Ordered Liberty

The Intelligence Community Strikes Back at Obama on ISIS

The most famous of the classic blunders is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia”? I don’t think so. I’d go with Never get involved in a blame war with the CIA. And that goes especially for lame duck presidents saddled with plummeting approval ratings as they head into the last two years of their terms.

Fox News reports:

The top U.S. intelligence official, in a memo to staff obtained by Fox News, praised his analysts for their work bringing attention to the Islamic State’s gains over the past two years — as Republican lawmakers likewise jumped to their defense after President Obama claimed they “underestimated” the threat.

The president’s comments to “60 Minutes” over the weekend have prompted a vigorous round of finger-pointing. The White House has eased off, saying the president did not intend to blame the intelligence community — but also is disputing accusations from GOP lawmakers and intelligence officials that Obama simply ignored their ISIS warnings for months.

“It wasn’t for lack of information, we all knew about it for years,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told Fox News on Wednesday. She claimed lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, on which she sits, “gave it to the administration and said, ‘wake up, there’s something very serious happening.'”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has been left in a difficult position, with Obama pointing at him in his “60 Minutes” interview. In the interview, Obama said Clapper “has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”

But in the memo to staff sent Tuesday, Clapper made clear his officers have been on the case for a while.

“I’m proud of the [intelligence community’s] efforts over the past two years to monitor, assess and call attention to the expansion of ISIL, and I know the president has found that work to be critical to developing his strategy,” Clapper wrote.

The report goes on to relate that Clapper’s assertions about how intel analysts have been calling attention to the Islamic State (aka ISIS, or ISIL) provide grist for media and congressional criticism that the Obama administration has failed to take the jihadist threat seriously enough. For one thing, Clapper did not appear to concur in President Obama’s claim that the intelligence community “underestimated” ISIS.

Naturally, Clapper’s explicit support of his subordinates also invites media attention on alternative explanations for the administration’s ineffectiveness — for example, the staggering number of national security intelligence briefings that President Obama has failed to attend, despite setting presidential records for rounds of golf and political fundraisers.