USING PROBABILITIES IN INTELLIGENCE—FINDING BIN LADEN. I posted here three years ago arguing for using probabilities more in evaluating foreign intelligence decisions. This article by Bob Woodward about the process which led to the decision to raid the compound which turned out to be Bin Laden’s hiding place shows the participants using probabilities in their discussions. The issue was whether Bin Laden was in the compound. “Several assessments concluded there was a 60 to 80 percent chance that bin Laden was in the compound.” The head of the National Counterterrorism Center put the probability at 40%, but still recommended the raid. The probability estimates—which could not be based on any frequencies from sampling—facilitated discussion and also focused attention on the possible losses and possible rewards of the raid. I am also glad to see a journalist presenting the decision to the public in terms of probabilities.

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