Cp4ab0lishm3nt’s Blog

Detecting Lies

Posted in Coercion Interrogation Torture: Tactics Techniques & Theories by cp4ab0lishm3nt on July 12, 2011

By Joseph Finder
The spy business, when you get right down to it, is all about separating the truth from the lies. So you’d think our spies would be better at it than they are.

There aren’t too many real-life Alan Lightmans (he’s the hero of the Fox TV show “Lie to Me”) who can take a glance at someone and determine from his microexpressions whether he’s hiding something. The polygraph is famously unreliable. Even the C.I.A. doesn’t really trust it.

When a Soviet K.G.B. agent defected to the West in 1964 and claimed that the Russians had nothing to do with Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the C.I.A. didn’t believe him. The results of his polygraphs were inconclusive. They suspected he was a double agent, so they imprisoned him in solitary for four years, subjected him to sensory deprivation, gave him LSD and who knows what else. But he never broke. Finally, years later, they decided he was for real and paid him off.

In a novel I published in 1993 I had a secret C.I.A. project that used the functional M.R.I. scan as a lie detector, a concept I thought was pretty far-out at the time. Six years later scientists at the University of Pennsylvania began studying it for real, and now neuroscientists at Columbia, Stanford, Georgetown, and other places think there may be something to the idea of using M.R.I. scans to detect minute changes in the flow of oxygenated blood to the cerebral cortex when we lie. The Pentagon is financing a project that measures brain waves in about a second to detect dishonesty. They’ve already issued hand-held lie detectors for use by our troops in Afghanistan. A little screen shows red for deception, green for truth and yellow for “not sure.” No reports yet as to whether it surpasses the accuracy of the Magic 8 Ball. And a company called No Lie MRI is planning to start a network of Vera Centers where people can go to be brain-scanned for truthfulness.

But what if someone figured out a way to do it from a distance, the way you can use parabolic microphones to eavesdrop on a conversation from hundreds of yards away? Why not? After all, scientists have figured out how to measure the brain’s electrical activity without putting electrodes into the skull.

Imagine: No more torture, er, “enhanced interrogation techniques.” No more rubber truncheons. We’d be able to tell just by being in the same room whether someone — a spy, a terrorist, a politician — is lying to us.

Then again … that might spell the end of press conferences by politicians. And who in Washington would dare authorize funding of a technology that might put politicians out of business?

It’s a nice idea, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Joseph Finder is the author of 10 thrillers, including “Buried Secrets,” to be released this month.

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  1. Dominic Chan said, on November 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies Issues Its Recommendations to the President

    Attorney General Eric Holder today announced that the Special Task Force on Interrogations and
    Transfer Policies, which was created pursuant to Executive Order 13491 on Jan. 22, 2009, has proposed
    that the Obama Administration establish a specialized interrogation group to bring together officials from
    law enforcement, the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense to conduct
    interrogations in a manner that will strengthen national security consistent with the rule of law.

    The Task Force also made policy recommendations with respect to scenarios in which the United
    States moves or facilitates the movement of a person from one country to another or from U.S. custody to
    the custody of another country to ensure that U.S. practices in such transfers comply with U.S. law, policy
    and international obligations and do not result in the transfer of individuals to face torture.

    “The new policies proposed by the Task Force will allow us to draw the best personnel from across
    the government to conduct interrogations that will yield valuable intelligence and strengthen our national
    security,” said Attorney General Holder. “There is no tension between strengthening our national security
    and meeting our commitment to the rule of law, and these new policies will accomplish both.”

    Interrogations

    After extensively consulting with representatives of the Armed Forces, the relevant agencies in the
    Intelligence Community, and some of the nation’s most experienced and skilled interrogators, the Task
    Force concluded that the Army Field Manual provides appropriate guidance on interrogation for military
    interrogators and that no additional or different guidance was necessary for other agencies. These
    conclusions rested on the Task Force’s unanimous assessment, including that of the Intelligence
    Community, that the practices and techniques identified by the Army Field Manual or currently used by
    law enforcement provide adequate and effective means of conducting interrogations.

    The Task Force concluded, however, that the United States could improve its ability to interrogate the
    most dangerous terrorists by forming a specialized interrogation group, or High-Value Detainee
    Interrogation Group (HIG), that would bring together the most effective and experienced interrogators and
    support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law
    enforcement. The creation of the HIG would build upon a proposal developed by the Intelligence Science
    Board.

    To accomplish that goal, the Task Force recommended that the HIG should coordinate the
    deployment of mobile teams of experienced interrogators, analysts, subject matter experts and linguists to
    conduct interrogations of high-value terrorists if the United States obtains the ability to interrogate them.

    The primary goal of this elite interrogation group would be gathering intelligence to prevent terrorist
    attacks and otherwise to protect national security. Advance planning and interagency coordination prior to
    interrogations would also allow the United States, where appropriate, to preserve the option of gathering
    information to be used in potential criminal investigations and prosecutions.

    The Task Force recommended that the specialized interrogation group be administratively housed
    within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with its principal function being intelligence gathering, rather than law enforcement. Moreover, the Task Force recommended that the group be subject to policy
    guidance and oversight coordinated by the National Security Council.

    The Task Force also recommended that this specialized interrogation group develop a set of best
    practices and disseminate these for training purposes among agencies that conduct interrogations. In
    addition, the Task Force recommended that a scientific research program for interrogation be established
    to study the comparative effectiveness of interrogation approaches and techniques, with the goal of
    identifying the existing techniques that are most effective and developing new lawful techniques to
    improve intelligence interrogations.

    Transfers

    The Task Force also made policy recommendations with respect to scenarios in which the United
    States moves or facilitates the movement of a person from one country to another or from U.S. custody to
    the custody of another country to ensure that U.S. practices in such transfers comply with U.S. law, policy
    and international obligations and do not result in the transfer of individuals to face torture. In keeping with the broad language of the Executive Order, the Task Force considered seven types of transfers conducted by the U.S. government: extradition, transfers pursuant to immigration proceedings, transfers
    pursuant to the Geneva Conventions, transfers from Guantanamo Bay, military transfers within or from
    Afghanistan, military transfers within or from Iraq, and transfers pursuant to intelligence authorities.

    When the United States transfers individuals to other countries, it may rely on assurances from the
    receiving country. The Task Force made several recommendations aimed at clarifying and strengthening
    U.S. procedures for obtaining and evaluating those assurances. These included a recommendation that
    the State Department be involved in evaluating assurances in all cases and a recommendation that the
    Inspector Generals of the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security prepare annually a
    coordinated report on transfers conducted by each of their agencies in reliance on assurances.

    The Task Force also made several recommendations aimed at improving the United States’ ability to
    monitor the treatment of individuals transferred to other countries. These include a recommendation that
    agencies obtaining assurances from foreign countries insist on a monitoring mechanism, or otherwise
    establish a monitoring mechanism, to ensure consistent, private access to the individual who has been
    transferred, with minimal advance notice to the detaining government.

    The Task Force also made a series of recommendations that are specific to immigration proceedings
    and military transfer scenarios. In addition, the Task Force made classified recommendations that are
    designed to ensure that, should the Intelligence Community participate in or otherwise support a transfer,
    any affected individuals are subjected to proper treatment.

    Background Information

    The Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies is chaired by the Attorney General, with the
    Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense serving as Co-Vice-Chairs. Other members
    of the Task Force are the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, the Director of the Central
    Intelligence Agency, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Each of these officials appointed senior level representatives to serve on a working-level task force to complete the work of the Executive Order.

    The Executive Order directed the Task Force to study and evaluate “whether the interrogation
    practices and techniques in Army Field Manual 2-22.3, when employed by departments and agencies
    outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the
    Nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other departments or
    agencies.”

    The Task Force was also directed to study and evaluate “the practices of transferring individuals to
    other nations in order to ensure that such practices comply with the domestic laws, international
    obligations, and policies of the United States and do not result in the transfer of individuals to other
    nations to face torture or otherwise for the purpose, or with the effect, of undermining or circumventing the commitments or obligations of the United States to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its
    custody and control.”

    ###

    • cp4ab0lishm3nt said, on March 28, 2012 at 12:48 am

      On Language, Communication, and Leadership
      with John Bowden

      Behavioral analysis in the interrogation room

      If you fall into the mindless routine of following the “enumerated process” you will miss the subtle hints that take you to the confession

      Encarta Dictionary defines behavior as, “The way something behaves.” Analysis is defined as, “The examination of something in detail in order to understand it better or draw conclusions from it.” Behavioral analysis is simply the observation of behavior and then analyzing that behavior to determine its meaning. In the process of observing behavior we make the following assumption. In living organisms there is a “cause” which is the impetus of the “behavior” — that behavior has a “purpose or meaning.”

      In observing this process, we try to determine the connection from “cause” to “behavior” to “purpose or meaning.” The cause can be initiated either internally or externally. Hunger would be an internal cause. This would cause the behavior of seeking food. The purpose of the behavior is to obtain food for consumption. An external cause would be a speeding car approaching a person in a cross walk. The behavior would be to move out of the way. The purpose would be for survival. Knowing the cause of the behavior can reveal the internal, mental processing of the subject. For instance, you inform a subject that you know they are the one that committed the offense. When we say this, the subject jumps from the seat of the chair and immediately sits back down. That behavior is caused by the adrenaline rush caused by shock of the accusation. The meaning of the behavior helps to confirm that this subject is the perpetrator.

      Behavioral Analysis gives us the “cause” of the “behavior” as well as the “purpose” or the “meaning.” Knowing the cause and the meaning can guide our investigation.

      Throughout history researchers have studied behavior trying to analyze the cause and effect of human behavior. It has been studied by researchers in psychology, sociology, criminology, anthropology, management and other fields of study. Behavioral Analysis is used in a variety of occupations. The business community uses behavioral analysis in the screening of new employees. They ask business related questions and analyze the responses of the potential employees. It is used by promotion boards to determine the best candidate for advancement. Psychologists and psychiatrists use it in the treatment of their patients. The FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit uses it to evaluate the behavior of psychopathic and sociopathic criminals to determine their personal characteristics to aid in their identification and capture.

      Coordinated Behavioral Response

      In interviews and interrogations the classic use of behavioral analysis is to determine the truth or deception of a subject’s responses. If a person is telling the truth they did not commit the offense. If they are deceptive they are the perpetrator, had a part in the offense or know the perpetrator. This is a valuable tool in the arsenal of the investigator — it is only one of many uses of behavioral analysis. The analysis of a person’s behavior tells us more than if they are guilty or innocent. A subject’s behavior informs us of the subject’s state of mind — do they like or dislike us — do they like or dislike other people in the case: are they holding back — are they ready to confess — are they trying to make an admission — are they ready to or want to leave — as well as other states of mind. This knowledge of their state of mind can guide us in our response to their behavior. Our response is specifically calculated to match up with the subject’s mental state in order to obtain the information about the case leading to its resolution. This response is called a Coordinated Behavioral Response.

      In the interview and interrogation process we are taught to start at the interview of the victim and progress to the confession. The interview or the interrogation is not a set of defined steps you must follow. There are critical stages you should recognize and respond to in a particular fashion. However, they do not always occur in a particular order. The subject of “Interviews and Interrogations” is often taught as an “enumerated process”, usually beginning with the interview and progressing to the confession. Many texts and articles on interviews and interrogations have been written about these ordered processes, putting them in steps, stages, phases, segments, levels, parts, periods, chapters, divisions or ordered tasks.

      In fact, this type of instruction will start off with an introduction stating the number of steps in the process. For example: “The interview and interrogation process consists of (5, 7, 9, 11 or whatever number of steps).”

      This is usually followed by giving each step a name. The instruction will start at step 1 and take you through the ordered process. In her research, Ellen Langer has shown the learner will subconsciously adhere to this proscribed, ordered list, not recognizing that any of these stages can occur at any time during the interview or interrogation. This learned process hinders the investigator’s ability to adapt to irregularities or variances in the interview process. The investigator should recognize there is not one ordered process to be followed — instead, there is a myriad of potential possibilities that might occur. The investigator must be prepared to respond appropriately to the behavior that is presented by the subject. The investigator does not try to force an “enumerated process” but instead responds with a “Coordinated Behavioral Response.”

      The “Coordinated Behavioral Response” is the recognition of the subject’s behavior and then responding in a fashion designed to move the investigation to its resolution, a confession. The response is one that is correct for the behavior that is observed. The investigator is always working to move the subject to the confession. However, the investigator must respond correctly to the subject’s behavior.

      For instance, you sit down to interview a subject in a theft case. The status of the subject is as of yet undetermined. The subject may be a witness, an uninvolved employee or the perpetrator of the theft. Initially you may be prepared to conduct an exploratory interview to determine the subject’s possible involvement. When you introduce yourself, the person goes into the confession position and starts crying. Using the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” you would recognize this and respond accordingly, without any intervening steps. Suppose the same person made a small admission, apologizing for the missing money. Again, using the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” you would respond to the admission. Perhaps during the initial interview the person behaves erratically, displaying the mannerisms that indicate deception. Using the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” you would respond by moving into a subject identification interview that will reveal the subject is lying and is the perpetrator. From there you may move to the interrogation or return after interviewing other subjects associated with the case.

      In another scenario, you enter the room and introduce yourself. You explain to the subject why they are there and you would like to chat with them about what happened. As the conversation begins, the subject starts to make excuses for what has happened, emphasizing it could happen to anyone. You recognize this person has moved into the beginning of the interrogation phase. The difference to the normal model is that the subject is introducing the interrogation strategy, as opposed to you introducing it. Using the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” you should recognize the beginning of the interrogation strategy, regardless of who started it. You would respond appropriately, agreeing with the subject that these things happen, taking their side and continuing on with the strategy the subject has selected. This would naturally lead to an admission and on to confession — or it may go immediately to the confession.

      Be Vigilant for Subtle Signals
      In the “Coordinated Behavioral Response” process you respond according to the stage the subject has presented. The important point to remember is to avoid being trapped in a mindless process where you first do “A,” then “B,” then “C,” and so on. If you fall into the mindless routine of following the “enumerated process” you will miss the subtle hints that take you to the confession. An episode of COPS I once saw offers an example for consideration. An undercover drug squad move in and serve a search warrant on group of drug dealers in a house. The search warrant was for a large cache of drugs being stored in the house. The team moved in with cool precision. It was early in the morning and all of the occupants of the house were asleep — some in the bedroom and others in the living room.

      The ring leader of the group was a woman I will call “Maggie.” After the team entered and secured the scene, they moved everyone to the living room. As they searched they were able to only find a small amount of drugs, not near the amount they were looking for. While the team was searching the team leader was talking to the subjects in the living room, particularly to Maggie. She claimed to have no knowledge of any drugs. The team leader refused to believe her and began to accuse her, telling her he knew she was dealing, he knew she had a “bunch” of drugs hidden in the house. He went on to state she could not fool him — he knew what was going on. Maggie was standing handcuffed in the living room.

      The team leader was pacing back and forth as he ranted not closely watching Maggie. As he continued to speak and accuse Maggie, she gave a big sigh, her face went to a sad expression, and her head dropped forward. Her shoulders drooped and she began to nod her head in agreement to what the team leader was saying. He continued on, not picking up on her confession position and expression of submission. As he continued, Maggie straightened up, the sad expression gone.

      The team arrested Maggie and the other members of the group for drug possession and a number of other charges they had already established in previous buys. The big cache was never found. In the post interview on camera the team leader was disappointed he did not get the large amount of drugs he had hoped for, but considered it a success because of the arrests that were made. I find this to be an example of mindless procedure on the part of the team leader. He was not in an interrogation room — he had not established the interrogation process and therefore missed the confession position of Maggie. Had he been attuned to her behavior and responded to her with a “Coordinated Behavioral Response,” I feel he could have obtained a confession from Maggie and possibly the location of the drugs.

      As you speak to the subject, monitor the subject’s behavior, determine their stage in the process and respond with the appropriate “Coordinated Behavioral Response.” Remember, “The correct behavioral response will cause the subject’s poor tortured soul to pour out on the table in front of you.”

      My new book “Interview to Confession, The Gentle Art of Interrogation” presents the methods to establish a rapport and guide the person to a confession. It presents a new concept called the “Coordinated Behavioral Response,” a method that gets away from the standard stepped investigative process currently taught and used today. The “Coordinated Behavioral Response” is an investigative philosophy where the investigator responds appropriately to the behavior exhibited by the subject, whether they are a victim, witness or suspect, to gather information and solve a case.

      About the author

      John Bowden is the founder and director of Applied Police Training and Certification (APTAC). John retired from the Orlando Police Department as a Master Police Officer In 1994. His career spans a period of 21 years in law enforcement overlapping 25 years of law enforcement instruction. His total of more than 37 years of experience includes all aspects of law enforcement to include: uniform crime scene technician, patrol operations, investigations, undercover operations, planning and research for departmental development, academy coordinator, field training officer, and field training supervisor. As the director of APTAC, John is responsible for coordinating operations and conducting training for law enforcement organizations across the United States. APTAC clients include law enforcement agencies, state police academies, sheriff departments, correctional institutions, military law enforcement, as well as colleges and universities across the United States. John has written numerous books, including Report Writing for Law Enforcement & Corrections, Management Techniques for Criminal Justice, Today’s Field Training Officer, and others. Contact John Bowden

    • cp4ab0lishm3nt said, on March 28, 2012 at 12:51 am

      On Language, Communication, and Leadership
      with John Bowden

      Consider the ‘gentle interrogation’

      The Coordinated Behavioral Response is an investigative philosophy where the investigator responds appropriately to the behavior exhibited by the subject

      This article presents an alternative to the classic interrogation. It presents the process of guiding a person to share their side of the story with the investigator. It is the strategy of a rapport based conversation revealing the subject’s story of what happened — in essence, a confession.

      The classic interrogation does not give the subject a choice. It makes the subject concede to the investigator. The investigator states, “You did it,” and demands, requests, or cajoles the subject to agree. The investigator does not stop the verbal assault. He presents evidence, facts, and other statements; pushing the subject to agree. This is called the hard sell. In the cases where a subject confesses to a crime they did not commit, it may be because of this hard sell — one which may have gone on for hours. The investigator keeps pushing the idea the subject committed the crime. Along with this push to get the subject to agree, the investigator presents his theory of how it occurred. The investigator produces evidence — whether it be real or fictitious — to support their theory over the course of the barrage of, “You did it, you did it, you did it…”

      The subject finally gives in and confesses. The confession is a repetition of information already presented to the subject during the non-stop, verbal assault from the investigator. The reasons vary why the subject confesses. In some cases the subject believes he had a blackout of his memory and thinks he may have committed the crime and forgotten. In other cases the investigator wears down the subject and the subject finally gives in to escape the mental assault. In these cases the subject forgets they can stop or ask for an attorney. This type of interrogation has resulted in false confessions in numerous cases.

      The Coordinated Behavioral Response

      In my model, the Coordinated Behavioral Response (CBR), we do not use the hard sell. We do not want to force or convince the subject to concede. Our model is based on the establishment of rapport and trust with the subject; whereby they will feel comfortable in confiding in us and tell us the story — the secret of what happened.

      Everyone needs a confidant — someone who understands you, with whom you can share your thoughts, your feelings and your innermost secrets. We want to be that person. The one that understands. It is similar to your best friend that finally went out on a date with that someone they have been dreaming about and striving to make a meaningful contact with. They finally went out on a date. From your friend’s behavior, you know the date was a success. You see the signs, the behavioral hints that everything went great.

      You ask, “How did it go? What happened? Will you see them again?” Your friend resists at first. You use your intimate relationship with your friend to get them to confide in you. They want to tell you, they need to tell someone. You put yourself in that position of being that person they tell. They finally share with you, the person they trust, the story of their wonderful night with the dream date.

      The Critical Factor

      Each person has what is called the “Critical Factor,” or “Critical Faculty.” This is a subconscious part of the human brain that evaluates information flowing into the brain from the outside world. It compares incoming information with the beliefs, values, views and principals already established by the subconscious of the mind. It decides whether information is true or false. It challenges information that does not meet the established beliefs of the critical factor.

      For instance, if someone told you that cars fly, you would not believe them. This is because the subconscious knows that cars do not fly — not in real life.

      The critical factor is not always correct. Someone may tell you that drinking alcohol is bad for you. You drink alcohol and you like it. Since you like it, it must be good. Therefore, your critical factor may hold the belief that drinking alcohol is not bad for you.

      The critical factor protects you from outside influences. Without this subconscious guardian, you would believe anything you were told, allowing people to take advantage of you.

      It even protects you from doing something different. It wants to maintain the status quo. How many times you have wanted to try something new and that little voice in the back of your head says, “No, you better not.”?

      This is your critical factor. It does not like change. The critical factor does not develop until puberty. This is why children believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy. They do not have the capacity to compare these concepts to real life and reject these ideas. The critical factor is developed and established subconsciously as you live and grow. We see that it is not always right — sometimes it has established beliefs that the person will defend. In fact, a person will defend beliefs held by the critical factor, even if they are factually wrong. The more we challenge the beliefs, the more entrenched they become.

      Mindless Learning

      Ellen Langer — a researcher from Harvard — has written several texts on how the subconscious learns. She refers to it as “Mindless Learning.” This is where the subconscious takes in information and establishes the base of what you believe. This is where the standard interrogation fails. We are trying to change the mind of the subject and make them confess to us what they did. Their critical factor rejects making a confession to protect the subject. The more we push, the harder the subject defends their position not to confess.

      People do not like to be brow beaten into conceding. If we push, it will only make them close up. Instead, we let them make a choice. Getting them involved in the process makes them more willing to cooperate. In the interrogation, we take an interest in the subject, we establish a rapport that says, “We want to help you.” and “We understand.”

      We allow the subject to make the decision to confide in us. We know they are ready by the body language we observe. In the interview, we become the person the subject trusts, a friend or confidant. We don’t ask for a confession, we ask them to share with us, a person that understands what and why it happened. As we present our story or our sales pitch, we watch the subject’s behavior. We respond to that behavior, becoming that someone the subject trusts. The critical factor will let us into the subject’s private domain. The critical factor allows us in, because it is ok to share information with a friend or confidant. The behavior tells us when they are ready to tell us what happened.

      The Dual Option

      We do not say, “You did it, didn’t you?” This is a statement looking for that concession. Instead we offer them a choice. A choice allows the subject to decide and make up their own mind. This is where the “Dual-Option” question aids in our strategy. The “Dual-Option” question is a question that offers two choices from which to select. We present these two options to the subject. For example, “Did you do it because you love her, or did you do it because you hate her?” Either option is an admission. We give them a morally-good option or a morally-evil option to choose from.

      It doesn’t matter which one they choose, as either option is an admission — and with that admission we continue to the confession. However, most subjects will choose the good option.

      Do not present two good options or two evil options. Two good options provides no contrast and the person will usually remain silent. Two evil options provide the person no moral relief. In either evil choice, the subject is a bad person. In presenting the good and the evil option, you offer a contrast to choose from; the difference between good and the evil.

      They have a choice, “Am I good or am I evil?” Generally, the person will deny the evil choice. To the question, “Did you do it because you love her or did you do it because you hate her?” The person will deny the evil choice. They may say, “I don’t hate her.” From there you support the good choice saying, “I know you don’t hate her, you love her don’t you”” The obvious answer to this, from the subject is, “Yes, I love her.”

      From there, this naturally leads you to the statement, “I know you love her; that is why you did it, isn’t it? It’s because you love her?” The next response from the subject might be an admission consisting of anything to include a nod, a grunt, a silent mouthed yes, to a verbal statement. This process allows them to make a choice, bypassing the critical factor. They did it for a good reason, an acceptable reason. They choose to admit to us, a person with whom they have a rapport, that they did it. They did it because they loved her. The admission may not occur on the first presentation of the question. The subject will be listening and thinking about what we are saying. If the subject doesn’t answer, we keep presenting the options, good and evil, until the subject weighs in on either side. From there we will get the admission; the admission they did it.

      The following case is an example demonstrating the necessity of using a good and an evil example as options. In a check theft and forgery case in Flagger County Florida, a woman took a pay check, designated for another employee, off the manager’s desk. She signed the other employee’s name and cashed the check at a bar. The investigator was conducting an interrogation. He had reached the point where she was in the confession position. She was quiet, crying, looking down and away.

      He asked her,” Did you do it for money for Christmas presents or to pay for the starter in your brother’s car?” He kept repeating the two options, “Did you do it for the starter or the Christmas presents?” He repeated this several times. She remained quiet, crying and looking away. Finally he said, “Did you do it for the starter or the Christmas presents? Or did you take it for drugs?” He repeated, “Did you take it for drugs?”

      She replied in a low voice, “I don’t do drugs.”

      He replied, “That’s right, you are a good person, you don’t do drugs. Did you do it for presents?”

      He continued, “You did it for the presents didn’t you, or did you do it for drugs? I don’t think it was for drugs, it was for presents, wasn’t it?”

      He continued for several more cycles until she responded to this question, “…it was for presents, wasn’t it?” She did not say anything, merely nodded yes very slightly. The investigator saw the nod and said, “That’s OK, it’s Christmas, everybody deserves a nice Christmas.”

      He continued asking about using it for presents and she replied, “I just took the check.” After that, he was able to get all the information about the theft and forgery of the check. The point here is she did not respond to the nice option, she responded to the bad option by denying the use of drugs. This propelled the questioning forward with her participating and finally confessing.

      Our options should be coordinated with the circumstances of the event, i.e.: love versus hate, accident versus intentional, long ago versus now, spur of the moment versus intention, a lot of money versus little money, necessity versus greed and so on. After we reward the first admission, we can continue the process offering choices of good and evil, letting the subject choose and elaborate. As they share the information with us, we verbally reward their efforts. This encourages the subject to keep talking. Eventually, the dam breaks and the subject begins to freely discuss the facts and circumstances of the case; giving us a full confession.

      We must remember in the presentation of our story, to stay away from presenting a detailed scenario, giving a step by step presentation of how we think it occurred. We give reasons and excuses, but stay away from presenting facts and theories. This insures that, when the person confesses, they are not repeating back to us what we said to them. They will have to tell us their story based on their memory. Later, after the confession, the defense cannot say we concocted this story. We can show it came from the subject.

      My new book — “Interview to Confession, The Gentle Art of Interrogation” — presents the methods to establish a rapport and guide the person to a confession. It presents a new concept called the “Coordinated Behavioral Response,” a method that gets away from the standard stepped investigative process currently taught and used today. The Coordinated Behavioral Response is an investigative philosophy where the investigator responds appropriately to the behavior exhibited by the subject, whether they are a victim, witness, or suspect, to gather information and solve a case.

      About the author

      John Bowden is the founder and director of Applied Police Training and Certification (APTAC). John retired from the Orlando Police Department as a Master Police Officer In 1994. His career spans a period of 21 years in law enforcement overlapping 25 years of law enforcement instruction. His total of more than 37 years of experience includes all aspects of law enforcement to include: uniform crime scene technician, patrol operations, investigations, undercover operations, planning and research for departmental development, academy coordinator, field training officer, and field training supervisor. As the director of APTAC, John is responsible for coordinating operations and conducting training for law enforcement organizations across the United States. APTAC clients include law enforcement agencies, state police academies, sheriff departments, correctional institutions, military law enforcement, as well as colleges and universities across the United States. John has written numerous books, including Report Writing for Law Enforcement & Corrections, Management Techniques for Criminal Justice, Today’s Field Training Officer, and others. Contact John Bowden

    • cp4ab0lishm3nt said, on March 28, 2012 at 12:55 am

      Five tips for successful criminal interrogation

      Submitted by:
      Sgt. Steve Schrimpf, Greeley (Colo.), Police Department

      09/15/2009

      Sgt. Steve Schrimpf of the Greeley (Colo.) Police Department has spent years conducting interviews and criminal interrogations. Schrimpf was a Police Officer in Albuquerque from 1991-1994, spent five years active duty Air Force Security Forces (and another 19 years in the Air National Guard after that) and is now Chief Master Sergeant and Security Manager for the 137th Space Warning Squadron in Colorado in addition to his duties role with Greely PD. Schrimpf, who also major crimes investigator for his department from 2000-2006, tells PoliceOne that he’s found a few techniques that have really worked for him during the conduct of an interview or interrogation.

      1. Empathy can be a powerful tool. Try to establish some type of rapport with the individual before you rush right into the Miranda advisement and the interrogation. It is not natural for a suspect to want to tell the police anything, especially one he does not know. Give them a cup a coffee, a candy bar, etc. Explain to them you have completed a thorough investigation that has led to them and you really do want to hear their side of the story. It is also a very effective persuasion tool for jurors. They tend to give more credibility to interrogators who have a non-threatening approach. Try it first, if it doesn’t work, then transition to the more aggressive approaches.

      2. Let them interrogate themselves. Let the suspect ramble on at first and give you their false statement about their involvement in the crime. Lock them into a lie, then start to pick it apart piece by piece. If you have done a thorough investigation, this should not be that difficult. Sometimes catching a suspect in a lie is just as good as a confession.

      3. Pay close attention to everything. You can pick up a lot of non-verbal and verbal clues you may miss if you have your head down in a pad taking notes. Additionally, paying close attention to everything the suspect says and does creates additional stress on them, which may lead to them breaking down sooner rather than later.

      4. Don’t be afraid to offer an alternative “face saving” scenario. Make sure your scenario still contains a confession of the elements of the crime being investigated and does not create an affirmative defense issue. Knowledge of criminal statutes is critical in this scenario. In my experience, once a suspect confesses, it is much easier to draw them to the truth. The initial confession of involvement is the toughest obstacle.

      5. Do some research on your suspect. Find out what is important to them (children, wife, job, fears of jail, etc) and use those hooks to your advantage. I cannot tell you how many confessions I have obtained by telling a suspect their confession is in their best interest to prevent loss of these important connections in their lives.

      Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. In addition to his editorial and managerial responsibilities, Doug has authored more than 450 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. On a daily basis, Doug is in close personal contact with some of the top subject-matter experts in law enforcement, regularly tapping into the world-class knowledge of officers and trainers from around the United States, and working to help spread that information and insight to the hundreds of thousands of officers who visit PoliceOne every month.

      Doug is a two-time (2011 and 2012) Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” Finalist in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. Doug is also a member of the Public Safety Writers Association and an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association. Even in his “spare” time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

  2. cp4ab0lishm3nt said, on December 19, 2011 at 4:32 am

    AP Exclusive: Inside Romania’s secret CIA prison
    By ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press – Dec 8, 2011

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In northern Bucharest, in a busy residential neighborhood minutes from the center of Romania’s capital city, is a secret that the Romanian government has tried for years to protect.

    For years, the CIA used a government building — codenamed Bright Light — as a makeshift prison for its most valuable detainees. There, it held al-Qaida operatives Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of 9/11, and others in a basement prison before they were ultimately transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006, according to former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the location and inner workings of the prison.

    The existence of a CIA prison in Romania has been widely reported but its location has never been made public until a joint investigation by The Associated Press and German public television, ARD Panorama. The news organizations located the former prison and learned details of the facility where harsh interrogation tactics were used. ARD’s program on the CIA prison will air Dec 8.

    The Romanian prison was part of a network of so-called black sites that the CIA operated and controlled overseas in Thailand, Lithuania and Poland. All the prisons were closed by May 2006, and the CIA’s detention and interrogation program ended in 2009.

    Unlike the CIA’s facility in Lithuania’s countryside or the one hidden in a Polish military installation, the CIA’s prison in Romania was not in a remote location. It was hidden in plain sight, a couple blocks off a major boulevard on a street lined with trees and homes, along busy train tracks.

    The building is used as the National Registry Office for Classified Information, which is also known as ORNISS. Classified information from NATO and the European Union is stored there. Former intelligence officials both described the location of the prison and identified pictures of the building.

    In an interview at the building in November, senior ORNISS official Adrian Camarasan said the basement is one of the most secure rooms in all of Romania. But he said Americans never ran a prison there.

    “No, no. Impossible, impossible,” he said in an ARD interview for its “Panorama” news broadcast, as a security official monitored the interview.

    The CIA prison opened for business in the fall of 2003, after the CIA decided to empty the black site in Poland, according to former U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the detention program with reporters.

    Shuttling detainees into the facility without being seen was relatively easy. After flying into Bucharest, the detainees were brought to the site in vans. CIA operatives then drove down a side road and entered the compound through a rear gate that led to the actual prison.

    The detainees could then be unloaded and whisked into the ground floor of the prison and into the basement.

    The basement consisted of six prefabricated cells, each with a clock and arrow pointing to Mecca, the officials said. The cells were on springs, keeping them slightly off balance and causing disorientation among some detainees.

    The CIA declined to comment on the prison.

    During the first month of their detention, the detainees endured sleep deprivation and were doused with water, slapped or forced to stand in painful positions, several former officials said. Waterboarding was not performed in Romania, they said.

    After the initial interrogations, the detainees were treated with care, the officials said. The prisoners received regular dental and medical check-ups. The CIA shipped in Halal food to the site from Frankfurt, Germany, the agency’s European center for operations. Halal meat is prepared under religious rules similar to kosher food.

    Former U.S. officials said that because the building was a government installation, it provided excellent cover. The prison didn’t need heavy security because area residents knew it was owned by the government. People wouldn’t be inclined to snoop in post-communist Romania, with its extensive security apparatus known for spying on the country’s own citizens.

    Human rights activists have urged the eastern European countries to investigate the roles their governments played in hosting the prisons in which interrogation techniques such as waterboarding were used. Officials from these countries continue to deny these prisons ever existed.

    “We know of the criticism, but we have no knowledge of this subject,” Romanian President Traian Basescu said in a September interview with AP.

    The CIA has tried to close the book on the detention program, which Obama ended shortly after taking office.

    “That controversy has largely subsided,” the CIA’s top lawyer, Stephen Preston, said at a conference earlier this month.

    But details of the prison network continue to trickle out through investigations by international bodies, journalists and human rights groups. “There have been years of official denials,” said Dick Marty, a Swiss lawmaker who led an investigation into the CIA secret prisons for the Council of Europe. “We are at last beginning to learn what really happened in Bucharest.”

    During the Council of Europe’s investigation, Romania’s foreign affairs minister assured investigators in a written report that, “No public official or other person acting in an official capacity has been involved in the unacknowledged deprivation of any individual, or transport of any individual while so deprived of their liberty.” That report also described several other government investigations into reports of a secret CIA prison in Romania and said: “No such activities took place on Romanian territory.”

    Journalists and human rights investigators have previously used flight records to tie Romania to the secret prison program. Flight records for a Boeing 737 known to be used by the CIA showed a flight from Poland to Bucharest in September 2003. Among the prisoners on board, according to former CIA officials, were

    Mohammad and Walid bin Attash, who has been implicated in the bombing of the USS Cole.

    Later, other detainees — Ramzi Binalshibh, Abd al-Nashiri and Abu Faraj al-Libi — were also moved to Romania. A deceptive Al-Libi, who was taken to the prison in June 2005, provided information that would later help the CIA identify Osama bin Laden’s trusted courier, a man who unwittingly led them the CIA to bin Laden himself.

    Court documents recently discovered in a lawsuit have also added to the body of evidence pointing to a CIA prison in Romania. The files show CIA contractor Richmor Aviation Inc., a New York-based charter company, operated flights to and from Romania along with other locations including Guantanamo Bay and Morocco.

    For the CIA officers working at the secret prison, the assignment wasn’t glamorous. The officers served 90-day tours, slept on the compound and ate their meals there, too. Officers were prevented from the leaving the base after their presence in the neighborhood stoked suspicion. One former officer complained that the CIA spent most of its time baby-sitting detainees like Binalshibh and Mohammad whose intelligence value diminished as the years passed.

    The Romanian and Lithuanian sites were eventually closed in the first half of 2006 before CIA Director Porter Goss left the job. Some of the detainees were taken to Kabul, where the CIA could legally hold them before they were sent to Guantanamo. Others were sent back to their native countries.
    ___
    Associated Press writer Desmond Butler contributed to this report.

  3. Stingers said, on May 7, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad,’ by Peter L. Bergen

    By Dina Temple-Raston, Published: May 5

    In 2005, a CIA analyst named Rebecca (a pseudonym) wrote a memo laying out a new strategy for the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Given the absence of any real leads, she asked, how could you plausibly find him? She sketched out what she saw as four pillars on which the search needed to be built. Her solution turned out to be prophetic.

    “The first pillar was locating al-Qaeda’s leader through his courier network,” Peter L. Bergen writes in his new book, “Manhunt.” “The second was locating him through family members, either those who might be with him or anyone in his family who might try to get in touch with them. The third was communications. . . . The final pillar was tracking bin Laden’s occasional outreach to the media.”

    We know now, of course, that finding bin Laden’s personal courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, is what led the United States to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and, with that, ended the decade-long battle of wits between the terrorist leader and U.S. intelligence agencies.

    The story of Rebecca’s memo is just one of the nuggets in the book. “Manhunt” virtually crackles with insider details. Bergen traveled to Pakistan three times after the Abbottabad raid and eventually became the only outside observer to tour the compound. He arrived when the house was still a crime scene, when bin Laden’s blood was still on the walls.

    “Whitewashed walls and large glass windows that looked out over the small, high-walled terrace kept things relatively bright in their bedroom,” Bergen writes. “But the space was cramped for a man as tall as bin Laden [who was 6-foot-4]. The bedroom ceiling was low, no more than seven feet high. A tiny bathroom off to the side had green tile on the walls but none on the floor; a rudimentary toilet that was no more than a hole in the ground, over which they had to squat; and a cheap plastic shower. In this bathroom, bin Laden regularly applied Just for Men dye to his hair and beard to try to maintain a youthful appearance now that he was in his mid-fifties. Next to the bedroom was a kitchen the size of a large closet, and across the hall was bin Laden’s study, where he kept his books on crude wooden shelves and tapped away on his computer.”

    Bergen’s Pakistani sources gave him new insight into bin Laden’s home life. Contrary to gossipy news reports, there was harmony in the household. Bin Laden’s three wives accepted polygamy and believed, as he did, that the arrangement was sanctioned by God. To ensure that tranquility reigned, Bergen writes, “bin Laden created a dedicated living space for each wife in all his homes. On the Abbottabad compound, each wife had her own separate apartment with its own kitchen.”

    This domestic arrangement was a source of genuine solace for bin Laden, Bergen reports. So much so that he allegedly used to joke to his friends: “I don’t understand why people take only one wife. If you take four wives you live like a groom.” Bergen writes that this is the only recorded joke bin Laden ever made.

    Bergen is the author of three other books, but he may be best known for a 1997 journalistic triumph: a meeting with bin Laden. The sit-down took place in a mud hut outside the Afghan city of Jalalabad, not far from the mountains of Tora Bora. Bergen produced the interview for CNN. He is now a national security analyst with the network. Just four years later, Tora Bora became ground zero for an American dragnet aimed at capturing bin Laden. Instead, the terrorist leader disappeared, like a ghost melting through a wall, beginning a manhunt that tested not only America’s high-tech surveillance capabilities and its creativity, but the lengths to which its intelligence services were willing to go to bring bin Laden to justice.

    In mapping out the route to bin Laden, from Tora Bora to Abbottabad, Bergen revives the debate over enhanced interrogation techniques. He writes that there is some evidence that the CIA’s waterboarding and stress positions might have helped point to the courier who eventually led the United States to bin Laden. But Bergen’s assessment doesn’t resolve the issue. His description of what happened provides ammunition for those on both sides.

    He writes that investigators began to understand the importance of Kuwaiti as bin Laden’s courier after the interrogation of a man named Mohammed al-Qahtani. Qahtani was supposed to have been the 20th hijacker on Sept. 11, 2001, but had been turned away by U.S. immigration agents in Florida. (Investigators discovered later that hijacker Mohammed Atta was waiting for him at the Orlando airport.) When officials holding Qahtani at Guantanamo realized that he was the same man who had been turned away in Florida shortly before the attacks, they interrogated him for 48 days straight, Bergen reports.

    The secret summaries of his interrogations were revealed in WikiLeaks documents. They indicate that after weeks of harsh treatment, Qahtani named Kuwaiti as a key al-Qaeda player and confidant of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind. “It’s not clear whether Qahtani gave that information up because he had been coercively interrogated or because interrogators told him that KSM . . . was in American custody,” Bergen writes. “Either way, Qahtani identified the Kuwaiti only after he was subjected to a considerable amount of abuse at the hands of his captors.”

    Then, Bergen reports, in January 2004, an al-Qaeda courier named Hassan Ghul told the CIA while in a secret prison in Eastern Europe that Kuwaiti was bin Laden’s courier. Bergen says Ghul also was subjected to tough interrogation techniques: He was “slapped, slammed against a wall, forced to maintain stress positions, and deprived of sleep.”

    The waterboarding of Mohammed and the rough interrogation of a man named Abu Faraj al-Libi yielded quite the opposite result. They provided misinformation. Mohammed allegedly told U.S. interrogators that Kuwaiti had retired and wasn’t important. Libi denied even knowing him. What Libi didn’t realize was that Ghul had already told interrogators that Libi and Kuwaiti were close. The inconsistencies made U.S. officials suspicious.

    Bergen’s view is that there were many subsequent steps that led to bin Laden — information about Kuwaiti’s real name, National Security Agency cellphone intercepts, operatives on the ground — and the book makes clear that those later steps had little to do with the information extracted from the detainees. “Since we can’t run history backward,” Bergen writes, “we will never know what conventional interrogation techniques alone might have elicited from these . . . prisoners.”

    The closing chapters of “Manhunt” cover more familiar ground — the details of the SEAL raid itself. While much of that section of the book is not new, it still makes for compelling reading. Bergen puts the raid into a broader intelligence framework and deftly re-creates the heart-thumping tension of that night and the calculations that went into pulling off the daring mission.

    Bergen also reveals that after President Obama greenlighted the raid, administration officials suddenly realized that it would occur on the same night as the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in Washington. Officials envisioned something going wrong in the compound and the national security team leaving the dinner en masse — in front of the entire Washington press corps. As it turns out, weather delayed the mission by one day, and the events no longer conflicted.

    Bergen’s three other books — about the al-Qaeda leader specifically and terrorism more generally — were all solid pieces of work. Over the years they have become required reading for national security buffs and counterterrorism reporters. But “Manhunt” is different. It goes to a higher level. Maybe the book is so engrossing because we know how it ends and there is such an appetite for all the details. Even with the media saturation of this story, Bergen has accomplished a journalistic feat: He manages to make the story of bin Laden’s end sound new. He has put together a real-life thriller that will be a must-read for years to come.

    bookworld@washpost.com

    • Stingers said, on May 7, 2012 at 11:18 pm

      “The secret summaries of his interrogations were revealed in WikiLeaks documents. They indicate that after weeks of harsh treatment, Qahtani named Kuwaiti as a key al-Qaeda player and confidant of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind. “It’s not clear whether Qahtani gave that information up because he had been coercively interrogated or because interrogators told him that KSM . . . was in American custody,” Bergen writes. “Either way, Qahtani identified the Kuwaiti only after he was subjected to a considerable amount of abuse at the hands of his captors.”

      Then, Bergen reports, in January 2004, an al-Qaeda courier named Hassan Ghul told the CIA while in a secret prison in Eastern Europe that Kuwaiti was bin Laden’s courier. Bergen says Ghul also was subjected to tough interrogation techniques: He was “slapped, slammed against a wall, forced to maintain stress positions, and deprived of sleep.”

      The waterboarding of Mohammed and the rough interrogation of a man named Abu Faraj al-Libi yielded quite the opposite result. They provided misinformation. Mohammed allegedly told U.S. interrogators that Kuwaiti had retired and wasn’t important. Libi denied even knowing him. What Libi didn’t realize was that Ghul had already told interrogators that Libi and Kuwaiti were close. The inconsistencies made U.S. officials suspicious.

      Bergen’s view is that there were many subsequent steps that led to bin Laden — information about Kuwaiti’s real name, National Security Agency cellphone intercepts, operatives on the ground — and the book makes clear that those later steps had little to do with the information extracted from the detainees. “Since we can’t run history backward,” Bergen writes, “we will never know what conventional interrogation techniques alone might have elicited from these . . . prisoners.”

      The closing chapters of “Manhunt” cover more familiar ground — the details of the SEAL raid itself. While much of that section of the book is not new, it still makes for compelling reading. Bergen puts the raid into a broader intelligence framework and deftly re-creates the heart-thumping tension of that night and the calculations that went into pulling off the daring mission.”

      THESE PARAGRAPHS NOTED THAT COERCION AND CONVENTION TECHNIQUES MIGHT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE HUNT FOR OBL.

  4. cp4ab0lishm3nt said, on October 28, 2012 at 4:41 am

    Interrogation Techniques
    What Bob Schieffer can learn from the CIA.

    BY AMY ZEGART | OCTOBER 24, 2012

    So here’s my bet: The next president will spend a great deal of time worrying about foreign policy issues that Bob Schieffer never mentioned and voters never considered in Monday night’s foreign policy debate. And no, it’s not just because shit happens. It’s actually much worse than that. Looking at the past three elections, I found that presidential debate moderators did a surprisingly bad job of picking the foreign-policy issues that presidents later confronted in office. And here’s the really interesting part: the U.S. intelligence community did much, much better, pinpointing serious threats in their annual threat assessments.

    In the 2000 election, terrorism was completely absent from all three of the debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Sure, it’s tempting to put this one into the “who could have possibly known” category. That is exactly what Mitt Romney did Monday night, using this little tidbit of debate history to argue that strong militaries are necessary to defend against the unexpected.

    But people did know about the growing terrorist threat before the 2000 debates and the 9/11 attacks. Not just any people. Senior people in the CIA and the FBI.

    The CIA warned in both its 1999 and 2000 unclassified annual threat assessments to Congress that terrorism ranked second on the list of threats to U.S. national security. That’s right. Second. Just behind the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In his 1999 testimony before a public hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, CIA Director George Tenet remarked, “there is not the slightest doubt that Osama Bin Laden, his worldwide allies, and his sympathizers are planning further attacks against us. Despite progress against his networks, Bin Laden’s organization has contacts virtually worldwide, including in the United States — and he has stated unequivocally, Mr. Chairman, that all Americans are targets.” In March of 2000, six months before the first Bush-Gore presidential debate, Tenet reiterated his concerns, telling Congress again in open session that bin Laden “wants to strike further blows against America” and that the CIA believed “he could still strike without additional warning.”

    Tenet was not alone. The FBI declared counterterrorism its number one priority in its 1998 strategic plan, three years before 9/11 and two years before the presidential debates. But the media did not notice. The Commission on Presidential Debates did not notice. Moderator Jim Lehrer did not notice. Neither did the two presidential campaigns.

    The 2004 foreign policy debates between John Kerry and George W. Bush focused, understandably, on terrorism, homeland security, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the candidates also spent time responding to questions about Canadian drug imports and the draft. What was left out? A little country called China. Or more specifically, China’s breakneck economic and military rise and its increasing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region. Here, too, the CIA was on it, flagging China’s rise in its 2004 annual threat assessment several months before the debates began. The question of how to handle China’s emergence as a rising power went on to become a major focus of President Bush’s second term, it generated Obama’s much ballyhooed “Asia pivot” earlier this year, and it remains one of the top foreign policy challenges of the foreseeable future.

    The 2004 debates also never mentioned what turned out to be the mother of all foreign and domestic policy issues at the end of the Bush administration: The health of the global economy. To be fair, the global financial meltdown came as more of a surprise to economists and bankers than 9/11 did to intelligence officials. Whether the economic crisis should have been a surprise is another matter — and a reminder that economists are world class at two things: exuding confidence even when wrong and predicting the past. But I digress.

    The big debate miss in 2008 was cyber security. Again, intelligence officials were sounding the alarm but the debate ignored it. The 2008 threat assessment from the CIA director’s successor, the director of national intelligence, noted that the threat from cyber attackers — which included states like Russia and China, non-state organizations like criminal syndicates and terrorist groups, and lone Cheeto-eating hackers — was large, serious, and growing fast. Yet in the three 2008 debates, John McCain and Barack Obama were never asked what they would do to protect America’s military from cyber espionage or disruption; how they would defend America’s critical infrastructure like dams, financial systems, and power grids from cyber attack; or how they would work with the private sector to stop billions of dollars of intellectual property theft that many fear could cripple America’s competitive advantage in the global economy. Since those debates, the Obama administration has been seized with cyber concerns, creating a new Pentagon Cyber Command and feverishly trying to figure out who should do what in the cyber domain. This month, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta darkly warned that the United States now faces the very real prospect of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.”

    Cyber security made a cameo appearance on Monday, but only because Obama mentioned it in passing. Schieffer never asked a cyber question even though cyber security threats have vaulted to number three on this year’s intelligence threat assessment. Global climate change got no mention on the debate stage at all, despite growing concerns that rising temperatures could be one of the world’s worst threat multipliers, causing water and food shortages and extreme weather events that could create humanitarian disasters and turn fragile states into failed ones and perhaps terrorist havens.

    What’s gone wrong? Why are presidential debate moderators so bad at picking issues compared to the CIA and the DNI?

    Two reasons. First, presidential debates are creatures of the news media, and the news media is obsessed with the news du jour. These are people trained to get scoops, write headlines, cover “the presidential horse race,” and link everything they can to today’s “pegs.” In the media world, faster is better and current is king. But in the real world, foreign policy threats and opportunities take time. They gather. They simmer. They bubble up and die down, reacting to the reactions of others. In the news, the devil usually lies in the details. In foreign policy, the devil often lies in the trend, understanding what looms over the horizon and how it could affect vital national interests tomorrow. The annual intelligence threat assessment is all about horizon-gazing, assessing how current events will play out over time. Presidential debate moderators are all about the here and now, how last night’s comments are playing in Ohio this morning. And that makes all the difference.

    The second reason presidential debates are poor predictors of future foreign policy challenges is that our election system rewards short-term thinking. Quick wins play well with voters; longer-term strategies to fight emerging threats do not. Presidential candidates are smart people. They respond to incentives. That’s why we hear a lot about what they will do “on day one” and precious little about what they hope to put in place for 2050.

    It does not have to be this way. In today’s presidential election system, candidates increasingly control what they say and how they say it — running scripted ads, attending scripted events, and reciting scripted lines. But debates are different. They are golden opportunities to press candidates to think and react, to get in front of issues rather than just staying on top of them. To work well, however, the entire debate system is in dire need of an overhaul. A good start would be for moderators to check the headlines less and the intelligence threat assessments more.


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