CENTCOM analyst controversy

In August 2015, intelligence analysts working for United States Central Command (CENTCOM) complained to the media, alleging that CENTCOM’s senior leadership was altering or distorting intelligence reports on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to paint a more optimistic picture of the ongoing war against ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria.[1][2]

Emblem of the United States Central Command

In August 2016, a United States Congressional report found “widespread dissatisfaction” among CENTCOM’s intelligence analysts.[3] A press release on the report stated “Intelligence products approved by senior CENTCOM leaders typically provided a more positive depiction of U.S. antiterrorism efforts than was warranted by facts on the ground and were consistently more positive than analysis produced by other elements of the intelligence community.”[3]

In February 2017, the Inspector General of the United States Department of Defense completed its investigation and cleared the senior leadership of CENTCOM, concluding that “allegations of intelligence being intentionally altered, delayed or suppressed by top CENTCOM officials from mid-2014 to mid-2015 were largely unsubstantiated.”[4]

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In 2014, ISIL declared a worldwide caliphate and the US began military campaigns in Syria and Iraq to try to halt the spread of that caliphate as well as the Syrian Train and Equip Program. These efforts were conducted by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), the U.S. geographic combatant command for the Middle East. CENTCOM military intelligence analysts were responsible with generating intelligence reports that would inform civilian leadership about the effectiveness of allied military efforts.[5]

In July 2015, fifty CENTCOM analysts signed a complaint to the Pentagon’s Inspector General that their intelligence reports were being inappropriately manipulated by members of CENTCOM.[1] They were subsequently joined by civilian and Defense Intelligence Agency analysts working for CENTCOM. Members of the groups began anonymously leaking details of the case to the press in late-August.[2] The analysts alleged that CENTCOM was trying to portray a rosy image of the fight against the Islamic State by altering some reports to seem more positive, while burying other reports to keep them from the press and Congress.[3][6][7] The analysts alleged that the conclusions of both their reports about the readiness of indigenous forces to face ISIS, and about the effectiveness of the American air campaigns over Syria and Iraq, were reversed by the Administration before distribution.[8] The media described the situation as “a revolt” inside the intelligence community.[9][10] Congressional representatives vowed to investigate the matter and requested testimony from Department of Defense officials.[11]

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