Lewis reporting for duty

Two men probed Sierra Lewis ’08 concerning her loyalty to the government of the United States. With wires and clamps measuring her sweat and heart rate, Lewis was confined to the austere room in the Federal Building for over an hour-and-a-half. 

The process began with factual questions designed to calibrate the polygraph test and developed into questions of character. 

“I was worried it was going to say I was lying because I was so nervous,” Lewis said. 

“Obviously I was sweating, and my heart rate increased just because I was sitting there.” 

Lewis expressed discomfort with the long procedure and was frustrated when she discovered that the test was deemed “inconclusive,” requiring her to retake the polygraph test. She passed the second test, completing a requirement in the step towards becoming an intern at the FBI.

Top secret clearance is necessary for all volunteer interns, according to www.fbijobs.gov, which is run by the Department of Justice. Top secret clearance is the highest of the three levels. Below top secret is secret, followed by confidential. Because interns at the FBI provide a wide range of office services, their top secret clearance is essential in protecting them in case they come across classified materials. 

Lewis learned of the Volunteer Intern Program through her father, Don, an aerospace engineer who has work relations with the CIA. 

She originally planned on interning during the summer, but because of the lengthy background check, Lewis will not be able to begin working until next week when winter break begins. 

As an intern she will be required to work between 10 and 40 hours a week and will provide administrative support related to office operations and management. 

To learn more about her duties as an intern, Lewis attended a mandatory security meeting with eight other student interns. At the meeting, she was told not to reveal the specifics of what will be experienced while on duty.  

Upon deciding to pursue the internship, Lewis had to fill out papers, disclosing information such as her residence for the past 15 years, current school or job, travels and references. These references were then questioned by the FBI. She listed her neighbor, whose children she baby-sits, and her field hockey coach, Erin Creznic. 

The questions of the FBI were unusual in reference to a high-school student, Creznic said.  This is because the process by which Lewis was cleared is the same as the one designed for adults applying for jobs.

Though Lewis does not expect to pursue a job in the field of intelligence, she anticipates the experience of her internship to be eye-opening and potentially influence her future employment.

“I think it will be interesting to work in national security,” Lewis said. “It shows I am trustworthy and have had a job situation where I have had to deal with confidential things.”