Wednesday, September 16, 2015

US intelligence analysts complain that negative reports altered by superiors


Washington - Dozens of US Central Command (CENTCOM) and Defense Intelligence Agency analysts have complained that their superiors suppressed negative assessments they had made on the year-long fight against the Islamic State. An early report by the Daily Beast said: More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, As a result of the complaints the Pentagon inspector general opened an investigation into the issue. In July two senior analysts signed a written complaint that their reports had been changed by CENTCOM higher officials to conform with the Obama administration's line that the US was winning the battle against the Islamic State and Al Nusra the Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria. The reports were altered to make both groups appear weaker than they are according to their intelligence.

This type of manipulation of intelligence is not new. In 2002 and 2003 in Iraq, senior US officials deliberately "cherry picked" intelligence on Hussein's alleged weapons program. The US House of Representatives investigative committee now wants in on the investigation and has asked Pentagon officials for a briefing on the analysts' charges. As the Guardian reports: Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Ron DeSantis, who chairs its national-security subcommittee, asked the defense secretary, Ashton Carter, and inspector general, Jon Rymer, on Friday for information about an ongoing investigation into charges from dozens of US Central Command and Defense Intelligence Agency analysts that their superiors suppressed negative assessments of the year-old war against Isis. The lawmakers want briefings no later than the 18th of this month. Both Chaffetz and DeSantis, the latter a retired naval officer and Iraq veteran, expressed deep concern about the allegations and wanted to make certain that any intelligence provided to key decision makers should reflect the analysis of experts in the intelligence community. The two warned Carter and Rymer that they were "troubled" to find out that acrimony within CENTCOM was causing some analysts simply to leave their positions.

Analysts in CENTCOM say that Army Major General Steven Grove and deputy Greg Ryckman, revise, suppress or even reject analysts' negative assessments of the war's progress or evaluations that show IS to still be quite strong. Grove faces almost daily questioning by the top US intelligence official, James Clapper. Sources told the Guardian that the suppression began as long ago as October 2014 just two months after the air war began against the Islamic State. Similar concerns are surfacing within the Defense Intelligence Agency which provides intelligence analyses for both military commanders and civilian leaders.

 The former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, Lt. General Michael Flynn, perhaps summed the situation up: "The phrase I use is the politicization of the intelligence community." Flynn said he was not surprised by the investigation and noted that Obama administration officials had often been too optimistic in assessing the situation with respect to the battle against the Islamic state.

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