More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military's Central Command (Centcom) have formally complained that their reports on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are being inappropriately altered by senior officials, according to The Daily Beast.
The complaints prompted the Pentagon's inspector general to launch an investigation. Although the investigation is not yet concluded, a defense official told The Daily Beast that "the cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command" at Centcom, which oversees the military operations in the war against ISIS.
The analysts claimed their 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 the al-Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria."
The analysts accused senior-level leaders, including the director of intelligence and his deputy in Centcom, of changing their analyses to reflect the Obama administration's claims of progress in the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda's Syria affiliate.
About a dozen individuals told The Daily Beast that the complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, with some describing it as a "revolt." Although the analysts work at Centcom, they are employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's intelligence arm.
Defense and administration officials have often touted progress in the war against ISIS, despite the group's continued control of large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, recruitment of new fighters, and creation of new branches since the U.S.-led coalition began bombing ISIS targets in August 2014.
Retired Gen. John Allen, Obama's top envoy on the coalition against ISIS, said in late July that the group's momentum had been “checked strategically, operationally, and by and large, tactically," and that ISIS was "losing."
"I’m confident that we will succeed in defeating ISIL and that we have the right strategy,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in August.
In late August, coalition military official Marine Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea told Pentagon reporters that forces enabled by the U.S. "throughout Iraq and Syria are making progress."
Centcom spokesman, Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, told The Daily Beast, "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.
“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.
The Pentagon investigation was first reported by The New York Times on Aug. 25, but the scope of the claim had not yet been reported.
After that report, Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters, "The Secretary [of Defense] counts on independent intelligence and analysis from a variety of sources to help him make critical decisions about the nation's security."