- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2015

Top U.S. military officials subtly manipulated intelligence reports on the fight against Islamic State militants in the Middle East, according to sources who detailed the allegations which the Pentagon is now investigating. 

Unnamed military sources told NPR that leaders at U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, changed the wording of intelligence reports to skirt tougher standards on reports with bad news, making the analyses sound less negative. 

When analysts wanted to include good news in the reports, little evidence was needed to support the claims, two sources close to the investigation said. But bad news required extensive footnotes and intelligence data to back it up.

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“The bad news didn’t just need to be footnoted. The intelligence data itself had to be attached to the report,” one source told NPR. 

“It became pretty clear if they wrote something bad, it was likely to be changed,” the source added. “Knowing that bad news on ISIS wasn’t welcome meant that, over time, the picture of the fight began being rosier.” 

Key language was sanitized to change to overall outlook of reports, according to the NPR report. 

A source described one report detailing an attack by the militant group near the Iraq/Syria border. The report initially said Iraqi security forces “retreated,” meaning they fled their positions, but it was later sent back for editing and was changed to say that the soldiers reinforced another Iraqi position. 

The final draft suggested a strategic decision had been made,” NPR reported. “But that was not what happened, the source said — the Iraqi forces ran. A second source confirmed the account of the change in wording to put the Iraqi forces in a more positive light.”

Sources previously told The Daily Beast that senior military and intelligence officials pushed analysts to portray the terrorist group as “weaker than the analysts believe it actually is.” 

The Pentagon is currently investigating accusations that top military officials pressured analysts into doctoring their reports to give a more positive outlook of the fight against the Islamic State. 

More than 50 intelligence analysts at CENTCOM supported a formal complaint on those allegations sent to the Defense Department, The Daily Beast reported.

Analysts are concerned the pressure from top military officials to soften the reports comes from a desire to align Islamic State intelligence reports with the Obama administration’s positive rhetoric on the fight. 

CENTCOM analysts are now in full “revolt,” The Daily Beast reported, saying the work environment has gotten so bad it has been described as “Stalinist.” Some analysts were ever urged to retire after bringing their concerns to CENTCOM leadership, sources said. 

In a statement last week, a CENTCOM spokesman told Business Insider it welcomed the Pentagon inspector general’s investigation. 

“The IG has a responsibility to investigate all allegations made, and we welcome and support their independent oversight,” the spokesman said. “While we cannot comment on the specific investigation cited in the article, we can speak to the process. The Intelligence Community routinely provides a wide range of subjective assessments related to the current security environment.

“These products and the analysis that they present are absolutely vital to our efforts, particularly given the incredibly complex nature of the multifront fights that are ongoing now in Iraq and Syria. Senior civilian and military leadership consider these assessments during planning and decision-making, along with information gained from various other sources, to include the insights provided by commanders on the ground and other key advisors, intelligence collection assets, and previous experience. The multisource nature of the assessment process purposely guards against any single report or opinion unduly influencing leaders and decision-makers.”

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