Dems: ‘Overly insular’ process led to optimistic ISIS intel

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Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday said they largely agree with the findings of a GOP investigation into U.S. Central Command’s intelligence on the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

But unlike Republicans, Democrats said they found that the Pentagon and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) have already taken steps to fix issues.

{mosads}“There are some aspects of the majority analysis with which we do not agree,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee, said in a written statement.

“In particular, we believe that Centcom and others within DoD and DNI have taken steps to address these problems, and we look forward to monitoring their progress.”

At issue are whistleblower allegations by 50 intelligence analysts at Centcom that superiors were altering their work, making the picture of the fight against ISIS rosier than reality.

Three House committees — the House Armed Services Committee, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Defense of the House Appropriations Committee — formed a joint task force to investigate the allegations.

It was led by Republican Reps. Ken Calvert (Calif.), Mike Pompeo (Kan.) and Brad Wenstrup (Ohio). Their findings were also released Thursday.

Rather than joining the task force, Democrats on the Intelligence Committee decided to undertake their own parallel investigation, led by Schiff and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).

The Democrats’ investigation consisted of sitting in on Republicans’ interviews of Centcom analysts and whistleblowers, as well as conducting their own interviews and traveling to Centcom.

The Democrats found that “overly insular” practices at Centcom that deviated from “analytical best practices” led to more optimistic reports on the Iraqi Security Forces’s strength relative to ISIS.

Their finding tracks with those of Republicans, who said structural and management changes at Centcom in mid-2014 led to more optimistic intelligence products.

Democrats also highlighted that they found no evidence Centcom’s process was meant to advance a particular narrative.

“However, we found no evidence of politicization of intelligence in this case,” Schiff said. “Nor did we — or the majority — find any evidence that the White House requested to, or in any manner attempted to, have the intelligence analysis conform to any preset or political narrative.”

In addition to disagreeing with Republicans about the Pentagon and DNI addressing the issue, Democrats slammed one part of the Republicans’ report as being speculative.

The Republicans’ report says frequent calls between Centcom’s director of intelligence, the Joint Staff director of intelligence and senior Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) leaders “could have provided Centcom leaders with outsized influence on the material presented to the president outside of formal coordination channels.”

But Democrats said Republicans found no hard evidence that’s true.

“We also note that the majority found no actual evidence of any problem with the Centcom director of intelligence or his deputy having secure teleconferences with the Joint Staff director of intelligence or senior ODNI leaders, including the Director of National Intelligence,” Schiff said.

“They state that the frequency of these interactions ‘could have’ provided Centcom leaders with outsized influence on the material presented to the president outside of formal coordination channels, but this is merely speculation. Often, such collaboration is critical.” 

Both the Democrats and the Republicans described Thursday’s reports as preliminary. The Pentagon’s inspector general also has a separate, ongoing investigation into the allegations.

Tags Adam Schiff Director of National Intelligence United States Central Command United States intelligence agencies

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