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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2006
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EDITORIAL

U.S. judge right to uphold applicants’ polygraph tests

A federal judge was right to rule against six Secret Service and FBI applicants who failed polygraph tests and were denied jobs.

Because the applicants sought positions of public trust, the agencies have a right to inquire about the backgrounds of their agents, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled in ending the six-year lawsuit brought by the applicants.

While polygraphs may justifiably be prohibited as evidence in criminal proceedings, the Secret Service has required “lie detector” tests for potential agents since 1985. The FBI has tested all employees since 1994.

The agencies ask applicants questions about their medical histories, finances, sex lives, drug use and mental health. While those questions are personal, they’re not an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, Judge Sullivan ruled.

“With regard to the Secret Service’s specific questions, the agency made a reasonable determination that there is a danger if its employees in sensitive positions could be blackmailed for some reason,” he wrote. “The court will not second-guess that conclusion.”

Applicants for sensitive security positions in law enforcement should know going in that there will be rigid background investigations. Those who try to deceive their potential employers exhibit the exact behavior the polygraph exam detects.

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