Some of President Obama’s top military officials are the subject of an expanded investigation into intelligence reports that were possibly doctored to paint a rosy picture of progress made in rooting out ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq.
At issue is whether analysts at Central Command, which oversees U.S. Department of Defense operations in the Middle East, altered assessments of the campaign against ISIS to make it appear as though the United States and Western partners were making more progress than they really were, at least according to claims from a whistleblower assigned to Centcom, ABC News reported.
A whistleblower within Centcom said an investigation was opened in September and has grown to include the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees. The chairmen of both committees are also forming a task force in the “near future” to investigate allegations of intelligence manipulation, aides with both panels confirmed to ABC.
On Sunday Obama said during a press conference he would “get to the bottom” of the issue.
“One of the things I insisted on the day I walked into the Oval Office was that I don’t want intelligence shaded by politics,” he told reporters at a news conference in Malaysia. “I don’t want it shaded by the desire to tell a feel-good story.”
Obama has returned to Washington following a nine-day trip through East Asian countries promoting his Trans-Pacific Trade deal and a campaign against climate change. He has appeared annoyed at press conferences when reporters questioned his resolve in fighting ISIS.
And instead of turning up the military heat on ISIS, Obama has chosen to turn up the rhetoric on Syrian refugees, emphasizing that his political opponents in the GOP are “afraid of widows and orphans,” when in fact about 70 percent of refugees flooding into Europe have been healthy men between the ages of 18 and 45. He referred to as “shameful” any suggestions that the U.S. make Syrian Christians a priority for rescue, calling that a “religious test” that was unacceptable. Yet, his critic point out that he seems to have a religions test of his own, accepting 97 percent Muslims from Syria since that country’s civil war broke out four years ago.
Probe into doctored intel widens
The Pentagon inspector general in recent weeks has seized a large stash of emails and documents from military servers and has added more investigators to the inquiry, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Meanwhile some in the president’s own party have joined the chorus of critics on his ISIS strategy.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., criticized him on CBS Sunday morning for moving not aggressively enough nor quickly enough against ISIS.
And Obama’s own former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that Obama isn’t deploying nearly enough assets to destroy the Islamic State.
Panetta said there was “a lot of concern” as to whether Obama had deployed the resources necessary to fulfill its stated mission to destroy the Islamic State terrorist organization, the Free Beacon reported.
Panetta was among those who took exception to Obama’s claim last week that the Islamic State was “contained.”
On Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Panetta whether he felt Obama’s “right strategy” for IS was working. Obama is receiving his worst polling ever from the American people on the question of how he handles terrorism.
Watch Panetta’s interview with Chuck Todd:
“Obviously there’s a lot of concern about whether or not we’ve deployed the resources to be able to accomplish the mission that the president described,” Panetta told Todd. “I think the mission he said is the right mission, which is to disrupt, dismantle, and destroy ISIS. That’s the right mission. but I think that the resources applied to that mission, frankly, have not been sufficient to confront that, and for that reason I think we’ve got to be much more aggressive and much more unified in the effort to take on ISIS.”
Todd asked Panetta about a column penned by Michael Vickers, a former counterterrorism advisor to both Obama and President Bush, who said the mission implemented by the Obama administration was a failing “long game” when “a more rapid and disruptive strategy is required.” Panetta agreed.
“This effort is not coordinated,” Panetta said. “People are not working together. Everybody’s kind of doing their own thing on different targets. We need to unify the command. We need to set a joint command center where all of these countries are together on their objective, and secondly we need to increase our effort there. We need to increase the tempo of our air strikes. We need to organize ground forces, particularly the Sunnis and the Kurds and arm them so that they can take territory back from ISIS. And, frankly, we need to increase special forces and our intelligence advisors, not only to guide these forces but to go with them in order to ensure that we are successful in this effort.”