Failed 1st Poly - Personal Conduct

I’m currently in the hiring and security clearance process for a 3 letter agency.
Last week I had my Polygraph and Psychology exams. I was told by the Poly examiner that I passed the Counter Intelligence section, but didn’t pass the Personal Conduct section.

While the examiner was probing as to why I might have a reaction to the Personal Conduct section, I provided information on minor crimes including but not limited to music piracy and possession of illegal fireworks. I did not mention those occurrences or any other minor crimes on the SF86. I thought I was in the clear as the Background Investigator stated during the interview the scope of the investigation was only going back 7 years, which those “crimes” were committed outside of the scope time frame.

TL:DR, I failed the 1st poly due to personal conduct outside of the scope time frame. Prior to leaving the facility, I was given information to schedule a 2nd poly, but would have to wait upwards of 30 days to schedule another appointment.

In hindsight, I realize I should have disclosed any involvement in criminal matter no matter the severity prior to having the polygraph, but what is done is done.

My question, how much weight is placed on “forced admissions” during the polygraph examination, specifically misdemeanor and lesser crimes?
Am I facing an uphill challenge or am I over analyzing things?

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It’s tough to say for sure, but usually polygraph examiners/agencies get hesitant when people admit to anything during/after the test, regardless of what it is. I’ve taken numerous poly’s, passed some failed some. From my personal experience, examiners tend to take a “well if they admitted to that, there still must be more they’re holding back.” It’s good you can schedule an additional test. If there’s anything else you plan on divulging, do it before. If there’s truly nothing else you need to tell, stick to your guns and you should be fine.

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The main purpose of polygraph screening is to obtain admissions. When an applicant makes disqualifying admissions, it saves the agency the cost of a background investigation. So to answer your question, a lot of weight is placed upon the admissions obtained. However, not all admissions are necessarily disqualifying, and the ones you mentioned seem relatively minor.

In the case of the CIA and NSA, which use a polygraph procedure known as the relevant/irrelevant test, you should be aware that virtually all new applicants are told that they’re having problems during their first polygraph session and are badgered for admissions. Those who don’t make any disqualifying admissions are invited back for one or more follow up sessions where the process is repeated.

You should be aware that the polygraph operator cannot read your mind. Polygraphy is a thoroughly discredited pseudoscience. Telling the truth does not necessarily increase your chances of passing (and conversely, lying does not necessarily reduce them, though I don’t encourage it).

If you are indeed able to schedule a follow-up session, then your admissions were not considered disqualifying.


Anti is mostly right here. They develop Questions based on the “pre” poly chat. They need put you on the rack, discuss pirated music which became a huge deal post Snowden. Be truthful, not sure of age but if young it could be a maturity thing, you outgrew the fun of finding music online. Now most folks routinely pay for music but in the sticky in between time…it seemed ridiculous to do so. Post Snowden non legal download gets scrutiny. If you knew it was wrong, did anyway…will you be cavalier doing so with classified? If it was stupid kid stuff you since disavowed, say so. If you continued to do it…say so.

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Thank you all for the replies. I should note I am in my early 40’s and the offenses mentioned previously were between I was 18 and mid 30’s. I was never charged or prosecuted for my previous offenses, but that probably doesn’t make much of a difference at this point. I have mitigated the music piracy issue by using Spotify and have a paid membership plan since 2017. As for the illegal fireworks, I haven’t purchased any illegal fireworks since 2016.

I will be sure to make known any and all transgressions, no matter how minor they might be. Hopefully that and the 2nd poly will enough to salvage my chances of obtaining a clearance.

Thanks again for your all input and insight on this matter.

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Not unusual to get a call back. Numbers game. Certainly any looking deceptive get called back but so too do a set number. Be honest and consistent. Music downloads exploded and most folk of a certain age category did it. Me? I was too stupid to figure out how to do it so never did it. But the generation right behind me downloaded thousands before anyone really understood artists were not getting their due pay. That said a dubbing tape deck was a staple in mitary BX/ PXs and we all copied each other’s tapes. Yes I’m that old. They want to know their risk of you being a Snowden.

Quick Update: It has been 30 days since my polygraph and psych exam with the unnamed 3 letter agency. Prior to leaving the processing facility I was given instructions to email/call the scheduling department in 30 days if I had not received a link for schedule the redo poly.

Fast forward today. I called and spoke to a representative from the scheduling department, turns out I am in limbo with the Security Department. I will need to wait until the Security Department submits a new link to schedule the redo poly. That was disappointing to learn, but somewhat expected.

At this time I will let the Security Clearance process run its course, but in the meantime apply to other positions that don’t require a clearance and consider a career change.

I received an update from my recruiter, the hiring process was discontinued, no reason given. I can submit for a SOR and can re-apply after 12 months. Oh well, on to other things.


Def request SOR. You are in best position to know and understand what they had issues with. Was it financial? Drugs, law violations? You said it was expected. Can you give more detail?

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It was most likely because I wasn’t forthcoming with what I perceived as minor and inconsequential crimes until being polygraphed, such as illegal downloading of music, purchasing, and possession of illegal fireworks. I also was banned from town own property back in 2001. This was also something I didn’t disclose. And then there are my mental health issues. That’s a different ball of wax.

I suppose it wouldn’t hurt knowing what is on the SOR, it would help me in the future if I were to apply for another position that requires a polygraph.

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They definitely get touchy on non legal downloads. Particularly if you were evasive. If you make them pull it out of you…it doesn’t reflect well. But as said above no investigation was done so it is administrative not a denial. Next time simply lay out the offenses up front. Explain how far out of scope, you matured, grew up, etc. They will still question it all. But post Snowden that is a heavily weighted factor


I can’t imagine that firecrackers would be much of a concern?

@XFilesRecruit Your experience is very similar to mine. My examiner came back and said that he had no doubt I have trouble with a certain question. I tried to work with him and did some brainstorming on the spot to come up with a few things which were more like “gray areas” rather than real issues. In fact, I felt like I gave those guys my entire life, but… I dunno, they still figured me for a spy I reckon. Never got called up for 2nd poly, been checking with HR every 3 weeks or so and then finally almost three months later received a “Thank you for your interest” sort of email. Super vague. I imagine there will be an SOR letter to follow soon? Not sure if I actually need to ask for one or they should be providing it by default.

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Also sounds similar to one of my experiences. Likely what you will receive isn’t a SOR letter but a “we have multiple highly qualified applicants” letter (AKA suitability denial). Bad news is no appeal, good news is that it doesn’t have to be reported as a clearance denial.

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