Saturday, February 2, 2013

Prisoner Of War Statement Analysis

Hero John Peters
                          When is "Unreliable" not deception in the conclusion of the analyst?

Context can prove critical to the analyst. 

 It is always necessary for an analyst to know an allegation being answered by a statement.

Here, context is key.  A British airman John Peters was shot down in the Gulf War, 1991.  Regarding his treatment he said the following (in italics) shortly after being released:

"And they hit you.  They hit you with baseball bats, rubber instruments.  They smash your face against the wall.  And it goes on and on .  It doesn't stop.  It just never stops."

Is he lying?



Notice the distancing language of "you"; it is not that they beat "me"; but "you."

The subject also uses the unreliable present tense verbs.

These are two indications that he is not committed to the statement.

                                                   Is he lying?

More than 20 years later, he spoke of the ordeal and described similar events with the use of the pronoun, "me" and past tense verbs.


For the trauma he suffered, the event(s) were ongoing.  The trauma was so severe that at the time of his statement, in his verbalized reality, he was still suffering.

He did not lie.

The reduced commitment is clearly related to the trauma.  This is why we sometimes hear present tense language in victims of violence, including domestic violence, and from sufferers of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

This is where the skill of the analyst comes in and asks:

Why the distancing language?  Is it expected here?
Why the present tense verbs?

With severe violence, we do not always here distancing language or present tense verbs, but we should remain open about it, especially where actual violent action was personally perpetrated, in an up close manner, against the victim.

20 years later:


RAF navigator John Nichol said the following.  Note his use of the 

pronoun, "I" and the past tense language.  


The pictures in The Sun signified the worst moment of my life. I 

didn’t want to do it but the choice 

was stark – the Iraqis told me I’d be executed if I didn’t.



“The feelings of guilt and shame were enormous. Not only had I 

failed in my mission, I’d been shot

 down, captured and broken under interrogation. To compound it 

all I was about to be paraded in the

 world’s media.

“With an assault rifle pointed at my head I was forced in front of

 the camera. I repeated the Iraqi’s

 words to the letter, hoping the dreadful grammar would show I 

was under duress. Then they threw me

 back into the cell. I was overwhelmed by emotion.


“But the pictures that had been my darkest cloud were to provide a

 new opportunity. Everything I do

 today – writing, TV presenting and after-dinner speaking – came

 about because 20 years ago I was

 shot down, captured, tortured and paraded on TV.”

No deception.

Not only would the grammar show that the words were not his,

 but because the words do not come from memory, Prisoner of 

War 'statements' often show deception as they are forced upon 

the by the captors brutal tactics.  

2 comments:

RkBall said...

I think distancing language could also be to remove himself ever so slightly from the event; to disassociate himself in the present from its horror.

Eliza said...

I agree RkBall, I thought that possibility,too!