Get the Truth, a new book by three former CIA officers, explains how to apply counterterrorist interrogation techniques to everyday life, from figuring out if a colleague has lifted some cash from your wallet to getting the best deal on a used vehicle. But before you get ideas about waterboarding the guy who runs the car lot down the street, know that authors Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero believe in “non-adversarial” techniques—torture, they figure, just doesn’t work.
As protests grow across Canada against Bill C-51, the bill’s supporters might do well to read Get the Truth. It maintains the best way to elicit confessions is by displaying empathy with subjects, and to keep them in “short-term thinking” mode, where the consequences of revealing deception seem to dissipate. The authors acknowledge the torture overseen by their former agency, as revealed in books such as Ali H. Soufan’s Black Banners—which they take up directly—and in Guantànamo Diary, published in January by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who remains in detention after 12 years at the US base, presumed guilty without ever having been charged with a crime.
Houston, a 25-year CIA veteran investigator and polygraph examiner, now runs the behaviour analysis firm QVerity, which has trained Ontario Provincial Police officers on the detection of deception, something covered in the authors’ previous book, Spy the Lie. I spoke with him on the phone from his North Carolina home, and while he danced around certain subjects—”I can’t comment on the agency’s approaches to things … Sources and methods are dangerous grounds”—he offered assurance that successful interrogation can and should be carried out while adhering to fundamental principles of justice—a phrase that needs no air quotes.