More than 50 US military intelligence analysts have alleged their reports were "cooked", or manipulated, to make it look like the US is winning its war against the ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorist groups, in briefings to President Barack Obama.
According to the Daily Beast, which broke the story, a complaint was initially submitted to the US Defense Department inspector general by two "senior analysts at CENTCOM" (US Central Command), and was then promptly backed by 50 other spies. The complaint alleged that their analyses of events on the ground in Iraq and Syria vis-a-vis ISIS and Al Qaeda's Nusra Front were being altered to portray the jihadist groups as weaker than they actually were.
Among the 50 intelligence officials who backed the report, 11 had been complaining of a similar phenomenon for several months.
The analysts who lodged the complaint are accusing senior Pentagon officials of "changing their analyses to be more in line with the Obama administration’s public contention that the fight against ISIS and Al Qaeda is making progress," whereas the analysts themselves "take a more pessimistic view about how military efforts to destroy the groups are going."
Sometimes "key elements" of reports were removed entirely, to completely alter the picture for the US President. Some CENTCOM officials said the problem went deeper still, with commanders attempting to force changes to reports to make them more palatable to their political superiors, in what some described as a shameless exercise in career advancement.
"The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command," one defense official told the paper.
The allegations sound eerily similar to the alleged conduct of intelligence officials in the run up to the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, who were said to have cherry-picked intelligence reports to back up claims Saddam Hussein still had a WMD program and justify an invasion. The similarities are particularly ironic, given President Obama's recent excoriation of "warmongers" within the Bush administration leading the country astray with false information, in his last public address advocating for the nuclear deal with Iran.
Reports of what is being described as a "rebellion" among senior defense officials comes as the White House continues to claim it is "winning" the fight against ISIS, despite the vicious jihadist group's enduring control over most of the territory it seized last year in Iraq and Syria.