The Counter-deception Blog

Examples of deceptions and descriptions of techniques to detect them. This Blog encourages the awareness of deception in daily life and discussion of practical means to spot probable deceptions. Send your examples of deception and counter-deception to

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Soldiers use Web to make voices heard

Joseph L. Galloway (, senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." writes

Soldiers use Web to make voices heard
Knight Ridder Newspapers Posted on Wed, Aug. 11, 2004

WASHINGTON - Two young Army officers with time in Iraq are the brains behind a new Web site called Operation Truth that will be launched later this month.
Former Capt. David Chasteen and 1st Lt. Paul Rieckhoff, who is still serving in the Army National Guard, hope to "educate the American public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them first-hand."
Toward that end they hope that their Web site,, will provide a forum for soldiers and Marines still serving in Iraq or just returned, to tell their stories, post their digital photos and voice their complaints.
Chasteen, a native of Muncie, Ind., and Rieckhoff, a native of New York City, said Operation Truth is a nonprofit soldiers advocacy organization and is nonpartisan, nonpolitical and not affiliated with any candidate. But, like the soldiers they hope will post on their Web site, they have more than a few bones to pick with those in charge of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rieckhoff told me, "This is just a big, big After Action Review. After an operation in the military we sit down and talk it over. What was good, what was bad and how do we fix what was bad. The only people who ought to be afraid are those who have screwed up."
"The dialogue between soldiers and the people they serve is gone, and we want to restart it," Rieckhoff said. "If the majority of Americans are content to be protected and defended by a small minority of volunteer soldiers then they need to pay attention to those soldiers and take care of them and their families."
Although it is nonpartisan, Operation Truth and the issues it wants to debate before the American people are likely to cause the Bush administration some heartburn. Their brochure says, "We intend to publicize how poorly planned policies and approaches have manifested themselves as problems on the front lines and back at home. We will act domestically to protect our troops and to aid them in their fight to protect us."

Monday, September 27, 2004


After Four Years...

Howard Kurtz writes in the Washington Post [] about (1) the centrality of the “deception issue” in this election, compared to recent elections (e.g., Clinton was about Clinton’s personal dishonesty; this election is now about a RedTruth vs BlueTruth reality gap dividing the American public); and (2) the notable, if belated, improvement in the remarkably weak counter-deception skills of the working media (remarkable given what they teach in journalism schools).
Both trends are very much center stage now, for example, in the Rose Garden (as well as Rather’s CBS-MemoGate blunders).
Note below the repeated use counter-deception techniques in recent press questioning – particularly contrasting campaign assertions with contrary evidence, and Zola’s “I accuse” technique…

The New Republic's Ryan Lizza, eyeing the upbeat spin on Iraq from Bush and Ayad Allawi, says the reporters' questions at their presser reflect Kerry's effort to "point out the gap between Bush's rhetoric on Iraq and the reality on the ground there. Thursday's press conference showed how successful Kerry has been in making the 'reality gap' a central narrative of the campaign. There were nine questions, and seven of them were about chaos in Iraq:
"--Mr. President, two more Americans have been beheaded. More than 300 Iraqis have been killed in the last week. Fallujah is out of government control. And U.S. and Iraqi forces have been unable to bring security to diplomatic and commercial centers of Baghdad. Why haven't U.S. forces been able to capture or kill al Zarqawi, who's blamed for much of the violence?
"--Mr. President, John Kerry is accusing you of colossal failures of judgment in Iraq and having failed to level with the American people about how tough it is there. How do you respond to him?
"--Mr. President, you say today that the work in Iraq is tough and will remain tough. And, yet, you travel this country and a central theme of your campaign is that America is safer because of the invasion of Iraq. Can you understand why Americans may not believe you?
"--Sir, may I just follow, because I don't think you're really answering the question. I mean, I think you're responding to Senator Kerry, but there are beheadings regularly, the insurgent violence continues, and there are no weapons of mass destruction. My question is, can you understand that Americans may not believe you when you say that America is actually safer today?
"--Sir, I'd like you [to] answer Senator Kerry and other critics who accuse you of hypocrisy or opportunism when, on the one hand, you put so much stock in the CIA when it said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and now say it is just guessing when it paints a pessimistic picture of the political transition.
"--You have been accused on the campaign trail in this election year of painting an overly optimistic portrait of the situation on the ground in Iraq. Yesterday, in Valley Forge, you said that there was a 'handful' of people who were willing to kill to try to disrupt the process. Isn't that really understating the case, particularly when there are intelligence reports that hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign fighters are streaming across the border from Syria to take up the fight of the insurgency?
"--Don't the real voices of the Iraqi people, themselves, contradict the rosy scenarios you're painting here today?"


Identity Theft -- Sex Trafficking Ring

A complex scam: identity theft to get young women from the Ukraine identity papers and visa to get to Israel, fraud in getting Israeli re-settlement aid for the women, and then sex trafficing in Israel. The Israelis don't give away their detection clues, but there are several possible points mentioned in the story where they might catch this scam (e.g., the consulate visa application).

40 arrested in 'olim' sex scam

Etgar Lefkovits, THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 27, 2004

Jerusalem police have uncovered a sophisticated international network of trading in women, which operated under the guise of new immigrants from the Ukraine who took on fake Jewish identities, swindling the state of millions of dollars, police announced Monday.
The affair came to light following a months-long undercover police investigation which found that Israeli Jewish men, including new immigrants, were enlisting young Ukrainian women in financial duress to take on the identities of Jews living in the Ukraine in order to receive the absorption basket afforded by the state to new immigrants, police said. The young women, who put in requests for aliya with their fictitious husbands at the Israeli Consulate in the Ukraine, agreed to pay the ringleaders $40,000 as well as the full absorption rights they would receive in return for the fake papers and the phony identities enabling them to immigrate.
After the women arrived in Israel as new immigrants, they would work as prostitutes while their 'husbands and children' would return to the CIS, police said.
Police believe that at least 70 families were "absorbed" in Israel in such a fashion, at a cost of millions of dollars to the state.
The women would pay the ringleaders the money they owed them from the salaries they received in various escort services operating both in Jerusalem and in other major Israeli cities.
40 people have been arrested over the last few days in the scam, with five of the key suspects remanded in custody at the Jerusalem Magistrate's court by ten days, police said.
Under a court order, police seized bank accounts totaling NIS 3 million, apartments and cars belonging to the suspects in the affair.
"We are talking about a well-oiled operation whose members exploited the fact that we are a country that absorbs immigrants, and caused major financial damage to the state," Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco said.


Press, Spin, & Counter-Spin

Worthwhile OpEd on how the media's "he said--she said" policy of "balance" lets the spinners get away with anything that sounds plausible.

• Dante Chinni is a senior associate with the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. He writes a twice-monthly political opinion column for the Monitor.

from the September 28, 2004 edition -
Press 'fairness' in politics: Just relativism disguised?
By Dante Chinni
WASHINGTON - It is en vogue for politicians to rail against relativism these days. In a world that seems more dangerous and complicated than it has been in decades, campaigns like to offer people an anchor, to say they stand for something solid.
But, as is often the case in politics, the reality is more complicated than that. Relativism is, and long has been, the driving force behind one of the biggest tools in politics - spin. Spin is relativism made practical. It seeks to take a set of facts and through the adept application of argument and selective information make them look like something other than what they are.
Opinions are wonderful things, and everyone has a right to one. But opinions aren't all equal. ... we in the news media have to get back to making people provide evidence for claims they make. We've made our mission, which was once about providing the most reliable account available, into one of providing differing views - at times with little regard for fact.
The first presidential debate is Thursday in Miami. It's guaranteed that at some point one candidate or both will try to spin an answer or two or three. The question is, will we call them on it?
If we don't, soon we may "fairness" ourselves right out of business. Who needs journalism if truth is just a matter of opinion?


Personality Test: Palm reading as science

This INTJ agrees—from the same scientific tailor-shop as N-Rays, polygraphs, and dousing.

from the September 28, 2004 edition -

Palm reading dressed as science

Millions take personality tests every year, but are they valid?
By Peter I. Rose

A recent radio ad for E-Harmony promotes a personality profile based on 29 dimensions that all but guarantees finding a perfect mate. But don't sign up until you read Annie Paul's well-researched, highly informative, and rather scary portrait of the dominance of personality measures in almost every nook and cranny of American life.
Her thesis is best summarized in her lengthy subtitle: "How Personality Tests are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves." Yet "The Cult of Personality," by the former senior editor of Psychology Today, is neither a bombastic jeremiad nor a reckless exposé of these hucksters; it is more a wise, insightful, and witty dissection of what has become a major industry. In eight chapters packed with information, she offers a fascinating story of the principal gurus of a hydra-headed movement of social and self awareness. They're proto-scientists, pseudo-scientists, and real scientists who sought first to probe the human psyche to discern the proclivities of "criminal minds" and mental patients and then to describe variations among "normal" people.


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