examinations as an aid in managing the potential risks inmates pose to the community after they are released from prison. They are used for clinical, not investigative, purposes.

U.S. Marshals Service. The USMS reported that it uses polygraph examinations for administrative investigations involving USMS personnel and for individuals in the WITSEC Program who are not incarcerated and claim their security has been breached. From FY 2002 through 2004, the USMS requested 16 polygraph examinations of witnesses in the WITSEC Program, but none for administrative investigations. The examinations were conducted by either ATF or a private contractor.

New Requirements for Federal Personnel Security Programs

In December 2004, the President signed into law the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Pub. L. No. 108-458). Certain provisions of this Act may require the Department to examine its components’ use of polygraph examinations in conducting background investigations for personnel security clearances. Specifically, to facilitate reciprocal acceptance of security clearances among federal agencies, Title III of the Act directs the federal government to improve the security clearance process by establishing central oversight and uniform policies for investigating and adjudicating personnel security clearances. The Act states that the federal government must begin:

developing and implementing uniform and consistent policies and procedures to ensure the effective, efficient, and timely completion of security clearances and determinations for access to highly sensitive programs, including standardization of security questionnaires, financial disclosure requirements for security clearance applicants, and polygraph policies and procedures.

As described in this report, each of the components establishes its own policy and procedures for conducting and using the results of polygraph examinations. With the exception of the polygraph examinations conducted by a private contractor for the USMS’s WITSEC Program and those conducted for the BOP’s SOTP, we found that the other polygraph programs in the Department comply with federal standards; however, the components are not consistent in whom they require to take polygraph examinations in order to receive a security clearance, how frequently the examinations are administered, or what happens in the event of an unfavorable or inconclusive result. There is no comprehensive Department-wide polygraph policy addressing those issues and no government-wide policy establishing standard policies and procedures for all polygraph programs.

As the provisions of the Intelligence Reform Act are implemented over the next year, the Department may need to resolve any differences in its components’ policies and procedures that could impede full reciprocity in personnel security clearances. In Executive Order 13381, issued on June 27, 2005, the President assigned the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to direct the implementation of the Act’s provisions, including those that require a system to support reciprocity in the investigation and adjudication of personnel security clearances. In May 2006, OPM officials told us that OMB had not yet designated an agency to lead government efforts to develop and implement standard polygraph policy and procedures. In July 2006, the President extended the provisions of the Executive Order 13381 for a year.

  1. The U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, Section 9-13.300, states that it is the Department’s policy to oppose all attempts by defense counsel to admit polygraph evidence or to have an examiner appointed by the court to conduct a polygraph test and that Department attorneys should refrain from seeking the admission of favorable examinations that may have been conducted during an investigation. The Section 9-21.340 also establishes a requirement for potential entrants to the Witness Security program to undergo polygraph examinations.

  2. Since 1980, the FBI has established JTTFs to enhance interagency cooperation and coordination among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in counterterrorism efforts.

  3. FBI employees can be compelled to submit to a polygraph examination to resolve an issue during the investigative phase of a disciplinary matter if the employee will not do so without being compelled and if the matter involves: (1) intentional and unauthorized release of sensitive, protected information; (2) a relationship with or allegiance to a foreign power; (3) an illegal or improper exercise of influence; (4) intentional and unauthorized destruction, alteration, misplacement, taking, falsification, or other impairment of FBI documents or evidence; (5) use of or unauthorized dealing in controlled substances; (6) false statements or the failure to candidly disclose information; or (7) theft, fraud, or misuse of government money or property. According to the FBI’s Security Policy Manual, an employee’s refusal to take an examination can be treated as if the employee had failed the examination. However, an employee’s refusal will not by itself substantiate the misconduct charge.

  4. Most federal government civilian employees are part of the competitive civil service, which is governed by the Civil Service Rules in Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations. However, some agencies, including the FBI, are exempt from those competitive civil service procedures. Those agencies, called excepted service agencies, establish their own personnel rules.

  5. JMD’s 2004 position that it lacked the authority to compel polygraph examinations was based on its understanding that an undated memorandum signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson (Johnson Memorandum) was the governing authority for federal polygraph programs. The Johnson Memorandum prohibited the use of polygraphs by federal agencies except for (1) pre-employment screening, personnel investigations, and intelligence and counterintelligence operations; (2) criminal investigations; and (3) research and development. As described in the Background section of this report, however, we found strong indications that the Johnson Memorandum was never issued. Instead, the President directed the Civil Service Commission (the predecessor to OPM) to issue regulations governing the use of polygraph examinations by Executive Branch agencies, which it did in 1969. Those regulations became part of the Federal Personnel Manual (FPM), which has since been retired. In May 2006, OPM cited Executive Orders 10450 and 10577 as its authority for overseeing the use of polygraph examinations for pre-employment and personnel security screening of competitive service employees in the Executive Branch, using the standards for personnel security polygraphs contained in the U.S. Security Policy Board’s Polygraph Memorandum of Agreement (SPB 058-99). As a result, procedurally OPM continues to follow the standards that were contained in the FPM.

  6. The same polygraph examinations reported in this section as requested by the seven components were also reported by the FBI in its number of polygraph examinations conducted for other agencies.

  7. As described in the Introduction section of the full report, the Department has policies and procedures dealing with the use of polygraph examinations in criminal investigations, prosecutions, and the Witness Security Program that apply to all of its components.

  8. The SOTP polygraph examiner is a psychologist who was trained to conduct criminal investigative and national security screening examinations at DoDPI.

« Previous Table of Contents Next »