Rep. Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says that files and emails at Central Command headquarters that dealt with intel analysis of ISIS were deleted. CENTCOM is currently embroiled in a scandal involving superior officers skewing the intelligence provided by analysts. Forty percent of analysts at headquarters claim that officers altered intel to make it appear that the Obama administration was having more success in fighting ISIS than was actually the case.
A whistleblower whose position was not disclosed told the committee that material was deleted, according to a committee staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly disclose the information.
Navy Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a spokesman for CENTCOM, said the combatant command was fully cooperating with the Defense Department inspector general's probe into the allegations.
"While it would be inappropriate to discuss the details of that investigation, I can tell you that as a matter of CENTCOM policy, all senior leader emails are kept in storage for record-keeping purposes, so such records cannot be deleted," Raines said. It's unclear if emails written by lower-level staff were also maintained.
Nunes, R-Calif., also said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence briefed the committee on a survey indicating that more than 40 percent of Central Command analysts believe there are problems with the integrity of the intelligence analyses and process.
"To me, it seems like 40 percent of analysts who are concerned at CENTCOM - that's just something that can't be ignored," Nunes said.
A senior intelligence official said that each year the DNI conducts a survey at all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies to gain feedback on the integrity, standards and objectivity of the process used to analyze intelligence. In the most recent survey, conducted between August and October of last year, approximately 120 employees from CENTCOM responded to the survey. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details of the internal survey.
A report on the survey issued in December 2015 indicated that 40 percent of those who responded at CENTCOM answered "yes" to the question: "During the past year, do you believe that anyone attempted to distort or suppress analysis on which you were working in the face of persuasive evidence?"
Asked whether he considered 40 percent an unusually high number, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the committee that he did.
The question for Congress is, were senior commanders who tried to manipulate the intelligence taking orders from the White House? A direct link will be hard to find, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. It could be that some of these officers were playing headquarters games, giving their superiors in Washington what they thought they wanted. It wouldn't be the first time that happened.
But if that's what happened, it should be fairly easy to follow the chain of intelligence to see where the alterations occurred and under whose authority. Now that the intel committee has discovered deleted files and emails, that may make it harder to track.