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Sunday, December 09, 2007

66% of American Voters Believe Iran Has NOT Stopped Its Nuclear Weapons Program

There has been much discussion in the news about the latest NIE report regarding Iran and their Nuclear Weapons program, many either forgetting or completely ignoring what the NIE stands for and does.

The National Intelligence Estimate is just that, an estimate of intelligence that agencies gather using many means, in a country that does not allow open access.

Estimate, by definition means: form an approximate judgment or opinion regarding the worth, amount, size, weight, etc., of; calculate approximately: to estimate the cost of a college education. form an opinion of; judge.

It is a guess, an educated guess, based on information gathered.

So despite the fact that it is a guess, an "estimate" and the fact that at the top of the NIE report (linked above) makes clear disclaimers about their levels of confidence, such as "high level of confidence", a surprising amount of people immediately declared "we have been lied to!!!!".

Lets look at the disclaimer:

High confidence generally indicates that our judgments are based on high-quality information, and/or that the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgment.

A “high confidence” judgment is not a fact or a certainty, however, and such judgments still carry a risk of being wrong.

That is from the report itself and although those that took that report and were off and running claiming that these were facts being presented, the report itself makes it very clear that there is a risk of their "estimates" being wrong.

They have been wrong before as well as having been right before, it is an educated guess after all and should be taken as such.

Which is why the latest Rasmussen report did not surprise me in the least, the majority of American voters, according to that report, were able to understand what "estimate" means and judged it appropriately.

Just 18% of American voters believe that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 66% disagree and say Iran has not stopped its nuclear weapons program.

The survey was conducted after the release of the report and also found that 67% of American voters still believe that Iran is a threat and that survey followed up on an earlier survey showing that 67% of American voters also believe that Iran's Nuclear program was, indeed, meant to create Nuclear weapons.

The majority of Americans are smart and can see the difference between fact and estimates or educated guesses based on intelligence gathered despite Iran;s resistance to allow any information to be released.

I cannot blame the NIE for making their disclaimers either because as it stated in the report Iran has previously not declared their nuclear work and the writers understood that they could not present facts without open access to Iran's facilities and had to rely on their best educated guesses.

That is their job.

The Majority of Americans aren't the only ones that understand and took the NIE at face value either.

Israel has just hosted the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, for 24 hours to present him with hard core evidence on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

France and Germany are also taking the NIE for what it is without assuming that it is something more.

"The threat exists," said Sarkozy, one of the staunchest defenders of tough new measures. "Notwithstanding the latest elements, everyone is fully conscious of the fact that there is a will among the Iranian leaders to obtain nuclear weapons."


Merkel stopped short of explicitly mentioning sanctions, but also appeared determined to support current negotiations in the UN Security Council about new measures.

"I think that we are in a process and that Iran continues to pose a danger," she said.

Their reasoning is something else that was in the NIE report, which said that Iran was continuing to build up technical know-how that could be used both for civilian and military purposes.

That refers to Key Judgment D in the NIE report which states:

D. Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. For example, Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing. We also assess with high confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development projects with commercial and conventional military applications—some of which would also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.

All in all it is good to see that the majority of American voters as well as the international community were able to judge the NIE report for what it was, an estimate, and were able to understand the clear disclaimers at the beginning of the report that made it clear that none of the information contained within the report could be verified to the point where they would risk their reputations on stating it as "fact".

There is a huge difference between fact and estimates or guesses and it is important that the majority of Americans are able to see that important distinction.

More analysis on the NIE from Powerline and Opinion Journal.