Anonymous officials within the United States Defense Intelligence Agency (“D.I.A.”) have reported that the military headquarters overseeing America’s campaign against ISIS are “overstating” its results.
Specifically, it is alleged that the United States Central Command has reported false or at least tweaked intelligence assessments prepared for Congress and President Obama in order to make it seem that America is having greater success against ISIS than is actually the case.
The allegations regarding “skewed intelligence assessments” have resulted in an investigation conducted by the Pentagon’s inspector general and raise questions about the government’s current tactics for fighting the war against ISIS.
While differences in opinion among top security officials are encouraged, an investigation by the inspector general is highly unusual. The investigation suggests that the reported claims are more serious than just differences in opinion.
Under federal regulations, intelligence officials have a mechanism to report wrongdoings by security officials to the inspector general. If the inspector general finds the allegations credible, he or she is required to report the findings to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Col. Patrick Ryder pointed out that “The [inspector general] has a responsibility to investigation all allegations made, and we welcome and support their independent oversight.” He further stated that it was customary for a number of different agencies that produce intelligence assessments regarding the Iraq war to make suggested changes to one another’s draft reports. He also stated that each agency makes the final decision about what is included in its final drafts and that, “ . . . the multisource nature of our assessment process purposely guards against any single report or opinion unduly influencing leaders and decision makers.”
Senior military officials repeatedly report that generally, America’s campaign against ISIS has been successful thus far. Others believe that a limited bombing campaign rather than boots on the ground will never defeat ISIS. The latter view seems to be somewhat legitimized by the “whistleblowers’” allegations that classified documents report that little has been accomplished in the war against ISIS’ militant fighters. Moreover, this past year, the group has expanded its terror into Central Asia and North Africa.
The D.I.A. was created in the early 1960s in order to create a check and balance system between itself and various service declarations (i.e., claims made by the Air Force, Army and Navy). For example, the D.I.A. repeatedly reported that a sustained military presence was unlikely to beat the North Vietnamese troops during the Vietnam War – despite the claims by commanders that the United States was winning the war.
Paul R. Pillar, a retired senior Central Intelligence Agency analyst describes the system best by stating that “There’s a built-in tension for the people who work at D.I.A., between dispassionate [objective] analysis and what command wants. You’re part of a large structure that does have a vested interest in portraying the overall mission as going well.”
What the inspector general’s findings reveal regarding reports about the war against ISIS remain to be seen – but it is likely it may shape the continuing efforts against the terrorist group.