Polygraphs Prompt Disturbing Applicant Confessions

polygraphSome very disturbing people have been applying for sensitive law enforcement jobs with the U.S. Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection. Polygraph tests, which the agency typically administers during the final phase of the hiring process, have prompted some amazing confessions from the applicants–confessions involving drug smuggling, kidnapping, rape, theft, child pornography and bestiality, according to a new report from the Center for Investigative Reporting, which is based on official summaries of more than 200 polygraph admissions that were flagged for further investigation.

One applicant admitted to smoking marijuana 20,000 times in a 10-year-period. Another revealed this: “Applicant had no independent recollection of the events that resulted in a blood-doused kitchen and was uncertain if he committed any crime during his three-hour black out,” according to the Customs and Border Protection summary.

One woman seeking a job with the bureau told an examiner that she smuggled marijuana into the country – typically by taping 10 pounds of the drug to her body – about 800 times. Scores more admitted that they had engaged in or had relatives involved in human smuggling or drug running.

According to the CIR, the summaries of polygraph tests disclose dozens of attempts to infiltrate the agency, including 10 applicants believed to have links to organized crime who had received sophisticated training on how to defeat the polygraph exam, according to Customs and Border Protection.

The agency began requiring mandatory polygraph tests for all new hires six months ago, according to the CIR. Before then, although thousands of applicants had to take polygraphs, thousands more have been hired without the screening, according to the report. Customs and Border Protection has engaged in a massive hiring surge since 2006, adding 17,000 employees since then to help guard the U.S. border and perform other security-related duties. Potential overhauls to the nation’s immigration laws may require thousands of additional new hires for the agency, according to the CIR.

Here’s perhaps the most disturbing polygraph admission cited in the report:

Whether a more robust background probe would have discovered the hidden menace on Joseph “Joey” Montross’ home computer will never be known. But a polygraph examiner learned about it just a few weeks after the bureau started the program.

A combat-tested Marine with a security clearance, Montross, then 28, seemed like an ideal candidate. He showed up for a “one-stop” hiring fair hosted by Customs and Border Protection in Dallas in February 2008.

The polygraph exam “was his last hurdle,” John Floyd, Montross’ attorney, said in an interview. “He had passed all the other phases.”

When asked whether he had ever viewed illegal pornography, Montross confessed that he possessed a large amount of child pornography, Floyd said. Montross consented to a search of the Houston home he shared with his parents and three younger half siblings, according to his plea agreement.

Investigators later found more than 9,000 images and videos of child pornography, the court record shows. He also admitted to producing child pornography. Montross was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release.

In a written statement provided to the CIR, Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael J. Friel said the agency has a rigorous application process, which includes an initial screening and a backround investigation of prospective employees as well as the polygraph exam.

The polygraph exam typically takes hours, with the polgrapher building rapport with the applicants, according to the report. They ask a range of questions that “start innocuous” and, after the exam, often invite applicants to “unload any mental burdens they might be carrying.”

The disturbing admissions represent only a fraction of those who’ve applied for jobs with the agency. But, as noted in the report, the polygraph tests are conducted as part of the final phase of the recruiting process. If people who’ve done heinous things are able to make it to that final phase, what does that say about the agency’s background-screening efforts?