Does Not Comport

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Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart had a bit of fun with CIA Director George Tenet's Senate testimony this week, especially this part:

And policy makers—you know, this is a tough road. Policy makers take data. They interpret threat. They assess risk. They put urgency behind it, and sometimes it doesn't uniquely comport with every word of an intelligence estimate.

I share Stewart's bemusement (and amusement). I'm not sure what "uniquely comport" means in this context. Is Tenet saying policy makers consciously distort intelligence to suit their needs? Or does he mean that they see what they want to see (a common enough human failing)? Perhaps the most troubling possibility is the one suggested by the literal meaning of Tenet's words: There are various glosses that can be put on an intelligence estimate, and each is just as good as the other; hence none "uniquely comports" with the data.

It seemed to me that Tenet was choosing his words carefully, perhaps for maximum ambiguity. If this is what the CIA's intelligence estimates sound like, it's no wonder they give rise to conflicting interpretations.

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  1. “There are various glosses that can be put on an intelligence estimate, and each is just as good as the other; hence none “uniquely comports” with the data.”

    I don’t know that this is fair. What Tenet was saying, I think, is that the reality of intelligence is that you are trying to put together a story, and the real world doesn’t fit together as nicely as CSI would have you believe. Policy makers have to choose either to act or not to act, and inevitably there will be reasons supported by intelligence or lack thereof to support the opposite view.

  2. When the president is told “that yellow cake paper is a forgery” and he proceeds to use it any way, that’s not comportment. When they tell him “Al Quaeda’s talking about using planes to attack US targets” and he throws it in the trash, that’s not comportment. When they tell Dick Cheney “that truck can’t be used to make WMD” and he keeps on saying it can, that’s not comportment, either.

    Tenet was just doing the dance.

  3. I think Ralph Kramden said it better;
    “Hamna hamna hamna hamna hamna”

  4. You took the words right out of my mouth Gadfly. Cheers…

    On another note, what disturbed me the most was the answer given to Sen. T. Kennedy regarding lying about intelligence to start a war. Given Gadfly’s comments, all facts I would like to add, how could Tenant possibly say with a straight face that the administration did not willingly present false evidence to promote a war.

    Jon Stewart’s caption said it best “The Fall Spy”

  5. The only decent answer to Ted Kennedy is Screw You, Asshole.

  6. The fact that the Nigeria story was a forgery does not mean that the AFRICA story was wrong.

    It is amazing to me the number of people who get so easily confused.

    BTW a lot of yelow cake was found in Iraq after the 2003 battles. Where do you suppose it came from? American stockpiles?

  7. The incompetent UN inspectors found the yellow cake before the war and marked it with great big letters. Some got lost in the post war looting, though, if that makes it better for you.

  8. While nobody could accuse Teddy Kennedy of comporting himself with grace his behavior comports well with his traditional status as elder statesman of the Loony Left.

    Is it a jibe, is it a tally? No, it’s a dovetail — it’s Superteddy & the Floundering Tenets.

  9. If the republicans try to blame the lack of WMD on the intelligence community, I would not expect guys like Tenet to quietly fall on their swords and take one for the administration.

    For those interested in parcelling blame between the white house and intelligence community, a great article on the subject is Ken Pollacks “Spies Lies and Weapons” found here http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2004/01/media-preview/pollack.htm

  10. Gadfly, or anyone else:

    Do you have any handy links from reputable sources about the yellow cake paper and the mobile labs? I got into a discussion with a friend of mine who challenged me to prove that there is evidence that Bush actually lied. With all of the noise from the anti war crowd, I couldn’t remember what the specifics were about these two issues.

  11. Here’s an url to a WaPo article (truthout’s a rag but the article is legit) on the yellow cake retraction. Actually, Bush blamed the Brits even though his own investigator, Joseph Wilson, had already told them it was bullshit. Just Google “Bush lied” and you’ll find all sorts of stuff, true and not so true. http://www.truthout.org/docs_03/070903A.shtml

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