Three House committees have formed a joint task force to probe allegations that intelligence was manipulated to paint a rosier picture of the fight against ISIS.
The House Intelligence, Appropriations and Armed Services committees announced the joint investigation today. “In addition to looking into the specific allegations, the Joint Task Force will examine whether these allegations reflect systemic problems across the intelligence enterprise in CENTCOM or any other pertinent intelligence organizations,” Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said in a joint statement.
Reps. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) will lead the investigation.
“Preliminary results” are expected “early next year,” say the chairmen.
Thornberry told Fox whistleblowers have been coming forward to Congress; he said the committees have “talked to a variety of people and the allegation is that intelligence about ISIS was intentionally changed to make ISIS look better than it is.”
“Now there’s an inspector-general investigation — we don’t want to mess that up. But at the same time we’re not going to wait until they conclude this is a very serious matter that we have an obligation to get into,” he said.
The Armed Services chairman noted that Democrats are on board.
“They are participating in the investigation, their staff had been involved in the discussions we have had with a variety of folks from CENTCOM and elsewhere,” Thornberry said. “So again, we want to be careful and do it right, but it’s important.”
Last month, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked when President Obama learned about the allegations of whitewashed intelligence, which was reportedly crafted to make the situation on the ground in Iraq look better than it really is.
Earnest said he didn’t know when Obama learned about it. “I first learned about it when these individuals — when it became public that these individuals had raised their concerns with the inspector general, and in some ways, that’s, you know, the way the process is supposed to work,” he added.
“I think the president certainly is interested in the independent investigation running its course.”
Earlier, in a press conference while visiting Malaysia, Obama said, “One of the things I insisted on the day I walked into the Oval Office was that I don’t want intelligence shaded by politics.”
“I don’t want it shaded by the desire to tell a feel-good story. We can’t make good policy unless we’ve got good, accurate, hard-headed, clear-eyed intelligence. I believe that the Department of Defense and all those who head up our intelligence agencies understand that, and that I have made it repeatedly clear to all my top national security advisers that I never want them to hold back, even if the intelligence or their opinions about the intelligence, their analysis or interpretations of the data contradict current policy. So that’s a message that we’ve been adamant about from the start,” the president said.
“…There are always going to be some disputes with respect to how to interpret facts on the ground. I get intelligence briefings every single day, and there are times where they’re making their best judgments — they’ll say, with moderate confidence, or low confidence, or high confidence, this is what we think is happening. There may be times where there are disputes internally among various intelligence agencies about that. But I don’t know the details of this. What I do know is my expectation, which is the highest fidelity to facts, data — the truth.”
Obama added that “it’s not as if I’ve been receiving wonderfully rosy, glowing portraits of what’s been happening in Iraq and Syria over the last year and a half.”
“So to the extent that it’s been shaded — again, I don’t know the details of what the IG may discover — but it feels to me like, at my level at least, we’ve had a pretty clear-eyed, sober assessment of where we’ve made real progress and where we have not,” he said.