Former DIA Chief Michael Flynn Says Rise of Islamic State was “a willful decision” and Defends Accuracy of 2012 Memo

Lengthy discussion of the DIA memo begins at the 8:50 mark.

In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.”

Amazingly, Flynn actually took issue with the way interviewer Mehdi Hasan posed the question—Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making:

Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.

Hasan himself expresses surprise at Flynn’s frankness during this portion of the interview. While holding up a paper copy of the 2012 DIA report declassified through FOIA, Hasan reads aloud key passages such as, “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria, and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Rather than downplay the importance of the document and these startling passages, as did the State Department soon after its release, Flynn does the opposite: he confirms that while acting DIA chief he “paid very close attention” to this report in particular and later adds that “the intelligence was very clear.”

Lt. Gen. Flynn, speaking safely from retirement, is the highest ranking intelligence official to go on record saying the United States and other state sponsors of rebels in Syria knowingly gave political backing and shipped weapons to Al-Qaeda in order to put pressure on the Syrian regime:

Hasan: In 2012 the U.S. was helping coordinate arms transfers to those same groups [Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda in Iraq], why did you not stop that if you’re worried about the rise of quote-unquote Islamic extremists?

Flynn: I hate to say it’s not my job…but that…my job was to…was to to ensure that the accuracy of our intelligence that was being presented was as good as it could be.

The early reporting that treated the DIA memo as newsworthy and hugely revelatory was criticized and even mocked by some experts, as well as outlets like The Daily Beast. Yet the very DIA director at the time the memo was drafted and circulated widely now unambiguously confirms the document to be of high value, and indicates that it served as source material in his own discussions over Syria policy with the White House.

As Michael Flynn also previously served as director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during a time when its prime global mission was dismantling Al-Qaeda, his honest admission that the White House was in fact arming and bolstering Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria is especially shocking given his stature.

Consider further the dissonance that comes with viewing the Pentagon’s former highest ranking intelligence officer in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden now calmly and coolly confessing that the United States directly aided the foot soldiers of Ayman al-Zawahiri beginning in at least 2012 in Syria.

This confirmation is significant to my own coverage of the DIA report, as I was contacted by a number of individuals who attempted to assure me that the true experts and “insiders” knew the document was unimportant and therefore irrelevant within the intelligence community and broader Syria policy.

This began after a Daily Beast article entitled The ISIS Conspiracy That Ate the Web  cited former NSA officer John Schindler as an expert source. Schindler concluded of the DIA document: “it’s difficult to say much meaningful about it… Nothing special here, not one bit.”

To my surprise, only hours after I published a rebuttal of Schindler and the Daily Beast article, I was contacted by a current high level CIA official who is also a personal friend from my time living in the D.C. area.

This official, who spent most of his career with CIA Public Affairs, made a personal appeal urging me to drop my comments attacking John Schindler’s credibility, as I had noted that Schindler is a highly ideological and scandal-laden commentator who consistently claims special insider knowledge in support of his arguments. This CIA official further attempted to convince me of Schindler’s credibility as an insider and expert, assuring me that “he has written insightfully.”

Mehdi Hasan’s historic interview with General Flynn should put the issue to rest—the declassified DIA report is now confirmed to be a central and vital source that sheds light on the origins of ISIS, and must inform a candid national debate on American policy in Syria and Iraq.

As it is now already becoming part of the official record on conflict in Syria among respected international historians, knowledge of the declassified document must make it into every American household.

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Brad Hoff Interviewed by TRUTH IN MEDIA on Syria, DIA Report, & Media’s Failure

Truth in Media/Joshua Cook — Military veteran and journalist Brad Hoff has a unique perspective of Syria after living there off and on for years.

“I ended up settling down in Syria, and loved the culture, loved the people,” he said to Joshua Cook in an exclusive interview.

Hoff said that of course he saw problems there, but the typical stereotypes that he had of the region shattered.

“Got really interested in how the media was covering Syria, and that’s what really got me involved in writing about the place,” he explained. “The mainstream media writing about the conflict in Syria just completely failed on so many fronts.”

The Daily Beast’s coverage of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, Hoff said, was a hit piece

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW at Truth in Media…

The Daily Beast’s Jacob Siegal says Released DIA Document Led to “ISIS Conspiracy that ate the Web”

Jacob Siegal, writing for The Daily Beast, misses an opportunity to shine light on the 2012 declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document foretelling the rise of “an Islamic State”, instead, opting to mock those reporting and attempting to interpret its contents.

In his June 6 article, The ISIS Conspiracy that ate the Web, Siegal devotes the majority of his words not to careful analysis of the document, but instead to consigning all those, like Seamus Milne of The Guardian, who dare take the document as a serious and newsworthy revelation worthy of public scrutiny, with the label of partisan conspiracy theorist (the Daily Beast article itself is categorized under the heading “Conspiracy Theory”):

If you’re looking for a single, simple explanation for the rise of the Islamic State that flatters your pre-existing politics, you’ve hit pay dirt.

He begins by holding up the admittedly nutty Pamela Geller as somehow representative of the DIA document’s early reporting, though she had nothing to do with either reporting or analyzing the document, instead merely copying the entirety of my own original article to her website many days after its release and adding her own brief commentary (while never seeking my permission), such as the simplistic: “Look at what Obama and his party of treason have unleashed on the world.”

The Pamela Gellers of the world will always have ultra-partisan, self-serving interpretations of what is fundamentally real, newsworthy information, but presenting her and others like her as actually representing the reporting that “ate the Web” is a sloppy attempt to obfuscate the valid conclusions being drawn and circulated as a result of this truly significant document. Siegal would like us to conclude, like Juan Cole, that there is really “nothing to see here folks, move it along, etc…” by first presenting and debunking “low hanging fruit” that is irrelevant to how the story originally spread.

I appreciate that at the very least my own reporting is held up as serious and credible with the lines in the end paragraphs, “The DIA could do itself and the public a favor by addressing the 3 year-old declassified report instead of responding to inquiries with variations on no comment as it did when approached by journalist Brad Hoff.”

I wholeheartedly agree, but it strikes me as odd and inconsistent that Siegal should first write off Seumas Milne’s excellent piece in The Guardian (which now has over 85,000 Facebook shares alone), taking issue even with the title, Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq.

The title of my own May 19 article, West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”which was the first to report and examine the DIA document’s contents in terms of “the West backed ISIS” angle, would no doubt also attract the ire of Mr. Siegal should he have bothered to find out the origin of the viral “conspiracy” that ate the web. And yet, he holds me up as a credible journalist cited just after the following: “The report raises some important questions but it’s a mistake to think it answers them.”

What bothers me is that, as a paid editor and journalist at the The Daily Beast, Jacob Siegal refuses to make use of the significant resources at his disposal to seek answers to the many questions he says the document raises, opting instead to attach a stigma to any reporting or analysis that might actually see the document as evidence of U.S. government wrongdoing or negligence (especially as he informs us he formerly worked as an army intelligence officer, which makes it likely that he’d have helpful contacts that might be useful in actually investigating the document).

But I suppose it’s much easier to do a hit piece on straw man conspiracy theories, as opposed to a careful reading and response to the actual original reporting through which the DIA document went viral.

My own reporting began going viral within days after being published. Investigative journalist and best-selling author Nafeez Ahmed, whose counter-terrorism work gained official recognition by the 9/11 Commission, followed on May 22 with an in-depth investigative piece on the DIA report at INSURGE intelligence, which greatly expanded on my report, putting it into full geopolitical context.

Most significantly, Ahmed was able to get official statement from the British Foreign Office, and his coverage of the DIA document later headlined across leading German daily papers and political magazines. It was this story, copied to Zero Hedge, that Juan Cole dismissed as “just a clickbait story”.

But neither my reporting, nor Nafeez Ahmed’s ever claimed that the DIA document exists as stand-alone “smoking gun” proof of the claims that the West knowingly fueled the rise of Islamic State. As I said soon after writing my report on the Scott Horton show, the DIA document merely “completes the picture”—a picture that many, including Ahmed, have been piecing together for years.

But that the West and the U.S. did fuel the rise of ISIS through political support, weapons, logistical coordination, and supplies given to militants in Syria is hardly the theory of a few independent journalists when you have the likes of former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford going around confessing that he himself knowingly backed rebels fighting alongside ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria (Nusra) in 2013. Remember that Ford was the State Department’s top man in Syria and thus had a key role in the rebel “vetting” process. (As for other former government officials, current politicians, and even FSA commanders that have also said that the West gave political and material support to the then nascent Islamic State…well the list is too long for this column.)

While government officials like to claim that “we didn’t know” or that “we had good intentions,” this DIA document is just additional proof that at the very least, at some official level, they did know. The dynamics of the conflict and potential consequences of the West’s course of action were spelled out in quite precise (and prescient) terms, and put into writing in the form of an information report and circulated widely (the early reporting never claimed the document was itself produced as an active or official policy document).

Considering the fact that the world has been told incessantly that ISIS and their associate jihadi allies represent the single greatest and most brutal terror threat mankind has ever seen (and add to that the CIA and White House claim that they just didn’t see ISIS coming!), you would think that for The Daily Beast this might constitute a major newsworthy scandal worth digging into. But again, Siegal instead chooses to make the story ultimately about the power of “conspiracy theories” that take over the web.

Ironically, he cites the discredited former NSA officer John Schindler to say that the DIA document is largely irrelevant and unimportant based on its redactions as well as our inability to know the level of importance assigned to it within the intelligence community (as its classification is not high level).

While Siegal acknowledges that this “sort of report of regional scope and strategic implications was outside my purview” his guiding assumption is that it couldn’t have been very important: “by itself, it’s only evidence of one analysis among thousands churned out yearly by the various intelligence agencies.”

But Siegal could have and should have consulted former high ranking MI6 spy and Middle East expert Alastair Crooke, who does have the experience and background to know. Crooke’s analysis appeared in his regular Huffington Post column a full five days prior Siegal’s Daily Beast article. As to the DIA document’s level of importance within the intelligence community, Crooke confidently asserts following his main thesis:

Intelligence assessments purpose is to provide “a view” — not to describe or prescribe policy. But it is clear that the DIA reports’ “warnings” were widely circulated and would have been meshed into the policy consideration.

The main indicator affirming that this DIA report was not merely “one analysis among thousands” (and by implication barely visible), is described in a Salon.com article which appeared nine days prior to Siegal’s cries of conspiracy theory:

Few of the reports on these documents have discussed on what terms Judicial Watch received them. The organization received the documents by requesting – among other things — “[a]ny and all records produced by any official of the [Departments of Defense and State] in preparation for, use during, and/or pursuant to any” briefing of Congressional leaders and Intelligence Committee leaders, “on matters related to the activities of any agency or department of the U.S. government at the Special Mission Compound and/or classified annex in Benghazi, Libya.” These reports were important, then, to DOD’s own understanding of events surrounding the Benghazi attack.

As to the content of the DIA document itself, Siegal’s main point (after citing Cole) is that the DIA is actually pointing the finger exclusively at America’s allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and that “the West” (and U.S.) is somehow wholly separate from its own coalition. Joe Biden’s revealing comments at Harvard University are referenced, but his prior statements regarding support for the Syrian opposition are ignored: “We are working hand and glove with the Turks, with the Jordanians, with the Saudis, and with all the people in the region attempting to identify the people who deserve the help…” (and this is consistent with statements of other U.S. officials).

The idea that U.S. intelligence and military officials were far removed from the situation as allies armed the likes of Nusra, ISIS, and Ahrar Al-Sham, even while those officials all occupied the same “operations command center” (in Jordan and in Turkey), is absurd on its face. American government officials themselves told the New York Times of a joint Saudi/CIA program to arm the rebels beginning in 2012.

The truth is often much more banal than a good conspiracy theory: it often requires knowledge of the alignment of those interests, institutions, historical forces, and guiding ideologies that give birth to a particular horrid consequence. It is the media’s job to investigate and map out those alignments. Such is the case with the swift rise of the monster that is Islamic State.  While it would give me great personal comfort to be able to dismiss inconvenient truths as mere conspiracy theory, I would prefer a national media that tells me the hard truth, and never ceases digging until unearthing that truth.

As he admits that the DIA document raises valid questions, my hope is that Jacob Siegal is even now digging, asking tough questions of DIA and other officials, seeking behind the scenes comment, submitting further FOIA requests, etc… This is my sincere hope, but I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath.