Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All (9 page)

BOOK: Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All
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Going into the interview, Michael knew that he had at least three obstacles to overcome. First, Paulette had been interviewed multiple times by family members, police officers, therapists, and attorneys. Along the way, she had undoubtedly been subjected to leading and suggestive questions, and it likely was becoming more difficult by the day for Paulette to separate fantasy from reality. Was she reading their inadvertent signals and merely telling the interviewers what she believed they wanted to hear? Some of her interviewers may have deliberately distorted the issue for personal notoriety and profit, in light of the potential class-action lawsuit. Second, we know that the longer the span of time between an event and the disclosure of information about that event, the greater the likelihood that there will be problems in determining the truth of the matter. In Paulette’s young life, the seven years that elapsed between the event and the disclosure was an eternity. Third, interviewing children is a challenge in any case, but the fact that this case involved topics like satanic rituals, rape, torture, and murder made it extraordinarily sensitive.

Paulette’s story was both bizarre and horrific. As Michael listened to her account, he remained objective and nonjudgmental, recognizing that displaying any sort of emotion could influence her responses to his questions. Over the two days he spent with Paulette, he was struck by how strongly she appeared to believe her story. Was her display of credibility the result of her actual experience, or of having told the story repeatedly in a variety of settings, creating what she eventually thought of as a memory that she actually believed to be true? Let’s look at an excerpt from the transcript of the interview, in which only the names have been changed:

Michael:
In your earlier statement, you said you were raped by Mr. X at his apartment in San Francisco.

Paulette:
I don’t know if we had sex because he injected me with something and I can’t remember.

Michael:
Did you see Mr. X stab the little boy with the tire iron in the underwater cave?

Paulette:
It was Stan.

Michael:
In your earlier statement, you said it was Mr. X. Was it Stan or was it Mr. X that stabbed the little boy?

Paulette:
Mr. X.

Michael:
Why did you say Stan?

Paulette:
I don’t know.

Michael:
How did you get to the cave?

Paulette:
We flew in a helicopter to somewhere, I don’t know.

Michael:
Where did the helicopter land?

Paulette:
In a field and then we rode on a bus to the lake.

Michael:
You said you read a sign on a locked gate leading to the lake where the cave is located. You said the sign read, “No Trespassing,” right?

Paulette:
Yeah.

Michael:
You also said earlier that you hadn’t learned to read yet when you took that trip. How do you know the sign said “No Trespassing”?

Paulette:
Once I learned to read, I knew that’s what the sign said.

Michael:
Tell me about how you got to the underwater cave in the lake.

Paulette:
We [Paulette and two other girls, ages four and six] changed into long T-shirts. They spent a few minutes teaching us how to scuba dive.

Michael:
How did they teach you?

Paulette:
We didn’t get into the water. We just stood on the shore and they put the scuba gear on us.

[Michael asked Paulette to draw a picture of the scuba gear they supposedly used. In her drawing, the children looked like they were about to be launched into space.]

Michael:
Do you know how to swim?

Paulette:
No.

Michael:
Then what?

Paulette:
Then we got into a rowboat with one adult and rowed out into the middle of the lake.

Michael:
Were you wearing life jackets?

Paulette:
No.

Michael:
When did you put on the scuba gear?

Paulette:
We had it on when we got in the boat and we were breathing with our scuba gear on the way in the boat.

Michael:
When you got to the middle of the lake what happened?

Paulette:
We all jumped in the water.

Michael:
Who rowed the boat back to shore if there was only one adult in the boat?

Paulette:
I guess there must have been two adults then.

Michael:
Then what happened?

Paulette:
Me and the youngest girl each took one of his hands and dove down into the water. He had a flashlight.

Michael:
Then what happened?

Paulette:
The other girl dove under the water with us and it took us about a minute and a half to reach the cave.

Michael:
If the adult was holding each of you by the hand and a flashlight, too, how did he swim?

Paulette:
[Physically demonstrates the adult swimming underwater with both hands.]

Michael:
Okay. Then what happened?

Paulette:
We went down about twelve feet and there was a plastic cover that he pulled apart so we could swim into the cave.

Michael:
Describe the cave for me.

Paulette:
Well, I don’t know. I guess it was one room with a dirt floor and a skylight.

[Michael walks Paulette through her gruesome description of satanic rituals, rape, torture, and murder.]

Michael:
How did you return from the cave?

Paulette:
We swam to the surface, but the boat wasn’t there, so we all swam to shore.

Michael:
How did that work exactly?

Paulette:
He held two of us with each hand and the littlest one swam on her own.

By that point, Paulette’s inconsistent statements had made it clear to Michael that she wasn’t being truthful. It was time for Michael to switch into interrogation mode, and to begin his monologue.

Michael:
Paulette, I’ve listened to your story over the last two days, and it’s obvious that something has been bothering you. I know Mr. Jones told you that my job is to know when people are telling the truth and when people are making up a story. I think what’s been bothering you is that some of the things you have been telling me aren’t completely true. But that’s okay, Paulette. I don’t want you to worry about that.

You’ve been telling this story for a long time. If you tell a story long enough, you sometimes begin to believe it yourself. I think a little bit of that happened here. After a while, it just becomes part of who you are. I’m guessing that at first, you probably did this as a game to see how people would react. I don’t think you even expected people to believe you at first. But when people believed you, it made it very hard to say you were just playing around. It all started to get very confusing for you, and before you knew it, here I came to talk to you, and this thing got all blown up and out of control.

You know, I almost have to laugh when I think about how crazy people started to get. It is kind of funny when you think about it. Yeah, I think you’d have to agree it got a little nuts, but I blame the adults involved in this, not you. When a lot of what you were saying really didn’t make sense, anyone with half a brain should have known you were just playing around. If I was you, I wouldn’t feel embarrassed about this because nobody got hurt.

When I was a little kid, I remember trading a neighbor kid a stupid little stick for his toy stagecoach and horses.

Paulette:
[Laughs]

Michael:
When I came home, my mom asked me where I got the stagecoach and horses. I told her I found it. She knew I was lying, but I thought if I told her the truth she would make me give the stagecoach back to the neighbor kid. After I finally told her the truth she told me that she understood, but that she thought I had taken advantage of the kid. She wanted me to do the right thing. It was hard, but I gave the stagecoach back, and my mom was proud of me. It’s funny that I still remember the good feeling I got from telling the truth and doing the right thing. Just like I did, you can do the right thing and tell the truth, too. I know you can.

Paulette, you’re a good person and the last thing I want to do is make you feel bad or feel embarrassed. Trust me, I’ve been there myself, more than I care to admit. I’m not perfect, either. Do you have erasers on your pencils at school?

Paulette:
Yeah.

Michael:
I know. That’s why they put erasers on pencils, because they know people make mistakes. I know people will understand, because I understand. Nobody is going to get mad at you. Before I leave today, I’ll help you talk to Mr. Jones and explain what’s going on. I know he’ll be pleased that we set the record straight before he files his papers with the court. It might seem a little uncomfortable at first, but you’re a brave young lady, and we’ll get through this together.

 

TAILORING YOUR MONOLOGUE FOR CHILDREN

Here are some tips to keep in mind when interviewing or interrogating a child:

• Explain why the interview is taking place, and focus on helping the child feel comfortable and safe.

• Establish that the child understands the difference between telling a lie and telling the truth, and that it’s okay to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand.”

• Be aware that children might say what they think you want to hear rather than speak honestly.

• Tell stories about yourself when you were growing up. Sharing something you did that you shouldn’t have done when you were their age helps them to connect with you and see that you understand what they’re going through.

• Ask concrete, simple questions. When using conceptual terms (over/under, up/down, in/out, before/after, today/yesterday/tomorrow), make sure the child understands.

• As a parent, pick your battles. Save your monologue approach for the times when it’s really needed—situations like cheating in school, involvement with drugs, or criminal activity. Overuse with matters like whether the child did her homework or cleaned up her room will diminish its effectiveness.

• Avoid lying to your child. That puts you on much firmer ground when you’re trying to get him to tell you the truth.

 

Paulette, let me ask you this: Were you really trying to hurt Mr. X and the others, or were you just playing around?

Paulette:
Playing around, that’s all.

Michael:
Thanks for that, Paulette. I’m proud of you. It’s all going to work out.

Michael and Mr. Jones had their answer. It wasn’t the answer that Mr. Jones had hoped for, but he accepted it, and he commended Michael for his success in getting the truth. The lawsuit was never filed.

 

7.

HOW TO HANDLE RESISTANCE DURING YOUR MONOLOGUE

Phil has a hat hanging in his office that’s embroidered with the expression, “If your lips are moving, you must be lying.” In truth, we’re not that cynical. But what we can say without equivocation is that if a person is lying, we don’t want his lips moving. That mantra should be emblazoned on your brain in any elicitation situation.

When you transition from interview mode to interrogation mode, you switch from dialogue to monologue for an explicit reason: You want to hear nothing from your subject other than the truth you’re seeking, be it an admission, a confession, or simply an accurate account of the facts. Unfortunately, no matter how masterful and captivating your monologue is, you can’t assume that the person will sit through it in rapt silence, as if he were watching Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. He’s very likely to put up some resistance, and you’re going to need to be prepared to handle it.

There are three primary forms of resistance that you can expect to encounter in an elicitation situation: convincing statements, emotion, and denials. Let’s take a look at how those types of resistance are demonstrated, and the techniques you can use to overcome them.

CONVINCING STATEMENTS

Convincing statements are statements that are made to influence or manipulate perception, and they’re extraordinarily powerful. Their power lies in the fact that they’re either true, or they’re irrefutable. Let’s go back to Chapter 3, and the case of the missing oxycodone tablets. You’ve switched into interrogation mode with Jan, the pharmacy technician who, the case facts show, is responsible for the theft. You’re well into your monologue when suddenly Jan cuts you off. “Wait a minute,” she says, and in the same breath she launches into her argument:

“This doesn’t make any sense. I’ve been working here for six years, and I’ve never, ever been accused of doing anything wrong. I’ve trained most of the other techs, and they respect me. I’m just not the type of person who would do something like that. Why would I risk my job for some damn oxycodone?”

Jan wants to persuade you that you’re barking up the wrong tree, and her game plan is to accomplish that by painting herself with a halo. Everything she said was either true—she did indeed train most of the other techs, and they do indeed respect her—or irrefutable—whether or not she’s the type of person who would do something like that is yet to be determined. Those convincing statements are powerful because they’re so, well,
convincing
. You can even imagine yourself saying something like that if
you
were falsely accused of the theft. The difference is that in all likelihood, while you might find yourself making one of these statements during the exchange, your focus would be on making the point that you didn’t do it, rather than on coming up with a raft of convincing statements as a means of painting that halo.

So when you hear those statements from Jan, you need to recognize them for what they are, and sap their power by neutralizing them. The way to do that is to simply agree with them: “Jan, listen, you’re exactly right—everyone in the store knows how hard you work. I’m always hearing the other techs say how helpful you are, and you’ve certainly been very helpful to me over the years.”

BOOK: Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All
6.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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