Former CIA director and CBS contributor Michael Morell debunked the “old conspiracy theory” pushed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that President Obama has supported terrorist groups. In a Politico Magazine article, Morrell slammed Trump for reviving “inaccurate renditions of history” that have “no place in our public discourse.”
On June 15, Trump tweeted a Breitbart News article claiming that in 2012, “Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Trump claimed that the Breitbart article vindicated his previous suggestions that Obama may be sympathetic to terrorists -- a charge that was buoyed by a host of conservative pundits, but drew strong rebuke from several other media figures.
In a June 16 Politico Magazine article, Morell swatted down Trump’s “charge against President Obama and his administration” as a “simply not true” “conspiracy theory.” Detailing from first-hand accounts that “[a]t no time … did the administration make a policy decision—either explicitly or implicitly—to support the Islamic State or its predecessor, Al Qaeda, in Iraq,” Morell explained that “in fact, the policy focus was quite the opposite.” Morell noted that both the 2012 intelligence report and the interpretation of it suggesting that the president supported extremists were “simply wrong in its facts,” and ultimately wrote that “we should not let our understanding of that threat [of terrorism] be hijacked by inaccurate renditions of history”:
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, seeking to make the case following the Orlando shootings that the Obama administration was somehow sympathetic to terrorists, resurrected an old conspiracy theory Thursday about the Islamic State, one that has no place in our public discourse. In a tweet, Trump pointed his followers to an article about the 2012 memo titled “Hillary Clinton Received Secret Memo Stating Obama Admin ‘Support’ for ISIS.”
This is, of course, quite a charge against President Obama and his administration at a time when Clinton was still serving as secretary of state. The problem with the charge is that it is simply not true. I know this, since in my role as deputy director and acting director of the CIA, I participated in nearly every meeting in the Situation Room at the time of the supposed memo regarding the deteriorating situation in Syria.
At no time in any of these meetings did the administration make a policy decision—either explicitly or implicitly—to support the Islamic State or its predecessor, Al Qaeda, in Iraq. In fact, the policy focus was quite the opposite. The administration went to great lengths to ensure that any aid provided by the United States to the opposition would not fall into the hands of extremists, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
[H]ere is the truth about the DIA report and the Flynn interview. The report was written by a DIA official in Iraq. It was his take on the early days of the insurgency in Syria. It was just one person’s view. It was written by an individual who was far from the policy discussion in the Situation Room. And, it was simply wrong in its facts when it indicated that the West was supporting extremists in Syria.
Most important, when the cable was written in early August 2012, the United States was not yet providing any tangible assistance to the Syrian opposition, and when it began to do so later that fall, the assistance went only to the opposition deemed by the United States to be “moderate.”
What about the Flynn interview? It is actually worth watching the interview, as opposed to reading the commentary of others about it. When I watched it, I did not see Flynn agree with the interviewer’s assertion that the United States was deliberately supporting extremists. Flynn was critical of the Obama administration on a number of issues, but he did not accuse it of willfully supporting the rise of ISIS.
The threat posed by the Islamic State to the United States and to our interests is a serious one. But we should not let our understanding of that threat be hijacked by inaccurate renditions of history.
Other media have also noted that Trump and Breitbart’s interpretation of the 2012 memo is “a faulty reading” that has been “widely debunked.”