This is disheartening – or would be, I guess, if we had a normal administration in the White House.
In an interview with Steve Malzberg on Newsmax TV on Wednesday (video below), journalist Sharyl Attkisson imparted information from former members of the Obama administration, who say that Obama doesn’t even want to hear intelligence analysis about terrorist groups that he has already made his mind up about.
These are groups the United States officially designates as terrorist groups. Attkisson confirmed that, under questioning from Malzberg. So there’s no ambiguity here; we’re not talking about groups whose status is disputed within the U.S. government.
Caleb Howe has a transcript of key passages at The Right Scoop (emphasis in original):
“He has made up his mind, I would say closed his mind, they’d say, to their intelligence that they try to bring him about various groups that he does not consider terrorists even if they’re on the U.S. list of designated terrorists. He has his own ideas.”
Attkisson says he digs in and does not listen because he thinks he’s right. That’s confidence-inspiring.
“He doesn’t want it, he says he doesn’t want it, or he won’t read it in some instances.”
In the interview, Attkisson didn’t specify which groups this covers. But her comments shed an interesting light on another report, from Judicial Watch in May 2015, outlining an intelligence summary forwarded to cabinet departments and the White House by the Defense Intelligence Agency in August 2012. That summary – a summary of a field report obtained abroad – previewed the rise and career of ISIS, as an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
(For time-frame reference, this was my first post on ISIS, from January 2014.)
Because the 2012 DIA message was a field report, I considered it unlikely in May 2015, when Judicial Watch first published it from their FOIA trove, that people at the highest levels of government had seen it. It wasn’t what is called in the intel trade “finished intelligence.”
But later in the year, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn – who had been the Director of DIA at the time – confirmed that the 2012 summary had indeed been seen (he didn’t specify by whom, but the implication for me from his comments was that it got the same level of attention as a finished-intelligence estimate published as the official opinion of DIA. That would mean people like the Chairman, SECDEF, and senior folks at the National Security Council were at least being briefed on it, and perhaps read it themselves. Even more senior people might well have been briefed on it too, although that is less certain. At a minimum, they would have been aware that the intelligence was being briefed and discussed). Moreover, the intelligence from the field summary figured in a dispute within the administration.
Consider what General Flynn had to say to an interviewer at Al Jazeera in August (second video, below), about his own effort to warn the administration about the implications of the August 2012 intelligence. In this passage he is addressing administration support for the group that emerged as ISIS:
[Interview Mehdi] Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it [that is, arguing against the policy of arming the groups that eventually became Al-Nusra and ISIS], but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.
(Side note: six months after Judicial Watch first broke the story about the August 2012 intelligence summary, the New York Times has finally picked it up.)
The parallels with the language of Sharyl Attkisson’s revelation are obvious. It’s simplistic to conclude that both third-hand descriptions here are of Obama himself. But to ignore multiple reports about the same administration, having the same attitude, about the same subject – terrorist groups – would be, at the very least, increasingly foolish.