Leaks: Sessions mulling polygraph tests for NSC staff


Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering conducting lie detector tests on the entire National Security Council (NSC) staff to identify leakers and dissuade them from sharing information with journalists. A month ago, the AG sided with the president to condemn “in the strongest terms the staggering number of leaks” which have been plaguing the Trump administration since the Presidential Inauguration.

Sessions, who is convinced that the transcripts of Mr. Trump’s January telephone calls with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were leaked by NSC personnel, would like every NSC employee to undergo a polygraph test. Over 100 members of staff work for the NSC.

According to sources close to the attorney general, the interrogators’ questions would focus on Mr. Trump’s foreign phone calls because very few people had access to these specific transcripts. In addition, Sessions believes that those who leaked this extremely sensitive material had gone too far.

“No government can be effective when its leaders cannot discuss sensitive matters in confidence or talk freely in confidence with foreign leaders,” he told reporters five weeks ago.

In early July, a study published by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee titled State Secrets: How an Avalanche of Media Leaks is Harming National Security showed that, on average, there had been one potentially damaging leak a day between January 20 and the end of May.

Sessions also hopes that subjecting NSC staff to polygraph tests could dissuade some individuals from ever again leaking confidential information.

Anyone who leaks information which is not meant to be in the public domain risks a prison sentence if convicted as well as a heavy fine.

The Trump administration is also reviewing the news media guidelines which give journalists significant protection from government intrusion. The guidelines were last rewritten by Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder in 2015.

Although Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Fox News Sunday in early August that in most cases journalists would not be targeted if they published leaked information, AG Sessions warned the press that the First Amendment did not give them immunity from prosecution if they disclosed sensitive information to the public and that the media should not “place lives at risk with impunity.”

A polygraph test measures and records several physiological indices (blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and skin conductivity i.e. sweating) to identify deceptive answers. However, because such tests are not 100-percent accurate, it is extremely difficult to successfully prosecute an individual who is suspected of leaking classified information.