Ethics Of Criminal Investigations The recent anthrax investigation has brought to light the aggressive tactics of the FBI. It brought on questions about how far investigations should go and whether hardball tactics should remain legal.
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Ethics Of Criminal Investigations

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Last week, we learned a lot about the investigation into the anthrax killer. The Justice Department identified government scientist Bruce Ivins as the man responsible for the deaths of five people in 2001, but he committed suicide before he could be charged. His lawyer insists that he was innocent and wonders if the unrelenting pressure of the investigation drove him to kill himself.

Everyone who worked at the bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick was a suspect, and after investigators focused on Ivins, they followed him, searched his home, interrogated him, his wife and their children, showed his kids pictures of those killed by the anthrax, and said their father was the killer. All legal. They did even more to the previous suspect, Steven Hatfill - including leaking his name to the news media - and eventually agreed to pay him millions to settle a lawsuit.

Federal, state and local law-enforcement officers have enormous latitude. They can lie to suspects, play them off against each other, pretend to have evidence they don't have. We'll talk about why and how and how much thought there is before the pressure is applied. Later in the program, we'll preview a new documentary about Helen Thomas' questions to the last nine presidents. No, we're not. We're going to have our Summer Movie Festival. Murray Horwitz is going to be here and talk about nuke flicks. So, if you have a nominee for best nuke flick of all time, send it to us, talk@npr.org.

But first, the ethics of investigations. We'd especially like to hear from those of you with direct experience in investigations. Tell us your story. Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. You can also comment on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. Joining us here in Studio 3A is Clint Van Zandt. He was an FBI agent for 25 years. He's the author of "Facing Down Evil: Life on the Edge as an FBI Hostage Negotiator." And Clint Van Zandt, nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. CLINT VAN ZANDT (Former FBI Agent; Author, "Facing Down Evil: Life on the Edge as an FBI Hostage Negotiator"): Thank you, Neal. Always good to be with you.

CONAN: Now, I understand you did a profile of the anthrax killer, for yourself, not for the FBI. But tell us how you did that and what the profile looked like.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, there were two different things that I looked at, that I know FBI profilers looked at. Number one, of course, was the terrible events of 9/11, and number two were the letters themselves that came. As you know, there were two different types of letters. There was one letter that was sent to Tom Brokaw and others in the media. And then, there were letters that were sent to our elected representatives. Those letters contain two different messages. One, to the media, was simply an announcement. Anthrax is here. Do something about it.

Well, of course, you or anyone else, we're going to turn around and we're going to share that information in the media. So, all of America knew. The other message, though, was to the people that control the purse strings in the United States. We have this anthrax. Now, you die. I mean, that's chilling. And if you're, number one, a member of Congress, number two, you get that, you'd say, hey, let's do something about this. So, whoever this person was, he got his message across to the two bodies that he wanted to move, the media and Congress.

But when you look at the letters themselves, Neal, they were constructed - they were dated 9/11, but they were dated - they were postmarked well after the events of 9/11. This was someone who was trying to hitch his wagon onto the terrible events there. And then there were certain things within the letter that, to me, shouted, this is an American scientist in a bioweapons community who's been around quite awhile, who has seized upon the events of 9/11 as an opportunity to advance, probably, his program, some personal agenda, and this is the way he is going to do it.

And I always felt, Neal, I always felt, when we found this guy and we had a chance to talk to him, if he ever finally broke down and said, I did it, I did it, that he would say but - like Timothy McVeigh at the Oklahoma City federal building - he would say, there was a purpose for what I did. We'd say, but you killed people. You sickened others. You frightened the nation. He would say, I thought collateral damage, because now our nation is prepared to deal with the threat of anthrax, seeing himself perhaps as a patriot, as a super patriot. Instead of telling us the British are coming, he told us the anthrax was coming.

CONAN: Profiling, of course, is a passive form of investigations, and what we're really interested in talking about most of the time in this hour is tactics that are legal but are unquestionably heavy-handed. I mean, when you follow someone openly in the car, they know they're being followed.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Correct. Correct.

CONAN: Carrying out a search warrant, obviously legal. A judge signed off on it. But that's extremely intrusive.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yes.

CONAN: Lengthy interrogations, showing kids pictures of the dead, and saying, your father is the one who did this. Won't you tell us more?'

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, and these are terrible moral decisions that investigators have to do. I mean, this is not "Men in Black," wearing sunglasses and dark suits saying, how can we sabotage someone's constitutional rights and drive them to suicide? You know, 25 years in the FBI, never once did we say, hey, let's crack this guy. Let's drive him crazy. Let's push him over the edge. But we did look for the emotional buttons. How can we push this guy's hot button, his cold button? How can we move him from one place to another?

And of course, the eventual idea is, how can we get him to make a mistake that will create a crack in the story that he's telling? And how can we eventually get him to talk to us? Now, in a perfect world, Neal, we would sit back and say, well, if we wait long enough, this person will eventually come forward and confess, and you and I would be playing cards here or something. But that's not a perfect world.

CONAN: Or you would find that one bit of wonderful forensic evidence as, aha!

Mr. VAN ZANDT: The smoking gun. You know, we found the fingerprint on the envelope, on the inside, and we matched it. Well, if that's there, that's great, and I've heard people say, in the case of this current individual, Dr. Ivins, that you only have a circumstantial case against him. Neal, you normally only have a circumstantial case. These are like grains of sand that you put on a scale and eventually, they weigh six ounces or pounds, 16 pounds. But eventually, you slowly build a case, but it's not just on the evidence you find. Sometimes, it's on the evidence you help to create by your interview and your investigative techniques.

CONAN: Yet, obviously, you worry, in this case, too, there was a guy who turned out to be innocent, looked good for it...

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Looked good for it.

CONAN: But turned out to be innocent. And when you apply pressure like that, if Steven Hatfill had been driven to commit suicide, how awful would that have been?

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah. And the question is, do you drive someone to commit suicide? Or is that a personal choice? You know, when you look at Dr. Ivins, his psychological background, his history is so negatively rich that this is something that was building in this person for a long time. You know, we can talk about the reasons why, but in the case of Steven Hatfill, I think he - many people would suggest that Dr. Hatfill, like, perhaps, Richard Jewell in the Olympic Park bombings, did things that drew attention to himself.

And when you stand up and when you say, look at me, look at me. Why, I'm a suspect, and you draw the world's attention to you, you're hard pressed as an investigator to say, OK, I will look at you. I will think about you and what you're saying and what you're doing. But know that at any one time, there were at least 25 suspects that the FBI had, to include Dr. Hatfill, to include Dr. Ivins and others that they were looking at, but some again, would suggest that Steven Hatfill was the one person who stood up and drew attention to himself, while individuals like Dr. Ivins may have done that on one on one, but didn't do it in a national forum.

CONAN: Let's get some listeners involved in the conversation. 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. We're focusing on the investigative techniques that the feds, state police, and local police use to try to solve crimes and learn about the ethics of these sort of things. Email us, talk@npr.org. And this is Max, and Max is on the line with us from Kansas City - from Atlantic City - excuse me - in New Jersey. Very different place.

MAX (Caller): Yeah, a different thing altogether, Neal.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MAX: Yeah, it's great, good show today. Mr. Van Zandt's comments are well-taken. Neal, thanks for letting me on.

CONAN: Sure.

MAX: I'm just wondering, I'm both an attorney and a law-enforcement officer, and I've worked as such at various times, and also at the same time, I'd worked as an attorney and as a law-enforcement officer part time. So, I kind of look at these issues from all the way around. I just want to make a couple of points. The first thing is that cops stay out of lot of trouble a lot of times if they simply follow the facts. If you follow the facts to the case, you've got a rational basis for what you're doing, and avoid a lot of the problems. You know, the facts are what they are.

And investigators' motivations - you know, I've never run across an investigator that wanted to nail the wrong person. You know, that would be against the interest of justice. And I found over the years, whether they're local, state, or federal investigators have a very - tend to have a very well-developed sense of justice. So, they - you know, the last thing they want is for the wrong, you know, person to be, you know, to be unjustly accused. And that being said, you know, there are a lot of meaningful limits. There are court cases. There are administrative procedures. There are policies, agency policies, civilian review boards. There are all sorts of mechanism in place to check some of the more, you know...

CONAN: Egregious.

MAX: That's it, you know, behavior. So, you know, you say they have a lot of attitude. I would agree with that as a general premise, but for example, in a state like New York, New York courtship rules specifically on the police use of deception for example, i.e., at what point does police use of deception in an investigation overcome the voluntary and knowing nature of a defendant's confession for example? So, you know, there you have state-level courts who are not afraid to grapple with that issue. And you know, they might conclude, for example, if you fabricate a fake crime report and you present that to someone, that might be too deceptive. But if you kind of infer that you have the suspect on tape...

CONAN: But you can...

MAX: That might...

CONAN: Or you could say your body has given you up, you know?

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, absolutely, and that's a very common type thing. You know, when you look at the narratives in those cases, if you read what the courts say, you know, they realized that there's a give and take between investigators and criminal suspects. And that there is some amount of gamesmanship that goes on, and not allowing that ladder to - would actually put us all at risk because the clearance rate on crimes would fall off dramatically, f or example, if, you know, for example, you couldn't even infer or use a little bit of deceptions, or engage in some of these gamesmanship or cat and mouse that goes back and forth, you know, between the suspect and investigator.

So, you know, what I have come to out of all that is that there is an appropriate range or zone of activity that actually helps keep the public safe. And unfortunately, at times, if you're onto the wrong person, I understand that they can harm that person and cause their family some, you know, some distress.

CONAN: Yeah, considerable distress, in some cases. Max, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

MAX: Absolutely, and thank you once again.

CONAN: Clint, one thing I've always wondered about, these lengthy interrogations...

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah.

CONAN: Aren't these people free to leave?

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Absolutely. You know, number one, I'm sitting here talking to you, Neal. I'm going to advise you of your rights. You say, hey, Clint, thanks. Have a good day. You're up, out the door, and that's it. I'm not going to tie you to your chair or anything such as that. Now, there are different types of interviews. So, I would suggest that in the case of Dr. Ivins, there were FBI agents, over the years - realized that at Fort Detrick, the FBI was trying to use people to help this investigation. So, there were conversations that information was gleamed from that really wasn't a formal interview.

CONAN: OK. Stay with us, Clint Van Zandt. We're going to talk more about tactics of investigators. How far they can go? How far should they go? A former police detective will join us in the next segment as well and more of your calls. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation in Washington. A quick reminder, Murray Horwitz joins us a little bit later this hour with the next in our Summer Movie Festival today, your favorite nuke movies, "War Games," even "Godzilla" counts. Send us your picks now. Talk@npr.org is the email address. Right now, we're talking about criminal investigations. Law enforcement has lots of discretion in the legal methods it chooses to use. The main suspect in the FBI's anthrax investigation complained he was being stalked by federal agents before he killed himself last month.

Of course, it's typical to compare that particular case to any other investigation, but how far can investigators go, legally? How far should they go? We'd particularly like to hear from those of you in law enforcement. Email talk@npr.org. Our phone numbers is 800-989-8255. Clint Van Zandt is our guest. He's a former FBI agent and author of the book "Facing Down Evil: Life on the Edge as an FBI Hostage Negotiator." Let's get another caller on the line. This is Carol, Carol with us from San Jose in California.

CAROL (Caller): Yes, I was listening to your show. It's very interesting. And my input was that if you're a sensitive person, something like this, and you have no understanding of how it works, it can be devastating and merciless. And I think that the aspect of showing photos to children and telling them that their father is responsible for a killing is absolutely abhorrent, and it crosses the border. Don't you think?

CONAN: Well, Carol, are you speaking from experience?

CAROL: Well, not in that kind of experience, but I have to tell you, in all truthfulness, many years ago, while working at a defense company, I had a dispute with a manager and felt falsely accused. And I went to my union, and my union representative said to me - as he pulled me to the corner quietly - they have evidence, of which - I was so vulnerable, and pardon me for being - you know, I'm so vulnerable and confused - I had no idea what the heck he was talking about. But it just - it hurt me so much that this whole thing was going on. I wanted nothing to do with it. And as a result, I was so vulnerable and didn't know how to defend myself. So, I'm just saying that if one has no warning of the treachery of false accusations or even the dishonesty implications, one could be so vulnerable and it's devastating.

CONAN: Showing pictures to kids, Clint, is that over the top?

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, realize - and again, I'm not justifying this, but the kids were grown adults. He had twin sons that were grown adults in their 20s, I think, and again, this is just my suggestion, what was being done was that the investigator has realized - of course, this was FBI postal inspectors, many, many other agencies were part of this task force - I think what they were probably trying to do, Neal, was to put pressure from the inside from his support group. They wanted his family to question him. So, you know, could any of this be true? While they were putting pressure from the outside, what they were trying to do was to get him to make an error, a mistake, get him to talk. Realize that, as FBI agent, I would just assume - I would rather you lie to me than say nothing, because if you lie, I've got something to work with.

CONAN: Some information.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, something to work with, something to run with. So, I think, as repugnant as it may sound to some, they were trying to solve this case, and they were trying to put as much pressure on the (unintelligible) may force him to commit suicide or any other untoward act. But they were trying to get him to make a mistake, trying to get him to talk. And of course, the ultimate is that "Perry Mason" moment where he says, I confess, I confess, I did it. That's television. That normally doesn't happen like that. But then investigators were trying to make their own trail to solve this case, and this is one way they tried to do it, I believe.

CONAN: Well, joining us now. Thanks very much for the call, Carol - joining us now is Lee Lofland. who is a former police detective, crime scene investigations and police procedures expert. He is the author of "Police Procedure and Investigation." He also writes mystery stories. And he joins us from the studios at WGBH in Boston. Nice to have you in the program today.

Mr. LEE LOFLAND (Author, "Police Procedure and Investigation"): Good afternoon. Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And from the local police level, do these kinds of questions come up with you as well?

Mr. LOFLAND: Sure they do all the time. Yes.

CONAN: And do you put in a lot of thought in before you apply the pressure?

Mr. LOFLAND: Yes. You don't want to infringe upon anyone's rights. But you still - you have a crime to solve. You're trying to stop all the murders before they happen, so - but you do think about it ahead of time, yes.

CONAN: Are we still in the days of good cop/bad cop? Does that still apply?

Mr. LOFLAND: Definitely, and this good cop/bad cop work, it really works.

CONAN: It really works?

Mr. LOFLAND: Yes.

CONAN: Clint, have you ever used good cop/bad cop?

Mr. VAN ZANDT: I have. I have. I've used it as a hostage negotiator in a prison riot. We have some negotiator sitting there, talking, and they're calm. And I come in, one particular riot, I just lost my temper, yelled and screamed at them. I walked stormed out of the room. I was trying to convey the impression that, you know, we didn't have infinite patience. The problem was I'd run out of civilian clothes, and I was wearing, like, fatigues and combat boots and a sweater. And the prison rioters believe that I represented the military, and they thought this was tantamount to an assault by the military to retrieve the prison. That was a different message that I was trying to send, but it helped.

CONAN: Anything like that in your experience, former Detective Lofland?

Mr. LOFLAND: Things like that do happened all the time. You use what you have, what you have available. That worked well for him, obviously.

CONAN: Well, he sent the wrong message in that particular case, but it probably was - well, it worked.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, dress for a success, you've got to be careful about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. VAN ZANDT: And you know, you don't know the success you're going to get.

CONAN: But the techniques of saying, you know, well, we've got a fingerprint, or your buddy has ratted you out, that sort of stuff?

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah...

Mr. LOFLAND: We used that all the time, yes.

CONAN: Yeah? And that's - have you done it? Ever applied that kind of pressure to somebody and then realized afterwards they're not the guy?

Mr. LOFLAND: Unfortunately, that happens, too, but you never know until the point - until you reach that point.

CONAN: I also wonder, you now write mystery stories, and I assume some of them involved police detectives. And how much do you have to fictionalize?

Mr. LOFLAND: Well, if we wrote - if all mystery writers wrote the truth, the books will be pretty boring, because a lot of police work is just riding around in police cars all day, being proactive, trying to - you know, solve - stop crime before it happens. So, we have to be pretty creative when we're writing mysteries.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Mike, and Mike is on the line with us from Greensboro, North Carolina.

MIKE (Caller): Hi, Neal.

CONAN: Hi.

MIKE: I just wanted to make a couple of points here. One is I'm a retired homicide investigator, and I found, along the way, that if you make the person to whom you speaking, if it's the suspect, believe that you know most all of what happened, and that all - the only reason you're talking to them is to have them kind of flesh out the details, that people tend to get upset when they think you know more than they do or they think you do.

And the other thing was a very effective technique I learned from an auto detective who was interviewing two suspects once, and neither one of them was giving anything up. They were in separate rooms. So, he had the first suspect, he said, have you told the truth? And the guy said, yes. And he said, OK, write that down, I told the truth, and sign it. And the other suspect that - I think was name Bill or something like that - and he said, oh, and my name - detective said, my name is Bill. So, let's say, Bill, I told the truth and then sign it at the bottom.

And the guy did that and he took that over, and showed it to Bill, and Bill immediately gave up the whole crime. So, there are a lots of little subtle issues that can inject into this whole process. We don't really involve, you know, berating or lying to somebody. They're just some nuances.

CONAN: Lee Lofland, do you think that would work?

Mr. LOFLAND: Oh, yeah. A good detective, good investigator, has to be a good actor, and that's one of the prerequisites, I think.

CONAN: It's hard to act, as if you know, I mean, did - somewhat, I guess, in that situation, as an interviewer, from time to time...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: But you have to parcel out the information just a little bit at a time, don't you, Clint?

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, really. We're - as these two gentlemen are suggesting, you're trying to indicate to your suspect that you're omnipotent. You know, one of the things, you know, not giving away methods and techniques necessarily, but you know, we may have a room and I may have the desk stock full of files, and I may have a video loop on our television - it runs 15 seconds - that shows you walking in and out of the building or something else. And I've got a file cabinet with your name, one, two, three, four different files.

Well, those file cabinets may be empty. The files on the desk may have old comics book at them. And the loop maybe something I just shot when I was out trying to do something. But when you see that and then when I provide you some information, you think, holy cow, they've got everything! They've got videos! They've got satellites! They've got telephone bugs! They've got - there's an FBI agent or a police officer behind every mailbox. What can I do? I may as well give it up. And that's just - it's just what you want to do. You want to bring them to that point where they give it up.

CONAN: Mike, thanks very much for the call.

MIKE: Thank you.

CONAN: Here's an email from Charles in Boise, Idaho. I'm a psychological scientist who does research on the impact of current interrogation techniques, lying to suspects, false evidence ploys, et cetera. The United States should catch up to the rest of the civilized world and require the recording of all custodial interviews and outlaw the techniques that result frequently in false confessions. The research indicates that most innocent people fail to exert their rights because they believe the police have their best interests at heart. Innocence does put people at risk for false confession and false conviction.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Many agencies do. I know the FBI, in many situations, will record those conversations, but I haven't run into many people who think that the police are your best friend and that they're really there, when they sit you down, advise you of your rights. I mean, I remember telling my children, Neal, when they were young, when a police officer says, you have the right to remain silent, I said, exercise that right.

CONAN: Yes.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: You know, I spent years - and I'm sure the other callers did, too - putting people in jail because they kept talking after I said you have the right to remain silent, you know, if you want to tell me that, but again, that's my responsibility to develop that relationship with the person I'm talking to.

CONAN: Well, surely you - and what about you, Lee Lofland, have you ever had a false confession?

Mr. LOFLAND: Several times, but it's up to the individual investigator to clean out those facts that - well, you know it's a false confession.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Brian, Brian with us from Boise in Idaho.

BRIAN (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Thank you.

BRIAN: I sat on a jury a few months ago, a child molestation case, and the prosecution's case hinged on the statement given during the interview with the police. And in that interview, the police officer asked three separate times whether or not he had touched the child's genitalia. The first two times he said no. The third time he didn't say no. He said that he was insulted by the question or something like that. So, the police officer put that he did not deny it, and the whole thing went to trial, and even in the trial, they ended up going to that entire transcript, and we pretty much unanimous - well, we did unanimously throw that count out because of - because he did not actually say it. I just thought it was the inference there was tenuous at best, I think.

CONAN: Well, it's one thing to deceive a suspect. It's another to try to deceive the court.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, it is. And you know, this brings to mind, you know, one of the thousands of interviews that we do at law enforcement. I had a suspected child molester. He had allegedly molested a little girl. So, I'm talking to him, and as repugnant as it is, Neal - now, I'm the father of three and a grandfather of six, so I sit there and I would say to him, well, we know how little girls are, and they dress like that, and they're trying to bring some type of arousal on you, and you're just a man. You're just responding to something like that.

And when you see the head start to nod, when you see the body language open up again, you know that you've made a connection. As terrible as those words are to come out of my mouth, you say what you have to say to create an open environment, where this, in my case, this individual thought I was receptive to what he did, and then he eventually told me what he did. I didn't like that. I like that we got this guy off the street, but it's not comfortable when you have to, even in that circumstance, to justify some terrible action like he did, role play, in a sense.

CONAN: Yes, exactly.

Mr. LOFLAND: Yeah. Yeah.

CONAN: Brian, thanks for the call.

BRIAN: Thank you.

CONAN: You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's go to this email from Elizabeth in Durham, North Carolina. My dad was the subject of an investigation and committed suicide as a result. I want to comment on the search process. My teenage sister was the only one home when the police came to our house, and she didn't hear them knock. And they came in and had her sit in her underwear while they searched and took our photo albums, home videos, books, passports, computers.

A year after my dad's suicide, the police said they had found nothing incriminating, but everyone knew the allegations against my dad, and what people did not realize was that he was mentally fragile all along. And Lee Lofland, that's something that, you know, the people who were victims, as this man apparently was, of this, they really feel that sometimes police don't take that into account.

Mr. LOFLAND: It's unfortunate, but people just need to realize what police officers have to deal with. We don't know what's on the other side of that door when we enter from, you know, serving a search warrant. You don't know if that person has a gun beneath him when he's sitting in the chair. You just don't know what's on the other side of that door. So, the whole search-warrant process has the officer's safety in mind the entire time.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go to Chicago. And this is John. John's calling us from Chicago, Illinois.

JOHN (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

JOHN: Hi, yeah. I used to investigate child sex abuse for the state of Illinois, and I, well, did that, of course, since it's part of a multidisciplinary team with several police officers and district attorneys. What concerns me the most is that the police will - at least the ones I've worked with - they will sometimes actually tell outright falsehoods to the suspect and sometimes other witnesses as well.

And it's one thing to imply things that some of the gentlemen on the show have been talking about, or you know - I mean, it's another thing, I think, to actually tell a direct lie. I think there's a moral aspect to that. I mean, if we become part of a moral (unintelligible) infraction ourselves, it does have a spiritual and a psychological effect on the person who tells the lie, regardless of the reason you're doing it. And I just really - I never could do it myself.

I never felt very good about it when my coworkers did it with the perps, or the alleged perps, just because it seemed to me that, you know, if you stoop to that level, and if you do think that are morally unacceptable in any other context, why does the end justify the means here, when there are several other ways to get information from the suspect, and many of the methods that the gentleman has discussed are actually more effective in the first place? So, that's the comment I wanted to make. I just think that it's never a good idea for people to souls down the line(ph), and I'm not speaking necessarily from a religious standpoint, more from a psychological and a philosophical standpoint.

CONAN: Let's get...

JOHN: To get somebody who's doing something bad.

CONAN: Let's see if Lee Lofland has a response to that.

Mr. LOFLAND: I kind of have to respectfully disagree with part of that. A good example is - like Agent Van Zandt was talking about a little while ago, I also use a method. I used to keep a VCR tape in my desk drawer ,and I would - if we had, like, a break-in or a robbery or something, I would bring the tape out and label it, say, Lee's Jewelry Store, and if the suspect had robbed that jewelry store, I'd say, I've got the tape right here, I've got the video proof. And you know, a lot of times they would confess. I don't really see where that's morally - that would really psychologically hurt anyone. The end justifies the means in that instance.

CONAN: Clint, we just have a few seconds left.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: It's not a perfect world, Neal. And unfortunately, police officers, FBI agents, you've got to work in a less-than-perfect world. And if you sit around and wait for people to have this pang of guilty consciousness and tell you what they did, we'd be waiting a long time. So, you've got to be creative, but you - everybody has to define that line that you don't want to cross.

CONAN: For themselves.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: For themselves.

CONAN: Right. John, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. Clint Van Zandt worked for the FBI as an agent and a hostage negotiator and a profiler for 25 years. His book is "Facing Down Evil: Life on the Edge as an FBI Hostage Negotiator." He was with us here in Studio 3A. Clint Van Zandt, always nice to have you on the program.

Mr. VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And Lee Lofland, a former police detective, joined us from the studios of WGBH, a member station in Boston. He's the author of "Police Procedure and Investigation." And thank you very much for your time today as well.

Mr. LOFLAND: Thank you again for having me.

CONAN: Coming up, our summer movie festival goes to DEFCON 1. What are your favorite nuclear films? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Murray Horwitz joins us next. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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