In the wake of allegations that U.S. intelligence has been manipulated to give a rosier picture of the war against ISIS, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have demanded the Pentagon conduct a far-ranging, anonymous survey of intelligence analysts to determine whether they think that intelligence politicization is occurring.
Such a survey could further widen a scandal that has already led the Defense Department’s inspector general to open an investigation and has drawn the attention of top congressional officials. The U.S. Central Command analysts filed a complaint in July.
But the survey that lawmakers are urging would include combatant commands from all over the world—not merely U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for the Middle East and parts of North Africa.
The Daily Beast previously reported that more than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s Syria branch were being inappropriately altered.
“Potentially politicized intelligence should be a cause for exceptionally grave concern. Independence and objectivity are at the heart of the analytical enterprise, and history has shown that distorted intelligence can have disastrous consequences,” the signatories of the letter wrote Thursday to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. They requested that a climate survey be conducted, and the results of the survey provided to Congress within 30 days of its completion.
Aside from the climate survey, the lawmakers urged that the Department of Defense refrain from retaliating against whistleblowers who have alleged that intelligence has been politicized, arrange regular briefings on the state of the ongoing inspector general’s investigation, and review policies and training about intelligence politicization.
General Lloyd Austin, U.S. CENTCOM commander, has informed leaders that he will not tolerate any reprisal against those suspected of being part of the investigation, two military officials told The Daily Beast.
Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier and Mike Thompson were joined by Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter and Mike Coffman as signatories to the letter.
The allegations of intelligence manipulation have brought forth a wave of bipartisan concern, expressed at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the anti-ISIS campaign on Wednesday.
“It’s a serious allegation that strikes at the core of our government in terms of our ability to oversee and make decisions around the use of our military,” Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said. “I just want to put on the record that I, for one, am going to be watching very carefully about any potential retaliation against any of the men or women that may have come forward with allegations.”
Sen. Angus King added that he considers this an “extremely grave” issue for the campaign against ISIS. “If we don’t have reliable intelligence as policymakers, and if the president doesn’t have reliable intelligence, we can’t make good policy,” he said.
Various committees have already begun exploring the matter. The staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee has already met with one of the whistleblowers who complained about the altering of intelligence reports to the Pentagon’s Inspector General, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee and its former chairwoman. And Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that his committee had begun investigating the allegations.