In a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday night, President Barack Obama placed blame squarely at the foot of the US intelligence community for the rise of the Islamic State, the extremist group also known as ISIS.
Citing comments from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Obama said the intelligence community had “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” referring to the rise of ISIS militants in the country’s northeast.
But American spies, experts, and journalists who have been watching the progress of ISIS, the extremist offshoot of Al Qaeda, immediately pushed back against the president’s assessment.
“Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting, or he’s bullshitting,” one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq told Eli Lake of The Daily Beast.
“Everyone realized that Syria was HQ for them,” a senior Defense Department official told The Washington Post.
McClatchy correspondent Jonathan Landay reported in July that the Obama administration was “well aware of the group’s declared intention to turn its Syrian sanctuary into a springboard from which it would send men and materiel back into Iraq and unleash waves of suicide bombings there.”