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A government agency spent millions of dollars on lie detector tests for those who already admitted to drug use or criminal activity, a Department of Homeland Security report published last week found.
The report found that 2,300 applicants given polygraph tests by Customs and Border Protection between 2013 and 2016 admitted prior to having a history of drug use or criminal activity that automatically disqualified them from becoming border patrol agents.
32,847 applicants in total were given polygraphs during that time.
The report reached its conclusions by looking at a sample of 380 polygraph tests conducted by Customs and Border Protection.
A single polygraph test costs $2,200 to conduct, according to the report, which put the total taxpayer cost of the unnecessary polygraph testing at approximately $5.1 million.
“This occurred because CBP’s process did not stop, and is not sufficient to prevent, unsuitable applicants from continuing thorugh the polygraph examination,” Inspector General John Roth wrote in the report.
Even though polygraph tests are still commonly used in some state courts and government agencies, their reliability has been repeatedly brought under question by groups such as the American Psychological Association due to mounting evidence that they can mistakenly measure symptoms of nervousness as deception. Use of polygraph tests in court is banned outright by numerous states while the Supreme Court gave individual courts the right to dismiss polygraph evidence in 1998.
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The DHS recommended for the agency to conduct pre-interviews for job candidates so that only those who have a high chance of getting hired are given polygraph tests. While CBP concurred with the recommendation to improve its testing practices, the agency proposed taking 18 months to study whether such interviews were feasible despite recognizing it as the best step forward in an earlier study.
“We believe that CBP’s timeline is unreasonably long and will not assist CBP in meeting its hiring goals,” the report read.
DHS suggested that the report’s reccomendations had increased in importance due to two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in February calling for the hiring of 10,000 new ICE officers and 5,000 new CBP agents.
But despite the government’s insistence that the agents were necessary for national security, DHS said in a report last month that it had neither the time nor the financial resources to hire so many agents so quickly.