The New Yorker has an article this week about Mike McConnell, the current director of National Intelligence.
When writer Lawrence Wright is recounting Mr. McConnell’s experience in the 1990s as an aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he describes a notable encounter with then-chairman General Colin Powell. Mr. McConnell was briefing the general on developments in the first Iraq war, and fell short with some answers.
Expecting to be upbraided, Mr. McConnell was surprised when General Powell was not troubled by the words “I don’t know,” and responded instead with his rules for an intelligence agent:
Tell me what you know, then tell me what you don’t know, and only then can you tell me what you think. Always keep those three separated.
Since legal counsel are agents of intelligence, I found this worth writing down.
(No mention whether Mr. Powell was still employing these three rules when being briefed in advance of his later testimony before the United Nations.)