Recent events have drawn attention away from the investigation of manipulated ISIS intelligence, but it’s a hot story that keeps heating up.
Lt. General Michael Flynn, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 through 2014, appeared on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program Monday night to say what many have been thinking: “The focus of this investigation ought to start at the top. Where intelligence starts and stops is at the White House.”
“Intelligence doesn’t start and stop at Central Command,” said Flynn:
There are 16 intelligence agencies, there’s five large ones, and there’s two that provide what we call “all-source intelligence assessments.” Those are the most important ones that go into the White House. And I will tell you that accuracy, and the warnings that have been provided on the rise of radical Islamists over the last few years, have been very, very clear. So what the president has actually received from the national intelligence system is pretty good intelligence, and I would say it’s pretty accurate.
“What he’s done with that intelligence, from what we can tell right now, is he’s taken on this really lousy policy,” Flynn concluded.
He expressed disbelief at the current White House line that holds President Obama was completely surprised by the rise of ISIS. “To say that I’m surprised at the rise of this threat… it’s a gross understatement as to what reality really is,” said Flynn.
The former DIA chief thought it was likely intelligence had been cut and trimmed to fit the president’s ideology, particularly his refusal to confront radical Islam and its relationship to terrorism. He said veteran intelligence officials with years of experience tried in vain to get Obama to acknowledge this threat.
“I think that the focus of this investigation… they’ll find whoever they’re going to find and some of the tactical issues at central command, but the focus of this investigation ought to start at the top,” Flynn suggested. “Where intelligence starts and stops is at the White House. The president sets the priorities and he’s the number one customer. So if he’s not getting the intelligence he needs and if he’s not paying attention to what else is going on, then something else is wrong there between them and the advisers he has.”
Flynn thought too much emphasis had been placed on the elimination of high-value targets, such as al-Qaeda head Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in 2006. He said he had long warned that the big terrorist organizations were not excessively dependent on individual leaders and so could not be wiped out by decapitation strikes.
“Nobody can sit here today, no one—particularly with the amount of intelligence the White House got—and say, ‘we didn’t know this was a problem.’ I mean, give me a break,” Flynn said.
ABC News notes that President Obama promised to “get to the bottom” of the intelligence-cooking scandal on Sunday.
“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,” Obama claimed from Malaysia. “I don’t want it shaded by the desire to tell a feel-good story.”
But there are mounting suspicions the White House dramatically misrepresented progress on the president’s anti-ISIS plan to conceal its near-total failure, until that story became impossible to tell any more.
ABC notes the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees will soon be forming a task force to investigate allegations of intelligence manipulation, while Centcom commander General Lloyd Austin has long maintained he never ordered anyone in the intelligence system to “sweeten” their reports. That tracks with what former DIA chief Flynn told Megyn Kelly—and, as Flynn suggested, leaves very few suspects for the manipulation of data, outside of the White House.