Our Polygraphs, Our Lies

One person put away his polygraph this month.

Danny Hershtal,

OpEds guest
Arutz 7
Last week, Knesset Members lashed out against Channel 2's new hit game show, The Polygraph. At the same time, our Attorney General decided to limit the use of the polygraph at his disposal.

The new show has contestants answer a series of questions while hooked up to a lie-detector. The contestants
Clearly, the people feel that the Attorney General can not be an objective interlocutor.
can advance through the rounds, earning more money, by answering the questions truthfully. In the meantime, the contestants' families and friends watch in the audience.

The show and its producers have been heavily criticized for the unabashed questions posed to the contestants, mostly dealing with extremely intimate details of their sexual fidelity. Even the commercials for the show, which was hyped heavily across the network, featured some of the most suggestive questions. One schoolteacher garnered 400 signatures on a petition, which convinced Channel 2 to cancel the commercials during the daytime, when children may be watching TV. The network also agreed to air the show at a later time slot. However, Knesset Members called the show's star and producer to a meeting at which they were encouraged to have some shame and censor themselves. The host, Gadi Sukenik, retorted that while some people found the show abrasive, the ratings for the show were high and many people have already contacted the producers to become contestants. He said he'd keep on polygraphing as long as the show was a success.

However, one person who did put away his polygraph this month was Attorney General Meni Mazuz. Over the past few days, complete sections of the police investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have been published in Israel's major newspapers, including transcripts of police interviews of witnesses and suspects. This unprecedented interference with an ongoing investigation prompted Olmert's lawyers, as well as members of the prosecution, to call for an investigation to find the sources of the leaks.

At first, Mazuz threatened to force every person who had access to the material to submit to a polygraph test to see who among the police, prosecution or defense team provided the transcripts to the press. However, after Olmert's lawyers submitted their list of 26 people and expressed their willingness to undergo the polygraph, Mazuz decided that there were too many people with access to the transcripts to make an effective investigation and the issue was closed.

Immediately, recriminations came from both sides of the political spectrum; with Olmert supporters (both of them) saying that closing the investigation into the leaks proved that it was the police who did it to smear Olmert, while Olmert detractors said that this proved that Mazuz was going easy on Olmert to maintain him as Prime Minister. Clearly, the people feel that the Attorney General can not be an objective interlocutor between his boss, the Prime Minister, and his representative, the Chief Prosecutor. However, most Israelis still want these leaks investigated, with good reason. It is normal for journalists to get tips and leads from sources in the know, but to have documents from a police investigation handed over to a reporter shows a willful interference with police procedure.

My solution to this problem is to name a third party to conduct the investigation into these leaks; namely, Gadi Sukenik. I'm told he has a polygraph ready for use on short notice. Sukenik can clearly be trusted to be objective, as long as the ratings are remain high.

Since all details of an investigation about leaks would obviously get leaked to the press immediately, why not cut out those greedy newspapers and take the investigation directly to the public via Channel 2?

Would this be a farce? Perhaps. But no more of a farce than the current proceedings against the Prime Minister and the ongoing pre-indictment testimony of Morris Talansky. In the English media, this was often referred to as a "deposition," but this is not an adequate translation. What the prosecution requested was full-blown witness testimony in a courtroom setting, which could then be added automatically to the official trial record should a trial involving the suspects, Prime Minister Olmert and his office manager Shula Zaken, ever occur. While a deposition is used to set the groundwork for a trial and allow both sides to hear the witnesses' version of events, this was to be an official part of the possible trial of a sitting Prime Minister and a woman who had essentially been managing the Prime Minister's office. While deposing witnesses is rather routine, I cannot adequately stress how odd a legal procedure this was.

My suspicion is that this early testimony had much more to do with appearances than with content. Talansky, as has been pointed out during cross-examination, has done some less than immaculate money transfers between various bank accounts. His nickname in Zaken's diary, "the laundryman", seems a bit on the nose. I would guess that the American Internal Revenue Service considers Talansky a "person of interest" and could probably process him in short order. However, no prosecutor, especially one prosecuting a sitting official, wants a lead witness testifying from prison in an orange jumpsuit.

As I said, this is merely conjecture, but, if this is so, it is only one example of how this whole case has been played out in the court of public opinion more than in the court of justice, with the leaked interrogation transcripts being a paradigm example.

Would this be a farce? Perhaps. But no more of a farce than the current proceedings.

While I have no doubt that Olmert is corrupt, and a belief that unpopular leaders should be unseated by public pressure, I am upset that legal issues are not confined to the courtroom. I am also shocked at the perversion of justice of essentially initiating a trial - since Talansky's testimony is for the trial record - without identifying the crime of which the defendants are accused.

Pre-indictment testimony has been used before in cases where all involved were relatively clear about the nature of the crime that was suspected. However, to this date, no charge has been leveled by the police or prosecution against Olmert. The crimes of breach of public trust, bribery, illegal campaign funding and tax-evasion have all been raised as possibilities, but each of these requires a distinct and separate defense. It would seem that a very basic right of justice has been denied to our Prime Minister, as Olmert has been put on trial without being told why.

While Olmert may feel like Joseph K., the hero of Kafka's The Trial, his lawyers have shown that they can give as good as they get. Olmert's publicist, Amir Dan, and legal team have pulled no punches in insulting Talansky, the police, the prosecution and the Attorney General in the most public of forums. This circus has at least two rings.

If this is the level to which Israeli justice has descended, I see no reason it can't be put on full display for all to see. While I consider The Polygraph a vile and offensive show, if Prime Minister Olmert, his legal team, Chief Prosecutor Moshe Lador and his associates were all to appear on an upcoming episode, I may even be tempted to watch.