FBI expands employee lie-detector tests

The FBI has given lie-detector tests to hundreds of employees with access to sensitive information as part of a broad internal security reform effort, Director Robert Mueller told reporters Wednesday.

The agency administered polygraph exams to 700 employees after authorities arrested veteran agent Robert Hanssen in February 2001 for selling secrets to Russia for nearly two decades. Seven of the 700 employees flunked the polygraph, but failure is not an automatic indicator of wrongdoing, Mueller said. The agency has plans to periodically administer tests to additional employees. Employees at other federal law enforcement agencies, including the CIA and the Secret Service, are required to take frequent polygraph tests.

The FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), a professional organization that includes nearly 10,000 FBI agents, applauded the agency's decision to expand the use of lie-detector tests.

"It's a changed world since Hanssen," said Nancy Savage, president of FBIAA. "We think the FBI has taken a measured response to the problem by incorporating the polygraph and other investigative techniques."

It is standard procedure for the FBI to give polygraph tests to all job applicants and to give follow-up tests when agents receive higher security clearances. The agency also gives lie-detector tests to employees leaving for and returning from foreign assignments, according to an FBI statement.

But Hanssen managed to avoid taking an FBI lie-detector test when he accepted a transfer to the State Department's Office of Foreign Missions in 1995.

After Hanssen's arrest last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft and then-FBI Director Louis Freeh pledged to expand the use of lie detector tests for employees, restrict employee access to sensitive information and better educate the workforce about internal security policies. In April 2001, the FBI also created a security division led by Kenneth Senser, a senior intelligence service officer who came to the agency on a detail from the CIA.

"Our goal is to bring the culture along to a point where security is considered part of the daily operations," Senser said Wednesday. The FBI also plans to beef up periodic reinvestigations of employees with access to sensitive data.

The Webster Commission, created last August to study security policies at the FBI, is expected to release its report containing similar recommendations soon. William H. Webster, a former director of the FBI and CIA, chairs the commission and is scheduled to testify with Senser before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.