ISIS Analysis By U.S. Intelligence Agencies May Be Flawed By Distortions

Allegations have emerged that military officials may have distorted the success of the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State, skewing the intelligence assessments created with the information. The Pentagon’s inspector general is reportedly investigating the matter.

At least one civilian Defense Intelligence Agency analyst reported that officials at United States Central Command were knowingly distorting evidence to create a more optimistic account of progress in the campaign in intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers. Central Command is in charge of American efforts against the Islamic State, including the recent bombing campaigns.

Intelligence assessments “must not be distorted” by agency agendas or policy views, according to government regulations. Analysts are required to acknowledge contrary viewpoints and to cite sources that back up their conclusions.

The recently opened investigation is attempting to determine whether military officials changed the conclusions of draft intelligence assessments before passing them on to policy makers. Fuller details of the accusations were not available and the people alleged to be responsible have not been named.

Numerous agencies produce intelligence assessments for policy makers, including the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. While each agency may consult on the other’s draft intelligence assessments, the final content of the reports is up to the agency creating it.

Legitimate differences of opinion are common and encouraged among national security officials. However, an inspector general’s investigation is an unusual move and more than likely means that a simple difference of opinion is not the case in this matter.

Intelligence officials can bring claims of wrongdoing to the intelligence community’s inspector general under federal law. If the claims are found to be credible, the officials are required to alert the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to the matter.

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