Does Not Comport


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.