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Inside the Beltway - Case No. 4358
Reprinted from the Washington Times
Washington, DC, July 3, 1996
A Sony videocassette recorder is missing and presumed stolen from the National Archives and Records Administration, and the government is going to great lengths to get it back.
In what the American Federal of Government Federation of Government Employees is calling a "heavy-handed interrogation" of National Archives workers, the Office of Inspector General has submitted a mandatory questionnaire to employees and contact personnel, hoping it uncovers the culprit.
"The completion of this questionnaire is a job-related task and may be performed during work hours," instructs Lisa Carney, special agent in the IG's office, in a memo to employees.
According to the agent's memo, the questionnaire, to be completed by June 24, was developed in 1984 by a polygraph operator in Israel to identify "non-deceptive persons, and eliminate them from a crime-related interview process."
"Over the years," Miss Carney states, "the questionnaire has been found to be quite effective in eliminating individuals from further investigative involvement in matters where they had, in fact, no knowledge of who was responsible for the unlawful act under investigation."
The questionnaire, obtained by this column, begins with a list of instructions. "Before you start answering the questions, we would like you to realize that every word is important and each one might be checked on later."
The first question states that "a videocassette recorder is missing (or 'was taken') from Room 4358. How would you explain this? Please write IN DETAIL you ideas that would account for it."
Employees were allowed an entire page to write their answer.
Question No 2: "If you were going to conduct the investigation, how would you do it?"
Question No 3: "List the 5 most important causes that could have created this situation."
Question No 4: "Describe in detail what happened on that day you last saw or used the Sony BetacamSP VCR from Room 4358, from the time you came in to work until the time you left."
Question No 5: "Would you like to change any of the information you have provided?"
The IG's office then asks several point-blank questions: "Do you know who took the VCR from 4358? Did you take the VCR from 4358? Did you take part in taking the VCR from 4358?
Finally, the questionnaire concludes with a few personal questions: "How do you feel now that you have completed this form? Should we believe your answers to the questions? If you answer to the last question was yes, please give us one reason why? What would you say if it was later determined that you lied on this form?
"While filling out this form what were your emotions? Were you afraid of completing this form? If you were asked to pay for the missing VCR, how much would you pay?"
Darryl W. Munsey, president AFGE Council 260, calls the government questionnaire "an insult to NARA staff" and a "mean-spirited method of investigation." He assures members that he is consulting with legal counsel for further action, as well as to prevent future testing of this sort.