Signals in the noise
Posted by aogFriday, 19 August 2005 at 11:18 TrackBack Ping URL

While I understand the potential importance of the Able Danger memos, I think we need to be careful to not fall in to the Pearl Harbor mistake. This is the fact that there is really nothing that’s completely secret. You can also go back, post facto, and pick out bits of intelligence that pointed at how the future would be. The problem which gets ignored, is the haystack of other signs pointing at completely different outcomes. That’s not to say Able Danger is a case of that, or that it wasn’t a strong and clear signal lost because of dysfunctional cultures and procedures in our intelligence agencies, but that we need to be careful about placing it in the context of the time.

In fact, one could structure this to point out the difficulty President Bush had in his choice of actions against Iraq. There was plenty of noise and it wasn’t possible at the time to clearly distinguish what was really going on. One person’s cherry picking is another man’s attempt to create a pattern out of static. One literally can’t accept all of the data because it’s contradictory. It will always be a judgement call on which bits of data one uses to construct one’s model of reality. I think getting that understanding out is the most important thing we could get out of this issue.

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