What does the ‘massaging’ of ISIS intelligence portend?

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President Barack Obama’s statement made back in January 2014 that the group we now know as ISIS was the “JV team,” meaning junior varsity, has certainly come back to haunt him. ISIS has turned out to be an even more potent threat to civilization that Al Qaeda ever dreamed of being. The development has trampled on the narrative that the president and his supporters have promulgated of the terrorists being on the run in the wake of the execution of Osama bin Laden.

Why would the president say such a thing? The Daily Beast recently reported on how a group of 50 intelligence analysts attached to the United States military’s Central Command complained about how reports on the growing strength of ISIS and the persistent threat posed by Al Qaeda were “massaged” by senior Obama administration officials.

In short, the intelligence reports used to brief President Obama and other high-ranking officials were altered to make it seem as if the terror threat in Syria and Iraq was diminishing, not increasing. The altered reports were made to reflect the administration line that its policies were winding down the war on terror.

Reality, naturally, intervened as ISIS expanded its dominion, committing unspeakable atrocities and threatening the peace of civilization. Apparently blindsided, the Obama administration has reacted against the threat in a desultory and haphazard manner.

Faulty intelligence usually leads to catastrophe. Lack of intelligence on the activities and intentions of Al Qaeda led to the United States being surprised on 9/11 when thousands of Americans were murdered when airliners they were passengers in were deliberately flown into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Dubious intelligence on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq informed the invasion of that country, the consequences of which redound to this day.

But the news that intelligence was deliberately modified for political reasons is a new and disquieting development. To be sure, politics has often affected the interpretation and dissemination of intelligence in subtle ways. But the situation that the rebel analysts are reporting on seems to be the first instance recorded of intelligence being systematically altered to create an impression that does not align with objective reality.

The question arises, as it often does with scandals of this sort, what did the president know and when did he know it? Did President Obama let it be known that he did not want to hear about anything that he would find inconvenient, like a stronger than expected terrorist strength in the Middle East? Or did his people known instinctively that the president would not welcome bad news?

What does that portend for other trouble spots? Who is going to be brave enough to tell the president that Iran is on the verge of a nuclear bomb, despite the agreement? What will happen if Vladimir Putin is seen to be preparing a move against the Baltic States? Will the president choose to hear of it or will he decide to hope things will blow up, pun intended, after he leaves the Oval Office? The future of world peace depends on the answer.

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