By: Arthur Herman
September 29, 2015
Two weeks ago I posted on The Corner a story about accusations that the Obama administration has been systematically altering intelligence reports about our fight—or some would say, non-fight—with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, in order to make it look like we’re making progress when in fact we’re not. Complaints about undue interference from 50 top intelligence analysts working for Central Command were serious enough that they reached the DoD Inspector General’s office.
Now they’ve reached the Senate, as well. Later today Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wisc), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and Senator Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) will release their letter to DNI James Clapper, asking whether are officials at Centcom and their superiors, including Clapper himself, have been cooking the intelligence regarding ISIS.
“We write to express our concern about recent allegations of manipulation of intelligence reporting to reflect the President’s narrative that the U.S. is winning the war” against ISIS, the letter begins.
It also zeroes in on two people who have allegedly been directly involved in the altering of intel: Army Major General Steven Grove, director of intelligence (G-2) at Centcom, and his civilian deputy Gregory Ryckman.
Johnson and Ernst tell Clapper that according to one news article in the Daily Beast, “you maintained a near-daily dialogue with [Grove] that potentially influenced him and his civilian deputy to discount conflicting information from their subordinate analysts,” thus “creating an environment that no longer allows analysts to give a candid assessment of the situation in Iraq and Syria to senior policy makers.”
The four page letter concludes by saying that the Committee on Homeland Security will conduct an inquiry into whether “that you are inappropriately influencing one intelligence agency, which “also raises questions about the potential for inappropriate influence of other agencies in the Intelligence Community”—and states that it wants answers to its questions by October 9.
Johnson and Ernst add, “these allegations are very troubling.”
They certainly are—but not surprising. Observers of Obama’s national security staff have long felt that the key criterion for getting a job there is not expertise in national security or handling intelligence, but the willingness to work to make Obama look good (they remember ex-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon’s pathetic efforts to shape the narrative of the movie Dark Zero Thirty in a pro-Obama direction).
But corrupting intelligence to fit a political agenda raises the bar considerably. We all know the political firestorm that was set off by claims that the Bush administration had cooked the intelligence on WMD’s in Iraq—claims that turned out to be false.
We also know that political motives were allowed to creep into the 2007 National Intelligence Assessment in which certain CIA analysts downplayed Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, in hopes of preventing the Bush administration from taking military action—a deliberate misreading of signals that has led us to Obama and Kerry’s train wreck of a nuclear deal with Iran.