Garbage in, Garbage out, again

I’ve complained before about the habit of the intelligence community of inviting evidence from a very narrow group of experts, occupying what can only be called an extreme position. Well, here we go again.

The long awaited report on the Russian ‘threat’ by the British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has finally come out. Having downloaded it, I immediately turned to the back page to see where the committee had got its information, on the principle of ‘garbage in, garbage out’. Having done so, I am afraid that I let out an expletive so loud that people from the other side of the house ran over to see what was wrong. For this is what I saw:

Oh, FFS. Applebaum, Browder, Donnelly, Lucas, and Steele. Really??? I’m assuming that most readers know these names, but just in case you don’t, it’s like they’ve pulled in all the most discredited, Russophobic ‘experts’ they can find, and ignored everybody else who has any sort of knowledge of the subject. This is not a representative sample of expert opinion about Russia.

I have no objection to one or two such people being summoned as witnesses, but when all you have is representatives of the most extreme wing of the Russia-watching community, some of whom, most notably Christopher Steele, have been thoroughly discredited, then what you are not getting is a balanced, all-round picture of what you are studying.

The report thanks these witnesses for the fact that ‘they provided us with an invaluable foundation for the classified evidence sessions’. In short, the five external witnesses mattered. The picture of Russia provided by these people is the ideological rock on which the rest of the report is built.

Such an extreme, one-sided set of external witnesses not only casts doubt on the value of the information provided to the committee, but also on the impartiality of the committee itself. It speaks to extreme lack of an open mind, as if experts were chosen because they conformed to a strong predisposition which the committee was not interested in challenging.

Intelligence work requires a willingness to consider multiple competing hypotheses. Looking at the list of ‘experts’ makes it clear that this committee has only been exposed to variations of one – ‘Russia is evil’, ‘Russia is out to get us’, ‘Russia is inherently aggressive and dictatorial’. This is no way to do intelligence work.

I’ll write something about the content of the report in my next post. But as I said, ‘garbage in, garbage out’.

32 thoughts on “Garbage in, Garbage out, again”

  1. Professor, I think it would be a good idea for you (who have academic credentials) or someone like you to provide some specific information that demonstrates how one-sided and flawed any “investigation” wold be that depends on the “testimony” of these people (Applebaum, Browder, Donnelly, Lucas, and Steele). If I were to share your post with others, they would yawn. If, on the other hand, some specific, verifiable (via links) information were provided, it would make such a post much more valuable.

    Of course, this is not just about how a particular committee operated on one particular occasion. It is about how false narratives are created and kept alive. I know about Browder (I met Andrei Nekrasov who made the film “The Magnitsky Act”), about Applebaum (a list of whose prejudices could easily be compiled), and Steele (whose credibility has taken some serious hits), but I am not someone with any sort of credentials or platform. And even though each of these five persons have been the subject of articles and other media pointing out their biases and flaws, this particular event – the committee report and how it was shaped to fit a particular narrative based on reliance on people with demonstrable agendas – presents a golden opportunity to show not only how each of these “witnesses” is prejudiced, but to demonstrate how evidence is cherry picked in such a way as to create official governmental pronouncements which are nothing more than propaganda fitting a predetermined narrative.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Mr Armstrong, I think you missed my point. The object is not to change the minds of the people who “testified” to the committee. The object is to use the event to demonstrate, for the benefit of the public at large, how phony the process is, how it is used to propagate a particular point of view, and whom it benefits.


      2. Patrick, you are probably correct. Otherwise take care that your Rsr doesn’t get too challening. 😉

        What should I know about Edward Lukas, I won’t find on Wikipedia?


    1. You should find a new circle of friends. Those not afflicted with hypersomnia. It’s a major cause of brain fog.


  2. Same matter in the US. There was a recent CSPAN televised discussion focusing on the Russian bounty matter with a bipartisan group of House members and Morrell, Wallander and I. Brzezinski. The discussion was quite limited.

    Likewise with this one, which I haven’t bothered to click into on account of knowing in advance on what the gist will be.

    US economic problems are greatly enhanced by the tremendous amount of defense expenditures (outspending the combined next seven leading countries in arms expenditures) and tax payer’s money being wasted on paranoid obsessions likes what’s mentioned here:


  3. “credible ‘open source’ materials”

    Sounds like they’ve been copying and pasting from Redit! I half expected to see Bellingcats name attached to this tat! Honestly it would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. I don’t expect anything less though, so not disappointed in that respect. Paul do you think this whole thing shows a schism appearing either in or between the ‘security services’ or between them and the current incumbents of No10? Or just the usual suspects wanting to drum up more cash for next years budgets (added to the general atmosphere of Russophobia) Haven’t read the full report yet, only the bullet points. I suspect the Russians are laughing themselves to sleep tonight. I actually did laugh at Browder’s piece on the BBC though, convicted criminal, money launderer and tax evader who left his book keeper to die in a Russian prison telling us we shouldn’t trust the Russians. It made me titter.


  4. This bold claim made me find out, that Hannah Apfelbaum is indeed a professorin albeit only as a Professor of Practice at the Institute for Global Affairs, while receiving her original BA in… history and literature. Meaning – she’s not quite a “Professor”. Azokhenvey! Well, them, good people behind these “findings”, had to find an appropriate way to introduce her, so that she wouldn’t stand out unfavourable compared to other “luminaries” contributing to this… thing. Introducing her simply as “Bezos’ pet paper propacondom” or “Radek Sikorsky’s wife vaginal spouse №1” while 100% true, are just not enough.

    P.S. Couldn’t find out contributions to this monumental “blow to Kremlin’s malfeasance” by the fantasy and sci-fi author Marc Galeotti. SAD!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Even he has to admit this: ‘this is perhaps the greatest weakness of the report. Time and again it refers to the Russian threat, but rarely nails down quite what it is.’

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Putting aside his glaring flaws, give that man some more RT appearances, along with a Valdai invite for telling the obvious.

        Like I said, how Russia screws itself in a way that’s across the board downplayed remains evident. Anti-Russian leaning advocates don’t have an interest in improving Russia’s image. Conversely, there’s an ongoing status quo that explains the likes of Liz Wahl making tens of thousands from RT, only to then dis that station and get props for doing so.


      1. I think she finally found a husband and stopped ragging on western expats drooling over slavic women like schoolboys. 😉


    1. Never could quite get that, Might be a generational thing. Perhaps she was to some, like Frank from Queens was to me:

      Frank had more guts than she/he/it. He appeared live on a WBAI call in show and went one on one with yours truly in a Barty Farber Show exchange.

      On the other hand, LR punked out of a live one hour BBC World Service Radio show with yours truly.

      This Sovok guy I know said he loved listening to Frank.


  5. The article mentions Steele as a discredited participant but what about Applebaum, or are we to forget how her Polish husband was demoted by his own government for concocting a story about Putin offering to split Ukraine with Poland, at an alleged meeting that he was shown to have never attended. Poland no doubt sanctioned him for fabricating such an easily disproved event, certainly not out of any such notion as a search for truth.

    That said, not having invited even a token moderate voice to this august ‘panel of experts’ speaks volumes about either the ignorance, the incompetence, the perfidy or just plain ‘We don’t really care what you think. We’ve done our duty’ arrogance of the report’s authors.

    Liked by 1 person

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