FBI And Secret Service Can Ask Applicants Whether They Have Ever Committed Adultery

A group of unsuccessful applicants for jobs with the FBI and the Secret Service brought a federal court lawsuit attacking the agencies’ use of a polygraph examination in the pre-employment process. In particular, the applicants contended that the agencies violated their constitutional right to privacy because they asked them questions regarding their medical, psychological, sexual, criminal, and drug use histories during polygraph examinations. Of particular concern was the practice of the Secret Service of asking applicants whether they had committed adultery.

The federal Court dismissed the applicants’ lawsuit. The Court commented that the applicants “were applying for positions of public trust concerning the security of the nation and of our elected officials. Even assuming there exists a constitutional right to nondisclosure of private information, the agencies can legitimately inquire into the applicants’ financial, drug use, health, and criminal history. With regard to the Secret Service’s specific question, the agency has made a reasonable determination that there is a danger if its employees in sensitive positions could be blackmailed for some reason. The Court will not second-guess that conclusion and therefore the agency can legitimately ask whether applicants committed adultery or serious crimes.”

Croddy v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2006 WL 2844261 (D.D.C. 2006).

This article appears in the December 2006 issue