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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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