“Left of Bang”
Behavior Detection in Forensics
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has deployed behavior detection techniques for years, most recently in counterterrorism actions. Marines are taught the techniques during their Combat Hunter Course so that bad guys can be detected before they can do bad things. â€śLeft of bangâ€ť means before the bad things happen; â€śright of bangâ€ť means that bad things have already happened, e.g., ambush, improvised explosive device (IED), etc. Therefore, managing to stay â€śleft of bangâ€ť means staying alive for the Marines. Likewise, â€śleft of bangâ€ť applies to forensic operators; avoiding bad things such as missing fraudulent activities, failing to detect lies, not discerning tell-tale indicators, and so on. Therefore, forensic operators must apply such techniques to avoid being deceived.
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has deployed behavior detection techniques for years, most recently in counterterrorism actions.Â Marines are taught the techniques during their Combat Hunter Course so that bad guys can be detected before they can do bad things.
â€śLeft of bangâ€ť means before the bad things happen; â€śright of bangâ€ť means that bad things have already happened, e.g., ambush, improvised explosive device (IED), etc.Â Therefore, managing to stay â€śleft of bangâ€ť means staying alive for the Marines.
Likewise, â€śleft of bangâ€ť applies to forensic operators; avoiding bad things such as missing fraudulent activities, failing to detect lies, not discerning tell-tale indicators, and so on.Â Therefore, forensic operators must apply such techniques in order to avoid being deceived.
This article summarizes how forensic operators can deploy the Marinesâ€™ techniques in everyday assignments.
The Six Domains
Combat profiling focuses on human behavior comprising six domains: Kinesics, Biometrics, Proxemics, Geographics, Iconography, and Atmospherics.Â Each domain is described so that forensics operators can apply them in every forensic assignment.
Kinesicsâ€”The First Domain
This domain involves conscious and subconscious body language.Â Human beings (terrorists reluctantly included) continuously emit signals through posture, gestures, and expressions that convey emotions and likely future intentions.Â Observing and interpreting such signals is critical for the forensic operator in order to proactively identify potential threats.
Biometricsâ€”The Second Domain
This term describes the human bodyâ€™s uncontrollable and autonomic biological responses to stress.Â Understanding such responses are key to understanding emotional states.
Proxemicsâ€”The Third Domain
This domain permits forensic operators to observe and interpret group behavior based upon interpersonal distance, relationships, space, and other factors.Â Proxemics is distinct from biometrics and kinesics because it permits interpretation related to surrounding people and group dynamics.
Geographicsâ€”The Fourth Domain
This domain comprises reading relationships between people and their environment.Â That includes determining who may or may not be familiar with their surroundings.Â Such behavior is significant because human behavior is predictable and thus permits the forensic operator to anticipate actions and activity.
Iconographyâ€”The Fifth Domain
This domain permits the forensic operator to observe and interpret symbols that convey beliefs, intentions, and affiliations among other indicators.Â Iconography is often unconscious and distinguishes individuals who otherwise believe they are discreet.
Atmosphericsâ€”The Sixth Domain
This domain reflects collective attitudes, behaviors, and moods in a given environment.Â Social and emotional atmospheres can be subtle but are quite distinct once their presence is sought and interpreted.Â In particular, changes in atmospherics convey shifts or signals that indicate clues for forensic operators.
The Domains in Practice
The following examples of domains in practice derive from the authorâ€™s live experience.Â They are not intended as all-inclusive, but rather as illustrative.Â Thus, once the reader has gained understanding of the concepts then he/she can seek further knowledge by buying the â€śLeft of Bangâ€ť book and immediately putting the techniques into practice.
Kinesics in Action
One of the most vivid examples of kinesis that I have experienced involved throat â€śflushingâ€ť.Â We were interviewing members of a multi-office engineering firm in order to assist them with managing cash, establishing vital signs measurements, and determining the reasons for their growth that did not seem to yield cash.
During the interview of a mid-level accountant, I noticed her throat â€śflushingâ€ť (turning red) when the topic of a certain vice president was addressed.Â I covered several topics, but returned to the vice president a few times and each time she reacted the same.
I addressed the issue with the president who disregarded the observation.Â Nonetheless, I pressed him to look further into the issue.Â Shortly afterward, the president advised me he had inquired internally and found that the â€śrumor millâ€ť suggested the accountant was having an affair with the vice president who worked out of another office.Â He confronted her and she quickly resigned, whereupon we conducted analysis and found that she had been taking cash from the company.
Biometrics in Action
I was sitting in a deposition observing an (alleged) opposing expert answer questions.Â The deposition began about 8:30 a.m. and we took a break about 10:15 a.m.Â At break I was anxious to ask my client whether he saw the â€śtellsâ€ť given off by the deponent.Â My client had no idea what I was talking about, but I advised him to observe what the deponent did with his hand every time he was asked certain questions about a certain topic.
After we reconvened my client took another break about 11:30 a.m. and excitedly explained what he saw.Â That is, whenever the deponent was (potentially) lying in his answer, he unconsciously ran his left hand through his hair.Â It was a classic â€śtellâ€ť and he may as well have been shooting a flare to announce his discomfort with his own answer.
Proxemics in Action
I ordered a consumer electronics product from a large retail store but found it defective.Â I returned it twice but each time the product failed to operate properly.Â At that point, I was rather irritated because of the time wasted to consummate what should have been a simple purchase.Â I took the product back to the store about 9:00 p.m. one evening and spoke with the on-duty manager.Â When he could provide no resolution, I asked to speak to the store manager.
The on-duty manager said the store manager was off duty so, I asked for the on-duty manager to call the manager at home.Â When I asked him to do so, the on-duty manager turned slightly away from me, dropped his head and said, â€śI donâ€™t have his phone number.â€ťÂ I instinctively blurted out, â€śYouâ€™re lying.â€ťÂ (I regretted my brusque manner but I had already disclosed my belief.)
After my assertion, the on-duty manager said, â€śYouâ€™re rightâ€”I was lying,â€ť whereupon he phoned the manager and we eventually resolved the problem.
Geographics in Action
We were asked by a mid-sized non-profit to investigate whether the controller was â€ścooking the books.â€ťÂ The director knew me from a prior association and he asked me to come into his offices at night so I could observe the premises.
When I arrived, I noted that the four accounting personal each had individual cubicles for their work spaces.Â One of the workspacesâ€”of the controllerâ€”however, was obscured by its placement of dozens of stuffed animals of all sizes.
I queried the director regarding the circumstances and he said that over the last two to three years he noticed that the controller had modified her cubicle by first, moving her computer screen to the other side of her cubicle, thus obscuring any view of her screen.Â Next, she moved her cubicle wall so that she had only a small access into and out of her work area.Â Then, she began bringing in dozens of stuffed animals and effectively built a wall around her and above herâ€”she was almost fully enclosed.
The director sheepishly admitted that he should have been more attentive to the circumstances.Â The controller was eventually fired and then prosecuted for fraud.
Iconography in Action
The CFO of a large construction company asked us to investigate fictitious accounting entries that were used to disguise fraudulent accounting activity.Â Several accounting staff generated journal entries and the antiquated accounting system did not accommodate tracing action by person.
While reviewing journal entry descriptions (any one of which could have been done by several different people), I noted certain distinctive phrases.Â For example, â€śhf yr acl rvlâ€ť was determined to mean, â€śhalf year accrual reversal.â€ťÂ Such pattern was common in Morse code usage, i.e., abbreviations are commonly used to save time when communicating over the air.
I inquired whether any of the accountants were HAM radio operators and the CFO responded in the affirmative.Â We had our suspect and after further investigation, determined that the operator was the guilty party.Â He had unconsciously â€śtelegraphedâ€ť his guilt by his use of Morse code.
Atmospherics in Action
The most vivid example of atmospherics that comes to mind was a few years ago.Â I was in an arbitration where opposition comprised of three separate opposing attorneys.Â During cross-examination, they were each permitted to ask me one question and after my response, then the next attorney was to ask me a question.
The three litigators sat at the head of table set up in a â€śTâ€ť configuration and I sat at the bottom of the T.Â I had two attorneys on my right and one on my left.Â Therefore, after attorney number one (on my right) asked me a question, I would reply, whereupon attorney number two (on my right) would ask me a question, and so on.
When I replied to a certain question from attorney number two (on my right)â€”it was not a very good or relevant questionâ€”I saw him flinch when I had a puzzled look on my face.Â I decided at that point, that regardless of the next question he asked me during the next round, that I was going to respond in a more animated manner.
And, when it came his turn to question me, I responded in an exaggerated manner with a puzzled and annoyed look.Â Before I could answer the question, he said, â€śI withdraw the questionâ€ť and asked me no further questions.
Such illustrates the power of atmospherics.
Forensic operators must apply all the tools at their disposal, e.g., people, money, and patterns.Â If you fail to deploy all the techniques available to you, your client will not be well served.
If such techniques are good enough for the Marine Corps they are good enough for us!
 â€śLeft of Bang,â€ť Van Horne, Patrick, and Riley, Jason A., www.blackirishbooks.com, 2014.
Darrell D. Dorrell, CPA, MBA, ASA, CVA, CMA, ABV, CFF, is principal at financialforensicsÂ®, a Lake Oswego, OR firm. He is a forensic operator specializing in the determination, investigation, restatement, analysis, interpretation, forecasting, feasibility, translation, and visualization of complex financial and operational data.
He is nationally recognized within his profession as a speaker and author, and has delivered more than 100 addresses to many national bodies on financial topics including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), Bankruptcy Bar Association, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (NACVA), the Oregon and Washington bars, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Institute of Management Accountants, SEAK, CPAA International, Inc., AGN, Inc., the National Litigation Support Services Association (NLSSA), Turnaround Management Association, and the California, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington Society of CPAs, among others.
Mr. Dorrell can be contacted at (503) 636-7999 or by e-mail to DarrellD@financialforensics.com.