Congress still doesn't know why CENTCOM cooked the books in ISIS intel

Two congressional reports on CENTCOM's handling of ISIS related intel have concluded that superior officers intervened with analysts to get them to report on progress against the terrorists more positively.

Fifty of those analysts complained to the Pentagon inspector general that their analyses were being altered.

Motivation for cooking the books is unknown. There has been no link discovered that would lead back to the White House, although Republicans speculate that officers at CENTCOM tailored their reports to the White House narrative on the war against ISIS, which claimed we were making good progress. Why they would do this may be as simple as trying to curry favor.

Whoever ordered the altering of intelligence reports, the scandal has set us back in the war against Islamic State.

Daily Beast:

Despite nearly nine months of review, we still do not fully understand the reasons and motivations behind this practice and how often the excluded analyses were proven ultimately to be correct,” Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and member of the task force, said in a statement.

But Wenstrup noted the effects have been damaging regardless.

“We cannot win a war against ISIS with incomplete intelligence,” he wrote.

The Republican report attributed the problems at CENTCOM in part to a change in leadership and in the process by which intelligence reports are created. In the weeks after ISIS took control of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June 2014, intelligence leaders were given a more direct say in how lower-level analysts’ reports were produced and then sent along to the military brass. That irked some analysts who, while outranked by the CENTCOM leaders, had been studying ISIS and other terrorist groups for years and thought their expert views weren’t being given full weight.

In May 2015, CENTCOM analysts formally complained to the inspectors general for the Defense Intelligence Agency and for the intelligence community, which passed the complaints on to the congressional committees. Seven months later, an internal survey of intelligence analysts revealed that 40 percent of respondents “had experienced an attempt to distort or suppress intelligence in the past year,” the report found.

“The survey results alone should have prompted CENTCOM and [intelligence community] leaders to take corrective action without other inducements. During interviews, however, multiple Intelligence Directorate senior leaders challenged the legitimacy of the survey results rather than taking responsibility for them,” the report found.

The amount of damage such misleading reports had on the Obama administration’s and the military’s overall understanding of the war on ISIS remains unclear. But the report noted that Ryckman and Grove had several secure conference calls with top civilian intelligence officials, including the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and that such access gave CENTCOM’s reports “outsized influence on the material presented to the president outside of formal coordination channels.”

“The impact was that you have a false signal being sent to officials,” Pompeo told The Daily Beast. “They had information what wasn’t true. It difficult to wind back and say what would have happened had they had different information.”

The media is, so far, ignoring these reports for the most part. Apparently, it's only news when Republican administrations are accused of cooking the intel on a war.

It seems incredible that few in the administration noticed or cared about the discrepancy in reports between CENTCOM and our intel agencies. Why didn't someone conclude, "C'mon guys. Both of these analyses can't be true. Which is it"? 

When you appoint a short story writer to an important seat on the National Security Council, ignorance becomes a badge of honor.

Two congressional reports on CENTCOM's handling of ISIS related intel have concluded that superior officers intervened with analysts to get them to report on progress against the terrorists more positively.

Fifty of those analysts complained to the Pentagon inspector general that their analyses were being altered.

Motivation for cooking the books is unknown. There has been no link discovered that would lead back to the White House, although Republicans speculate that officers at CENTCOM tailored their reports to the White House narrative on the war against ISIS, which claimed we were making good progress. Why they would do this may be as simple as trying to curry favor.

Whoever ordered the altering of intelligence reports, the scandal has set us back in the war against Islamic State.

Daily Beast:

Despite nearly nine months of review, we still do not fully understand the reasons and motivations behind this practice and how often the excluded analyses were proven ultimately to be correct,” Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and member of the task force, said in a statement.

But Wenstrup noted the effects have been damaging regardless.

“We cannot win a war against ISIS with incomplete intelligence,” he wrote.

The Republican report attributed the problems at CENTCOM in part to a change in leadership and in the process by which intelligence reports are created. In the weeks after ISIS took control of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June 2014, intelligence leaders were given a more direct say in how lower-level analysts’ reports were produced and then sent along to the military brass. That irked some analysts who, while outranked by the CENTCOM leaders, had been studying ISIS and other terrorist groups for years and thought their expert views weren’t being given full weight.

In May 2015, CENTCOM analysts formally complained to the inspectors general for the Defense Intelligence Agency and for the intelligence community, which passed the complaints on to the congressional committees. Seven months later, an internal survey of intelligence analysts revealed that 40 percent of respondents “had experienced an attempt to distort or suppress intelligence in the past year,” the report found.

“The survey results alone should have prompted CENTCOM and [intelligence community] leaders to take corrective action without other inducements. During interviews, however, multiple Intelligence Directorate senior leaders challenged the legitimacy of the survey results rather than taking responsibility for them,” the report found.

The amount of damage such misleading reports had on the Obama administration’s and the military’s overall understanding of the war on ISIS remains unclear. But the report noted that Ryckman and Grove had several secure conference calls with top civilian intelligence officials, including the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and that such access gave CENTCOM’s reports “outsized influence on the material presented to the president outside of formal coordination channels.”

“The impact was that you have a false signal being sent to officials,” Pompeo told The Daily Beast. “They had information what wasn’t true. It difficult to wind back and say what would have happened had they had different information.”

The media is, so far, ignoring these reports for the most part. Apparently, it's only news when Republican administrations are accused of cooking the intel on a war.

It seems incredible that few in the administration noticed or cared about the discrepancy in reports between CENTCOM and our intel agencies. Why didn't someone conclude, "C'mon guys. Both of these analyses can't be true. Which is it"? 

When you appoint a short story writer to an important seat on the National Security Council, ignorance becomes a badge of honor.