Washington's new blame game: Who screwed up the intelligence on Russia's incursion in Syria?

The debate over intelligence assessments on Russia’s recent airstrikes has a similar theme. Lawmakers are zeroing in on specific reporting about military movements and potential targets, as well assessments about Putin’s intentions and his strategy, to get at the question of how the U.S. response to Russia’s operation might have been different with other kinds of information.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said in a statement on Thursday that it was “certainly true that few would have predicted that Putin would react to the weakening position of the Assad regime by sending in combat aircraft and augmenting its naval presence. An increase in Russia’s material support for the Assad regime seemed much more probable.”

That suggested that some lawmakers viewed the intelligence assessments as not declarative or precise enough for Congress to understand how the events would unfold.

But, Schiff added, “As Putin’s intention to deploy more military power to Syria became clearer in recent weeks, the Intelligence Community kept the Committee apprised of those developments. Although we will continue to look into the timeliness and accuracy of intelligence assessments, I do not think we should rush to find fault with the Intelligence Community in its ability to discern exactly what is in Putin’s head.”