“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command.”
Washington D.C. – The Pentagon has erupted in “revolt” amid claims from 50 intelligence analysts that senior defense officials manipulated intelligence reports to downplay the severity of the Islamic State’s increasing upper-hand in the Middle East. According to allegations made in an official complaint with the Department of Defense Inspector General, the officers in question doctored reports — among other things — in order to maintain the Pentagon and president’s narrative that the war against the Islamic State, as well as Al Qaeda in Syria, is succeeding. To the contrary, the dissenting analysts — now effectively whistleblowers — have repeatedly attempted to warn that the situation is far more dismal than what authorities are revealing to the public.
“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official told the Daily Beast, which broke the story late Wednesday. Two senior analysts at CENTCOM — the U.S. military’s central command Middle East and Central Asia — filed the formal complaint with the Defense Department’s Inspector General in July (the analysts are formally employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s dedicated spy wing).
Other analysts are willing to back up allegations with “concrete examples.” 11 of 50 intelligence analysts spoke anonymously with the Daily Beast, detailing various methods senior defense officials have used to downplay the terrorist groups’ influence and power. This is particularly concerning considering the story told to the public is already pitiful, portraying grave threats to the United States.
In some cases, analysts allege reports that portrayed the war in too negative a light were simply prevented from moving higher up the chain of command. In other cases, they were sent back down to analysts, prompting many to self-censor their reports out of fear of rejection or punitive action.
Most sordid, perhaps, are claims that senior officials blatantly altered reports ”…to be more in line with the Obama administration’s public contention that the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda is making progress.” Additionally, protesting officials told the Daily Beast that “…in some cases key elements of intelligence reports were removed, resulting in a document that didn’t accurately capture the analysts’ conclusions.” They allege “…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.”
Many analysts said that because of these practices, they felt they could not provide an honest, unbiased analysis of the situation in Iraq and Syria — a task they were hired to perform. Others expressed this was because of the career ambitions of high-ranking officials who did not want negative reports about the conflict to compromise their chances of further advancement.
This leadership was also accused of creating an unsustainable work environment. “One person who knows the contents of the written complaint sent to the inspector general said it used the word ‘Stalinist’ to describe the tone set by officials overseeing CENTCOM’s analysis,” the Daily Beast reported (This should come as little surprise considering the free reign the United States military has enjoyed not only since 9/11, but throughout the 20th century. That officials are eager to bolster their own personal power seems inevitable within an institution that has projected the same megalomania around the world).
Two analysts who spoke to the Daily Beast said complaints about ignored and doctored reports warning of the grimness of the conflict had been expressed since last October. Some who complained were urged to retire from their positions while others agreed to leave. Because of the lack of response from superiors to these grievances, the two senior analysts filed the formal complaint with the Inspector General.
In response to the Daily Beast’s article, the Pentagon offered a tepid, generic response that appeared little more than a jumble of key terms intended to obfuscate the seriousness of the issue at hand. “While we cannot comment on the specific investigation cited in the article, we can speak to the process. The Intelligence Community routinely provides a wide range of subjective assessments related to the current security environment. These products and the analysis that they present are absolutely vital to our efforts, particularly given the incredibly complex nature of the multi-front fights that are ongoing now in Iraq and Syria,” Air Force Colonel and CENTCOM spokesman Patrick Ryder said.
“Senior civilian and military leadership consider these assessments during planning and decision-making, along with information gained from various other sources, to include the insights provided by commanders on the ground and other key advisors, intelligence collection assets, and previous experience,” he added, failing to address the analysts’ concerns.
In light of these revelations, it is difficult to tell which is worse: that the Pentagon has monumentally failed in its exploits of the Middle East — creating an environment for ISIS and Al Qaeda to rise to power — or that its leaders willfully withhold information for the sake of self-preservation and misleading an already terrified public. Regardless, the sheer number of analysts willing to step forward simultaneously highlights the systemic decay of integrity and effectiveness within the agency tasked with protecting the public — and a small shred of hope for forcing a modicum of accountability.
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