The expression “you can’t have your cake and eat it” was around before behavioural science, or our favourite description of confirmation bias – Paul Simon in his song The Boxer. But it is hard to understand how a report this week, first seen in the New York Times, but then repeated elsewhere, can act as both as an indictment of British intelligence, but also be framed by the press as a validation of the claims that the war in Iraq has increased the risk of terrorist attack.

The bigger story must surely be the past failure of the UK Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre, which had said, “at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the UK.” But most journalists – ignoring the JTAC’s past record – seem to have led with its condemnation of allied governments and Tony Blair in particular, when it said “events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the UK.”

In journalism, the quality of a source must be measured by the reliability of his/her/its information. If he is wrong on one thing, as the JTAC was so manifestly in gauging the imminent threat, then he must be treated cautiously on all other assertions.

In truth, it should be no surprise that the war in Iraq increased the risk of terrorist activity. Quantifying it may prove much more difficult in the absence of knowledge of a different path of history. However, whether the war was the right or wrong decision at the time, focusing on it is a significant mistake of bias when the greater revelation in the NYT story is that the intelligence services grossly underestimated the current “sophistication” of the terrorist networks.

Donate and help me buy back my Fender ('About' tells you why)

Tags: , ,

the knackered hack

Tim Penn
Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

free updates by email

t-shirts for tired writers

Support This Site

knackered eye view
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from knackeredhack. Make your own badge here.

Kino’s Viktor Tsoi

Kino's Tsoi
E-mail It
Socialized through Gregarious 42
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
This work by Tim Penn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
make PrestaShop themes