GOP rep: Obama responsible for manipulated intel about ISIS

President Obama and other senior administration officials created a political climate that led intelligence officials to create warped reports about the United States’s fight against Islamic extremists, a leader of a Republican task force studying the matter said on Thursday. 

“They wanted a good news story,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), one of three GOP lawmakers leading a House task force into alleged intelligence manipulation at the Pentagon’s Central Command, told The Hill.

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“Is there a memo from Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIt's Joe Biden's 2020 presidential nomination to lose Assange hit with 17 new charges, including Espionage Act violations Progressive commentator says Obama was delusional thinking he could work with Republicans MORE saying, ‘Don’t send me bad news’? We haven’t yet found that,” he added.

“But in every organization I’ve ever been a part of ... leaders set a culture and the team that works around that leader understands the expectations of that leader,” Pompeo said. “Here that led to manipulation of an intelligence product that was extremely important to keeping our kids safe.”

The comments magnify the criticism in an initial report published by the task force on Thursday that concluded that Centcom reports about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria were “consistently more optimistic” than analysts on the ground.

Centcom reports “consistently described U.S. actions in a more positive light than other assessments from the [intelligence community] and were typically more optimistic than actual events warranted,” the task force claimed.

The findings are a harsh indictment of the Pentagon’s anti-ISIS efforts and are likely to add to the chorus of criticism about the Obama administration’s approach towards the extremist group. The U.S. fight against ISIS hit its two-year mark this week, in what administration officials describe as steady progress against the group's self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

But the fight has been marred by persistent setbacks, and at times Obama and other senior leaders appeared to have underestimated ISIS's strength, such as during a 2014 interview in which Obama referred to ISIS as the "JV team."

The GOP task force was created last year after dozens of whistleblowers within Centcom reported their concerns to the Pentagon’s inspector general. The officials’ concerns appeared to echo warnings about misleading intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq and during the Vietnam War, among other instances.

However, the lawmakers’ interim report declined to lay blame for the intelligence manipulation at the feet of the White House.

Pompeo’s remarks to The Hill expanded the fault to the president’s door.

“The Centcom personnel that we talked to said there was a common understanding of what the expectation was,” said Pompeo, who is also a member of the Intelligence Committee.

“People get it wrong ... but as you change things 100 times, you would expect half of them to be one way and half of them to be another,” he said. “But that wasn’t the case here. The case was that every time they were changing information they were making it look better."

“There’s no way to describe it other than there was a culture and an understanding of what it was, the expectation of the senior leaders in the United States government.”

Democrats declined to participate in the GOP task force and instead launched a parallel inquiry led by Reps. Jackie Speier (Calif.) and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Trump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas MORE (Calif.).

Their probe also found troubles with intelligence reporting at Centcom, due to what Schiff described as “an overly insular process for producing intelligence assessments.”

"However, we found no evidence of politicization of intelligence in this case,” Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “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.”

The twin investigations covered the period from the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2015, after a shakeup among Centcom leadership. Both Schiff and Pompeo said that the problems appear to have been largely corrected over the course of the last year due to structural changes within Centcom, which covers issues in the Middle East and Central Asia.