Top House Lawmaker Accuses Pentagon of Obstructing Intel Probe
The ongoing investigation into analyst complaints is drawing the ire of Capitol Hill
In another sign of alleged leadership failures at the U.S. Central Command, the head of the House Intelligence Committee accused officials there of deleting files and emails tied to an ongoing investigation into the possible manipulation of data about the campaign against the Islamic State.
It was the most serious charge publicly lodged by a lawmaker against the military command – which oversees the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan – since reports emerged in August that the Defense Department’s inspector general was investigating analyst complaints that their work was being altered to show more progress against ISIS than had actually been achieved. The analysts accused their higher-ups of changing the assessments to make them more politically palpable to a White House eager to show progress in the fight.
Addressing a panel of the nation’s leading intelligence officials, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said his committee had been “made aware” of the deleted files, and “we expect that the Department of Defense will provide these and all other relevant documents to the committee.”
Nunes said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper provided him with the results of a survey of Central Command staffers which found that more than 40 percent of its analysts are concerned there are flaws in the integrity of the intelligence analyses, and how their work is handled.
“I would consider that unusually high,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said. “We’ve already had requests where there’s been a dispute at CENTCOM where we’ve sent out an ombudsman there to look at the analytic rigor.”
Central Command spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder declined to discuss any specifics of the ongoing investigation, but said, “as a matter of CENTCOM policy, all senior leader e-mails are kept in storage for record keeping purposes, so such records cannot be deleted. CENTCOM continues to cooperate fully with the DOD IG investigation.”
The inspector general’s investigation began last year after least one civilian Defense Intelligence Agency analyst alleged that their assessments were being distorted at Central Command to put a positive spin on the effort against the Islamic State.
In the crosshairs of the inspector general investigation sits Maj. Gen. Steven Grove, who has been the head of intelligence at Central Command since June 2014. In November, Foreign Policy reported that Nunes was joining the chairmen of the House Armed Services Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to form a task force to investigate the allegations, and were including analyst reports from Afghanistan.
The analysts have painted a picture of a highly-charged environment inside the intelligence shop at Central Command since Grove took over as director, congressional aides have said.
Publicly released information on the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have generally painted a mixed picture of an organization that has lost thousands of fighters and key parts of its self-proclaimed caliphate, including the Iraqi city of Ramadi. At the same time, ISIS remains a potent fighting force which retains other major cities in Syria and Iraq and has an expanding presence in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Libya.
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