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Experts say the pitcher's body language in a '60 Minutes' chat hint at deception.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published February 13, 2008
[Courtesy of CBS]
TAMPA - Former FBI agent Joe Navarro once unearthed a Tampa mob boss because he noticed the uneasy way a cigarette shook between the fingers of an interviewee once he mentioned a specific name.
After 25 years of counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigative work, Navarro is trained to notice the slightest touch of uneasiness in a person, and after watching a recent interview with Roger Clemens, he'd like to ask the seven-time Cy Young Award winner a few extra questions.
Clemens, whose name was the biggest in December's Mitchell report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, is scheduled to testify today in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Washington. He steadfastly has denied using steroids or human growth hormone.
But Navarro said Clemens' 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace last month is more telling than anything that will be seen today - and shows subtle signs that are "suggestive of deception."
"It shows signs of distress," Navarro said. "As an investigator, I would want to know why."
Navarro said that when Clemens was asked in the Jan.6 interview about specific incidents when he was accused of using steroids - Clemens' former trainer Brian McNamee told investigator George Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader, that he injected Clemens four times in the buttocks over a several-week span in his apartment in 1998 - Clemens' body language gave indications of possible lying.
"Not all words carry the same weight," said Navarro, who is an adjunct professor at Saint Leo University in Pasco County, where he teaches advanced interviewing and nonverbal communications for law enforcement officers. "Objects all have the same weight unless an object was used in a crime. Speaking about something in general doesn't mean anything, but when you mention something happened in your room at this time, specifics cause high stress and are suggestive of deception."
Navarro, who made it clear that he is not accusing Clemens of lying, said Clemens' mannerisms - which included rare subtle nodding, tucking in his chin and taking hard swallows over a 28-second span - indicate what he calls "guilty knowledge" - suspicious reactions a subject gives when specifics are detailed.
Kevin Hogan, a body language expert and the author of The Psychology of Persuasion, said that Clemens had an accelerated blink rate when denying the accusations that "appears to be too fast for someone telling the truth." Hogan also noted that Clemens did not make direct eye contact with Wallace when he said he had no knowledge of friend and teammate Andy Pettitte's HGH use.
"It seems to me he probably used a few times, regretted it, decided not to and got caught for something he'd given up," Hogan said.
Navarro said if he had the opportunity to interview Clemens, he would go back to the specifics that he believes made him uncomfortable in the 60 Minutes interview. Later in the interview, Clemens admits that McNamee injected him with vitamin B-12 and the painkiller lidocaine (an admission that comes too late to believe, Hogan says). Navarro said he would revisit the specifics of those occurrences: particulars of the trainer coming over, what kind of needle was used, where the injections were administered, any side effects, what he was told, if he saw the bottle, whether it was prescribed by a doctor, what was being said as he was being injected, how it felt, what were the circumstances, whether anyone else was present.
But don't expect to read much into Clemens' testimony today, Navarro said. Even though Clemens will be under oath and would face federal perjury charges if he lies, the group setting and added preparation time allow Clemens a chance to rehearse and be coached by his attorneys.
"Isolating the person one-on-one is always the best," said Navarro, who also has written a book about reading opponents' tells in poker entitled Read 'Em and Reap. "Congressional testimony becomes theatrical. Congress thinks it's the best way to get the truth, but it's not."
John Boe, an Ohio-based expert on body language, said today's testimony could hold some clues. Boe said one tell-tale sign of deception occurred when baseball players testified in front of Congress three offseasons ago and former Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro pointed at the committee and shook his finger while denying he used steroids. That season, Palmeiro tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
"It's an aggressive gesture," Boe said. "When someone is not being honest they speak through their fingers rather than speaking through their mouth."
Boe said Clemens only hurt himself by talking to Wallace, with his exaggerations that if he used steroids he'd "have a third ear growing out of my forehead and (be) pulling tractors with my teeth" and asking why his "tendons didn't turn to dust."
"His words speak louder than his actions," Boe said. "It showed poor judgment on his part. Unless he is a professional con man, which he is not, I think it's absolutely silly that he would open his mouth in front of millions of people."
That's why Boe doesn't recommend Clemens speak to Congress.
"I just believe that being under oath, he would have a more difficult time controlling his body language."
Roger Clemenson Capitol Hill
What: Roger Clemens' public testimony in front of the House Committee on Oversight Government Reform. His former trainer, Brian McNamee, also is scheduled to testify.
When: Scheduled start time is 10 a.m. today.
TV: ESPN's coverage begins at 9:30 a.m.; testimony will be televised in its entirety on C-SPAN3 (Ch. 129 on Bright HouseDigital Cable) and online atwww.c-span.org
What to look for. 4C
Jose Canseco says he, Clemens never discussed steroids. 4C
[Last modified February 12, 2008, 23:29:26]