Ernst, Johnson, Coffman react to report on ISIS intelligence manipulation

The Ripon Advance

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Washington, DC, August 16, 2016 | comments

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) called a recent report’s findings that intelligence on ISIS may have been manipulated to create a more favorable depiction of U.S. antiterrorism efforts “alarming.”

Ernst and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) called for an investigation in September into allegations made by whistleblowers that the military intelligence community had manipulated or altered intelligence products to distort the impact of U.S. antiterrorism efforts.

The resulting Joint Task Force and U.S. Central Command Intelligence (CENTCOM) assessment concluded that “intelligence products approved by senior CENTCOM leaders typically provided a more positive depiction of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts than was warranted by facts on the ground and were consistently more positive than analysis produced by other elements of the intelligence community.”

“This interim report released by the Joint Task Force is alarming and fuels my concerns that we may not be receiving a clear picture of our ongoing fight against ISIS,” Ernst, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.

The report also found that process changes implemented at CENTCOM and leadership deficiencies resulted in “widespread dissatisfaction among CENTCOM analysts who felt their superiors were distorting their products.”

“As the report states, ‘analytic integrity is crucial to good intelligence, and good intelligence is crucial to making informed policy judgments,’” Ernst added. “Any actions or structural or cultural deficiencies resulting in an inaccurate picture of the situation on the ground would prevent Congress and our military leaders from making the best decisions possible in our continued fight against ISIS. It would also deny the American people of their right to know the truth. I will continue to follow this matter closely and look forward to the final conclusion of what I hope will be a full and robust investigation by the (Department of Defense inspector general).”

Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said that the fact that intelligence reports were apparently manipulated to “paint a rosy picture” of the war against ISIS is unacceptable.

“The job of intelligence analysts is to produce objective, fact-based assessments, which then serve as a basis for informed national security and foreign policy decisions,” Johnson said. “Doctoring and denying reality has no place in national and military intelligence, which require objectivity and candor. President Obama owes it to the American people to be transparent and provide an accurate assessment of our national security threats rather than turning a blind eye to the dangers that face America, our troops abroad and our allies around the world.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), meanwhile, questioned the Obama administration’s potential role in intelligence manipulation.

“Since the Obama administration denies that we are a nation at war with radical Islamic extremists, it only makes sense that they would direct their senior military leaders to mislead Congress and the American people about the status of this threat,” Coffman said.

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