Increased Discussion and Interest In Polygraphs
Lately there has been a lot of discussion and questions on the site regarding polygraphs and in response I have put together this general information. Keep in mind that each agency has its own criteria and policies regarding the use of polygraphs and acceptable results.
NDI = A ‘passed’ polygraph
In the security clearance arena polygraphs are used to help determine an individual’s eligibility for a special assignment or access to specifically designated information protected within SAPs. The most desirable polygraph result would be something called NDI or “No Deception Indicated.” NDI means you passed. You can also “pass” the polygraph if you fall within an acceptable range of the NDI threshold. If you do not fall within the acceptable NDI parameter range of an agency or department’s polygraph program, your application process is terminated.
Types of Polygraphs
The Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph is the most common type of polygraph exam and it asks the candidate questions limited to those necessary to determine whether the examinee ever had any involvement with or knowledge of:
- terrorist activities
- deliberate damage of U.S. Government information systems
- intentional compromise of U.S. Government classified information
- secret contact with a foreign national or representative
On a Lifestyle Polygraph the candidate is asked questions concerning their personal life and conduct and can involve all aspects of present and past behavior. These questions might concern drug and alcohol use, sexual misconduct, mental health, family relationships, compulsive or addictive behavior. A Lifestyle Polygraph also looks for issues in a person’s private life for which he or she might be susceptible to blackmail or coercion. Exam questions cover the following topics:
- involvement in a serious crime
- personal involvement with illegal drugs during the last seven years
- deliberate falsification of the security forms
The Full Scope Polygraph is a combination of both the Counterintelligence and Lifestyle polygraphs. Generally speaking, undergoing a Full Scope Polygraph is stressful, arduous, and not something to look forward to. Below are the physical aspects of the examination:
- two pneumograph tubes are place around your chest and stomach to measure respiration
- small cuffs are attached to your fingertips to measure electro-dermal activity
- a blood pressure cuff to measure blood flow and heart rate
- a sensor pad on chair seat to detect movement
Many who undergo a polygraph are just informed if they passed or failed, but don’t really know what that means. Below are the terms that identify the results of a polygraph, again, acceptable parameters vary depending on the agency:
- No Deception Indicated (NDI): A favorable opinion regarding the outcome of an issue-based polygraph examination based upon test data analysis for all the relevant questions in a completed test series.
- Deception Indicated (DI): An unfavorable opinion regarding the outcome of an issue-based polygraph examination based upon test data analysis for at least one relevant question in a completed test series.
- No Opinion (NO): An opinion regarding the outcome of a polygraph or PCASS test series, or overall examination result, when there is insufficient physiological data for conclusive test data analysis. For statistical purposes, a case may be considered as a NO when an examinee withdraws consent to undergo testing before physiological data can be obtained.
- No Significant Response (NSR): A favorable opinion regarding the outcome of a security screening polygraph or PCASS examination based upon test data analysis for all the relevant questions in a completed test series.
- Significant Response (SR): An unfavorable opinion regarding the outcome of a security screening polygraph or PCASS examination based upon test data analysis for at least one relevant question in a completed test series.
*Note– a PCASS is a diagnostic instrument used during an interview capable of monitoring, recording, and/or measuring electrodermal and vasomotor activity. The PCASS instrument uses an algorithm to evaluate the physiological responses recorded by the two components.