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09 January 2017


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Americans by far and large do not choose to review the arguments behind mathematical proofs, nor do many review the results of physics experiments to see if they refute or validate various theories, nor do they ponder the different arguments between schools of philosophical thought. Most other realms of logic and argumentation are also not of public interest.

There is however one area where that is the case; law and criminal investigation. Citizens get to sit on juries and daily they are bombarded by cable TV with police procedurals and news and drama over criminal cases argued in court.

This sets the expectations for the John Q public when it comes to using intelligence in the court of public opinion. These expectations are unrealistic and can seldom be met.

First, intelligence can seldom "prove" something beyond a reasonable doubt. At best, intelligence conclusions are based on weight or preponderance of evidence, at worse it is a subjective best guess from multiple possible explanations.

Intelligence evidence is almost always very incomplete and a portion of it will be incorrect or out right deception. If you want to cherry pick evidence, you can often manipulate it to say anything you want. It may be biased by the collector. If a collection agency was tasked to "look for X" it is very likely that they will report evidence of "X" (you need to also ask for evidence of "not X").

Second, remember that the evidence can never be made public for fear of compromising sources and methods. Would anyone watch a CSI TV show that cut to the end with "who did it" without telling you how they know that? The American public is accustomed to seeing the evidence from TV shows and they expect it in this case.

This should have been anticipated early on by the administration. Their PR management of this issue has been horrible


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