Book Review – “Spy the Lie” by Phillip Houston et al.

Posted: May 23, 2013 in Politics
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“SPY THE LIE”  – Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception

by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero with Don Tennant.

Like many non-fiction books, this could be significantly shorter. It seems that because books are expected to be a certain length, writers feel obliged to fill the pages with more examples than necessary. Notwithstanding this, “Spy the Lie” contains a reasonably entertaining look at how the authors detected lying in their various roles for the law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Dismissing the idea that anyone is a human “lie detector”. they go on to talk about clusters of behaviour. A lack of eye contact by itself, for example, doesn’t indicate dishonesty. However, when a number of behaviours are combined we can conclude that a person is being economical with the truth.

Some of the interesting verbal behaviours include:

1. A failure to answer the question. (Pretty obvious from anyone who’s listened to a politician)

2. Denial problems. (Instead saying, “No, I didn’t” the person may say, “I find that allegation offensive” or “That’s not the sort of behaviour that my record would suggest”)

3. Reluctance to answer the question. (“You’ll have to ask the Leader about that one.”)

4. Repeating the question. (Repeating the question? Why would anyone do that?)

5. Nonanswer statements. (“That’s really the question” or “I’m glad you asked that”)

6. Inconsistent statements (see Tony Abbott for examples)

7. Going into attack mode. (“There’s no need to be offensive” or “That’s just typical of the ABC”)

8. Overly specific answers. (“I’m sure that the figure isn’t $2billion” Actually it’s $2.1 billion)

9. Convincing statements. (“Did you realize that in my spare time, I work in a soup kitchen? Do I sound like the sort of person who’d swear at a child? or “I’m a senior member of the Church, would I really want to cover up this sort of thing?”)

These, as well as certain physical behaviours, are examined, and various anecdotes show how these work to give away the liar. Whatever, it’s an interesting read, and should be compulsory for every political interviewer. In fact, it would make an interesting TV program where one played the interview, while the respective behaviour was identified and  flashed across the screen. Must contact Rupert to see if I can sell the concept to his News Channel.

  1. mark delmege says:

    The thing is those behaviours are well know and others too. A good lier will know them all and what to do instead. A bing or google search will give you a better list and I’m sure the spin doctors and tv/film directors/writers know and use them use them to befuddle or lead. But if I can make a suggestion if you want to have a grasp of how the CIA operate have a read of Philip Agee’s -Inside the Company: CIA Diary or Ostrovsky’s By way of Deception on the Mossad.

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