Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker are before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning, and are still on opening statements. As they reiterated their statements, I noticed something in Petraeus' description of the credibility of his methodology for sectarian attacks and civilian casualties. Here's how Petraeus describd his "rigorous, consistent data collection and analysis:
Two US intelligence agencies recently reviewed our methodology, and they concluded that the data we produce is the most accurate and authoritative in Iraq.
As Josh noted
yesterday, it would be nice to know which agencies these are, as CIA and DIA reportedly have qualms about MNF-I's methods. But looking at that statement closely, it may be possible to square the methodological circle. Notice that Petraeus didn't say that those agencies blessed MNF-I's methods as the "most accurate and authoritative," full-stop. He said that they found it's the most accurate and authoritative in Iraq
. The alternative collection and analysis on Iraq is conducted by different agencies of the Iraqi government, which release sometimes-conflicting data. And needless to say, the Iraqi government has a huge incentive to downplay both civilian and especially sectarian casualties.
It would be hard for the professionals at MNF-I to have a worse
methodology than the Iraqis. But that doesn't mean MNF-I has a better method of tallying both figures than other elements of the U.S. government. Perhaps the Senators today will get some clarification from Petraeus.