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House sets up task force to investigate CENTCOM intelligence

WASHINGTON — House Republicans announced Friday they were creating a special task force to investigate allegations that U.S. Central Command's top intelligence officials pressured analysts to discard parts of their reports that reflected poorly on the war effort in Iraq and Syria.

The chairmen of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees and the Appropriations Defense subcommittee said the task force would "investigate allegations that senior U.S. Central Command officials manipulated intelligence products" and "examine whether these allegations reflect systemic problems across the intelligence enterprise in CENTCOM or any other pertinent intelligence organizations."

The Obama administration has faced questions about whether intelligence was doctored, producing flawed assessments that overstated the progress of the United States and its coalition partners in the fight against Islamic State militants.

The Pentagon's inspector general is investigating the allegations of intelligence puffery.

A former Central Command official said more than 50 intelligence analysts had complained that their conclusions were undercut. One or more senior analysts from the command made a written complaint to the Defense Department inspector general in July, prompting an investigation that officials have publicly acknowledged.

Last month, President Barack Obama said he has repeatedly made clear to intelligence officials that they should never shade their assessments to produce a "feel good story."

Obama was questioned during a news conference in Malaysia about a New York Times report that said military analysts felt their supervisors were eager to paint a more optimistic picture than warranted about training Iraqi troops and fighting the Islamic State.

Obama said he's made clear that "I never want them to hold back." He said he has left it up to the inspector general to determine what has happened.

Even so, Obama said, he believes that "we've had a pretty clear-eyed, sober assessment" of what has happened in Iraq and the fight against IS.

The committee chairmen — Mac Thornberry of Texas, Devin Nunes of California and Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey — said three Republicans who serve on the defense and intelligence panels would lead the task force, which will produce preliminary results early next year. They are Republican Reps. Ken Calvert of California, Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Brad Wenstrup of Ohio.

House Republicans already have established select committees that are investigating the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans and Planned Parenthood's practice of providing fetal tissue for scientific research.

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