FBI employees who failed polygraph tests to determine truthfulness still accessed classified information, making the bureau vulnerable to security breaches, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz alleged Thursday in a report.
Polygraphs — commonly referred to as lie detector tests — are administrated to FBI employees and job applicants to determine if they pose a national security risk or are suitable for employment. The bureau adopted the policy of administering them after the 2001 arrest of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was later convicted of giving classified information to Russia.
The chief reason FBI employees still worked with sensitive material even after failing a polygraph test was because the bureau was too slow to follow up, the report claimed. On average, it took the FBI 357 days, nearly a full year, to initiative and investigation and make a security-clearance decision.
According to the FBI, it took between 9 to 940 days to complete an investigation of an employee who failed a polygraph and the security clearance decision process was between 1 and 613 days in 53 of the 78 cases reviewed by the Inspector General’s Office.
“Because FBI employees generally continued to retain access to sensitive information, systems and spaces while an investigation and adjudication were pending, the length of time to complete the process can expose the FBI to security risks,” the report said.
The FBI declined to comment to The Washington Times.
Further, the investigation found that communication failures between the FBI’s Analysis and Investigations Unit, which investigates and adjudicates polygraph results, and bureau officials. It also alleged that the polygraph tests uncovered alleged misconduct by employees that was not reported to the Office of Inspector General, which is both FBI and Justice Department policy. Among the alleged misconduct identified through the examinations were misuse of technology systems and failure to report foreign contacts.
Despite their popular name, polygraph tests do not detect lies, but rather physical processes associated with lying. They can be fooled both intentionally (by a pathological liar) and unintentionally (by a very nervous person).
They are generally not admissible as evidence in courts unless both parties agree — which almost never happens since any result will favor one side and disfavor the other.
The report also claimed the FBI did not fully document or centralize its polygraph records and the record that were found sometimes did not contain enough information to explain the results.
“Because the FBI does not fully document or centralize its recordkeeping of polygraph case information, relevant information may not be readily available to FBI personnel to use in identifying trends and patterns related to potential security risks,” the report said.
Mr. Horowitz submitted the largely confidential report to Congress. A public version was posted on the Inspector General’s website.
The report said it has made eight recommendations for the FBI to improve the speed of investigations and record keeping. However, those recommendations were kept confidential.
A sample of 90 cases from 2015-16 were reviewed by the inspector general, with 78 for FBI employees and 12 for job applicants. Personnel from the FBI, Justice Department and members of the U.S. Intelligence community were also interviewed.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at email@example.com.
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