Pentagon continues to probe ISIS reports after US intel analysts “revolt”

ISIS - JFThe United States Department of Defense is still probing claims that some of its officials doctored intelligence reports to give a falsely optimistic account of the campaign against the Islamic State. IntelNews has followed this story since late August, after initial reports surfaced in The New York Times. The reports suggested that at least one analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon’s primary human-intelligence agency, had complained that reports about ISIS were being deliberately tweaked by officials at the US Central Command (CENTCOM), the Pentagon body that directs and coordinates American military operations in Egypt, the Middle East and Central Asia. Some of the reports related to al-Qaeda activity in Iraq and Syria, but most were about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the militant Sunni organization that controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

According to The Daily Beast, more than 50 intelligence analysts from the DIA have now come forward to complain to the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General that their reports on the Islamic State were altered by CENTCOM officials, in order to give a falsely positive projection of US policy in relation to the organization. The website said that some of the analysts have been complaining for months about what they describe as the deliberate politicization of their reports by CENTCOM. But their complaints are now part of an official investigation into the matter by the Inspector General. The latter is required to produce a report with the intelligence oversight committees of the US Congress.

The Daily Beast said that its reporting was based on nearly a dozen individuals who were “knowledgeable about the details of the report”. But it said that it would not name its sources due to the sensitivity of the case. It did, however, quote one source, who described case as “a revolt” by intelligence analysts. Another source described the altering of the analysts’ intelligence reports as a “cancer […] within the senior level of the intelligence command”. A source identified only as “a defense official”, told the website that the analysts’ “revolt” was prompted by the experience of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. At that time, “poorly written intelligence reports suggesting Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, when it did not, formed the basis of the George W. Bush administration’s case for war”, said the official. And continued: the analysts “were frustrated because they didn’t do the right thing then and speak up about their doubts on Iraq’s weapons program”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 September 2015 | Permalink

US Pentagon probing claims of falsely optimistic intel reports on ISIS

ISIS forces in RamadiThe United States Department of Defense is investigating claims that some of its officials doctored intelligence reports to give a falsely optimistic account of the campaign against the Islamic State. Citing “several officials familiar with the inquiry”, The New York Times said in a leading article on Tuesday that the Pentagon launched a probe into the allegations in recent weeks. According to the paper, the probe was launched following a complaint filed by at least one analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon’s primary human-intelligence agency. According to the analyst, intelligence reports were deliberately tweaked by officials at the US Central Command (CENTCOM), the Pentagon body that directs and coordinates American military operations in Egypt, the Middle East and Central Asia. The reports related to the Islamic State, known also as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a militant Sunni organization that currently controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Many Middle East observers, including this website, have made notably dire projections about the continuing reinforcement and territorial expansion of ISIS. Earlier this month, the Associated Press published an unconfirmed assessment of a “strategic stalemate” in Syria, which allegedly represented the views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the DIA and other members of the US Intelligence Community. According to the news agency, the report said that ISIS is “fundamentally no weaker” today than it was a year ago, when the United States began a bombing campaign targeting ISIS strongholds.

But earlier assessments by DIA, which were communicated to senior US policymakers, including President Barack Obama, were far more optimistic about America’s ability to defeat the militant group, said The Times. According to the paper, the DIA analyst had evidence showing that CENTCOM officials had systematically doctored the conclusions of intelligence reports about ISIS before passing them on to American leaders. It appears that the evidence pointing to deliberate manipulation of intelligence assessments was convincing enough to prompt the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General to launch an official probe into the matter.

When asked to respond to The Times’ allegations, CENTCOM spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said he was unable to comment on an ongoing investigation by the Inspector General. If the allegations are substantiated by the probe, the Inspector General is legally required to share them with the intelligence oversight committees of the US Congress.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 August 2015 | Permalink

No signs of ISIS decline despite Western efforts, say US spy agencies

ISIS forces in RamadiInternal reports by American intelligence agencies say that the Islamic State remains strong in Iraq and Syria, and that the group has been able to effortlessly replace its 10,000 fighters who have been killed in the past year. Despite the over $1 billion spent in the war against it by the Syrian and Iraqi governments, as well as by the West, the militant group is “fundamentally no weaker” than it was a year ago, when the United States began a bombing campaign targeting Islamic State strongholds, according to the reports. The Associated Press, which published a summary of the assessment, said that it represents the views of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other members of the US Intelligence Community. Citing anonymous US officials, the news agency said that the overall assessment of the situation could be described as a “strategic stalemate”.

If the leaked assessment is accurate, it would directly contradict the views expressed recently by retired US Marine Corps General John Allen, who is serving as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS. Speaking last week at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, General Allen argued that the Islamic State (known also as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS) was “losing”. He added that “we have seen some significant progress” in the war against the group and said he believed that its “momentum has been checked strategically, operationally and, by and large, tactically”.

 But according to the Associated Press, US defense officials have seen “no meaningful degradation” in the numbers of ISIS fighters. They put the group’s current strength at between 20,000 and 30,000 uniformed troops, a number that is practically identical to that of August 2014, when the administration of US President Barack Obama initiated an air bombing campaign against ISIS targets. The intelligence assessments suggest that, not only is ISIS able to replenish its fighter ranks with new recruits from around the world, but that the group’s finances have not been significantly affected by the US air campaign. American fighter jets have repeatedly attacked ISIS-controlled oil installations in recent months; but the group has been able to rebuild its oil-drilling and -refining capacities, and continues to earn over $40 million a month from the sale of oil.

The reports go on to state that, based on current trends, it could take more than a decade before ISIS became weak enough to justify expectations that it could retreat from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 August 2015 | Permalink

North Korean commando cells may have infiltrated US in 1990s

North Korean troops in trainingBy IAN ALLEN |
North Korean commandos, trained to attack large cities and nuclear installations, may have been secretly stationed on American soil in the 1990s, according to a declassified report from the United States Department of Defense’s intelligence wing. The report, dating from September 2004, was compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which is America’s foremost intelligence organization concerned with military secrets. The report states that the North Korean commando cells were set up by the country’s Ministry of People’s Armed Forces under the command of its Reconnaissance General Bureau. Known as RGB, the Bureau is believed to have under its command an estimated 60,000 members of North Korea’s Special Forces. It is responsible for countless covert operations in South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere around the world, which include assassinations and kidnappings. Its most notorious action was the so-called Blue House Raid of 1968, in which a group of North Korean commandos infiltrated the South and attacked the official residence of South Korean President Park Chung-hui in an attempt to assassinate him. In 1983, RGB forces were responsible for a bomb attack in Rangoon, aimed at killing South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan during his official visit to the Burmese capital. The bomb killed 21 people, but Chun survived. According to the 2004 DIA report, the RGB established five “liaison offices” in the early 1990s, which were tasked exclusively with training a select number of operatives to infiltrate the US and remain in place until called to action by Pyongyang. They would become operational in the event of a war breaking out between America and North Korea, at which point they had been instructed to conduct raids on large US cities, sabotage nuclear power plants, etc. The DIA document states that the North Korean plan was put in place because Pyongyang had no other lethal means of reaching the US at the time. The report is significantly redacted and includes the warning that it contains raw information, meaning that it had not been cross-checked and could not be conclusively verified. Additionally, the document makes no mention of the fate of the RGB’s infiltration program and whether it continues to the present day.

War alone will not defeat Islamists, says US ex-military intel chief

Lieutenant General Michael FlynnBy IAN ALLEN |
The former chief of military intelligence in the United States has warned that military force cannot defeat Islamic-inspired militancy without a broader strategic plan. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn led the US Defense Intelligence Agency from July 2012 until August of this year, serving essentially as the most senior intelligence official in the US Armed Forces. He stepped down amidst rumors that he had been asked to resign because his plans to modernize military intelligence operations were “disruptive”. On Wednesday, while addressing the annual Maneuver Conference at the US Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence in Fort Benning, Georgia, General Flynn addressed the issue of Sunni militancy and how to counter groups like the Islamic State. Responding to a question from the audience, the former DIA director said “what this audience wants [to hear] is ‘kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out, get the T-shirt [and] go down to Ranger Joe’s” (a military clothing retailer). And he added: “we can kill all day long, but until we understand why there are [such large] numbers of [fundamentalist] believers globally, [groups like the Islamic State] will not be defeated”. Flynn went on to say that America is losing initiative in the war of ideas with Islamic radicalism, as the latter is spreading rapidly across the world, especially in regions such as Africa and South Asia. Responding to another question from the audience, the former DIA director dismissed the view that there is an ideological split between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, saying: “there is no tension; they hate us equally; it is an expansion”. Last month, Flynn gave an interview in which he said the international environment was “is the most uncertain, chaotic and confused” he had witnessed in his three-decade career. Read more of this post

Destroying Hamas won’t solve conflict, says top US Pentagon official

Lieutenant General Michael FlynnBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS |
The most senior military intelligence official of the United States has warned that the destruction of Palestinian militant group Hamas will not solve, and might even intensify, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Hamas, otherwise known by its full name, Islamic Resistance Movement, was founded with Israeli help in 1987 to combat the power of its secular rival, Fatah. Since 2007, Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip, after winning most of the votes in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election. Fatah, which refused to hand over power to Hamas, now governs the West Bank. Israel has for many years accused Hamas for leading what it describes as the “rejectionist” camp of the Palestinian nationalist movement, by refusing to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state. The US is in broad agreement with its close ally Israel, and has designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization. On Saturday, however, the outgoing director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, warned Israeli officials that wiping out Hamas will not mean the end of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, and that the group’s demise will probably lead to a far more radical group taking its place. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, an annual gathering of senior defense leaders in Aspen, Colorado. The top US military intelligence official told his audience that “if Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse”. He went on to add that the militant group’s place in Gaza would probably be replaced by “something like ISIS”. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS, which has emerged from the Syrian Civil War as the most powerful non-state actor in the region. The group has already announced the creation of an Islamic State in territory under its control in the borderlands of Iraq and Syria. Lieut. Gen. Flynn was echoing similar views expressed earlier this month by former Israeli intelligence official Efraim Halevy, who directed Israel’s covert-action agency, Mossad, from 1998 to 2002. Speaking to American television network CNN, Halevy said that numerous radical groups in the Gaza Strip would be far more threatening to Israel’s security than Hamas. Read more of this post

Are America’s most senior military intel officers being forced out?

The US Department of DefenseBy IAN ALLEN |
There are rumors that the two most senior military intelligence officers in the United States, who have announced their intention to step down in the coming months, are being forced out by the White House. Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, who directs the Defense Intelligence Agency, and his Deputy Director, David R. Shedd, both said on Wednesday that they intend to quit their jobs before the end of the summer. The Department of Defense said later on Wednesday that the two officials had been scheduled to step down “for some time” and that the leadership of the DoD “appreciates the service of these two dedicated and professional leaders”. But the announcement does not change the fact that America’s two leading military intelligence administrators have suddenly decided to quit their jobs. Shedd entered his current post in 2010, while Flynn rose to the DIA’s top position in 2012. If he does indeed step down in the coming months, he will be doing so at least a year before he was officially scheduled to depart from the DIA. The Washington Post claimed on Wednesday that Flynn “faced pressure” to step down, from senior US government officials, including James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. According to the paper, Clapper, whose main job is to coordinate the activities of America’s intelligence agencies, approached Flynn several weeks ago and told him that the administration of US President Barack Obama had decided that “a leadership change was necessary” at the DIA. As the so-called “global war on terrorism” has been winding down, the DIA has been faced with calls for significant changes in both operations and scope. The latter have included plans to expand the agency’s human intelligence operations abroad, as was seen in the Pentagon’s recent effort to launch a new intelligence agency, called Defense Clandestine Service. But in late 2012 the US Senate blocked the plan, citing gross mismanagement of the Pentagon’s existing intelligence operations. The failed plan had been strongly supported by both Flynn and Shedd, who had vowed to increase the DIA’s intelligence-collection operations abroad, and had campaigned in favor of turning the agency’s attention to locations other than Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more of this post


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