One senior Pentagon official, who had been studying the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria, flatly said, "Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting, or he’s bullshitting."
President Obama's assessment threw James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, under the bus for allegedly "underestimating" the threat posed by the Islamic State militant group. And, this isn't the first time it's happened in the presidential "Blame-Game", for former CIA Director Michael Morell said recently on "CBS This Morning" that President Barack Obama was wrong in claiming (several weeks ago) that bad intelligence was the reason his administration did not anticipate the speed in which ISIS would capture large portions of Iraq.
CBS's Norah O'Donnell then asked Morell, "The president himself admitted over the weekend that this Islamist State militants advance is more rapid than intelligence estimates. Was this an intelligence failure or a policy failure?"Morell replied, "I don't think this was an intelligence failure. This is a classic problem in the intelligence world. There's a difference between strategic warning and tactical warning. There was strategic warning here in the sense that the Intelligence Community was saying for over a year, year and a half, two years that this group was getting stronger and stronger and stronger."
The Obama administration, indeed, was surprised and taken off guard by the recent offensive in Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terrorist group. But why? He claims it's because of a failure by U.S. intelligence agencies to provide adequate warning about the ISIS threat.
Shortly after that presidential declaration, some in the (IC) said the main reason for the disconnect is because of the weak HUMINT (human intelligence) in Iraq and an over-reliance on technical intelligence. However, Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that the Iraq crisis is a policy and not an intelligence failure. He mentioned there were signs of the ISIS threat, but President Obama ignored them.
In fact, Rogers said that years ago he was concerned about ISIS and how it was "pooling up" in a dangerous way — building training camps, drawing in jihadists from around the world. As chairman of the House Intel Committee, he said "We saw all of that happening."
Fred Fleitz, who served for 25 years with the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee staff, agreed with Congressman Rogers. Fleitz said there was tons of info on the news about the sectarian war brewing in Iraq and that ISIS was gaining strength in both Iraq and Syria. The IC provided similar assessments to U.S. officials based on classified information.
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Fleitz pointed out Flynn's testimony and warning, saying it demonstrates, indeed, that a top U.S. intelligence official was doing his job and beltway officials and policy makers, including the president, were warned about ISIS and the major global security threats it poses. He added that "Some have claimed U.S. intelligence analysis about ISIS could have been better and that we lack enough human intelligence sources on the ground in Iraq. Even Secretary of State John Kerry claimed nobody expected ISIS to advance so rapidly against Iraqi forces because we don’t have people embedded in those units." Kerry presumably meant the CIA did not have sources within ISIS.
Fleitz gave experiential evidence why this is so and why Kerry may be partially correct: "...gathering credible
intelligence in dangerous areas like Iraq and Syria is always limited because there's no U.S. troop presence, high levels of anti-Americanism, and tight-knit Islamist terrorist groups (like ISIS) that are extremely difficult for the CIA to penetrate."
Fleitz believes that the entire crisis in Iraq and Syria, and the rising power of ISIS is a major U.S. policy failure due to President Obama not leaving a small troop presence behind after the 2011 troop withdrawal and his continual ignoring of the grave threat posed by radical Islam. He believes the President was given excellent analysis about ISIS and the deteriorating situation in Iraq...but he ignored it.
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Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online spy novel series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean". The views expressed on this site do not represent those of any organization he is a member of. Contact him on the Secure Contact Form