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GOP task force: Islamic State intel minimized to downplay threat

By Amy R. Connolly
GOP task force: Islamic State intel minimized to downplay threat
Iraqi soldiers work at their position during fighting with Islamic State militants in Tikrit, Iraq, on April 1, 2015, a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the weeks-long battle to retake the strategic city from the Islamic State. File Photo by Alaa mohamed/UPI

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. Central Command manipulated intelligence reports to more positively portray the fight against the Islamic State and al-Qaida, a House Republican task force found.

The report, which is expected to be released by the end of the week, found analysts felt pressured by CENTCOM leaders to conclude threats from the militant groups were lessening. The task force, led by members of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees and the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, found no evidence senior White House officials ordered doctored reports.

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The task force found CENTCOM used battlefield dispatches instead of official data from analysts to come to conclusions about the IS' progress because the dispatches were generally more optimistic.

The task force has no authority to punish officials allegedly behind the actions, but commanders may face consequences from lawmakers. Cmdr. Kyle Raines of CENTCOM's media department would not comment on the findings, because they have not been officially released.

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"We appreciate the independent oversight provided by the task force, cooperated fully with this investigation and encouraged personnel to speak freely with investigators and congressional staff members," Raines said.

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The task force was created after some 50 analysts filed a complaint saying information was being altered and they felt "bullied" to come to conclusions not supported by facts.

In April, President Barack Obama, in an address at CIA headquarters, said the U.S. and its coalition partners have made significant grounds in their fight against the IS, taking out key leadership within the group to reduce its ranks to the "lowest levels in about two years." Just months later, in June, CIA Director John Brennan warned the group continues to move forward despite losing ground in Iraq and Syria. He told the Senate Intelligence Committee that efforts "have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and global reach."

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