which expensively-collected intelligence passes to decision-makers. We recommend that the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator reviews the size of the Assessments Staff, and in particular considers whether they have available the volume and range of resources to ask the questions which need to be asked in fully assessing intelligence reports and in thinking radically. We recommend also that this review should include considering whether there should be a specialism of analysis with a career structure and room for advancement, allowing the Assessments Staff to include some career members. We understand that the Intelligence and Security Committee are planning to look at this issue.
In that connection, we note that the Cabinet Office used to have high-powered, though
Lord Zuckerman and Dr Frank Panton. Several witnesses told us that, in their view, this is no longer necessary because there are arrangements for close co-operation with the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser. We welcome this but note that the advantage of the former arrangement was that the individuals were on the spot and could, when necessary, challenge conventional wisdom. We conclude that it may be worth considering the appointment of a distinguished scientist to undertake a part-time role as adviser to the Cabinet Office.
7.3 INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENTS
THE LANGUAGE OF JIC ASSESSMENTS
A recurring issue – but one which the experience of intelligence on Iraq raises again – is whether JIC assessments are drafted and presented in a way which best helps readers to pick up the range of uncertainty attaching to intelligence assessments.
Over the years, various approaches have been taken to this problem. The view currently taken by the witnesses we interviewed is that Ministers and other readers are not helped by assessments which are expressed in language of “on the one hand” and “on the other”, and which thus leave the reader with no conclusion. So the general convention is that the JIC should produce its best assessment in the form of ‘Key Judgements’ drawn up in the light of the evidence. Such assessments often include warnings that the evidence is thin (and the word ‘Judgement’ is itself a signal to the reader that it is not a statement of fact). But it is not the current JIC convention to express degrees of confidence in the judgement or to include alternative or minority hypotheses. The consequence is that the need to reach consensus may result in nuanced language. Subtleties such as “the intelligence indicates” rather than “the intelligence shows” may escape the untutored or busy reader. We also came across instances where Key Judgements unhelpfully omitted qualifications about the limitations of the intelligence which were elsewhere in the text.
We would not think it desirable that any convention should be binding, and different treatments may be suitable for different subjects. But we note that the US Government does from time to time attach degrees of confidence and notes of dissent to its National Intelligence Estimates. These may help to prevent readers from attaching more certainty