Congressional Investigation Affirms Military Leaders Manipulated ISIS War Intelligence

(Photo: US Army)US Army tanks line up in preparation to assault a town during a training exercise on February 10, 2009 at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex. (Photo: US Army)

A report issued on Thursday by a Republican congressional task force confirmed that military leaders doctored intelligence analyses in order to paint a rosier picture of the war on the Islamic State (ISIS).

The investigation confirms Daily Beast reporting first published last year on the integrity of those intelligence reports, which originated from US Central Command (CENTCOM) — the arm of the Pentagon that oversees operations in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), one of the task force’s members, noted that the findings are preliminary. There is still a Pentagon inspector general investigation into the allegations, which were brought to the watchdog last year by fifty whistleblowers.

“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,” Wenstrup said, according to The Hill.

In its report, the task force noted that it “did not receive access to all the materials it requested.” The group said it would “continue its work following the conclusion of the [Department of Defense inspector general] investigation and other ongoing efforts.” That probe is supposed to wrap up by the fall.

Thursday’s report did not point any fingers at the White House. Rather, the intel manipulation appears, at this point, to have been the result of bad practices by senior CENTCOM leaders. The Republican task force said they relied too heavily on information “provided by US and coalition units directly engaged in countering ISIS.”

“According to multiple interviewees, operational reporting was used as a justification to alter or ‘soften’ an analytic product so it would cast US efforts in a more positive light,” the task force reported. “No interview provided any instances where operational reporting was used as a justification to come to a more pessimistic conclusion.”

The investigation stated that this was done specifically to offer a “more positive [view] regarding the capabilities of [Iraqi Security Forces] and the progress of the fight against ISIS.”

The report also noted this was also being done in contradiction of “vetted, serialized intelligence reporting on which analysts customarily rely.”

The task force additionally shed light on a survey — one that had been previously discussed in an open congressional hearing — which had revealed that 40 percent of CENTCOM analysts reported “problems with analytical integrity and CENTCOM processes.”

Thursday’s paper analyzed written responses to the survey, and found, “[o]f note, four separate comments” alleging that intelligence was doctored or slow-walked “to avoid conflicting with senior officials testimony to Congress.”

As noted in a press release, by task force member Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), the intelligence manipulation mostly occurred “from the middle of 2014 to the middle of 2015” — right as US forces were stepping up their military operations against ISIS.