Failed Polygraph

Hello all, I know this has been posted many times before but my situation is unique.

I’m in the military, and I just got approval for my TS clearance earlier this year. The next command I go to requires me to pass a security polygraph in addition to the TS. Last week, I took that first polygraph and failed miserably. These are just security questions, such as sabotage, espionage and other stuff related to government overthrow. Stuff I’ve never had the chance to do.

It was unfortunate, and I feel as though the examiner had built a bias against me right off the bat. In 2019, I had my identity stolen and I was exploited on the internet. I made sure my investigators knew and it was never a huge problem because I identified it. Well the examiner brought it up, and pretty much said I was wrong for letting that happen. I got really upset and confused and cried (I know, weak sauce). She continued and we started the polygraph. She didn’t like the way the first polygraph read, even though I didn’t fail. She told me that it’s ok if I don’t pass, there are many people behind me who can easily pass a polygraph and they don’t need people “like me” out in the fleet. She accused me of manipulating the test, she gaslighted me and told me I lacked the ability to follow direction.

6 hours of torcher later, she finally let me go. I did a total of 3 polygraphs that day. I talked to my security officer on base and he rescheduled me with her again in 2 weeks. I’m so nervous about this time. I feel like she has a huge bias built around me, I didn’t do anything wrong. I was really nice to her. But she made me out as the bad guy because she didn’t like the way my body was reacting according to the machine. What can I do? I know the only answer is “tell the truth” but that’s what I’ve been doing. I have never had to opportunity to commit any of the situations that she asks me about. I don’t want to go in there level headed and her say “you’re manipulating the test”.

I’m lost. Please help.

First things first: Not good security practice to have an actual photo of you on such a forum when discussing issues that border on sensitive.

Have you stuck to your story the entire time? Polygraphs are a crapshoot for anyone.

I won’t go into the details of the polygraph here but I have met more than one person who walked out of the first polygraph wondering how they could be a drug-dealing terrorist Al-Qaeda mole without ever knowing it, and then ‘passing’ with no problems on the second try.

Hopefully it won’t be the same examiner… I don’t think it is supposed to be.

Hang in there, take a deep breath, and see what’s on TV/YouTube/streaming/whatever.


You asked, “What can I do?”

One thing you can do is to educate yourself about polygraphy. It has no scientific basis and actually depends on the operator lying to and deceiving the person being “tested.”

False positives are not uncommon, and false accusations of attempted countermeasures use are increasingly common.

You’ll want to avoid any temptation to make up an admission just to placate an insistent polygraph operator. In particular, you’ll want to avoid agreeing to any claim by the operator that you were “manipulating your physiology.” This is a buzz phrase that polygraph operators use for attempted polygraph countermeasures. Such an admission, even if not true, might help earn the polygraph operator a bonus but it would spell the end to your military career.

1 Like

thank you, I appreciate your answer. It is scary how much power they seem to have over you in those moments.

Lol thank you for the encouragement. Unfortunately, it is the same tester. They are short handed due to corona virus.

thanks I changed that.

Yes, if by the entire time you mean my entire investigation I told the truth on everything. Same with the polygraph.

I hope things go well for you the second time around. I too failed on those same questions, and like you never thought to do any of those things. When I came back just a day or two later, I got a different investigator who essentially told me that I couldn’t possibly have done those things because I’m not a subversive terrorist hellbent on overthrowing the government. To say she coached me through is a stretch but she employed strategies that set me up to succeed and she made me feel like she was in my corner.

1 Like

Is this normally what happens, when you fail a polygraph they reschedule it in a few days?

It varies quite a bit. In some cases (especially when you have traveled from out of town and the agency is paying your travel expenses) you might get back in the next day. It could also take several months.

My favorite story was a guy who drove a couple hours to take a polygraph as part of a reinvestigation (he had been cleared for many years and it was time for a re-poly). The polygrapher was very hostile and more or less accused him of being a terrorist and said the results were terrible…

They didn’t call him back for nine months. AND the second poly was a breeze :slight_smile:

1 Like

Follow up question: do you always get a second chance at a poly or not necessarily?

1 Like

I have heard that most people will get a second chance if required. A third almost never happens.

It varies by agency, from what I’ve gathered reading various threads

Get a lawyer. Polygraphy is bunk, but they don’t care. Far as they are concerned, it’s the gold standard. They may run you through a few more times and declare everything is fine, but that’s best case. Get a lawyer because they may want you to make a statement that could come back and haunt you and a lawyer can advise you on what to say. It may result in a so-called bad polygraph and you may get transferred, but it could mean that you keep a clearance in the long term.

New here and experiencing a similar situation where I’m pretty sure I bombed my first ever poly. Was supposed to have a 2nd but it was canceled along with my psych. Is this really the end of the road?

It certainly would seem that this is the end of the road, unless perhaps the polygraph and psychological evaluation have been put on hold owing to the current pandemic.

If your processing is stopped I think you will get a letter or email notifying you. Did they say that you would be receiving additional info when they cancelled the poly/psych?

Could just be a scheduling issue.

The examiner failed 2 more of my friends in my command last week. They had a similar experience I did. Our Chain of Command is pissed and looking into it. I go in on Tuesday for my second one. She hates us. She hates her life. How can I pass a polygraph with a biased and subjective polygrapher?

See Chapter 4 of our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, for suggestions regarding how to mitigate the risk of a false positive outcome.

I was the FSO for a team being cleared to support an agency requiring polygraphs on about 30 people. Of those 30 people, about 65% or better had to go through the entire process at least two or three times. The problem was never with the exam itself but always with the interview process that really put people through the ringer. There were assertions made about their character, about their associations, about their history, their nationality, their sexuality – you name it, those interviewers tore them apart about personal things, things related to their family members, etc. It was unprofessional in their minds and mine. Many times I had to talk people down from wanting to quit or walk away from the program entirely. It was a daily occurrence and it never got better.

What i can tell you is that many times these “interviewers” are psychology majors who are zealous and whose job it is to get to the truth “by any means possible.” Your anger, your emotions, your frustration work in their favor and against you. Keep calm. If they keep asking the same question, tell them you have already answered the question and they should check their notes. Keep your answers short, to the point, and do not elaborate. If you have to elaborate, again - stick to the facts, only the facts, and be short.

Do not be down about this, we had people fail the poly 2-4 times. As long as they keep rescheduling you, you’re fine. Their job is to protect national security at a deeper level than a TS and your job is to be honest. Honesty does not, however, require you to sell your soul to someone who is simply trying to get a rise out of you.