Report: Intelligence on ISIS manipulated to fit Obama’s narrative

Is ISIS a bigger threat than we've been told?

Is ISIS a bigger threat than we’ve been told?

Well, well … where have we heard this before? From the Daily Beast:

“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, The Daily Beast has learned.

“The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

“‘The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,’ one defense official said.

“Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

“That complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, some of whom have complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

“The accusations suggest that a large number of people tracking the inner workings of the terror groups think that their reports are being manipulated to fit a public narrative.”

Yes, indeed; where have we heard about this before? Oh, look, there’s another sentence in that last paragraph:

“The allegations echoed charges that political appointees and senior officials cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons program in 2002 and 2003.”

Ahem.

Let’s start with the obvious: Manipulating intelligence reports to fit a politically motivated narrative is a terrible thing to do. It’s also a difficult thing to prove, although the details of this story — more than 50 analysts corroborating an official complaint to an inspector-general — suggest this is a substantial accusation. Do these analyses which are being altered or ignored represent the mainstream or a minority opinion? Which analyses — the ones that show a weaker ISIS and al-Qaida, or the ones that believe it to be stronger than we’ve been led to believe — are corroborated by the estimates of other nations’ intelligence agencies? How do they compare with the facts on the ground?

But let’s also acknowledge some key differences between the situation pre-Iraq war and present day. The Bush administration was acting on intelligence that was necessarily precarious because the entire premise was that Saddam Hussein wasn’t allowing full access to international inspectors. Enforcing that inspection mandate was, after all, part of the U.N. resolution passed in November 2002 that preceded the invasion begun in March 2003. The belief that Saddam still had weapons of mass destruction predated the Bush administration and was also the basis for President Clinton’s bombing campaign against Iraq in 1998.

The situation today is rather different. For starters, the war with ISIS is already underway, even if we don’t exactly describe it as such. President Obama has already sent more than 3,000 U.S. troops back to Iraq to aid that country’s army in the fight and ordered thousands of air strikes against ISIS over the past year. We have people on the ground in the theater and eyes overhead monitoring actions going on above ground, not underground. There are actual, known facts which contradict the sunny official line about how things are going: ISIS is gaining ground, the conflict in Syria and humanitarian catastrophe there are worsening, and the U.S. continues to increase our presence in Iraq. These are telltale signs our side isn’t winning.

So one question is how the “Bush lied, people died” crowd is going to reconcile itself to a similar action within the Obama administration. We have already seen the anti-war protesters who roared during the Bush years go conspicuously silent about the thousands killed under orders by drone-happy Obama. (To adapt a line by Glenn Reynolds about civil liberties, if you really care about abuse of American military might, you should want a Republican president because the scrutiny will be greater.) Will they now remain silent about reports of intelligence manipulation to fit a narrative that’s leading to a slow-drip rebuilding of our presence in Iraq?

But more importantly, what is our strategy toward ISIS (do we yet have one?) and to what extent are our actions being determined by faulty intelligence? Are we allowing a threat to metastasize because we’re talking ourselves into thinking it’s no big deal? Are our troops who are already present in Iraq in greater danger than need be because we’re underestimating the enemy they face?

The follow-up — and reaction — to this one bear watching.

Reader Comments 0

67 comments
LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Bush won the Iraq war, although it took longer than it should have.  Obama couldn't abide that, as it conflicted with his narrative that Bush was incompetent and that America sucks.  Obama made sure Iraq was destabilized.  You can lay pretty much everything that's happened in the Middle East during the last six years at his feet.

Dusty2
Dusty2

Well, I think it was Teddy Roosevelt who said" Carry a big stick but don't use it.".  Not only does President Obama not carry a big stick, he's the big  " chicken" when the thought of war scares him so badly.


Then right behind him is the discredited Intelligence Service who gave George W. Bush and Congress the most inaccurate information in history.  They too are "chicken" and alter anything that sounds belligerent to something more soothing.  .


Unfortunately, ISIS does not lack in belligerence and advertises it.  American captives are beheaded, tortured, raped and  burned in automobiles (Benghazi). But but we have plenty of Americans!  What's the problem?(seems to be the Dem thought of the moment)!


So throw kisses to Iran and ignore ISIS. Forget our allies. Let us be happy!  Relax. Don't  get WAR HUNGRY!!  Everything is going to be A_OK .


RIGHT?   

DS
DS

If President Obama was gung-ho eager to go to war against ISIL, then the accusation that intelligence reports were doctored to help him sell the war effort might make sense.

But he isn't trying to rally Americans to go to war against ISIL. He just doesn't want the Middle East to fall apart, and ISIL threatens that. 

Therefore, he'd also like Congress to pass a resolution to authorize more resources if needed. So far, they haven't.

But President Obama has also said that "if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them.”

Doesn't sound like someone who's eager for war.

I think the more likely explanation for doctored intelligence reports is that "CENTCOM higher-ups" thought that might somehow help their cause or help them save face. If so, they need to be straightened out.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@DS

Obama ISN'T gung-ho eager to go to war against ISIL.  He's gung-ho eager to avoid blame for things he's done, such create ISIS, and get credit for things he hasn't done, such as defeat ISIS.  Doctoring the reports make eminently perfect sense.

ByteMe
ByteMe

The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

That's the key line for me.  Who are these "higher-ups"?  Are they political appointees or military men who are angling for a promotion by making things look good?  Since these reports were given to Obama, I doubt he was "the enforcer" of the party line, so it would be good to know who was.

More questions than answers at this point.

bu2
bu2

Political correctness run amock.  Only accepted opinions are allowed to be heard.  The scary thing is Hillary would be worse than Obama in that regard.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Manipulation of intelligence reports by politicians is as old as . . . politics. Much of the greatest and most incredible fiction ever produced appears on the nightly news, day in, day out, spewed forth by our politicians and Government spokespersons (White House, State Department, DOD, Congress, you name it). It only becomes a problem when people act on the basis of the fiction.


There are enough news reports from enough different sources for anyone with half a brain to understand we and the West are not "winning" anything of significance in the Middle East. Now, it's blatantly apparent we aren't even containing the "Middle East" within the Middle East anymore.You'll never see Americans generally aligned on what to do about it until we get attacked directly in a significant way. When that happens, and it would seem inevitable at this point, we'll find out what kind of leaders we really have. We got a leading indicator (or wake-up call) with Benghazi.

DumbandDumber
DumbandDumber

Europe will finally wake up to it when they have had enough of the refugee problem. Unless they get on boats and come here, doubtful this administration will ever think it a problem. Too busy with Dem clerks in KY to notice the fire.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Well if you are an Obama shill the answers have already been written, just repeat ad nauseum.


The 50 Centcom employees are just part of the vast right wing conspiracy.

There is no smoking gun, nothing has been proven.

The answer the GOP wants is more war.

Why hasn't the Congress done something, they claimed they were going to fix things, what happened.

Bush left us in a bad position, Obama has pulled our irons out of the fire.

Reagan started this when he pulled our Marines out of Lebanon.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@RafeHollister Let's say the 50 analysts are correct. ISIS is expanding and local countries are not stopping the spread of destruction.  

What then? 

Should the US act unilaterally to invade multiple countries? Should the US provide aid to resistance groups to fight ISIS? 

What is the recommended action if the countries there do not invite us? 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@RafeHollister  Why should anyone repeat it, when you are doing such a good job of it yourself, and most of it is true?

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@RafeHollister

The answer the GOP wants is more war.


So the above statement is incorrect? Bosom Buddies Trump and Cruz have both said they would put troops on the ground against ISIS. And if you don't you are "leading from behind".

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@heezback @RafeHollister Depends on the what the definition of "it" is. 


And another," there is no controlling legal authority."


And another, "there is no there, there".

Recon2/3
Recon2/3

Just when you think that this administration has hit rock bottom in corruption and malfeasance something else is exposed.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Recon2/3  Where is any “corruption and malfeasance” exposed here? It is people like you, hurling such irresponsible charges, who hit the rock bottom of the disxcourse.

heezback
heezback

@Recon2/3 Let's hope it is not Hillary's bottom...please excuse me for a few moments, I think I just made myself nauseous.

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

"So one question is how the “Bush lied, people died” crowd is going to reconcile itself to a similar action within the Obama administration. "


Call me when we spend trillions of dollars, waste thousands of lives and maim tens of thousands then we can talk apples to apples. 


Until then what you have is simply an issue that needs to be investigated. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TheRealJDW You're asking for the check before the orders have even been taken.

Oh, and you might want to check the body count ISIS has already piled up in Syria and Iraq.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Kyle_Wingfield @TheRealJDW Let me know when Syria or Iraq invites the United States ground troops to assist. 

Or if congress approves Obama's request for action/funds. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude Let me know if Obama comes up with a strategy; earlier this summer he said he didn't have one.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Kyle_Wingfield @LogicalDude Drone strikes seems to be the strategy. Military training (3000 non-combat personnel) to assist in the area. 

Not sure what intelligence failures are spoken about, but the major actions should come when we are invited by the countries involved.  Action should not come on intelligence alone, since it's flawed in all directions.  

If they do not want us to assist, they should take care of the issue themselves. 

If they do want us, then we can assist.  Heartily. 

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

@Kyle_Wingfield @TheRealJDW


"before the orders have been taken"...hence the comment "an issue that needs to be investigated"


Something that did not happen under Republican Rule in the face of far more specific and damaging evidence.  As for the body count..it is not that I don't care but it is not Americans in peril. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TheRealJDW "hence the comment "an issue that needs to be investigated""

No, I was talking about your comparing the costs with a war that's over to those of a war that by all accounts is only just beginning.

RexHavoc
RexHavoc

@TheRealJDW O has ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet this administration continues on a spending path (trillions of dollars) that can only lead to the destruction of the USA.  Why?  Shouldn't we now be headed in the right direction?

While O leaves Washington at the beginning of '17, his plan will continue on for years to come.

PudHead
PudHead

@TheRealJDW 

“Call me when we spend trillions of dollars, waste thousands of lives and maim tens of thousands then we can talk apples to apples. 

Until then what you have is simply an issue that needs to be investigated. “

Why don’t you pose that question to the hundreds of thousands of refugees that are now flooding Europe? Funny how that was NOT happening until Obama pulled out our troops, and you can’t put those two things together? I bet you think Hillary could never lie and she is a poor picked on liberal by the vast rightwing conspiracy… LOL

 

straker
straker

Barry - "how many innocent people are you comfortable having killed in your name"


How many American soldiers are you comfortable with being killed in another useless Middle East war?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@straker Were you referring to Afghanistan where more have died under Obama than Bush.  How many have died since we surrendered?

Goggy
Goggy

My wife observed, 'Wow, 100,000 people are leaving Syria. That many people should be able to take back their country instead of running to Europe. If these people aren't willing to fight for their own country, why should we?"

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Goggy How many tanks and fighter jets and barrels full of nails and glass did they have on their side?

Gov-waste
Gov-waste

What happened to the red line in the sand?

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

 "anti-war protesters who roared during the Bush years go conspicuously silent about the thousands killed under orders by drone-happy Obama."

All-out ground war is much different than isolated drones. MUCH different. 


You have a lot of great questions Kyle, but the answer seems to be "all out ground war!!!!" which has the expected result of another quagmire in multiple countries, not just Iraq. 

And for our strategy, it's not about ISIS, but the entire region.  If we put an all-out ground war against ISIS, then that just attracts more people toward ISIS's side because they see us as invaders. If we assist those against ISIS, will the result be allies to the US, or another debacle like Afghanistan? (Recall we supported Bin-Laden when he was fighting the Russians.) 

The answers are MUCH more complicated than a simple with us/ against us argument versus ISIS. There are multiple parties as play, multiple countries who have a lot more at stake than the US, and international partners with multiple priorities that may or may not be good for the US. 


Has congress acted on Obama's request for ISIS action? Has any other country requested the US to put boots on the ground?  Those are steps needed in concurrence to fixing the manipulated intelligence to justify more action in the Middle East. 


LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@LogicalDude:  "All-out ground war is much different than isolated drones."

-----

How many innocent people are you comfortable having killed in your name?

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@LilBarryBailout @LogicalDude The fewer the better, really.  All out ground war has hundreds of thousands. Drone strikes are in the thousands.  Two orders of magnitude there, so it's not really a fair comparison, now is it? 

All out ground war is much much worse for innocents. 

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@LogicalDude


If we put an all-out ground war against ISIS, then that just attracts more people toward ISIS's side because they see us as invaders


Just wanted to add emphasis to the above statement. All this talk of ISIS being a JV team and we need to take action is just code for another ground war.

bu2
bu2

@LogicalDude @LilBarryBailout


Hate to tell you, but there already is an all out ground war in Iraq and Syria.  And innocents are not just dying, they are being targeted by ISIS and by Assad.

straker
straker

Barry - "someone suggested we get out of the Middle East"


That is not what I asked.


Reading comprehension much?

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Drones and protect the homeland. That's the strategy. Tough sell to put troops on the ground which is what Donald "Bored of winning" Trump wants.

straker
straker

Barry -  "Iran's developing missile and nuclear weapons capability"


Is Iran part of ISIS?


And do you honestly thing Iran would launch a nuclear attack against America?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@straker

Someone suggested we get out of the Middle East and I explained why that might not be a good idea.

Reading comprehension much?

MarkVV
MarkVV

“The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.”

The ineptness of this charge is palpable, and so is the political nature of it. How did the analysts know the intent of the presumed changes made by the “higher-ups?” 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@MarkVV

Maybe they're better able to think critically and connect the dots than your average Obama apologist.

bu2
bu2

@MarkVV @LilBarryBailout

So the political appointees make rational, unbiased decisions and the professional analysts (many who were hired during the Obama administration), make political decisions?


You're really going to try to sell that?