Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Part 6: Digging Deeper (The Revolution Begins On Page Five: The Changing Nature Of The NIE And Its Implications for Intelligence)

Part 1 -- Welcome To The Revolution
Part 2 -- Some History
Part 3 -- The Revolution Begins
Part 4 -- Page Five In Detail
Part 5 -- Enough Exposition, Let's Get Down To It...

Part 6 -- Digging Deeper

There are some disturbing trends in other numbers collected from the Iran National Intelligence Estimate. For example, 71% of the sentences in the Iran NIE contain one of the three statements “we assess”, “we judge” or “we estimate”. As you will recall, this is the way the Intelligence Community (IC) indicated it would preface its estimative conclusions. Compare this with the number of sentences with statements of confidence, i.e. 61%. I could see there being fewer sentences beginning with these three phrases (it would get tedious to constantly see “we assess", "we estimate" or "we judge” all the time) but how do you get more? That means that there are at least some estimates marked by the words that the community has stated it would use to mark such estimates that do not also contain statements of confidence.

Not that big of a deal, you say. OK, I agree, but consider this: Only 29% of the sentences in the Iran NIE contain Words of Estimative Probability (WEPs)! That means that there are some, perhaps many, sentences that indicate that they are estimative in nature but are missing one and perhaps both of the other two elements (WEPs or an assessment of confidence) that the Intelligence Community itself said it would use.

It makes my head hurt.

Let’s review the bidding: Up until the Iran NIE was released only several weeks ago, the IC was saying one thing and then doing another with regard to statements of confidence in their estimates. The Iran NIE dramatically reversed this trend and included statements of confidence in almost 2/3s of its sentences… but, while this is an undeniable improvement, there are still numbers that don’t add up.

Tomorrow: Part 7 -- Looking At The Fine Print

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