Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Tuesday defended President Obama from critics who say the commander in chief is trying to shift blame to the intelligence community for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, in a statement accused critics of “attempting to stoke a conflict between the President and the Intelligence Community that does not exist.”
He made the comments after Obama suggested that intelligence officials had underestimated the threat from ISIS in a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday.
Schiff said the president was only concurring with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that ISIS’s growth in Syria and the collapse of the Iraqi military took both the intelligence community and White House by surprise.
Republicans were quick to seize on Obama’s comments and accuse him of ignoring the threat.
On Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) issued a statement saying that the intelligence community had warned the president for more than a year about ISIS.
Schiff also defended the intelligence community, saying it understood ISIS was a growing threat, had found a safe haven in Syria, and that Iraq’s leaders had governed in a sectarian way, alienating Sunnis.
“While it was not foreseen that the Sunni tribes would so quickly and broadly make common cause with ISIS or that the Iraqi military would so readily collapse, I don’t fault the intelligence community for this — there is a difference between providing valuable intelligence and having a crystal ball,” he said.
But while Schiff praised the intelligence community, he said, “We need to be realistic about the Intelligence Community’s ability to predict future events.”
“The professionals in our agencies do a tremendous job gathering intelligence from numerous sources and analyzing that information, but foreseeing certain imponderables – like the Iraqi willingness to fight – cannot be done with mathematical precision.”
Schiff said there was no rift between Obama and intelligence officials.
“The President understands this as do the fine men and women of the Intelligence Community and it does a disservice to both to manufacture a fight when there should be none,” he said.