Following in the wake of last year’s accusations that the Obama administration manipulated the intelligence on the Islamic State to reflect a rosier picture of progress against a “weakened” Islamic State, two intelligence analysts have been forced out of their jobs for reporting intelligence at odds with the administration’s official line.
The intelligence analysts, who were stationed at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, doubted the capabilities of the Syrian rebels and that the rebels would maintain U.S. interests after being supplied with money and weapons. Instead of being rewarded for analysis that was clearly more accurate that what the Obama administration has reported, the analysts were removed from their positions and will be reassigned outside of CENTCOM.
(Analyst Comment: For years, the Obama administration has railed against Bush administration officials for influencing intelligence to support a ground war in Iraq. Now that the tables are turned — when ‘on the ground’ intelligence reporting gets in the way of foreign policy objectives — similar failures of foreign policy occur.
Intelligence is always meant to support decision making, but policy makers get into trouble when they ignore intelligence. The Obama administration continues its trend of allowing ideology to inform its reality. Producing intelligence is a lot like baking a cake: we need a baker who knows what he’s doing, we need all the right ingredients in a clean environment, and we need to ensure that the batter is properly mixed and cooked in the oven for the right amount of time. When government officials begin to replace ingredients they don’t like with ingredients they do like, the cake gets ruined.
It’s no surprise that in this highly politicized environment at CENTCOM — and undoubtedly at other combatant commands — policy is dictating intelligence. That’s just not the way it should work. If we can expect anything, it’s that the Obama administration will continue to dictate the terms of intelligence that’s being produced at the highest levels of the military.)