Introduction: Welcome to Our World
Imagine that it’s the late afternoon of September 11, 2001. Rescue crews are dealing with the unthinkable amid the massive heap of acrid rubble at Ground Zero in New York, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood that morning. The wreckage of United Airlines Flight 93 has turned a peaceful field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, into a horrifying disaster site. The charred gash in the northwest face of the Pentagon, just minutes up the George Washington Parkway from where you and your colleagues are still coming to grips with what had happened, is smoldering. The United States of America is under attack.
You’re not unlike the hundreds of millions of your fellow citizens of America and the world who are trying to come to grips with the same thing. Just about all the emotions are the same. The difference is that you’re an officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, and you have unique skills that will be tapped to help determine the source of the attack, the nature of the immediate threat to the nation, and our country’s best chances for preventing a recurrence. Welcome to our world.
The three of us came into this world from entirely different directions, and from vastly different backgrounds. The common denominator was the combination of a fascination with human nature, and a conviction that untruthfulness lies at the heart of all too many of the problems we face as individuals, as a nation, and as a global community.
Phil Houston was a career CIA officer, whose years of experience as an Agency polygraph examiner positioned him not only for senior-level assignments overseeing internal investigations and the security of CIA personnel and facilities, but for the creation of that unique skill set, born of hundreds of interviews and non-coercive interrogations, that the country would be tapping at one of the most dire hours in its history. Michael Floyd’s CIA service was preceded by a separate career as a private-sector polygraph expert. He provided training for polygraph examiners in the CIA and throughout the public and private sectors, and conducted polygraph examinations in hundreds of criminal investigations, many of them high-profile cases. Susan Carnicero, an expert in criminal psychology, was a CIA operative under deep cover before coming in from the cold and serving as a polygraph examiner and personnel screening specialist. Eventually, we shared an over-arching, driving passion: to be able to know whether or not a person is telling the truth.
The deception-detection methodology we will share with you in this book has its roots in the polygraph-examination experience – an experience that can ascertain a person’s truthfulness quite effectively when administered by a skilled examiner. Our methodology can be employed with a degree of effectiveness that equates to or even surpasses what is achieved by means of a polygraph.
Phil was the principal architect of the methodology, which was developed within the CIA for applications that were Agency-specific, and that cannot be shared here due to the need to protect CIA sources and methods. But its effectiveness became so quickly and widely recognized that the broader intelligence community and federal law enforcement agencies sought and received training in the methodology. The three of us have since worked together to further its development and to fine-tune it for a wider range of applications.
The event that cleared the way for us to share the methodology with you took place in 1996, when Phil and several of his colleagues in the CIA’s Office of Security received the Agency’s permission to provide the training to the private sector. While much of its application within the intelligence community was clearly classified, the methodology itself was determined to be unclassified, so there was no reason the training couldn’t be made available to outside interests. Susan, who would become the lead instructor in the methodology within the Agency, joined the outside effort a short time later. Since then, the three of us have provided the training to hundreds of organizations, from Wall Street clients, corporate enterprises and law firms, to non-profits, academic institutions, and local law-enforcement agencies.
Still, we recognized that the applicability of the model is so universal that there remained a massive audience that we could never hope to reach through our training programs. So we decided that the next logical step was to introduce the model to people everywhere who could use it in everyday life – at work, at home, and at school. That’s where you come in.
You, like everyone else, routinely have questions, the answers to which have a meaningful impact on your life. Is your boss being completely up-front about those projections for the next two quarters and why it behooves everybody to stick around rather than bolt to a competitor? Is your significant other being straight with you about having done nothing more last night than hook up with a couple of friends for a drink? Is your child being honest when he assures you that he has never experimented with drugs? Other questions may be less personally consequential, but you still want the answers: Does that quarterback mean it this time when he says he’s not coming back next season? Is that politician being truthful when she says she’s not going to run for president?
Imagine that you were able to identify deception in response to these and the countless other questions like them that arise all around you every day – that you were successful in developing skills that take you to what we call the “spy-the-lie moment.” Welcome to your new world.
Excerpted from SPY THE LIE: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero (with Don Tennant). Copyright © 2012 by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, Susan Carnicero and Don Tennant. All right reserved. Reprinted with permission.