Every so often I receive a phone call from a security clearance applicant nervous about the prospect of an upcoming polygraph (re)examination.  In most cases, the individual is seeking legal guidance on certain adverse information s/he anticipates as a topic of coverage. In other words,

“I expect to be asked about ______ issue. How is that going to impact my clearance and what, if anything, can I do to mitigate the fallout?”


“Is it worth taking a polygraph given _____ issue, or am I better off foregoing the job 

opportunity and keeping my collateral clearance with a different agency – that has never asked about _____ issue – intact?”

Those people I can legally and ethically assist.

But sometimes the inquiries veer away from substantive legal advice and into dangerous territory – namely: “How do I ‘beat’ the polygraph.”  For those people I have to be blunt: The conversation is over.

Dangerous Territory

The reality is that it is illegal and unethical for any attorney (or any non-attorney, for that matter) to assist someone in the making of a false statement to the government.  In other words, an applicant who intends to lie during his or her polygraph – and seeks help in doing it – is not only risking prosecution for the lie, but also risks taking down anyone who assisted in furtherance of it.

The federal government has actually been quite aggressive in recent years on this issue.  Consider this 2015 criminal case against an Oklahoma man accused of helping federal security clearance holders and applicants avoid deception on polygraphs. Or this case of an Indiana man who was sentenced 8 months in federal prison for his similar conduct.

The bottom line is that security clearance holders and applicants should avoid like the plague anyone purporting to teach how to “beat” a polygraph examination or employ “counter-measures” to avoid the appearance of nervousness. Instead, either consult with a competent attorney prior to taking the polygraph about your potential legal exposure – a conversation definitely worth having if you are concerned about previously undiscovered criminal conduct – or fight any subsequent security clearance denial via the established process.

Security clearance denial cases based upon polygraphs can be won on the merits with just a bit of time and expense. Trying to short-circuit the system is truly not worth the risk.



This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com