While both state and federal courts have generally held that polygraph testing does not meet the Daubert standard for admissibility in court, governmental agencies routinely use polygraph testing as part of pre-employment screening or in the course of normal operations. Because an examiner may interpret nervous behavior or uneasiness on the part of a person undergoing a polygraph test there many federal job seekers are naturally concerned about passing these pre-employment tests.
A cottage industry has emerged in response to the increase in polygraph testing which claims to prepare individuals with proper techniques to “beat” a polygraph examination. The training, costing as much as $1000 a day, teaches students specific methods such as pinching muscles or counting backwards while answering questions, resulting in a relaxed demeanor which could mask any deception or nervousness.
The existence of the anti-polygraph technique consultants has not gone without notice by the federal government. In response to the high-profile leak cases involving trusted government employees such PFC Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, authorities have launched a program cracking down on instructors.
Chad Dixon, of Marion, IN, was sentenced to eight months in prison for wire fraud and obstructing a government proceeding through the operations of his consulting company, Polygraph Consultants of America. First Amendment activists across the country expressed their displeasure in Dixon’s arrest, stating that Dixon’s instruction was protected speech.
Doug Williams, the Oklahoma City based operator of polygraph.com had his business raided and records seized as part of the crackdown on the anti-polygraph consultants. Though Williams has not been formally charged, the names of 5000 of his former students and purchasers of his book which details evasion techniques is now in government hands. One must wonder if the authorities are reviewing these names to determine which of William’s clients have undergone and passed polygraph testing by federal examiners.
It seems odd to me that a testing methodology like polygraphy which has not gained acceptance by the scientific community is used so extensively by government agencies and that critics of the methodology have been subject to prosecution. Considering that many state courts have a per se rule against admission of polygraph results and that few federal courts will admit the data it seems unfair that job seekers could be denied employment or security clearance due to polygraphy.