Barack Obama’s intelligence chief is said to be in frequent and unusual contact with a military intelligence officer at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the war against the Islamic State, the Guardian has learned.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is said to talk nearly every day with the head of US Central Command’s intelligence wing, Army Major General Steven Grove – “which is highly, highly unusual”, according to a former intelligence official.
Grove is said to be implicated in a Pentagon inquiry into manipulated war intelligence.
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.