Fact and comment

When reading an intelligence report, it is advisable to distinguish between those parts of the report which are raw information and those which are comments. Intelligence analysts are trained to make this distinction clear. One method is to place raw information in a column on one side of the page and commentary in a separate column on the other side. Another way is to put the word ‘COMMENT’ before any commentary, and to put ‘END OF COMMENT’ at the end. A reader can then evaluate whether a comment seems justified in light of the supporting facts.

With this in mind, let us now turn to the unclassified report released to the public yesterday by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, entitled ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.’

The report doesn’t do a very good job of separating fact and comment. But it does regularly use the phrase ‘We assess.’ Readers can presumably take anything preceded by this phrase as being equivalent to a comment. So let us look at the report’s assessments, and see what facts are used to justify them. Among the quotations which follow, those which I consider to state facts, rather than opinions, are highlighted in bold.

Continue reading Fact and comment

Friday book # 49: Thunder in the East

Apologies for the lack of posts of late. I’ve been focusing on finishing a conference paper, and have had little time for anything else apart from shovelling vast amounts of snow. I did, however, manage to find a few seconds to scan the cover of the next book on my Russia shelf – Evan Mawdsley’s history of the war between Germany and the USSR, 1941-1945. I would recommend this to anybody looking for a one-volume, English-language study of the war. Mawdsley concludes that the German invasion of the Soviet Union was doomed from the start. Germany did not have sufficient resources to win the war in a single campaign, and after December 1941 was economically outmatched by the Soviets and their Western allies.