Interview with FBI Profiler Jim Clemente
Jim Clemente is a retired FBI profiler who worked at the elite Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico.
He investigated serial killers, serial rapists, child abduction, child homicide cases, and was part of the team that cracked the DC Sniper case.
Jim worked undercover on Wall Street, participated in the Whitewater investigation, was on the scene after the towers fell on 9/11 and was brought in to consult on interrogation after the controversy at Guantanamo.
He is currently the technical advisor on the TV show Criminal Minds. Jim is also in the music industry, producing the work of Taps Mugadza. Jim continues to lend his FBI experience to criminal and civil cases, including, most recently, the Sandusky investigation.
His new Lifetime Movie Network documentary series “Killer Profile” will premiere on October 13th.
Jim and I spoke about serial killers, detecting deception, how to handle dangerous situations, as well as the fascinating cases he has investigated.
My conversation with Jim was over two hours long, so for brevity’s sake I’m only going to post edited highlights here.
If you want the extended interview I’ll be sending it out in my weekly newsletter on Sunday.
What Is Profiling?
Profiling is the reverse engineering of a crime or a series of crimes. We look at the behavior exhibited and we work backwards to the type of person and the type of personality who committed that crime, because every offender picks a particular victim at a particular time, at a particular place, in a particular manner, for a particular purpose. Those choices that he makes reveal things, unwittingly, about himself: what his desires are, what his capabilities are, what his skill levels are, what his education is, what his physical ability is, etc. All those things reveal the kind of person that he is, and we use that information to direct the investigation.
Profiler Training At Quantico
Becoming an FBI profiler is a competitive process. There are about 25 profilers out of 13,000 FBI agents. There are probably only about 50 or 60 that have ever been trained, current and retired. To be considered you need at least 10 years of investigator experience and an advanced degree.
Once you get into the unit there’s a 560-hour course. It’s forensic psychology, interrogation, equivocal death investigations, etc, all at a postgraduate level. The most renowned experts from around the world come into our unit and teach these courses. Dr. Reid Meloy came. Dr. Robert Hare taught us about psychopathy. Dr. Park Dietz taught abnormal psychology. After that you spend two years as an apprentice in each of the four behavioral analysis units.
Human Behavior At The Extremes
Let’s talk about sex offenders, for example. On one end of the sex offender spectrum is the situational offender, somebody who isn’t fantasizing about committing sex crimes, but given the right set of circumstances, the right stress levels, the right level of intoxication, the right circumstances — that person may commit a sex crime. On the other end of that spectrum is the kind of person who is fantasizing about it, compulsively thinking about it, planning it, and then they go out and commit a string of these crimes.
Those are the two ends of the spectrum, the situational offender and the preferential offender, but there’s a huge gray area in between, and there are people who fall anywhere along that line. You realize that it’s not possible to just pigeonhole a person, but to find them somewhere on that spectrum. And, over time, they may move across that spectrum, somewhere, and to know that they’re not going to all share exactly the same traits and characteristics.
The Psychology of Undercover Work
Short-term undercover is really easy. It’s like an acting job. You play a role, you get the bad guy and that’s it. But deep cover turns your whole life upside down. Every single thought that goes through your mind has to be a triple thought. It has to be. When you think of something, it’s you, thinking it. Then, you have the person that you’re playing, and he has to have a different way that he thinks, because he’s a criminal and he’s a different kind of person with a different education, training and job. And then, at the same time, you’re an investigator and you’re trying to figure out how to get the evidence from the people that you’re talking to.
So everything you’re doing is triple thought. You become paranoid, because you walk down the street and you see somebody, they say “Hi” and you’re not sure if it’s somebody you know from your real life or your undercover life. Do you say “Hi, I’m Jim,” or use your undercover name? Who are you to them and how should you behave? And what if you’re with somebody who knows you as an FBI agent and then you meet somebody who you know from the undercover scenario. It’s really, really stressful.
How An FBI Profiler Spots A Lie
The key is not any particular thing; looking right at somebody or gaze aversion, touching your hair, touching your lips, covering your mouth. Those are all possible indicators, but every individual has different indicators.
So, the actual key to telling whether somebody’s lying or not is a change in behavior, not a specific behavior. The more you can norm a person, get to know what they’re like when they’re relaxed, and then when you ask them difficult questions, that is when you’ll see behavioral changes and that should tell you that they’re under stress, most likely because they’re trying to deceive you. So, that’s a very practical thing that anybody can do. You do it already in your life. It’s just applying it to people you know less well.
What Makes A Serial Killer?
It’s a mix of bio, psycho, and social. The biology is your genetics, what you’re born with. Your psychology and your personality, you have a certain amount of it when you’re born, but you actually participate in the development of that, throughout your entire life. And, then there are the events that happen in your life, your socialization. So, the way I like to say it is: your genetics load the gun, your personality aims it, and the events in your life pull the trigger.
One of the most important things I tell people is that these guys don’t all look the same way and wear the serial killer glasses and have three names. There is a type of offender, which is the “nice guy” offender, who is somebody that you just couldn’t believe. How many times when somebody’s found to be a serial killer do the neighbors all say, “He was such a quiet guy, such a nice guy. I couldn’t believe it.” That’s because they believe that all bad people have to be monster predators. They can’t be the nice guy with the smiling face, the guy who was next door, the guy who works with you, the guy who delivers your paper or fixes your washing machine.
There are no actual physical or personality characteristics that tell you whether or not somebody in their general life is actually a serial killer. This criminal behavior is, typically, very private, and sexual criminal behavior is really, really private. What you have to do is stop thinking about them as monster predators and start thinking about them as regular people. Then you won’t look past them when you’re searching for the bad guys.
Which Books Do You Recommend?
What You Should Never Do When Threatened
People who are going to do bad things to you, if they want you to move from one location to another, they will only move you to a location where they have more control, they have more privacy and they have some connection. All those reasons will get you killed. If somebody tries to move you to a secondary location, fight for your life that instant. Fight, kick, scream, yell, do everything you can. Do not ever let anybody move you. Your chances of surviving that encounter go down about 95%, if you let them take you somewhere else.
If you want the extended interview (where Jim discusses the DC Sniper case, Guantanamo, Whitewater, the Sandusky investigation and more) I’ll be sending it out with my weekly newsletter on Sunday.
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