Alternative scenarios and interpretations of the evidence

A variety of different scenarios are usually prepared in order to emphasis the possibility of different alternative futures. By setting up several scenarios, a ‘possibility space’ is created. It is somewhere within this ‘possibility space’ that the future is likely to unfold”.

Quarmby N (2011), Futures work in strategic criminal intelligence, in Ratcliffe, JH (Ed), Strategic thinking in criminal intelligence, 2nd Edition, The Federation Press, NSW.

Intelligence analysis is about predicting the future from past and present information and is rarely about certainty. It is in the realm of probability. And before probability or a probability rating can be applied to scenarios, or predictions of the future, it is an exploration of possibility. Possible conclusions, scenarios and narratives are extracted from the known information or evidence, being always aware that some information is not yet known or might never be known. No one possibility should be preferred over another (i.e. probability) until all are tested and evaluated for that process might itself throw up new insights and certainly new questions. Many analytical tools have been developed to aid in this process.

The human mind does not naturally and easily allow itself to doubt the conclusions it forms in order to instantly create coherence and certainty from ambiguity. Which is why intelligence analysis is both a discipline and an art. The discipline lies in curbing the human tendency to create coherence and certainty, in using analytical tools to focus the mind, and in allowing the art to flourish. The art lies in the lateral thinking that creates the possibility space from the available information. In that process the greater the subject or target knowledge and expertise of the analyst(s) the more realistic, and often broader, the possibility space. Discipline then requires rigorous testing and evaluation of the possibilities to determine probability. Or even to conclude that you don’t know and need to go back and draw up a new intelligence plan with new aims and collection plans.

The Operation 8 intelligence process considered neither possibility nor probablity. It made the giant leap from collection and collation to certainty and from there straight into an armed paramilitary operation against an unarmed and innocent community and against innocent families. There is no evidence in Operation 8 that the police considered any different scenarios other than the one they wanted to believe. There was no “possibility space”; no discipline and no art.

The language of the intelligence analyst is replete with words like “seems”, “appears”, “might”, “maybe” and “possibly”. The language of the Operation 8 team in all of their documentation was “I believe” from even before much relevant information had been collected.

Te Putatara raises these alternative interpretations as possible scenarios based on the evidence presented by the NZ Police to justify Operation 8. I do not claim that one or more of them are definitive interpretations. The definitive interpretation could and probably would have included elements of one or more of these scenarios. But they are all in that ‘possibility space’ and should have been considered, with the expert assistance of Superintendent Haumaha and his team, and other expert analysts including psychologists.

My aim in presenting these scenarios in the “possibility space” is not therefore to determine beyond doubt which of them is the most probable but to show that there were alternative scenarios and that the intelligence operation never quite made it to being an intelligence operation. The evidence is that only one of them was ever considered from early in the operation and before there was any evidence to support that scenario.

Even though the Northern SIG was established as an intelligence unit and claimed it was collecting and analysing intelligence, it did not function as an intelligence unit and did not employ any of the analytical processes, tools and techniques expected of an intelligence unit. Its sole aim was to gain convictions against as many of the suspects as it could by whatever means and under whatever legislation possible. It was an aim that led directly into a great deal of unlawful behaviour by the police including a thoroughly outrageous and reprehensible overreaction in the form of an armed paramilitary operation against innocents.

What were they doing in the Urewera? Read on - follow the link below