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, November 24, 2004


Plagiarism & Admired Scholars

November 24, 2004

When Plagiarism's Shadow Falls on Admired Scholars

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - When it comes to its students, Harvard University policy shows little tolerance for plagiarism.
Undergraduates found guilty of "misusing sources" will "likely" be required to withdraw from the college for at least two semesters. They will lose all coursework they have done that semester (unless it is virtually over), along with the money they have paid for it. They must also leave Cambridge.
With such a policy for students, what is Harvard to do when two of its most prominent law professors, Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and Laurence H. Tribe, publicly acknowledge that they have unintentionally misused sources, as happened this fall? Weighing in on the matter, Harvard's student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, said the university appeared to have one set of rules for its famous professors, and another for its students. In an editorial about Professor Ogletree, The Crimson wrote in September that his transgression would likely have resulted in expulsion for a Harvard undergraduate.
The revelations came amid an atmosphere of heightened concern about academic integrity, with the increasing reliance on the Internet as a research tool making it both easier to plagiarize, whether intentionally or not, and to catch those who do.
Colleges and universities across the country have been cracking down on student plagiarism, adopting honor codes and in some cases using sophisticated search engines to ferret out cheats. Students and scholars alike can be tossed out for plagiarizing.
The two professors said their errors were accidental, and no scholar has suggested otherwise, but as Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor of cognition and education, pointed out, many students could make the same argument.
"I've never had a student tell me that they intentionally plagiarized," said Professor Gardner, who studies moral and ethical standards among academics and other professionals.
In a mea culpa posted on his Web site, Professor Ogletree said that several paragraphs in his 380-page book "All Deliberate Speed" (W. W. Norton & Co., 2004), a memoir about his life as a child of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, had been taken "practically verbatim" from a Yale law professor, Jack M. Balkin. The error, he said, had occurred in his rush to meet a final deadline, when a pair of research assistants inserted the material into a draft of his manuscript and accidentally dropped the quotation marks and attribution.
The six duplicate paragraphs were discovered by an anonymous law professor, who sent letters to both the dean of the law school, Elena Kagan, and Professor Balkin. "It was a crushing experience," Professor Ogletree said, referring to his discovery of the error.
He immediately notified his publisher, he said, which then inserted an errata note in all the undistributed books.
After Professor Tribe, one of the nation's leading constitutional law scholars, publicly expressed sympathy for Professor Ogletree, and raised questions on a legal affairs Web site about the "larger problem" of "writers, political office seekers, judges and other high government officials passing off the work of others as their own," The Weekly Standard reported that Professor Tribe's 1985 book about the selection of Supreme Court justices, "God Save This Honorable Court," (Random House) had "perhaps an 'uncomfortable reliance' " on a book by an emeritus University of Virginia professor, Henry J. Abraham.
The article was prompted by a tip from a law professor who wished to remain anonymous, according to Joseph Bottum, The Standard's books and arts editor, who wrote the article. Mr. Bottum said he found identical 19-word sentences in both books, and more than a couple of dozen instances of similar wording.
Professor Tribe, who had been named recently by Harvard's president, Lawrence H. Summers, as one of 17 university professors, the highest academic ranking, immediately issued a public apology. His "well-meaning effort to write a book accessible to a lay audience through the omission of any footnotes or endnotes - in contrast to the practice I have always followed in my scholarly writing - came at an unacceptable cost: my failure to attribute some of the material The Weekly Standard identified."
His book, however, did credit Professor Abraham's book, "Justices and Presidents," (Oxford University Press, 1974) as the "leading political history of Court appointments."
Professor Tribe declined to comment on the matter. His office released a letter that it said Professor Tribe sent to Professor Abraham 20 years ago, along with a copy of Professor Tribe's manuscript; Professor Tribe wrote that he had drawn on Professor Abraham's book, in part, and asked for his reactions.
At the behest of Dean Kagan of the law school, Derek Bok, the former Harvard president, and Robert Clark, the former dean of the law school, examined Professor Ogletree's book. Dean Kagan said publicly that she concurred with their finding: Professor Ogletree's error was "a serious scholarly transgression." Professor Ogletree said he had been disciplined, but neither he nor Harvard officials would be specific.
Professor Tribe's lapse is still under review, according to Harvard officials.
"Academic integrity is crucial to everything we do at Harvard Law School, and I feel very strongly about upholding those principles," said Dean Kagan, who declined to talk about either case.
Professor Tribe's book, which argued that the Senate should exert more influence over the selection of Supreme Court justices, is widely seen as having helped Democrats defeat the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. While some scholars see lapses like Professor Tribe's as an erosion of academic standards, others view the Standard's article on Professor Tribe - along with another one that suggested Professor Ogletree's tenure should be revoked because of his error - as an ideological attack.
"It's payback time," said Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at New York University Law School.
Professor Gardner said that while he did not know the specifics of the two cases, his concern about the underlying issues had prompted him to release a "statement about plagiarism."
"When norms of scholarship are violated in a material way - by students or by teachers," he wrote, "significant consequences should follow."
Some scholars argued that Professor Ogletree's statement was a public humiliation more severe than any punishment that could be meted out to a student.
"The discovery is the punishment," Professor Gillers said.
Stephen W. Stromberg, a Harvard senior who is the Crimson's editorial chairman, said, "Realistically, you're not going to fire Laurence Tribe or Charles Ogletree. They're both star professors who are still incredible assets for the law school."
According to Harvard's student plagiarism policy described in "Writing With Sources," a booklet that is required reading for freshmen, the university gives some latitude to undergraduates who misuse sources "out of genuine confusion." The administrative board, which handles undergraduate plagiarism cases, may decide to place such students on probation, according to the booklet. Last year six undergraduates had to withdraw from the college for academic dishonesty, which includes plagiarism.
Along with the growing use of the Internet for research, some scholars say the increasing reliance of scholars upon research assistants in the quest to publish increases the risk of the sort of academic error made by Professor Ogletree.
"This is what happens when you have managed books," Professor Gardner said.
Managed books, Professor Gardner said, are a recent phenomenon in which some academics rely on assistants to help them produce books, in some cases allowing the assistants to write first drafts.

"Scholarship - the core activity of the university - cannot be delegated to assistants," Professor Gardner said.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Jeannette's Lie and Deception Page

An interesting resource, discovered with the new

For several years I have investigated everyday lying from the background of social psychology and communication research. It continues to be a fascinating topic. On this site I would like to share some of the results of recent studies.
Table of Contents
What is a lie?
Some examples
Synonyms and euphemisms
A definition
Why do we lie?
Egotistical Reasons
Prosocial Reasons
Is there a difference?
Isn't truth always the better choice?
The consequences of lying
Lying as ethical behavior
How to keep a secret
How well can we detect a lie?
How amateurs fail
How experts fail
Some myths and misconceptions
Lying and character
Lying and nervousness
Selected Publications
Related Web-Sites

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Russian Gal Internet Scam

The “ISO Wife/Husband” scams long predated the Internet, but the I’net multiplies the size of the victim pool.

The easiest counter-deception ploy is to “apply” to the same individual with more than one identity. If “Nadia” falls in love with “you” and with another “John” and needs travel money help from both of you, she is either real but dangerously conflicted, or a scammer. “Nadia” the scammer will probably evidence a disturbing similarity in her responses to her various suitors, as our story below suggests. “Nadia” the conflicted will more likely respond very differently to two very different Johns, simply unable to make a choice.

Queen Elizabeth I sort of invented this scam over 400 years ago. Elizabeth used similar pre-morganatic deceptions to maintain relations among potential allies and offset her enemies, promising marriage to various kings to keep them on England’s side. Many were promised much, but none wed “the Virgin Queen.”

Counter-deception often requires some deceptive moves.

November 3, 2004
Russian Gal Seeking Comrade? No, It's an Internet Scam

MOSCOW, Nov. 2 - As she sends e-mail with her photograph to men around the world, Nadezhda Medvedeva calls to the lonely in just the right voice.
If circumstances were different she might make a fine wife. She is young, brown-eyed and curvy, a pediatric dentist who quotes 19th-century poetry and cooks delicious meals. She lives near the Caspian Sea in southern Russia but is eager to travel. Her Russian is fluent; her English, not bad.
Ms. Medvedeva is also cautious, even demure. It is only after she grows comfortable with a suitor that she will reveal the depth of her longing. Then nothing can hold her back.
"Hi, my Lion!" she wrote to Steven Rammer of Denver, Pa., as they planned a passionate rendezvous at his home. "Hi, my soul!"
That rendezvous never happened. Nor did another she arranged for two days later with George Palin, who waited in vain in Montana.
No matter how long the trail of the jilted, Nadezhda ("call me Nadia") Medvedeva is neither a tease prone to second thoughts nor an overbooked online tramp. She is not even a person. She is bait.
Ms. Medvedeva is one of scores, perhaps hundreds, of fictional characters in a resurgent Internet hustle that has become a Russian boom industry this year. Using fake names, forged visas and snapshots of young Russian women, a new crop of on-line swindlers is luring Western victims into highly successful confidence games.
Each is an escalating flirtation between an unsuspecting man and a Russian grifter masquerading as a young woman. It typically ends when the victim wires money to Russia to pay for visas and airfare for a consummation of the affair. Then the beloved disappears.
The con first surfaced in 2001 but then subsided, Russian authorities say. It has recently returned with vigor and new sophistication. The targets are men in the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand who have posted personal advertisements on the Internet.
The crime has become so widespread that the United States Embassy here is receiving between 5 and 10 inquiries from American citizens about it every day, an American diplomat said. "Some of these guys were literally left waiting at the airport with roses," she said.
Most victims lose from $300 to a few thousand dollars, although one man was defrauded of $11,000, the diplomat said. The number of men duped is at least in the hundreds, but it may be much larger. "We only know about the victims who are willing to talk about it," she said.
Modern Russia is in many ways an incubator for such crimes. It has a highly literate population that suffers from low wages and soaring unemployment, conditions that can breed hustlers. It offers them an environment in which they can work, including uneven law enforcement and barriers to outsiders - a language many find impenetrable, strict visa rules and vast geographical spaces - that all but ensure that few fooled Americans could ever find the people who tricked them.
Mr. Rammer and Mr. Palin both gave The New York Times the correspondence they had received from the person pretending to be Ms. Medvedeva. The string of e-mail messages provides an example of how the game works.
In June the correspondent sent an e-mail message to Mr. Rammer, replying to a personal advertisement he had posted on, an online dating service.
It seemed a normal query, offering basic personal information - I'm 29, 5 feet 6 inches tall, a dentist - and then following the rituals of new acquaintance. Do you like your job? What is your favorite film?
A long-distance conversation began. More e-mail followed, each message with an attached photograph.
The character of Ms. Medvedeva was slowly revealed. She is educated but of limited means. She knows popular Western films and classical Russian music. She provides dental care to orphans. She had a boyfriend, but he beat her. Now she is alone.
As the exchange intensified the grifter accepted pictures from Mr. Rammer, sent back compliments and answered questions he had posed. Two e-mail messages included pictures of Ms. Medvedeva in a bikini.
On July 13 Ms. Medvedeva's character admitted it: she had fallen in love. "In my soul, I feel contentment and joy when I think of you," she wrote.
Two days later the plot took its essential twist: her boss notified her that she had a vacation due. She wanted to visit her new man. The July 16 message began, in imperfect English, "I with trembling heart waited your letter."
Then came the rub. Can you help with travel costs?
Anatoly Platonov, the spokesman for the K Department of Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs, which investigates Internet crimes, said that the criminals who send these messages were almost always men and that they used the same scripts to correspond with hundreds, even thousands, of foreign men at once.
The person posing as Ms. Medvedeva was simultaneously flirting with Mr. Palin, having found his personal advertisement on He received virtually identical e-mail, the only changes being his name and short answers to questions he had posed in previous exchanges. ("I with trembling heart waited your letter" arrived on July 27.)
To lead the men into the trap, the poser sent them e-mail about a nervous wait for an American visa, and then a copy of the visa after it was approved.
The visa was a forgery, made from a scan of an authentic visa, retouched by computer to include a new face and personal data. A trace of its number found that the original had been reported lost or stolen in August of last year, the American diplomat said.
The ruse worked. Both Mr. Rammer and Mr. Palin wired Ms. Medvedeva money to help with costs. Mr. Rammer sent $300; Mr. Palin $720.
The identity of the person who duped them remains unknown, although whoever it was has been active: Ms. Medvedeva is listed as a phony bride-to-be on Internet blacklists, which are regularly updated by bilked men. Her picture has also been used under the name Tatyana Kuzminyh and Anna Kruglova.
Mr. Platonov said Ms. Medvedeva's ever changing character fit a type. The fictional women are like Legos, assembled by joining random photographs, vignettes and seductive scripts. The men who create them often have female accomplices who provide their passports for scanning or pick up money at Western Union counters or banks.
The first ring the authorities broke up, in 2002, consisted of two young men and a woman who sent e-mail from the city of Yoshkar-Ola, in the Ural Mountains. "We arrested the fat girl and she gave evidence," Mr. Platonov said, referring to the woman in the group. "It turned out that all this effort was organized by a 21-year-old boy."
In the most recent case, prosecuted this year, a husband-and-wife team in Chelyabinsk bilked foreign men out of several hundred thousand dollars, Mr. Platonov said. The wife posed as the bait. The man was found guilty of fraud, but his case is on appeal, a spokesman at the local Internal Affairs office said.
The American diplomat says the swindle appears to have been picked up by copycats who have grown more sophisticated of late.
The scripts have become more patient and include story lines that show a character's honesty or kindness. (Ms. Medvedeva described treating an orphan's toothache during a blackout - by flashlight.) The visa forgeries have also become more convincing.
Moreover, some swindlers have created Web sites that purport to represent travel agencies and back them up with "employees" who take calls from foreign men asking about their date's airfare and reservations. Others have turned to new classes of victims.
Three weeks ago, the diplomat said, the first gay victims began to complain.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Gordon Housworth on Political Deception & Counter-Deception

An excellent summary of deception tactics and strategies, how the current election campaign has deception fingerprints all over it, and some thoughts on counter-deception.

from the ICG community weblopg:

Shouters and charlatans: viewing mainstream news solely to understand our clients' state of misinformation
created 10/23/2004

The value of counter-deception and early sprignal detection in political elections
created 10/24/2004

Deception at its best: the opponent is quite certain, very decisive, and wrong
created 10/25/2004

As the truth changes so must the deception if the lie is to remain believable
created 10/26/2004


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