A Critical Issue About the Iran Agreement That Has Never Been Discussed

In mid-August, I wrote a short article laying out what I thought were some genuine concerns that people should have about the recent agreement with Iran.


Normally, I would have posted the article on my blog. However, because I believed that the subject matter should be discussed urgently by a broad public, I chose to submit it to several major media outlets (including The Globe and Mail, The Atlantic, and Foreign Policy). They would have automatically rejected the article had a Google search revealed that it been published or posted elsewhere.


The version I sent them is posted below.


In what I believe is a very telling example of how the media treats issues related to the Middle East, the article was simply ignored by the editors in question. In other words, it was rejected without even the courtesy of a reply. However, beginning three weeks later, the basic issues that led to my concerns were raised in headline stories in the Daily Beast and The New York Times. A chronologically organized display of those articles, is also repeated below.


Please note that the references to CENTCOM in these articles refers to that US military command that is responsible for assessing militarily-relevant events taking place in an area that includes both Israel and Iran.


As well, and of particular significance is the fact that in none of the articles in either The New York Times or The Daily Beast is there any reference at all to the implications that the scandal that describe may have on the Iran agreement.


I am relating this story not because of sour grapes, but rather because it raises yet again what I have long believed is one of the most fundamental issues in modern journalism and in the functioning of modern democracies. It is an issue that has been largely left unaddressed by all those who study and comment on international relations: Who sets the agenda for public debate?


Long-time readers of my analyses may recall that one of my greatest criticisms of the media/US government nexus is that the agenda for most of the media almost everywhere in the free world is invariably set by the daily briefings held at the White House and the State Department. Media outlets and pundits may disagree about the position American officialdom takes on these issues. However, crucially, usually, it is only after issues have been raised at those two venues that they become subjects for media coverage and public discussion.


Rarely, as in the case described by the Times and the Daily Beast, a subject can become a matter for media coverage if it is the product of an open revolt by Washington insiders… and the substance of their revolt is leaked to the press.


The consequences of this reality are both shocking and severely troublesome to me. Not only do major issues remain unaddressed until they create crises that might have been avoided, conventional wisdom based on wholly incorrect assumptions continues to determine public perceptions of and public attitudes towards events because there is no format easily available for providing new data that challenges that so-called “wisdom”.


For example, as I have tried to show in my writings, most of the public’s attitudes towards Israel—both positive and negative—are the product of highly inaccurate and even warped perceptions about that country. The passions that have led to the current BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign against Israel is but one case in point.


On a more macro level, the horrendous follies the US has committed in the Middle East in recent years—and continues to commit—can be traced directly back to this same syndrome.


No less worrisome to me is the fact that this social and political affliction plays into and supports another frightening phenomenon—the polarization of public debate. I have found that, increasingly, so-called “debates” are nothing more than recitations by each participant of “talking points” that these people have assembled in advance. No attempt is made to listen to or to respond to substantive material the other person may have presented.


It has become every clearer to me that people are no longer interested in dealing with substantive matters. More often than not, their primary concern is invariably to assemble new justifications for the talking points that they otherwise repeat incessantly.


This then makes them all the more susceptible to being influenced by the way that data and assessments are massaged to produce the untruths described in the articles below.


I think that there is one important reason why my article was not published. Phillip Tetlock of the University of Pennsylvania, who has made the largest study ever of pundits and the forecasting industry has found that much of the analysis in the press that is produced and edited in the United States is created with the intent of solidifying the author’s social position among co-believers. Virtually every op-ed writer, if asked, will say that this or her primary concern is to discuss where America’s interests lie. Clearly, the editors to whom I sent my article seemed to believe that raising the issues I laid out in my article would not be considered by their peers in Washington to be in America’s interest.


I, however, remain convinced that the issues that I voiced should be of significant concern to anyone who cares about the threat of instability in the Middle East.


I leave that to you, the reader, to judge.


The Hyper-Critical Issue Missing From The Netanyahu-Obama Debate

By: Jim Lederman

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are currently engaging in one of the bitterest media wars ever fought.

Each has assembled whole brigades of political allies and so-called “experts” to support or vilify the agreement that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) have negotiated with Iran.

Surprisingly, though, and for as yet inexplicable reasons, one of the most important, if not the most important factor that should determine the final outcome of this war has disappeared from the public debate that has accompanied the leaders’ sparring. Crucial to the success or failure of the agreement is the still-open question of whether the United States has the capacity (capability plus will) to fulfill the unwritten but universally-recognized role that has been assigned to it by all the agreement’s signatories.

From all the evidence currently available, the answer to that question is a resounding “probably not!”

To date, all the arguments that Netanyahu and Obama have enunciated for and against the agreement have been based not on fact but on speculation. The primary arguments have centered almost wholly on such total unknowables as whether the Iranians will keep to the agreement, whether the Iranians can be kept from building nuclear weapons after the agreement is over, and whether the P5+1 will be willing to re-impose sanctions on Iran if Iran breaks the terms—or violates what the members of the P5+1 think is the intent of the terms—of the agreement.

The stakes on who is right could not be greater. Power patterns in the Middle East and Israeli-American relations could be affected for years, and maybe even for decades to come.

As Netanyahu claims, Iran could very well use the money it receives from the lifting of sanctions to carry out secret projects directed at designing nuclear weapons, designing vehicles to deliver those weapons, and sponsoring terrorists as they have done in the past.

However, Obama has countered that America’s use of force in the Middle East in the past has not only failed to achieve any positive results, it has cost his country over a trillion dollars in national treasure and thousands of soldiers’ lives. The only way to break this cycle, he claims, is through the use of diplomacy that he has initiated.

Whether the agreement will work in practice, however is almost totally dependent on whether any Iranian violation of the agreement’s terms can be discovered, publicized and penalized before the consequences of those violations become irreversible.

Although the revelations by Edward Snowden have made it appear to many that America is capable of assembling all the world’s secrets, the fact is that American efforts to both gather important facts in the Middle East and to interpret accurately the data that it does assemble has been undistinguished to put it very mildly.

President Obama has promised to one and all that America will be capable of uncovering any attempts by Iran to breach the agreement. However, both Netanyahu and the Sunni Moslem rulers in the Middle East are justifiably skeptical.

The historical record shows beyond any shadow of a doubt that the US has too often failed to gather important information, has failed to analyze existing data correctly, and has then failed to act when accurate assessments have been made.

For example, historians still debate whether the intelligence assessments used to justify the American invasion of Iraq were the product of faulty intelligence gathering and analysis or whether the data available was massaged to fit White House desires. It makes no difference which scenario is true. The results were disastrous.

Worse still, the lessons that should have been drawn from that failure seem to have had no effect when the United States later chose to withdraw its forces from Iraq—an act that set the stage for ISIS’s horrendous acts of slaughter, rape and pillage.

In another telling incident, the Syrians almost succeeded in completing the construction of a plant designed to process plutonium into warheads. The US initially failed to detect the reasons why the plant was being constructed, and later, as President George W. Bush revealed in his memoirs, refused to accept as “definitive” clear evidence, in the form of photographs and soil samples that the Israelis had gathered, that the installation was an Iranian-financed, North Korean-built plutonium processing installation. It did so so that it could then use that lame excuse to avoid bombing the site.

The installation was finally destroyed by Israeli fighter jets in September 2007.

The most recent incident occurred in the last week of July, when American officials admitted that the most wanted man on their list of “Most Wanted Men,” Mullah Omar, had actually been dead for two years.

All these facts raise a seminal question: Considering America’s documented history of ineptness in gathering data on the Middle East, in interpreting it and acting sensibly on the real data available, why have both the advocates who favour the Iran agreement and those who oppose it refused to address the issues that that history ineptitude raises? I think I know the answer, but I would first like to hear the opinions of those more cognizant with the workings of Washington than I.




The Daily Beast


Nancy A. Youssef

.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/09/exclusive-50-spies-say-isis-intelligence-was-cooked.html?via=ios&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New Campaign&utm_term=*Situation Report

‘Cancer Within’

09.09.159:00 PM ET

Exclusive: 50 Spies Say ISIS Intelligence Was Cooked

It’s being called a ‘revolt’ by intelligence pros who are paid to give their honest assessment of the ISIS war—but are instead seeing their reports turned into happy talk.

More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official said.

Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

That complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, some of whom have complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

The accusations suggest that a large number of people tracking the inner workings of the terror groups think that their reports are being manipulated to fit a public narrative. The allegations echoed charges that political appointees and senior officials cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons program in 2002 and 2003.

The two signatories to the complaint were described as the ones formally lodging it, and the additional analysts are willing and able to back up the substance of the allegations with concrete examples.

One person who knows the contents of the complaint said it used the word “Stalinist” to describe the tone set by officials overseeing the military’s analysis.

Some of those CENTCOM analysts described the sizeable cadre of protesting analysts as a “revolt” by intelligence professionals who are paid to give their honest assessment, based on facts, and not to be influenced by national-level policy. The analysts have accused senior-level leaders, including the director of intelligence and his deputy in CENTCOM, of changing their analyses to be more in line with the Obama administration’s public contention that the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda is making progress. The analysts take a more pessimistic view about how military efforts to destroy the groups are going.

The large number of analysts who complained to the Pentagon inspector general hasn’t been previously reported. Some of them are assigned to work at CENTCOM, the U.S. military’s command for the Middle East and Central Asia, but are officially employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The complaints allege that in some cases key elements of intelligence reports were removed, resulting in a document that didn’t accurately capture the analysts’ conclusions, sources familiar with the protest said. But the complaint also goes beyond alleged altering of reports and accuses some senior leaders at CENTCOM of creating an unprofessional work environment. One person who knows the contents of the written complaint sent to the inspector general said it used the word “Stalinist” to describe the tone set by officials overseeing CENTCOM’s analysis.

Many described a climate in which analysts felt they could not give a candid assessment of the situation in Iraq and Syria. Some felt it was a product of commanders protecting their career advancement by putting the best spin on the war.

Some reports crafted by the analysts that were too negative in their assessment of the war were sent back down the chain of the command or not shared up the chain, several analysts said. Still others, feeling the climate around them, self-censored so their reports affirmed already-held beliefs.

“While we cannot comment on the specific investigation cited in the article, we can speak to the process. The Intelligence Community routinely provides a wide range of subjective assessments related to the current security environment. These products and the analysis that they present are absolutely vital to our efforts, particularly given the incredibly complex nature of the multi-front fights that are ongoing now in Iraq and Syria,” said Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, U.S. CENTCOM spokesman. “Senior civilian and military leadership consider these assessments during planning and decision-making, along with information gained from various other sources, to include the insights provided by commanders on the ground and other key advisors, intelligence collection assets, and previous experience.”

Two of the officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said that analysts began airing their complaints in October in an effort to address the issue internally and only went to the inspector general when that effort failed. Some of those who complained were urged to retire, one official familiar with the report told The Daily Beast. Some agreed to leave.

In recent months, members of the Obama administration have sought to paint the fight against ISIS in rosy hues—despite the terror army’s seizure of major cities like Mosul and Fallujah.

“ISIS is losing,” John Allen, the retired Marine general charged with coordinating the ISIS campaign, said in July.

Top of Form

“I am confident that over time, we will beat, we will, indeed, degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in March, using the government’s preferred acronym for the group.

“No, I don’t think we’re losing,” President Obama said in May.

Yet a growing group of intelligence analysts persisted with their complaints. For some, who have served at CENTCOM for more than a decade, scars remained from the run-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, when poorly written intelligence reports suggesting Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, when it did not, formed the basis of the George W. Bush administration’s case for war.

“They were frustrated because they didn’t do the right thing then” and speak up about their doubts on Iraq’s weapons program, the defense official told The Daily Beast.


The Daily Beast

09.20.159:00 PM ET

Exclusive: This Is the ISIS Intel the U.S. Military Dumbed Down

The intelligence pros said killing certain ISIS leaders might not diminish the group and that airstrikes might not be working. The bosses didn’t like those answers—not at all.

Senior intelligence officials at the U.S. military’s Central Command demanded significant alterations to analysts’ reports that questioned whether airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS were damaging the group’s finances and its ability to launch attacks. But reports that showed the group being weakened by the U.S.-led air campaign received comparatively little scrutiny, The Daily Beast has learned.

Senior CENTCOM intelligence officials who reviewed the critical reports sent them back to the analysts and ordered them to write new versions that included more footnotes and details to support their assessments, according to two officials familiar with a complaint levied by more than 50 analysts about intelligence manipulation by CENTCOM higher-ups.

In some cases, analysts were also urged to state that killing particular ISIS leaders and key officials would diminish the group and lead to its collapse. Many analysts, however, didn’t believe that simply taking out top ISIS leaders would have an enduring effect on overall operations.

“There was the reality on the ground but it was not as rosy as [the leadership] wanted it to be,” a defense official familiar with the complaint told The Daily Beast. “The challenge was assessing whether the glass was half empty, not half full.”

Some analysts have also complained that they felt “bullied” into reaching conclusions favored by their bosses, two separate sources familiar with analysts’ complaints said. The written and verbal pressure created a climate at CENTCOM in which analysts felt they had to self-censor some of their reports.

Some of the analysts have also accused their bosses of changing the reports in order to appeal to what they perceived as the Obama administration’s official line that the anti-ISIS campaign was making progress and would eventually end with the group’s destruction.

Lawmakers and even presidential candidates seized on the allegations of politicizing intelligence as the White House tried to distance itself from the very strategy it has been pursuing.

Army General Lloyd Austin came under withering bipartisan criticism on Wednesday when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that after spending at least $43 million over a 10-month period, the U.S. had trained only nine fighters to confront ISIS in Syria.

Senators were dumbfounded that the nearly year-long effort had produced such paltry results, calling it “a joke” and “an abject failure.”

Officials: Second hack exposed military and intel data

WSOC – Charlotte, NC

Senator John McCain, the committee chairman, called Austin’s testimony “grossly distorted” and said the general was attempting to convince senators that the military was making more progress against ISIS than he believes it is.

Asked whether he had ever ordered changes to intelligence reports, Austin replied, “Absolutely not.”

The Obama administration is now considering modifying the Syrian train-and-equip program, while the White House attempts to portray the president as having always been skeptical of it.

“There was the reality on the ground but it was not as rosy as [the leadership] wanted it to be. The challenge was assessing whether the glass was half empty, not half full.”

Meanwhile, Pentagon investigators are examining the back-and-forth between the intelligence bosses at CENTCOM and the analysts, which created a paper trail. Favorable reports had fewer comments written on them, and requests that were more critical showed heavy questioning, the two officials said.

The altering of intelligence led to reports that overstated the damage that U.S. strikes had on specific ISIS targets. For instance, strikes on oil refineries and equipment were said to have done more damage to the group’s financing of operations through illicit oil sales than the analysts believed. Also, strikes on military equipment were said to have set back the group’s ability to wage combat operations, when the analysts believed that wasn’t always the case.

The altered reports made ISIS seem financially weakened and less capable of launching attacks, the analysts allege.

The CENTCOM supervisors “did not like the reports on the impact [of the airstrikes] because they didn’t believe it,” one military adviser familiar with CENTCOM operations told The Daily Beast.

The Defense Department inspector general has been conducting interviews at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, in order to determine who in the command’s intelligence directorate may have distorted or manipulated the intelligence reports, some of which eventually made their way into materials briefed to President Obama. Investigators have pulled CENTCOM personnel one by one into private interviews to get to the bottom of the allegations and determine who was ultimately responsible for changing intelligence reports, according to individuals with knowledge of the investigation.

The inspector general has confirmed that the investigation is focused on the CENTCOM intelligence directorate, or J2. Multiple sources told The Daily Beast that the head of intelligence, Army Major General Steven Grove, is named in the complaint, as are several other senior officials at CENTCOM. The tone of the complaint is said to be harsh and highly critical of senior officials’ leadership and actions.

The U.S.-led coalition to fight ISIS has conducted 6,863 strikes in the year-long campaign in Iraq and Syria, according to Pentagon statistics.

No evidence has emerged that military commanders at CENTCOM who make decisions about airstrikes read the reports and then changed the number of strikes as a result. However, the generally optimistic reports may have stalled debate about whether the strategy needed to be re-examined or changed.

Defenders of CENTCOM noted that however optimistic the reports were, they are just one of many factors commanders would have considered when assessing a strategy. A CENTCOM spokesman said that while he couldn’t discuss ongoing investigations, there’s a robust system of assessing information, and it doesn’t rely solely on one assessment.

“The intelligence community routinely provides a wide range of subjective assessments related to the current security environment,” said Air Force Colonel Patrick Ryder, a CENTCOM spokesman. “Senior civilian and military leadership consider these assessments during planning and decision-making, along with information gained from various other sources, to include the insights provided by commanders on the ground and other key advisers, intelligence collection assets, and previous experience.”

The Pentagon investigation has led some CENTCOM analysts to fret that launching their complaint will end up tainting the credibility of their reports for years to come, the very thing they were trying to avoid by calling out their bosses.

Still others worry that the inquiry, which could take a year, will not aggressively seek to hold accountable those who changed the reports.

Several sources told The Daily Beast that Austin has warned his subordinates not to retaliate against anyone who spoke out, helping mollify a tense environment at CENTCOM.

The alleged cooking of the intel books on ISIS became a point of discussion in the second televised Republican presidential debate last week.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee pointed to the CENTCOM analysts’ complaint during a discussion of national security strategy. “If you don’t have good intelligence that is reliable and honest, you won’t have good intelligence and you cannot make good decisions,” he said.


Military Analyst Again Raises Red Flags on Progress in Iraq


WASHINGTON — As the war in Iraq deteriorated, a senior American intelligence analyst went public in 2005 and criticized President George W. Bush’s administration for pushing “amateurish and unrealistic” plans for the invasion two years before.

Now that same man, Gregory Hooker, is at the center of an insurrection of United States Central Command intelligence analysts over America’s latest war in Iraq, and whether Congress, policy makers and the public are being given too rosy a picture of the situation.

As the senior Iraq analyst at Central Command, the military headquarters in Tampa that oversees American military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia, Mr. Hooker is the leader of a group of analysts that is accusing senior commanders of changing intelligence reports to paint an overly optimistic portrait of the American bombing campaign against the Islamic State. The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating.

Although the investigation became public weeks ago, the source of the allegations and Mr. Hooker’s role have not been previously known. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials place the dispute directly at the heart of Central Command, with Mr. Hooker and his team in a fight over what Americans should believe about the war.



Gregory Hooker is critical of reports on the ISIS fight.

Mr. Hooker, who declined to comment, has been an Iraq analyst for more than two decades. Some on his team were at Central Command, or Centcom, when American troops poured into Iraq in 2003. The analysts remained focused on the country long after President Obama officially ended the war in 2011.

“This core group of Iraq analysts have been doing this for a long time,” said Stephen Robb, a retired Marine colonel and a former head of the Centcom Joint Intelligence Center. “If they say there’s smoke, start looking for a firehouse.”

The investigation has repercussions beyond the question of whether the American-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria is succeeding. The allegations call into question how much the president — this one or the next — can rely on Centcom for honest assessments of military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and other crisis spots.

In some ways, the Iraq team’s criticism mirrors the disputes of a decade ago, when Mr. Hooker wrote a research paper saying the Bush administration, over many analysts’ objections, advocated a small force in Iraq and spent little time thinking about what would follow the invasion.

That dispute was separate from the battle over flawed intelligence assessments by the C.I.A. and other spy agencies that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Central Command did not contribute significantly to those assessments.

Several current and former officials said that it was the two most senior intelligence officers at Centcom — Maj. Gen. Steven Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman — who drew analysts’ ire with changes in draft intelligence assessments. But why the assessments were changed remains an open question. Some analysts suggested that leaders in Tampa feared that reporting bad news might anger the White House. Others described an institutional bias that makes it hard for the military to criticize its own operations.

Centcom’s leader, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, was chosen for the job in part because the White House regarded him as a steady, cautious loyalist who would execute military operations in the Middle East with little drama — an especially important consideration after the contentious relationship between the White House and Gen. James Mattis, the previous Centcom commander. General Austin gave testimony last week to the Senate Armed Services Committee that was roundly criticized by some lawmakers as being an overly positive assessment of the war’s progress.

Centcom’s mammoth intelligence operation, with some 1,500 civilian, military and contract analysts, is housed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, in a bay front building that has the look of a sterile government facility posing as a Spanish hacienda. In banks of plain cubicles, the analysts try each day to measure the progress of war.

That effort has long been difficult, particularly in campaigns without traditional armies and clear battle lines. During the war in Vietnam, generals were criticized for measuring success in body counts. In the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, the military issues daily reports that suggest tactical victories but offer little hint about how the war is going.

“One airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL cache, three ISIL fighting positions and one ISIL motorcycle,” a report this month said. “Near Ramadi, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.”

Brian Hale, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, played down the significance of Centcom’s conclusions in shaping the thinking of senior policy makers, including Mr. Obama, about the war. In a statement on Wednesday he said that Centcom and other military commanders do not provide “broad or strategic assessments.”

The success of daily airstrikes, experts say, can give the illusion of progress, particularly for Centcom commanders who are judged in Washington on their ability to carry out a successful mission. Iraq analysts, officials said, are less optimistic.

“You can get pulled into watching the laser dot on a target and watching it blow up,” said Kevin Benson, a retired Army colonel who teaches intelligence analysis to officers at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. “After that, it can be hard to hear that you’re not making progress, because you saw it.”

Analysts like Mr. Hooker and his team are supposed to be immune from such pressure because they are employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency. In practice, though, the analysts are reviewed by officials at Centcom.

Although critics have suggested that the bombing campaign’s stalemate proves the need for more troops in Iraq, colleagues say Mr. Hooker’s team is not advocating that approach. “I don’t know anyone outside of a political commercial who thinks we need to send large numbers of troops into Iraq,” said one intelligence official who has worked closely with the Centcom analysts.

Instead, analysts say the dispute centers on whether the military is being honest about the political and religious situation in Iraq and whether a bombing campaign can change it.

Current and ex-officials said tension about how to portray the war’s progress began almost at the start of the campaign last summer, when Mr. Obama authorized strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and later expanded the bombings to Syria.

Early this year, one former official said, Mr. Hooker’s team concluded that, despite public statements to the contrary, airstrikes against Islamic State-held refineries had not significantly weakened its finances because it had built makeshift refineries to sell oil on the black market. But the finding was not distributed outside Centcom, the ex-official said.

Over this past year, analysts felt pressure to keep their assessments positive. In order to report bad news, current and former officials said, the analysts were required to cite multiple sources. Reporting positive news required fewer hurdles. Senior officials sent emails cautioning against using pessimistic phrases that they said were more likely to get attention, according to one former official. In some instances, officials said, conclusions were completely changed.

Anger among analysts grew so intense that in the spring, Mr. Hooker’s civilian boss, William Rizzio, confronted his superiors about the problems. Mr. Rizzio, a retired Marine colonel who had gradually come to take the side of the analysts in the dispute, had meetings with General Grove and Mr. Ryckman. It is unclear what transpired in the meetings, but three people with knowledge of the situation, who, like some others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is part of the inspector general’s investigation, said the result was that Mr. Rizzio was punished for siding with the analysts. He was temporarily reassigned, and analysts were left wondering what happened to him after his name was scraped off the front of his office at Centcom’s Joint Intelligence Center.

Mr. Rizzio, who has since returned to his position, declined to be interviewed.

His concerns gained a more sympathetic hearing several months later, when officials began speaking to the Pentagon’s inspector general, who opened his investigation in July. Officials would not say if Mr. Hooker was the first analyst to do so.

The inspector general’s investigation turned a quiet matter into one of the most high-profile intelligence disputes since officials issued new rules that encourage dissenting views. Those rules were intended to prevent a repeat of the debacle over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The investigation has put this team of analysts, who for years worked in relative obscurity, at the center of a dispute that has the attention of intelligence officials across the government.

“Signing onto a whistle-blowing complaint can easily be a career-ender,” David Shedd, a former acting head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote in a column this week on Defense One, a national security news website. “The nation’s analytic professionals are watching closely to see how it is handled.”






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