An­a­lysts’ find­ings are sub­jected to ‘sup­pres­sion’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CARLO MUÑOZ

Law­mak­ers crit­i­cal of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cher­ryp­ick­ing of in­tel­li­gence in the war on ter­ror fired one last shot via the de­fense spend­ing bill work­ing its way through Congress.

Mem­bers of the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee in­serted a lit­tle-no­ticed pro­vi­sion to block funds for a key in­tel­li­gence pro­gram run by U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, agree­ing to re­lease the funds only after a Pen­tagon-wide in­ves­ti­ga­tion is opened into in­tel op­er­a­tions at other re­gional com­mands.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors from the De­fense Depart­ment’s In­spec­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice would lead the in­quiry at ma­jor U.S. com­mands in the Pa­cific, South America, Europe and Africa, ac­cord­ing to lan­guage in the House ver­sion of the de­fense spend­ing bill for fis­cal year 2017.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, the [de­fense bill] will fence fund­ing for [Cen­tral Com­mand’s] in­tel­li­gence Fu­sion Cen­ter un­til the Com­mit­tee re­ceives doc­u­men­ta­tion about the cen­ter’s op­er­a­tion and the DOD IG in­quiry has been com­pleted,” House law­mak­ers added in a state­ment sum­ming up the leg­is­la­tion’s high­lights.

The leg­is­la­tion, which re­quires ap­proval from de­fense law­mak­ers in the Se­nate, stems from a joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the House de­fense panel and the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence look­ing into the ac­cu­sa­tions against Cen­tral Com­mand in Au­gust.

The joint task force found that a slew of per­son­nel changes within the com­mand’s in­tel­li­gence di­rec­torate, be­gin­ning in mid-2014, re­sulted in the “dis­sem­i­na­tion of in­tel­li­gence prod­ucts that were in­con­sis­tent with the judg­ments of many se­nior, ca­reer an­a­lysts at CENTCOM” re­gard­ing the bur­geon­ing U.S. in­volve­ment in the fight against Is­lamic State.

“These prod­ucts were con­sis­tently more op­ti­mistic re­gard­ing the con­duct of U.S. mil­i­tary ac­tion than that of the se­nior an­a­lysts,” task force mem­bers wrote in the ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary of the 15-page re­view of the com­mand’s ef­forts.

Aside from the crit­i­cism from within its own ranks, the in­tel­li­gence find­ings from the com­mand ran con­trary to anal­y­sis from the CIA and other civil­ian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies re­view­ing the early days of Op­er­a­tion In­her­ent Re­solve, the U.S.-led cam­paign against Is­lamic State.

The com­mand’s in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions al­ready were un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Pen­tagon’s in­spec­tor gen­eral, start­ing in 2015, look­ing into the “toxic” com­mand en­vi­ron­ment in the in­tel­li­gence di­rec­torate that came after then-Gen. James Mat­tis was forced out by the Obama White House over his op­po­si­tion to the Iran nu­clear deal.

Gen. Mat­tis re­cently was an­nounced as the nom­i­nee for de­fense sec­re­tary in Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump’s in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.

After Gen. Mat­tis’ de­par­ture in 2013, more than 40 per­cent of the mil­i­tary an­a­lysts at the com­mand had “ex­pe­ri­enced an at­tempt to dis­tort or sup­press in­tel­li­gence in the past year,” ac­cord­ing to the con­gres­sional task force re­port.

The sit­u­a­tion did im­prove dra­mat­i­cally once Gen. Joseph Vo­tel, who is now Cen­tral Com­mand chief, took over as the com­mand’s top in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in 2014 un­der for­mer com­mand chief Gen. Lloyd Austin.

But prob­lems still per­sisted even un­der Gen. Austin’s watch, ac­cord­ing to the task force.

In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers un­der Gen. Austin “in­sti­tuted var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tional and process changes that neg­a­tively af­fected the qual­ity and time­li­ness of in­tel­li­gence pro­duc­tion,” task force mem­bers found.

Com­mand lead­ers ar­gued the changes would stream­line and sharpen “an­a­lytic trade­craft and time­li­ness” of its in­tel op­er­a­tions across the re­gion, “but the changes ul­ti­mately were un­suc­cess­ful and had the op­po­site ef­fect.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers un­der Gen. Lloyd Austin “in­sti­tuted var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tional and process changes that neg­a­tively af­fected the qual­ity and time­li­ness of in­tel­li­gence pro­duc­tion,” a task force has re­ported.

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