Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On the presentation of knowledge and analytic resluts

I just heard Michael Morell, a former Deputy Director of the CIA, on the Charlie Rose Show. (The interview is not yet online.)Morell has a new book out, which was generally a basis for the interview.

Morell described the way the CIA should brief the president, and the rule sounds pretty good: The briefing should include:

  • What is known.
  • How what is known is known.
  • What analysts have concluded from their extrapolations of what is known.
  • How the analysis has been done.
  • What confidence the analysts have in their conclusions.
I might add to a briefing, what added information might be found with more investigation, and the estimated likely costs in time and resources to obtain that information.

Morell stressed that such a briefing should not offer policy advice unless such advice is specifically requested. The role of the neutral source of information and analysis in the policy debate should be to step in when incorrect information is adduced by others, or when statements are made for which the confidence is very low.

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