THE ISIS INTEL THAT WAS CHANGED FOR POLITICAL REASONS: The intelligence pros said killing certain ISIS leaders might not diminish the group and that airstrikes might not be working. The bosses didn’t like those answers—not at all.
Senior intelligence officials at the U.S. military’s Central Command demanded significant alterations to analysts’ reports that questioned whether airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS were damaging the group’s finances and its ability to launch attacks. But reports that showed the group being weakened by the U.S.-led air campaign received comparatively little scrutiny, The Daily Beast has learned.
Senior CENTCOM intelligence officials who reviewed the critical reports sent them back to the analysts and ordered them to write new versions that included more footnotes and details to support their assessments, according to two officials familiar with a complaint levied by more than 50 analysts about intelligence manipulation by CENTCOM higher-ups.
In some cases, analysts were also urged to state that killing particular ISIS leaders and key officials would diminish the group and lead to its collapse. Many analysts, however, didn’t believe that simply taking out top ISIS leaders would have an enduring effect on overall operations.
“There was the reality on the ground but it was not as rosy as [the leadership] wanted it to be,” a defense official familiar with the complaint told The Daily Beast. “The challenge was assessing whether the glass was half empty, not half full.”
Some analysts have also complained that they felt “bullied” into reaching conclusions favored by their bosses, two separate sources familiar with analysts’ complaints said. The written and verbal pressure created a climate at CENTCOM in which analysts felt they had to self-censor some of their reports.
Some of the analysts have also accused their bosses of changing the reports in order to appeal to what they perceived as the Obama administration’s official line that the anti-ISIS campaign was making progress and would eventually end with the group’s destruction.
The country’s in the very best of hands. At least if by “best” you mean, politicized and not particularly concerned about what’s going on in the world so long as they enhance their position here.