james clapper

The Obama administration continues to corrupt and befoul everything it touches.

A few days ago it was reported that the US intelligence apparatus support US Central Command, the war fighting joint command that is charged with “defeating and degrading” ISIS, was in a state of near mutiny. As it turned out, the only thing being “degraded” was the integrity of the senior leadership of that command.

More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official said.

Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that 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.

While we like to think of intelligence analysts as impartial tellers of truth, in reality, the intelligence community is a huge bureaucracy that operates with the same log rolling, blame shifting, and wetted finger in the air that you find in any other bureaucracy. This is especially true when a Democrat is in the White House. For reasons that I’ve never quit understood, the CIA is, like State, basically an extension of the Democrat party. Through out the administration of George Bush, the CIA carried out a very open war against him and against his policies. The reports from Iraq, called “aardwolf” reports routinely overstated the insurgency and understated success. They mysteriously stopped being leaked after The Surge started. So finding that the intelligence community had cooked the books to make Obama look good was less than shocking. In fact, it was rather to be expected.

On the other hand, what no one in the intelligence community likes is being made to look like an asshat.

That, rather than the cooking per se, is what bought this on. A little cooking, a light saute, of intel is fine. Deep frying that sucker to a crisp becomes problematic.

The initial reports pointed the finger at the top military and civilian leadership at CENTCOM:

The analysts said it was unclear who was leading the pressure to adjust their assessments, which more than one referred to as “spinning.” Some called it a result of a climate of the culture their commanders create. How such reports travel from CENTCOM headquarters to the senior reaches of the government and the military, and who reads them along the way, varies. Some reports go directly to the White House. More often, they go through several internal organizations and checks to determine what information is most useful to top officials.

“The phrase I use is the politicization of the intelligence community. That’s here. And it’s dangerous.”
Two defense officials said that some felt the commander for intelligence at CENTCOM failed to keep political pressures from Washington from bearing on lower-level analysts at command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. That pressure, while described as subtle and not overt, is nevertheless clear, the analysts said: Assessments on ISIS should comport with “the leadership consensus,” that is, top policymakers’ view, that the U.S.-led campaign against the group is paying dividends.

The White House, not amused, seemed to engage in a little push back to let the intel folks know that they had more than their share of f**k-ups to explain:

The CIA detected an apparent Western hostage being held by al-Qaeda in Pakistan but did not keep the person under drone surveillance, according to U.S. officials who said they now suspect that the captive may have been an American aid worker who was killed in an agency strike this year.

The surveillance lapse is being scrutinized as part of an internal CIA investigation of the death of Warren Weinstein, U.S. officials said, describing the sequence as a potential missed opportunity to avert that outcome.

That gambit may have backfired because the real story seems to be a lot worse that a politically attuned Army general, Steven Groves, telling his bosses what he thinks their bosses want to hear. Rather it looks like James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, the titular head of the United States intelligence community, was reaching down into CENTCOM to personally massage the findings produced by General Groves. Significantly, the whistleblower chose to go to a British newspaper rather than relying on an American one.

Barack Obama’s intelligence chief is said to be in frequent and unusual contact with a military intelligence officer at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the war against the Islamic State, the Guardian has learned.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is said to talk nearly every day with the head of US Central Command’s intelligence wing, Army Major General Steven Grove – “which is highly, highly unusual”, according to a former intelligence official.

Grove is said to be implicated in a Pentagon inquiry into manipulated war intelligence.

In communications, Clapper, who is far more senior than Grove, is said to tell Grove how the war looks from his vantage point, and question Grove about Central Command’s assessments. Such a situation could place inherent pressure on a subordinate, sources said.

This certainly explains the deviation we are seeing between what is happening on the ground and the official line emanating from the White House. By the same token it is hard to imagine a guy like Clapper, who has spent his entire career in the intelligence community, would willfully set out to totally undermine that community without a good reason. One has to assume that the decision for Clapper to undertake this unprecedented activity originates much, much closer to the Oval Office, if not within it.