James Clapper — Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence — is said to be in what a former intelligence official called frequent and “highly, highly unusual” contact with a ranking junior intelligence officer who sits at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the Pentagon’s war against Islamic State.

Clapper’s interlocutor — Army Brig. Gen. Steven Grove, head of U.S. Central Command’s intelligence wing — is said to be implicated in a Pentagon inquiry into manipulated war intelligence.

Spencer Ackerman reports at The Guardian:

In communications, Clapper, who is far more senior than Grove, is said to tell Grove how the war looks from his vantage point, and question Grove about Central Command’s assessments. Such a situation could place inherent pressure on a subordinate, sources said.

Knowledgeable former officials are doubtful that Clapper directly intends to manipulate intelligence. And they do not say that the director of national intelligence – who apologized to his Senate overseers in 2013 for publicly misleading Congress on the scope of domestic surveillance – ordered Grove or anyone else to change the command’s assessment of the war.

But one former intelligence official said Clapper “has to be careful of the Cheney effect, going over to the CIA and how does that affect people” – a reference to pressure felt by CIA analysts before the 2003 Iraq invasion to portray Saddam Hussein as posing a more dire threat than he actually did, following then Vice President Dick Cheney’s direct interaction with far more junior analysts and officials. …

More than 50 intelligence analysts, both those within Central Command and their seconded Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) colleagues, have registered complaints about manipulated or skewed data, the Daily Beast reported on Wednesday. Analysts object to internal portrayals, said to come ultimately from Grove and Ryckman, of a war proceeding better than Isis’s persistent hold over large swaths of Iraq and Syria suggests. The existence of the Pentagon inquiry was first reported last month by the New York Times. …

“The command environment within Central Command is toxic,” said one former US intelligence official.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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