Daily Beast: 50 U.S. spies say admin altered their dire reports on ISIS into 'happy talk'

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Thursday September 10th, 2015

" . . . reports are being manipulated to fit a public narrative"

If this sounds familiar, it should. Tomorrow marks three years since the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which was followed by several days' worth of bizarre talk from the Obama Administrationa about the whole thing starting with a YouTube video. That was all complete garbage, of course, but they were desperate to pitch that narrative in order to protect the larger political narrative that Al Qaeda was on the run.

Three years later, it's now ISIS that represents the major threat, but the administration's stance is basically the same. They don't want to really fight, and in order to keep that approach politicallly plausible, they need to put forward a narrative that the enemy is on the run and we've got the upper hand.

So when non-political analysts file reports that completely contradict that narrative, what does the Obama administration do? Alter them, of course. Unfortunately for them, a large group of the analysts is not just sitting back and taking it. They've filed a complaint with the Pentagon's inspector general, and 11 of them - and we offer the standard warning here that they are not letting their names be used - are now talking to the Daily Beast:

Some of those CENTCOM analysts described the sizeable cadre of protesting analysts as a “revolt” by intelligence professionals who are paid to give their honest assessment, based on facts, and not to be influenced by national-level policy. The analysts have accused senior-level leaders, including the director of intelligence and his deputy in CENTCOM, of changing their analyses to be more in line with the Obama administration’s public contention that the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda is making progress. The analysts take a more pessimistic view about how military efforts to destroy the groups are going.

The large number of analysts who complained to the Pentagon inspector general hasn’t been previously reported. Some of them are assigned to work at CENTCOM, the U.S. military's command for the Middle East and Central Asia, but are officially employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The complaints allege that in some cases key elements of intelligence reports were removed, resulting in a document that didn’t accurately capture the analysts’ conclusions, sources familiar with the protest said. But the complaint also goes beyond alleged altering of reports and accuses some senior leaders at CENTCOM of creating an unprofessional work environment. One person who knows the contents of the written complaint sent to the inspector general said it used the word “Stalinist” to describe the tone set by officials overseeing CENTCOM’s analysis.

Many described a climate in which analysts felt they could not give a candid assessment of the situation in Iraq and Syria. Some felt it was a product of commanders protecting their career advancement by putting the best spin on the war.

Some reports crafted by the analysts that were too negative in their assessment of the war were sent back the chain of the command or not shared up the chain, several analysts said. Still others, feeling the climate around them, self-censored so their reports affirmed already-held beliefs.

Those last two paragraphs are really damning in what they reveal about how the Obama administration operates. Not only do they alter analyst reports that contradict the preferred political narrative, but the culture of the organization is such that everyone understands it should never even get to that point. Analysts are under pressure to self-censor, lest a report end up on someone's desk that doesn't support the White House's happy talk about ISIS being on the run, just as the truth about Benghazi contradicted the political claims of the 2012 Obama re-election campaign.

What's really astonishing here is that these are presumably not even reports written for the general public's consumption. These are intelligence reports written for the benefit of senior officials so they understand the facts on the ground where ISIS is concerned. And if the information discovered by the analysts doesn't support the notion that we're winning, senior officials don't even want to know. That supports a broader view of this administration and the people working in it, which is that their entire day-to-day raison d'etre is political, and any information about a real security threat is just a distraction from their real job, such that those who would present the distraction need to be reined in.

That being the case, why would you ever believe anything this administration says about a terror threat, or a military operation, or the situation in Syria or Ukraine? If it's bad, not only do they not want you to know, they don't even want to know.

Dan recently served as editor for a youth adventure novel written by his son Tony. Titled Shadow Island, it's about a mysterious island in the middle of Lake Michigan, which is discovered by four young Chicago residents - only to unleash a force that threatens the entire city of Chicago. Aimed at young readers, it's available in hard copy or in e-book download formats. Follow all of Dan's work by liking his page on Facebook.