Former CIA officer on how to get the truth from anyone

Phil Houston discusses book 'Get the Truth' on 'The Kelly File'


This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," March 24, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, ANCHOR: From affairs to finances to how did that dent get in my car, everyone faces some deception in their daily lives and thanks to former CIA Officer Phil Houston, we already know how to spy the lie, but how do you get someone to tell you everything once you know they have deceived you.

Phil Houston is here, former CIA interrogator and polygraph expert and the CEO of QVerity. He has a new book out today called "Get the Truth." Former CIA officers teach you how to persuade anyone to tell all. So, this is step two. Once you've detected, either you've read the book "Spy the Lie" and you know how to spy the lie, or you just know on an instinctual level somebody is not being straight with you, this tells you how to take the next step and find out what the real story is. What is step number one?

PHIL HOUSTON, FORMER CIA OFFICER AND CEO OF QVERITY: Step number one, as you just noted, is to recognize that the person is not being truthful. And that's important, because the methodology that you need to use to get the truth is quite a bit counterintuitive. For example, when we want to get the truth from someone, typically what people do is they start asking a bunch of questions, which tends to put the person on the defensive and their defenses go up, and the -- it becomes a conflict, or adversarial. And what we really need to be doing is rather than letting them lie every time they open their mouth, we should be talking for them.

KELLY: Why? That calms them down?

HOUSTON: Well, what we're going to do, the first -- the step number one is we're going to make what we call a transition statement. Meaning I'm going to stop them from talking and I'm going to say something to them that really is indicating to them that whatever they've done to try to hide the information that I'm interested in isn't working. So, for example, I might say, "Megyn, listen, I've got to tell you, I've got some problems with what you were saying about our credit card statement."

KELLY: And what does that telegraph to me?

HOUSTON: It means that whatever you've done up to that point hasn't worked because it hasn't fooled me.

KELLY: You still got your doubts.

HOUSTON: Exactly. But it's important that that's delivered in a very low-key manner. I don't want it to become adversarial.

KELLY: Because you're still projecting that -- that you can be convinced.

HOUSTON: Well, I don't -- I want your cooperation.

KELLY: OK, cooperation.

HOUSTON: OK. So, if I'm telling you it's not working, you've got to come up with a new game plan.

KELLY: So, then what's your next move? After you've talked a lot and sort of calmed me down.

HOUSTON: Well, I don't want your lips moving. Because the behaviorists explain to us that every time you verbalize the lie, you become more psychologically entrenched in it.

KELLY: We've seen that.


HOUSTON: I've seen to what.

KELLY: We've seen that from some -- from some of our public figures.

HOUSTON: Right. Exactly. As Peter Romary says in the -- in the book, it says commitment consistency. I've lied once, so now I've got to stick with it. OK?


HOUSTON: So, what we want to do is prevent that. So, we're going to talk and we're going to give you some reasons why you should reconsider your decision not to tell us.

KELLY: Like what?

HOUSTON: Like we may rationalize, we may minimize. "Hey, listen, Megyn, everybody, you know, has trouble with their credit card statements or it's no big deal. It's not the first time. People -- this always happens."


HOUSTON: And so we try to lower your defenses even further with what we call a monologue.

KELLY: And -- and you say that basically you're trying to tell the suspect that they can still win, and -- and then you switch into a presumptive question, like tell us what you did with it. What did you really do with the credit card?

HOUSTON: Exactly. So, often what people do after they go through this monologue, is they'll say, "Now -- now, Megyn, did you really buy all of those things that are on the credit, you know, card statement?"

KELLY: Yes, I did.

HOUSTON: Versus what we should be saying is, "Megyn, let me ask you, why did you buy all of those things?"

KELLY: So, you're presuming that I did it.

HOUSTON: Exactly.

KELLY: That works?

HOUSTON: It works very well. And what's -- what's really interesting is psychologically it's still a fair question because if you didn't buy all of those things, you've got a pretty good explanation. It doesn't change the facts.

KELLY: I would just say, I didn't.

HOUSTON: Exactly.

KELLY: You assumed too much, Phil.

HOUSTON: Exactly. But if you did, now when I say, why did you do it? You've got to process that mentally. You're saying to yourself, do I tell them or do I not tell them? And also, it reinforces the concept that the transition statement created, which is, Megyn, this -- this effort didn't succeed.

KELLY: You're not getting away with it, so.

HOUSTON: Yeah, you're not getting away this time.

KELLY: So, remain calm. You start talking. Don't pepper them with questions. Lower the temperature. Be empathetic. Project that there's something they're not telling you and you know it. And then you try to get the presumptive question in, what really happened -- what really happened.

HOUSTON: Exactly.

KELLY: And then you impeach them with their prior inconsistent testimony, and bam! No?

HOUSTON: That's - that would be the lawyer in you. Absolutely.

KELLY: OK. Phil, great to see you. Get the truth, and who doesn't want to do that.

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