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Deceptive Ambiguity by Police and Prosecutors$
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Roger W. Shuy

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190669898

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190669898.001.0001

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Undercover Agents Use Deceptive Ambiguity

Undercover Agents Use Deceptive Ambiguity

(p.123) 5 Undercover Agents Use Deceptive Ambiguity
Deceptive Ambiguity by Police and Prosecutors

Roger W. Shuy

Oxford University Press

Undercover operations are deceptive by definition. First, the speech event is camouflaged so that the targets believe it is very different from what it really is. This misunderstanding of the speech event creates conflicting schemas, often enabling the agents to manipulate the targets’ agendas, to reinterpret the meaning of the speech acts used by both, to use ambiguous conversational strategies to persuade the targets to agree with the agent’s propositions, and to misinterpret the targets’ words to suit the prosecution’s case. This chapter reprises the FBI undercover investigations of US Senator Harrison A. Williams, automobile manufacturer John Z. DeLorean, and the IRS investigation of an individual taxpayer named Vernon Sligh. It also demonstrates how the undercover agents used deceptive ambiguity in their techniques of producing a misleading record of language evidence that was favorable to the prosecution and unfavorable to the targets.

Keywords:   Undercover agents, FBI, IRS, deceptive ambiguity, the Inverted Pyramid, Senator Harrison Williams, John DeLorean, Vernon Sligh

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