Clapper to intel community: You've done great work ... on ISIS

After Barack Obama blamed the intelligence community for the failure to anticipate the rise of ISIS, a number of people went back and checked the record. Count James Clapper among them. Fox News received a copy of a memo sent out by Clapper congratulating analysts within the intelligence community for keeping policymakers abreast of the rising threat from ISIS — not over the past few months, when the White House began reacting to it, but for the past two years:

The top U.S. intelligence official, in a memo to staff obtained by Fox News, praised his analysts for their work bringing attention to the Islamic State’s gains over the past two years — as Republican lawmakers likewise jumped to their defense after President Obama claimed they “underestimated” the threat.  …

“I’m proud of the [intelligence community’s] efforts over the past two years to monitor, assess and call attention to the expansion of ISIL, and I know the president has found that work to be critical to developing his strategy,” Clapper wrote.

Clapper noted he and Obama were on the same page in saying it was difficult to predict the “will” of Iraqi security forces to fight.

“Despite all we understood about the capabilities of ISIL and the Iraqi Security Forces, we have no intelligence tool that could have predicted the ISF’s sudden collapse in northern Iraq and the resultant ease with which ISIL forces captured territory,” he wrote. Clapper said Obama is “fully engaged” in the mission and had expressed “gratitude” for the intelligence community.

But Clapper’s claims about how their analysts have been drawing attention to the Islamic State – also known as ISIS, or ISIL – for the past two years could fuel concerns that the White House was not taking those assessments seriously enough.

Two years puts this praiseworthy effort more than a year prior to Obama’s dismissing of the threat as “jayvees,” a glib quip offered to the New Yorker after ISIS sacked and occupied Fallujah. The DIA warned Congress at about the same time that ISIS was about to gobble up large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, which predated the group’s sweep by at least four months. Others in Congress have come to the defense of the oft-criticized intel agencies by pointing out these warnings — and pointing the finger right back at Barack Obama, including former Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak on MSNBC.

This leak appears to be part of the PR war that erupted between the intel community and the White House after Obama’s 60 Minutes interview. Ironically, Clapper intended to tamp it down with this memo, according to the New York Times’ Peter Baker:

The nation’s chief spy is trying to squelch any talk of a breach with the White House amid finger-pointing over who was to blame for failing to anticipate the rise of the extremist group the Islamic State, which has rampaged through Syria and Iraq and has now drawn the United States back into a Middle East conflict.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, sent a message to employees on Tuesday defending the nation’s spy agencies against criticism, saying there was no way to have foreseen the collapse of the Iraqi Army in the face of the advance of Islamic State forces. But he emphasized President Obama’s appreciation for the intelligence community’s work.

So far, it appears that Clapper’s rung up a “no sale” on that argument. It’s difficult to convince people that the President appreciates your work when he tosses you under the bus on prime-time TV, so the degree of difficulty on this dive is on an Olympic scale.

Michael Ramirez cuts to the truth of it for Investors Business Daily:


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