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Lawmakers ask for survey to find political influence in spy shops

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants the Pentagon to conduct an anonymous “climate” survey to detect whether intelligence analysts feel like their work has been edited for political purposes.

Four lawmakers on Thursday told Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter that he needed to do more to recover from reports that dozens of Central Command (CentCom) intelligence analysts have alleged that their work is being changed to suit a political narrative.

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“[F]urther steps are required to clarify the issue and assure Congress and the American people that the intelligence their leaders receive is objective,” wrote Reps. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierPentagon puts on show of force as questions circle on COVID-19 outbreak Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety COVID-19 sparks national security concerns with top brass in quarantine MORE (D-Calif.), Duncan HunterDuncan HunterDOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump DCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program Wife of former Rep. Duncan Hunter sentenced to 8 months of home confinement MORE (R-Calif.), Mike ThompsonCharles (Mike) Michael ThompsonHouse Democrats unveil green tax package The Hill's Coronavirus Report: BIO's Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (D-Calif.) and Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanColorado mayor says he called protesters 'domestic terrorists' out of 'frustration' Colorado governor directs officials to reexamine death of Elijah McClain in police custody Petition demanding justice for Elijah McClain surpasses 2 million signatures MORE (R-Colo.).

“Potentially politicized intelligence should be a cause for exceptionally grave concern.”

In addition to the new anonymous survey, the four lawmakers asked Carter to brief the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees about the results of annual “climate” surveys on the politicization of intelligence.

They also warned him about retaliating against analysts who sound the alarm about the cooking of their books, and asked him to review policies about the subject and regularly update lawmakers about what steps are being taken to right the alleged wrongs.   

“Independence and objectivity are at the heart of the analytical enterprise, and history has shown that distorted intelligence can have disastrous consequences,” they wrote.

Speier is a member of the Intelligence Committee, while Hunter and Thompson are on the Armed Services panel.

The letter comes on the heels of reports that as many as 50 CentCom analysts have filed formal complaints alleging their superiors edited their reports to make the U.S. appear as if it were having greater success against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Pentagon’s inspector general and committees on Capitol Hill are investigating those complaints.

The Defense Department has insisted that Carter wants only “unvarnished” truth in his intelligence reports, and the issue came to a boil during a hearing with CentCom head Gen. Lloyd Austin III this week. 

A pair of Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have also pressed Carter on the reports.