Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Pentagon's Fuzzy Math

By Cernig

I just want to quickly flag up this post by Spencer Ackerman, in which he cites evidence that "the Pentagon's last two quarterly reports show all sorts of unexplained shifts -- even on the exact same pieces of data".
Two possibilities present themselves: either Multinational Corps-Iraq, from whose database the statistics emerged, changed its definition of "sectarian" incidents and murders; or new information became available after March. Whatever the answer, a reader of the June report doesn't have any way of knowing that the March report gave different statistics on sectarianism.

...The question immediately raised by the retroactive changes in statistics on sectarianism and other key measures is whether the next quarterly report, due in September, will similarly juggle the data without notifying readers to the change. "We have to be able to understand the models, and have an apples-to-apples comparison," Katulis says, in order to make sense of what Dubik called the "mosaic" of Iraq. Right now, the quarterly Pentagon report looks less like a mosaic than it does a Rorshach test.
Maybe Fester will get time to look at the hard data and tell us what's being hidden, if anything, but Ackerman's spot on here. The upcoming September report is being freighted with massive significance to alter or provide evidence for keeping "the course" and if the data is being massaged then there's going to be a massive credibility gap.

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