The Land of Is
Yes or No questions deserve Yes or No answers. When interviewees do not want to answer “Yes” or “No,” they go to the Land of Is. The Land of Is occupies the space between truth and deception. This grey, murky area contains a tangle of half-truths, assumptions, and suppositions. Investigators often get tangled up in the Land of Is and never obtain the truth.
The following excerpt from Clinton’s grand jury testimony in the Monica Lewinski investigation inspired the concept of the Land of Is.
PROSECUTOR: Your statement is a completely false statement. Whether or not Mr. Bennett knew of your relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, the statement that there was no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form with President
Clinton was an utterly false statement. Is that correct?
CLINTON: It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means. If is means is, and never has been, that’s one thing, if it means, there is none, that was a completely true statement.
The prosecutor asked Clinton a Yes or No question. Clinton could not answer “Yes” or “No.” If he answered “Yes,” he would be admitting that the statement is false. In other words Clinton had sexual relations with Lewinski. If he answered “No,” he would be admitting that the statement is true meaning that he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinski, which would be a lie, subjecting him to perjury. Instead of answering “Yes” or “No,” he took the prosecutor to the Land of Is. The prosecutor got tangled up in the Land of Is and missed an opportunity to force Clinton to directly answer the question. The prosecutor should have pressured Clinton to answer the question by saying, “I didn’t ask you the meaning of the word is. I asked you if the statement was false. Was that a false statement, Yes or No?”
The following excerpt from the police interview of the rape and murder suspect previously referenced illustrates how the suspect took the investigator to the Land of Is.
INVESTIGATOR: Did you want to kiss her?
SUSPECT: I--I--I didn’t feel--I didn’t remember feeling any attraction towards her, so...
INVESTIGATOR: Okay, Alright. Let’s move on.
The interviewer asked a Yes or No question but the suspect did not give a Yes or No answer. The suspect took the investigator to the Land of Is because the interviewer failed to listen to what the suspect said. The interviewer should have pressured the suspect to answer the question posed by saying, “I didn’t ask if you felt any attraction towards her. I asked if you wanted to kiss her. Did you want to kiss her, Yes or No?”