The Pentagon’s Inspector General has cleared several senior leaders of US Central Command after investigating claims that they falsified intelligence reports on the anti-ISIS campaign to paint a rosier assessment of progress than was warranted.
The report concluded that whistleblower allegations of intelligence being intentionally altered, delayed or suppressed by top Centcom officials from mid-2014 to mid-2015 were largely unsubstantiated.
But the Inspector General also described a widespread perception among many intelligence analysts that Centcom leaders were attempting to distort the intel. The report said “widespread perception alone indicated a significant problem, which leaders failed to adequately address in a timely way.”
Gen. Joseph Votel, the current Centcom commander who was not in the post during the period investigated, welcomed the findings.
“While the allegations were unsubstantiated, the DoD IG’s report did provide thoughtful and helpful recommendations on ways to make improvements within the command and we are taking those and others’ recommendations to heart and acting on them,” Votel said in a statement.
The new IG report stands in stark contrast to the findings of a months-long investigation by Republican members of Congress released last year that found Centcom had presented overly optimistic assessments of the military progress against ISIS.
One of the central conclusions of a joint panel made up of GOP members on three House committees was that Centcom officials may have unduly relied on reports from commanders in the field rather than intelligence from dozens of analysts provided by the DIA.
A statement from the panel, released Wednesday, said the IG report “confirms there were numerous problems within the Central Command.”
“The IG was ‘struck by the inadequate efforts’ by Centcom leadership to address these issues, and also found several important procedural shortcomings and a challenging command climate that hindered many analysts’ work,” the statement added.
Citing witness testimony, documentary evidence and analysis, the 198-page report said there was no sufficient proof to conclude that Centom leaders “changed intelligence to make it factually untrue.”
It also concluded that senior Centcom officials did not present “any intelligence assessments that they did not believe were accurate.”
The IG’s investigation was the result of a whistleblower allegation from inside Centcom claiming that intelligence was altered. Specifically, the claim was that commanders imposed a “false narrative” on analysts, intentionally rewrote and suppressed intelligence products and engaged in “delay tactics” to undermine intelligence provided by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
CNN’s Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.