The top intelligence official in the US reportedly was aware that assessments of the fight against the terrorist group ISIS were skewed to give a more positive view of the conflict, according to a new report from The Daily Beast.
Analysts at US Central Command, the Pentagon agency covering security interests in nations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, reportedly complained to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), headed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
They claimed that their intelligence reports were changed for political reasons.
CENTCOM bosses reportedly pressured analysts to alter their reports to get them in line with what Obama administration officials were saying publicly about a US-led coalition making progress in their fight against ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). Analysts reportedly also felt pressure to characterise ISIS as weaker than they believed was the reality.
Formal complaints lodged with the Defence Department’s inspector general spurred an investigation about the allegations last year.
The other complaints, sent to ODNI via written surveys from the office’s Analytic Integrity and Standards Group, accused CENTCOM officials of “editing or rejecting reports that cast doubt on whether the US-led campaign against ISIS was dealing a crippling blow” and “attempting to delete emails and other reports that provided evidence of their manipulations,” according to The Daily Beast.
Unnamed sources familiar with the ODNI surveys told The Daily Beast that the office decided not to investigate because there was already an investigation underway with the Defence Department’s inspector general. That investigation has not yet been completed.
The ODNI survey responses containing the complaints about altered intelligence were reportedly included in a December report from the agency.
Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September that doesn’t condone politicizing intelligence, but also characterised the coverage of the complaints as “media hyperbole.”
“It is an almost sacred writ … in the intelligence profession never to politicize intelligence,” Clapper said. “I don’t engage in it. I never have and I don’t condone it when it’s identified.”
But there’s evidence to suggest that some of President Barack Obama’s inner circle, including Clapper, may have been involved.
The Guardian reported in September that Clapper was in “frequent and unusual contact” with the military officer who is suspected of allowing the reports on ISIS to be altered.
“In communications, Clapper, who is far more senior than” Army Brig. Gen. Steven Grove, “is said to tell Grove how the war looks from his vantage point, and question Grove about Central Command’s assessments,” The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman wrote, noting that sources said “such a situation could place inherent pressure on a subordinate.”
Clapper reportedly talks to Grove, the head of US Central Command’s intelligence wing, almost every day, according to The Guardian.
A former intelligence official told the newspaper that this was “highly unusual.”