The Infiltrator Who Proved Nothing!

A rebuttal from Lie Detector

Help, we've been infiltrated. Yes, it did come as a bit of a shock when San Francisco-based polygraph experts called us to point out that Harmon Leon (heretofore known to us as Hank Leon) was indeed a writer known as the "Infiltrator" at this fine newspaper.

So why would he want to infiltrate Lie Detector -- a prime-time actuality program that runs on PAX, one of the smallest and most dysfunctional networks on the broadcast spectrum? What was Harmon Leon trying to prove? In fact, did he prove anything? Most polygraph experts think he simply shot himself in the foot. Your readers, I believe, need to understand what really happened on Lie Detector.

So, let's go through the details of Mr. Leon's appearance on our program from our own unique perspective. In order to get guests and subjects for Lie Detector, we put out the word that we were looking for people who had been falsely accused of something. For instance, we put a man on the show who says he was wrongly convicted of stealing a bust of Mickey Mantle from Yankee Stadium -- he tested truthful, and we sent the tape off to President Bush in an attempt to get him a pardon. When Bill Clinton published his book, My Life, and continued to deny that he exposed himself to Paula Jones at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, we polygraphed Paula, and she tested truthful! A man who spent five years in jail for an act of "road rage" came to us to prove his innocence. We polygraphed the ex-trucker, and he failed ... then he broke down and confessed, and is now seeking psychiatric help through the VA. So when Mr. Leon approached us with his story that he was falsely accused of using marijuana while on parole, we immediately thought, "Great -- a contact high story!"

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We got in touch with Mr. Leon, and because it was such a simple, straightforward story -- the exact kind we look for -- we vetted it to the point where we had his police report. No, it did not occur to us that he would concoct a police report -- he has taught us a valuable lesson. When committing to the show, Mr. Leon asked our travel coordinator if he could stay an extra day in Los Angeles -- we agreed. It seemed that Mr. Leon wanted to hook up with some of his Hollywood friends on our dime since we provided airfare to Los Angeles, two nights at a Holiday Inn (where we get a discount), and $70 per diem ... this is all normal for a noncelebrity guest. Sorry Hank, in our world you're just a weenie little civilian.

Now let's discuss the actual tests ... four of them to be sure, three off-camera and one on-camera.

When Mr. Leon researched his goal of beating the polygraph on the Internet, he came up with a masochist's delight and decided the "tack in the shoe trick" was his cup of tea. Mr. Leon, though, must not have read the directions properly, because as he put it, "I'm not sure if this helped during the morning session. But it was very uncomfortable." Mr. Leon's main problem during the test was that he didn't seem to know just what he was trying to prove. During the actual collection of the polygraph charts Mr. Leon was stabbing himself in the toe, apparently thinking this would have some positive effect when in fact all he was doing was exposing his toe to infection and soiling his socks. He was not showing reaction to the positive questions because he was telling the truth! The test was not about whether Hank made up a "false story" but whether he smoked marijuana while on parole, and he did not.The polygraph test accurately verified that had Mr. Leon been seeking the truth about polygraph technique, he would have woven that information into his article instead of maligning the host who felt an unjust finding in Mr. Leon's supposed drug case had been exposed. Mr. Leon's article, instead of being titled "Bullshitting the Lie Detector" [May 25], should really have been titled "The Lie Detector Unmasks the Bullshitter." For the record, "counter" countermeasure techniques have been in place in the polygraph profession well before Mr. Leon thought up his deceitful scheme.

From the point of view of the program's producers, Harmon Leon wrongfully took from Lie Detector more than $900 in expenses. But more importantly, he took a chance away from someone who really needed the polygraph expertise that we provide on Lie Detector. Like the woman who needed to prove who her father was by us conducting a maternity polygraph on her mother, or the woman who had been charged with causing harm to her child and had the young boy taken away from her. There are too many terrific stories we did on Lie Detectorto mention here. Mr. Leon manipulated our best intentions ... and that is a shame.

What does this all mean? Are we going to turn Hank Leon over to the cops? Naw! We actually feel sorry for him. A talented writer he is, but to make one's living from duping your subjects makes him just that ... a dupe, a fool. And "The Infiltrator" did not fool the Lie Detector; he did not smoke marijuana while on parole; we hope he has no longer fooled this paper's readers. In Mr. Leon's "gonzo" mind, the story is all about himself -- so he injects Harmon Leon into the narrative. In this case, he shot himself in the foot -- we hope he doesn't aim that gun at some other part of his body, like that other, now-deceased "gonzo" journalist.


Mark Phillips is executive producer ofLie Detector. Dr. Ed Gelb is past president of the American Polygraph Association.

 
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