Inteligence analysis

| August 31, 2015

Inteligence analysis

Select an article of interest from the paper that is relevant to national security and create an intelligence analysis of the topic using the article and up to three other related articles if you wish in your analysis.

8/26/2015 Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis Was Distorted – The New York Times… 1/5
Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis
Was Distorted
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating
allegations that military officials have skewed intelligence assessments about
the United States-led campaign in Iraq against the Islamic State to provide a
more optimistic account of progress, according to several officials familiar with
the inquiry.
The investigation began after at least one civilian Defense Intelligence
Agency analyst told the authorities that he had evidence that officials at United
States Central Command — the military headquarters overseeing the American
bombing campaign and other efforts against the Islamic State — were
improperly reworking the conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for
policy makers, including President Obama, the government officials said.
Fuller details of the claims were not available, including when the
assessments were said to have been altered and who at Central Command, or
Centcom, the analyst said was responsible. The officials, speaking only on the
condition of anonymity about classified matters, said that the recently opened
investigation focused on whether military officials had changed the
conclusions of draft intelligence assessments during a review process and then
passed them on.
8/26/2015 Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis Was Distorted – The New York Times… 2/5
The prospect of skewed intelligence raises new questions about the
direction of the government’s war with the Islamic State, and could help
explain why pronouncements about the progress of the campaign have varied
Legitimate differences of opinion are common and encouraged among
national security officials, so the inspector general’s investigation is an unusual
move and suggests that the allegations go beyond typical intelligence disputes.
Government rules state that intelligence assessments “must not be distorted”
by agency agendas or policy views. Analysts are required to cite the sources
that back up their conclusions and to acknowledge differing viewpoints.
Under federal law, intelligence officials can bring claims of wrongdoing to
the intelligence community’s inspector general, a position created in 2011. If
officials find the claims credible, they are required to advise the House and
Senate Intelligence Committees. That occurred in the past several weeks, the
officials said, and the Pentagon’s inspector general decided to open an
investigation into the matter.
Spokeswomen for both inspectors general declined to comment for this
article. The Defense Intelligence Agency and the White House also declined to
Col. Patrick Ryder, a Centcom spokesman, said he could not comment on
a continuing inspector general investigation but said “the I.G. has a
responsibility to investigate all allegations made, and we welcome and support
their independent oversight.”
Numerous agencies produce intelligence assessments related to the Iraq
war, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence
Agency and others. Colonel Ryder said it was customary for them to make
suggestions on one another’s drafts. But he said each agency had the final say
on whether to incorporate those suggestions. “Further, the multisource nature
of our assessment process purposely guards against any single report or
8/26/2015 Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis Was Distorted – The New York Times… 3/5
opinion unduly influencing leaders and decision makers,” he said.
It is not clear how that review process changes when Defense Intelligence
Agency analysts are assigned to work at Centcom — which has headquarters
both in Tampa, Fla., and Qatar — as was the case of at least one of the analysts
who have spoken to the inspector general. In the years since the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks, the Pentagon has relocated more Defense Intelligence Agency analysts
from the agency’s Washington headquarters to military commands around the
globe, so they can work more closely with the generals and admirals in charge
of the military campaigns.
Mr. Obama last summer authorized a bombing campaign against the
Islamic State, and approximately 3,400 American troops are currently in Iraq
advising and training Iraqi forces. The White House has been reluctant,
though, to recommit large numbers of ground troops to Iraq after announcing
an “end” to the Iraq war in 2009.
The bombing campaign over the past year has had some success in
allowing Iraqi forces to reclaim parts of the country formerly under the group’s
control, but important cities like Mosul and Ramadi remain under Islamic
State’s control. There has been very little progress in wresting the group’s hold
over large parts of Syria, where the United States has done limited bombing.
Some senior American officials in recent weeks have provided largely
positive public assessments about the progress of the military campaign
against the Islamic State, a Sunni terrorist organization that began as an
offshoot of Al Qaeda but has since severed ties and claimed governance of a
huge stretch of land across Iraq and Syria. The group is also called ISIS or
In late July, retired Gen. John Allen — who is Mr. Obama’s top envoy
working with other nations to fight the Islamic State — told the Aspen Security
Forum that the terror group’s momentum had been “checked strategically,
operationally, and by and large, tactically.”
8/26/2015 Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis Was Distorted – The New York Times… 4/5
“ISIS is losing,” he said, even as he acknowledged that the campaign faced
numerous challenges — from blunting the Islamic State’s message to
improving the quality of Iraqi forces.
During a news briefing last week, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter was
more measured. He called the war “difficult” and said “it’s going to take some
time.” But, he added, “I’m confident that we will succeed in defeating ISIL and
that we have the right strategy.”
But recent intelligence assessments, including some by Defense
Intelligence Agency, paint a sober picture about how little the Islamic State has
been weakened over the past year, according to officials with access to the
classified assessments. They said the documents conclude that the yearlong
campaign has done little to diminish the ranks of the Islamic State’s committed
fighters, and that the group over the last year has expanded its reach into
North Africa and Central Asia.
Critics of the Obama administration’s strategy have argued that a bombing
campaign alone — without a significant infusion of American ground troops —
is unlikely to ever significantly weaken the terror group. But it is not clear
whether Defense Intelligence Agency analysts concluded that more American
troops would make an appreciable difference.
In testimony on Capitol Hill this year, Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, the
agency’s director, said sending ground troops back into Iraq risked
transforming the conflict into one between the West and ISIS, which would be
“the best propaganda victory that we could give.”
“It’s both expected and helpful if there are dissenting viewpoints about
conflicts in foreign countries,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on
Foreign Relations and author of a forthcoming book, “Red Team,” that
includes an examination of alternative analysis within American intelligence
agencies. What is problematic, he said, “is when a dissenting opinion is not
given to policy makers.”
8/26/2015 Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis Was Distorted – The New York Times… 5/5
The Defense Intelligence Agency was created in 1961, in part to avoid what
Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense at the time, called “service bias.”
During the 1950s, the United States grossly overestimated the size of the Soviet
missile arsenal, a miscalculation that was fueled in part by the Air Force, which
wanted more money for its own missile systems.
During the Vietnam War, the Defense Intelligence Agency repeatedly
warned that even a sustained military campaign was unlikely to defeat the
North Vietnamese forces. But according to an internal history of the agency, its
conclusions were repeatedly overruled by commanders who were certain that
the United States was winning, and that victory was just a matter of applying
more force.
“There’s a built-in tension for the people who work at D.I.A., between
dispassionate analysis and what command wants,” said Paul R. Pillar, a retired
senior Central Intelligence Agency analyst who years ago accused the Bush
administration of distorting intelligence assessments about Iraq’s weapons
programs before the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.
“You’re part of a large structure that does have a vested interest in
portraying the overall mission as going well,” he said.
A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition
with the headline: Inquiry Weighs If ISIS Analysis Was Distorted .
© 2015 The New York Times Company

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