DHS chief eyes changes to polygraph system

DHS chief eyes changes to polygraph system
© Getty

Homeland Security Secretary John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE in an interview broadcast Sunday signaled he is weighing a change to the polygraph system for Border Patrol agents. 

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kelly described “the current polygraph system” as “very arduous” and “not very pleasant.” 

“By contrast, there are other parts of the government that do polygraphs very differently. The end result is the same, but there's other things too,” Kelly said. “Polygraphs take a long time. They're expensive."


Kelly signaled that some applicants, such as those with military experience, may be exempted from the "lie detector" tests. 

"If you're coming out of the U.S. military, as an example, and have a relatively high level of clearance, that usually requires you to have taken polygraphs. Not so sure that we have to polygraph those people," he said.

A report last week in The Wall Street Journal said the agency is considering eliminating the polygraph test requirement for new hires, a change that would help the Border Patrol hire more agents at a faster pace.

The Trump administration has called for the agency to hire 5,000 employees over the next five years.

Several GOP senators introduced legislation last month to waive certain Border Patrol polygraph requirements for those with law enforcement or military experience out of an effort to address hiring shortfalls.

But some have voiced concern about potentially eliminating the polygraph, raising fears that applicants for the agency routinely targeted by drug cartels and smugglers would not be thoroughly vetted.

Kelly said Border Patrol agents should be thoroughly vetted and routinely monitored.

"The good news is the vast majority of people stay on the straight and narrow all by themselves and can't even be tempted. In some cases, very limited numbers of people will break the law, and you put the systems in place to catch them," he said.