President Obama seeks truth from intelligence reports

President Obama seeks truth from intelligence reports

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President Barack Obama waves as he arrives at the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, from a nine-day trip to Turkey, Philippines and Malaysia. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Washington  President Obama said he doesn’t think his intelligence advisers are giving him a “rosy” assessment of the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State, but he’s nevertheless ordered a review to find out if he’s getting the truth.

“I don’t want intelligence shaded by politics,” Mr. Obama said Sunday, shortly before returning to Washington from a nine-day trip overseas. “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.”

The president said he has ordered Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to “get to the bottom” of whether intelligence reports have been scrubbed to give him a more positive view of developments in Syria and Iraq, where a U.S.-led coalition is battling the extremist group. The probe is being conducted by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

But even as Mr. Obama said he’s looking for the truth, the president also voiced his opinion about the likely outcome of the investigation.

“As a consumer of this intelligence, 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,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “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.”

The New York Times reported Sunday that the inspector general is investigating allegations that significant changes were made to reports from analysts at the U.S. Central Command, known as Centcom, about the military’s failures.

The Defense Department has expanded the investigation in recent weeks, seizing emails and documents and comparing them to other assessments from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others, the Times reported.

Mr. Obama said he always instructs his subordinates to give him an unvarnished view of national-security developments.

“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,” he said. “If there are disagreements in terms of how folks are interpreting the facts, then that should be reflected in the reports that we receive. … And that’s part of what I weigh in terms of making decisions.”

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he didn’t see evidence of revised intelligence reports while he led the Pentagon.

“That doesn’t mean something couldn’t happen below the secretary of defense’s office,” Mr. Hagel said on CNN. “You can’t monitor everything.”

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