Congress investigating CENTCOM intelligence moves

By HOWARD ALTMAN | Tampa Tribune, Fla. (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 21, 2015

A Congressional task force is being created to investigate whether U.S. Central Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, manipulated intelligence.

The chairmen of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Armed Services Committee and the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee “are creating a task force to investigate allegations of intel manipulation at CENTCOM,” said Jack Langer, spokesman for select committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a Republican from California.

CENTCOM received the request from Congress for information on intelligence assessments and, in coordination with the Department of Defense, “has responded accordingly,” said Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, a CENTCOM spokesman.

Ryder said that he cannot comment on the information provided because of an ongoing investigation into allegations that CENTCOM altered intelligence reports to provide a rosier picture of the fight against the so-called Islamic State jihadi group.

“Gen. Austin and Central Command are taking these allegations very seriously,” Ryder said in an email.

In September, the Defense Department Office of Inspector General announced it had opened an investigation to address allegations about the processing of intelligence information by CENTCOM’s Intelligence Directorate.

The investigation will address factors including any possible falsification, distortion, delay, suppression, or improper modification of intelligence information, Bridget Serchak, spokswoman for the inspector general, said in a statement in September.

The congressional investigation was first reported by Foreign Policy, which said lawmakers are probing whether senior U.S. military officers skewed intelligence reports about Afghanistan. The magazine said it was likely investigators will come to Tampa.

Ryder, the CENTCOM spokesman, said the command would “welcome the DoD IG’s independent oversight on this matter ... We hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III, CENTCOM's commander, “counts on the more than 1,200 exceptional intelligence professionals who support CENTCOM’s mission to provide him and the command with unvarnished intelligence and key insights into the myriad issues we face every day,” Ryder said

The intelligence community, he said, routinely provides a wide range of subjective assessments on the current security environment.

“These products and the analysis that they present are absolutely vital to our efforts, particularly given the incredibly complex nature of the multi-front fights that are ongoing now in Iraq and Syria.”

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