What You Know, What You Don’t Know, What You Think

Henry Abbott at ESPN.com links to Tim Weiner’s NYT piece over the weekend on intelligence operations and excerpts this rule of information from Colin Powell:

The principles of how to arrive at good intelligence estimates are not new. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, said last month that he learned them 17 years ago, while serving under Colin Powell, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

" ‘Look, I have got a rule,’ " he said General Powell told him. " ‘As an intelligence officer, your responsibility is to tell me what you know. Tell me what you don’t know. Then you’re allowed to tell me what you think. But you always keep those three separated.’ "

Three categories: what you know, what you don’t know, and what you think. A good rule of thumb for categorizing information.

(hat tip to CYizzle for the pointer)

2 comments on “What You Know, What You Don’t Know, What You Think
  • This reminds me of a quote that Donald Rumsfeld has been made fun of for saying.

    “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

    Regardless of my opinion of Rumsfeld, I think what he said was very intelligent. For some reason a lot of people find it funny. I wonder of these two quotes represent a line of thinking that was shared between the two.

  • This reminds me of the phrase I learned in third year Spanish:

    Soy lo que soy
    Soy lo que yo creo que soy
    Soy lo que tu crees que soy

    Those are my three categories.

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