Crisis arising in Central Command as analysts increasingly question ISIS intel assessments

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 by

( A noted intelligence analyst and Iraq expert who once criticized the George W. Bush Administration for developing “amateurish and unrealistic” plans for invading that country is once again lambasting the White House over what he says are overly positive assessments of President Obama’s actions against the Islamic State (ISIS).

As reported by The New York Times, the analyst, Gregory Hooker, is once more at the center of an insurrection of sorts over the Obama Administration’s policies toward Iraq and Syria. He has openly questioned the reports begin given to Congress, policy makers and the public at large.

Hooker, the senior analyst at U.S. Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based military command that oversees the Middle East and Central Asia, leads a group of analysts that are accusing senior commanders of altering intelligence reports in order to provide an overly optimistic assessment of the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS. The row, the Times reported, has led the Pentagon’s inspector general to begin an investigation.

Though the investigation became public a few weeks ago, the source of those allegations and Hooker’s role had not been known previously. But, as the Times noted, interviews with more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials indicate that the dispute is at the center of Central Command, with Hooker and his team battling over what Americans should believe about the war.

The assessments, and the Hooker team’s disagreement over them, will likely lead to an environment of distrust as the Obama Administration – and the next one – could begin questioning CENTCOM’s reports.

“This core group of Iraq analysts have been doing this for a long time,” Stephen Robb, a retired Marine colonel and a former head of the CENTCOM Joint Intelligence Center, told the Times. “If they say there’s smoke, start looking for a firehouse.”

The paper noted that several current and former officials identified the two most senior intelligence officers at CENTCOM – Maj. Gen. Steven Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman – as drawing criticism from Hooker’s team because they allegedly made changes to their intel assessments. Why the assessments were changed was not apparent, however.

Some said it could be that reports were changed so the White House was not angered by bad news, while others told the Times it could be due to the institutional nature of the military being unable to criticize itself.

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