40% of CENTCOM Intel Pros Warn: ISIS Info Flawed

The ‘unusually high’ number said there were problems with the ‘integrity’ of their reports, as many have accused their bosses for skewing reports on ISIS.

Charles Dharapak

Forty percent of analysts working at the U.S. military’s Central Command, which is running the war against ISIS, think there are problems with “analytic integrity” in their work, a top congressman said on Thursday.

Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, asked senior intelligence officials about the figure, which was discovered in a recent survey of analysts by the country’s top intelligence office. The survey was first reported by The Daily Beast this month.

“To me, it seems like if 40 percent of analysts are concerned at CENTCOM, that’s just something that can’t be ignored,” Nunes (R-CA) told top intelligence officials testifying before the committee, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan.

“I would consider that unusually high,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said of the 40 percent figure. “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.”

Last year, a unit in Clapper’s office that acts as an ombudsman for intelligence reports conducted a survey to gauge whether politics or other factors were inappropriately influencing intelligence analysis. The CENTCOM analysts reported that some of their reports had been skewed by their bosses to reach conclusions the analysts felt weren’t supported by facts, according to U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the matter.

The analysts believe that the fight against ISIS is not going as well as their bosses have tried to portray. A large number of those analysts have also lodged a similar complaint with the Defense Department’s inspector general, which is investigating the matter.

Nunes’s disclosure of results from the intelligence survey was the first time an official has quantified on the record the level of dissent and concern among analysts. (He cited The Daily Beast’s report in his questioning.)

Defense Department officials have said they believe the inspector general’s review will be finished by spring, though they haven’t received any word from the IG. Many officials are eager to see what the review finds so the Pentagon and CENTCOM can accurately assess the depth of the problem. Was it systemic or the result of a leadership issue?

Sources familiar with the analysts’ allegations have said they focused in particular on the two top officials in charge of analysis at CENTCOM.

“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official told The Daily Beast.

In the meantime, officials privately conceded that since the allegations surfaced they are reading CENTCOM reports with more skepticism than they once did, sometimes seeking other agency reports to confirm CENTCOM's understanding of the Islamic State threat and the effects of the U.S.-led coalition’s airstrike campaign.