We've touched on these allegations before, but now they're getting more specific and serious. The Obama administration is engaged in a storm of blame and demagoguery as Americans begin to demand answers in the aftermath of this month's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. The president has personally assailed Republican rhetoric as the strongest ISIS recruitment tool he can imagine, while finding new ways of downplaying the threat posed by the expanding terrorist organization. The public isn't buying it. And now a clearer picture is beginning to emerge as to why so many Americans were caught off-guard by the strength and reach of this expanding malignant force. The prevailing 'official' opacity and diminished sense of urgency was no accident, US intelligence officials tell Fox News and the Daily Beast:
Analysts at U.S. Central Command were pressured to ease off negative assessments about the Islamic State threat and were even told in an email to “cut it out,” Fox News has learned – as an investigation expands into whether intelligence reports were altered to present a more positive picture. Fox News is told by a source close to the CENTCOM analysts that the pressure on them included at least two emails saying they needed to “cut it out” and “toe the line.” Separately, a former Pentagon official told Fox News there apparently was an attempt to destroy the communications. The Pentagon official said the email warnings were "not well received" by the analysts. Those emails, among others, are now in the possession of the Pentagon inspector general. The IG’s probe is expanding into whether intelligence assessments were changed to give a more positive picture of the anti-ISIS campaign. The former Pentagon official said there were “multiple assessments” from military intelligence and the CIA regarding the “rapid rise” of ISIS in Iraq and North Africa in the year leading up to the group’s territory grab in 2014. Similar intelligence was included in the President’s Daily Brief, or PDB – the intelligence community’s most authoritative product -- during the same time period. Yet the official, who was part of the White House discussions, said the administration kept "kicking the can down the road."
Very serious stuff indeed, especially within an administration filled with people who accused the Bush White House of "cooking the books" on WMD's in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Here we have (a) intelligence analysts alleging effective stand-down orders after their rigorous assessments were deemed unhelpfully severe, (b) accusations that those enforcing this whitewash attempted to destroy evidence to that end, and (c) confirmation that some of these warnings made it to Obama's desk. Remember, the president's team has insisted that Obama reads the PDB every single day; this was a central piece of the White House's election-year damage control messaging after it was revealed how often he skipped his daily briefings, including the morning after the Benghazi massacre. The New York Times reported over the weekend that a nonpartisan probe into allegations of manipulated intelligence is growing in scope, with "more investigators" being assigned to the inquiry. The Daily Beast has more details on the cover-up aspect of this story:
In July, a group of intelligence analysts at the U.S. military’s Central Command accused their bosses of distorting and selectively editing intelligence reports about the fight against ISIS in order to portray that campaign as more successful than it really was. As a result of those complaints, the Pentagon’s inspector general opened an investigation. Now, the allegations of misconduct have extended to a possible cover-up, with some analysts accusing the senior intelligence officials at Centcom, Maj. Gen. Steven Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, of deleting emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them, three individuals familiar with the investigation told The Daily Beast...At the heart of the analysts’ allegations is what they describe as a persistent effort by Grove and his team to downplay or even change reports that that questioned how much progress a U.S.-led coalition is making in the Obama administration’s stated goal to degrade, destroy, and defeat ISIS. Draft reports that contained a more pessimistic view, or that questioned the efficacy of hitting certain targets, were sent back to the analysts for more extensive rewriting.
Allahpundit correctly points out that we don't yet know who, precisely, ordered the dangerous, politicized 'sanitization' of intelligence (cui bono?) -- but he notes that there are some breadcrumbs to be followed:
Two defense officials said that some felt the commander for intelligence at CENTCOM failed to keep political pressures from Washington from bearing on lower-level analysts at command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. That pressure, while described as subtle and not overt, is nevertheless clear, the analysts said: Assessments on ISIS should comport with “the leadership consensus,” that is, top policymakers’ view, that the U.S.-led campaign against the group is paying dividends.
I'd also (again) submit this into evidence:
If the Obama administration deliberately ignored unpleasant developments in 2012 -- as alleged by a high-ranking intelligence official in that Times piece -- in order to protect a political storyline, why wouldn't they rig the game later in the process too? I'll leave you with this juxtaposition of two headlines that emerged late yesterday. We're in the very best of hands: