DC Security Clearance Consultants

Background Investigations Polygraphs

Polygraphs are instruments that measure physiological responses (respiration, pulse, blood pressure and galvanic resistance) to stress. Polygraphs are used to help determine an individual’s eligibility for a special assignment or access to specifically designated information protected within SAPs. They are not generally used for collateral (Confidential-Secret-Top Secret) security clearances unless they are necessary to resolve serious credible derogatory information that cannot be resolved through conventional investigative means. Polygraph examinations are conducted as a supplement to, not as a substitute for, other forms of investigation that may be required under the circumstances. Polygraphs exams are only administered by agencies with approved personnel security polygraph programs and these exams are only conducted by government trained and certified examiners

No Deception Indicated (NDI)

Some federal clearances for Sensitive Compartment Information (SCI) and other Special Access Programs (SAP) require a polygraph screening examination in addition to a Single Scope Background Investigation. Generally polygraph exams are not used when only a collateral security clearance is needed. The OPM, which conducts 90% of all federal background investigations, does not conduct polygraph exams. Polygraph screening exams are conducted by Intelligence Community (IC) agencies that adjudicate SCI and/or SAP eligibility. A pre-employment polygraph is normally the final hurdle for most applicants. The most desirable polygraph result would be something called NDI or “No Deception Indicated.” NDI means you passed and that usually results in the final official job offer from the agency or department. 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. If you, for instance, were an aspiring FBI Agent applicant and “failed” the polygraph, you most likely would be receiving something very similar to the following:


What are the Differences Between Counterintelligence, Lifestyle and Full Scope Polygraphs

Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph (CI)
The most common type of polygraph exam. A Counterintelligence Scope Polygraph asks the candidate questions limited to those necessary to determine whether the examinee ever had any involvement with or knowledge of:

  1. Espionage
  2. Sabotage
  3. Terrorist Activities
  4. Deliberate damage of U.S. Government Information Systems
  5. Intentional compromise of U.S. Government Classified Information
  6. Secret contact with a foreign national or representative

Lifestyle Polygraph
The candidate is asked questions concerning their personal life and conduct and can involve all aspects of present and past behavior. Questions asked might concern drug and alcohol use, sexual misconduct, mental health, family relationships, compulsive or addictive behavior and more. A Lifestyle Polygraph can also attempt to look for issues in a person’s private life for which he or she might be susceptible to blackmail or coercion. DoD Lifestyle Polygraph exam questions cover the following topics:

  1. Involvement in a serious crime
  2. Personal involvement with illegal drugs during the last seven years
  3. Deliberate falsification of the security forms

Full Scope Polygraph

The FS polygraph examination is a combination of both the Counterintelligence and Lifestyle polygraphs. Generally speaking, undergoing a Full Scope Polygraph is not something to look forward to.

polygraph test

  • Two pneumograph tubes that are place around your chest and stomach to measure respiration
  • Small cuffs that 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.
National Center for Credibility Assessment
Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Program (PDD/polygraph)

The NCCA’s central mission is to assist federal agencies in the protection of US citizens, interests, infrastructure and security by providing the best education and tools for credibility assessment. Other responsibilities include:

  • Qualify DOD and other Federal personnel for careers as PDD examiners
  • Research, develop, validate and field credibility assessment tools that increase and enhance operational capabilities
  • Manage the PDD continuing education certification program for Federal agencies
  • Manage the Quality Assurance Program that develops, implements and provides oversight of PDD standards for the Federal polygraph programs
  • Provide analysis and strategic support to Federal polygraph programs
Intelligence Community (IC)

The U.S. Intelligence Community is a coalition of 17 agencies and organizations, including the ODNI, within the Executive Branch that work both independently and collaboratively to gather and analyze the intelligence necessary to conduct foreign relations and national security activities. IC agencies require polygraphs more than other federal agencies or departments.

Feb. 2015 New Polygraph Policy Issued by ODNI: Intelligence Community Policy Guidance (ICPG 704.6)

The new Intelligence Community (IC) Policy Guidance establishes policy and assigns responsibilities governing the use of polygraph examinations conducted by IC elements in support of personnel security vetting. When deemed to be in the interest of national security, heads of IC elements may authorize the use of the polygraph examination as a component of their personnel security programs or PSPs.

ODNI Intelligence Community

What are the three types of polygraph examinations used by Intelligence Community (IC) agencies & departments for personnel security vetting purposes?

  1. Counterintelligence (CI) Scope Polygraph (CSP)
    CSP examinations may be conducted as part of initial personnel security vetting and may be administered at periodic or aperiodic intervals in support of reinvestigations or continuous evaluation. Topics covered include espionage, sabotage, terrorism, unauthorized disclosure or removal of classified information (including to the media), unauthorized or unreported foreign contacts and deliberate damage to or malicious misuse of U.S. Government information systems or defense systems.
  2. Expanded Scope Polygraph (ESP)
    ESP examinations may be conducted as part of initial personnel security vetting and may be administered at periodic or aperiodic intervals in support of reinvestigations or continuous evaluation. ESP examinations shall cover the CSP topics plus the topics of criminal conduct, drug involvement and falsification of security questionnaires & forms. The ESP examination is also known as the “Full Scope Polygraph.”
  3. Specific Issue Polygraph (SIP)
    SIP examinations may be conducted to resolve an individual issue of adjudicative concern such as espionage, sabotage, unauthorized disclosure of classified information, criminal conduct or to aid in Counterintelligence (CI) investigations. The SIP examination may be used in conjunction with CSP or ESP examinations.

All polygraph examiners will have to be certified by the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA). Polygraph examination types and their completion dates will be recorded in Scattered Castles or successor systems, unless otherwise authorized by the DNI.

What does all of this new polygraph guidance mean in plain English?

All 17 agencies & departments that make up the Intelligence Community (IC) can polygraph you for anything and everything at any time they choose. The gloves are off and it’s green light time. It can be during an initial job application process, a reinvestigation (PR) or at any point throughout your career as part of Continuous Evaluation (CE). This new guidance applies to the job applicants or current employees of the following federal agencies & departments that comprise the Intelligence Community (IC):

  • ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence)
  • Army Intelligence
  • Navy Intelligence
  • Air Force Intelligence
  • Marine Corps Intelligence
  • Coast Guard Intelligence
  • Department of State
  • Department of Treasury
  • CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)
  • DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • DHS (Department of Homeland Security)
  • DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency)
  • DOE (Department of Energy)
  • FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
  • NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency)
  • NRO (National Reconnaissance Office)
  • NSA (National Security Agency)