President Barack Obama walks after the first day of the G20 Summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

President Barack Obama walks after the first day of the G20 Summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Igor Russak /Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)


Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., who is aggressively lobbying against a military strike on Syria, says the Obama administration has manipulated intelligence to push its case for U.S. involvement in the country's two-year civil war.

Grayson made the accusation in an interview published Wednesday by The Atlantic and offered more detail in a Thursday discussion with U.S. News. He says members of Congress are being given intelligence briefings without any evidence to support administration claims that Syrian leader Bashar Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons.

Grayson said he cannot discuss the classified briefings, but noted details in the administration's public, non-classified report are being contested.

The White House released its four-page public report Aug. 30, arguing that Assad's government killed 1,429 people on Aug. 21 with a planned chemical weapon attack. Evidence cited in that report included "intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used."

Grayson, however, says "the claim has been made that that information was completely mischaracterized."

He points to an article published by The Daily Caller that alleges the communications actually showed Syrian officers were surprised by the alleged chemical weapon attack. The communications, according to unnamed sources paraphrased in article, were intercepted by Israeli intelligence and "doctored so that it leads a reader to just the opposite conclusion."

"What they say in The Daily Caller is that [intercepted communications] would lead one to the opposite conclusion," Grayson said. "I don't know if it's right or wrong, [but] there's a very simple way to find out, that's for the administration to show me and other members of Congress" translated transcripts of the intercepts, he said.

Members of Congress are "not being given any of the underlying elements of the intelligence reports," according to Grayson. He's not sure if the information will come before the votes on a proposed strike next week.


Senators view photographs of victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

The anti-war Democrat said there are other examples of intelligence he believes has been manipulated to favor war.

"Well yes," Grayson said, "but I'm very constrained about talking about it. ... This has become a fundamental problem with our system: The information we do get is limited, but beyond that we are very constrained in discussing it."

Lawmakers are unable to discuss among themselves classified intelligence about Syria unless they are inside an approved reading room beneath the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center and questioning the official account of events, he said, is "actively discouraged."

The four-page White House report on the alleged attack is no more than "a briefing paper with arguments in favor of attacking Syria" that "doesn't present both sides of the issue," Grayson said.

"The administration wants to flood the zone by excluding other information or points of view," he alleged. "I think that it is interesting that the administration consistently refers to Assad doing this and Assad doing that and Assad doing the other thing without giving the public any evidence to support the proposition that Assad has done anything."

White House spokesperson Caitlin Hayden, who fields questions for the National Security Council, chose not to engage Grayson's accusation and directed questions about the veracity of intelligence to federal spy agencies.

The congressman needled administration representatives for more information during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel responded that the Syrian military communications are "probably classified," but that he's unaware of any intentional deception.

The likely outcome for the vote on military action is uncertain in each chamber. Opponents of military action cite intelligence failures before the Iraq War and the fact that many Syrian rebels are al-Qaida-associated religious fanatics who also commit atrocities. A defeat in Congress would embarrass Obama, who stated his intention to strike Syria before caving to pressure and announcing he would seek congressional approval.

"We can't go to war to spare anyone embarrassment," Grayson told U.S. News. "That would be utterly immoral, we're talking about shedding American blood. ... The president has already made that argument and it's falling on deaf ears."

Watch: Grayson grills Hagel:

 

More News:

    Clarification (09/05/13): This article was altered to more precisely reflect Rep. Grayson's views.

    Tags: Alan Grayson, Syria


    Steven Nelson is a reporter at U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at snelson@usnews.com.

    Recommended Articles

    The 10 Worst Presidents

    Andrew Soergel, Jay Tolson | Dec. 31, 2014

    Not all U.S. presidents are missed once they leave the White House.

    Editorial Cartoons on Donald Trump

    Jan. 31, 2017, at 5:16 p.m.

    Photos: Obama Behind the Scenes

    Sept. 10, 2014

    A collection of moments subtle and grand of the 44th president of the United States.

    Students Reckon with DACA's End

    Alan Neuhauser | Sept. 7, 2017

    Immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, once shielded from deportation, now must face the possibility that protection may disappear.

    Equifax: Breach May Have Exposed Info of 143M Americans

    Andrew Soergel | Sept. 7, 2017

    The company said Thursday that 'criminals' gained access to information like Social Security and credit card numbers.

    Future Uncertain for Federal Health Program

    Gaby Galvin | Sept. 7, 2017

    Advocates say Congress delaying funding for a bipartisan health program would adversely affect millions of low-income Americans.

    New Research Shows Older Women Are Sleeping Less

    Alexa Lardieri | Sept. 7, 2017

    A new study shows women in their 40s and 50s aren’t getting enough sleep.

    Senate Passes Harvey Relief Package Containing Short-Term Debt Hike

    Gabrielle Levy | Sept. 7, 2017

    The legislation easily cleared the chamber after Democratic leaders struck a deal with President Donald Trump.

    Pelosi Signals Confidence in Trump Backing Dream Act

    Gabrielle Levy | Sept. 7, 2017

    The House Democratic leader said the president indicated his support for salvaging DACA protections, although he likely will seek border security measures alongside them.

    Trump Administration to Revamp Title IX

    Alexa Lardieri | Sept. 7, 2017

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the system doesn’t work for anyone.

    Senate Panel Slashes Military Aid to Egypt

    Sept. 7, 2017

    Frustrated appropriators vote to cut military assistance to Cairo by $300 million.

    Trump’s Art of Surprise

    David Catanese | Sept. 7, 2017

    The president is willing to defy his own Republican Party because he’s betting they’ve got nowhere else to go.

    Ryan: 'Hard to Make' Trump's Business Tax Work

    Andrew Soergel | Sept. 7, 2017

    The House speaker on Thursday offered up more details of a tax plan under construction in Congress.

    Bannon: Cohn Should Have Resigned Rather Than Criticize Trump

    Gabrielle Levy | Sept. 7, 2017

    The president’s former senior adviser defended Trump’s controversial response to the violence in Charlottesville, and said other advisers should do the same.

    Australia to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage

    Alexa Lardieri | Sept. 7, 2017

    A postal ballot on marriage equality will be mailed out to voters this month.

    Death Toll Rises From Hurricane Irma

    Alexa Lardieri | Sept. 7, 2017

    The Category 5 hurricane devastated the Caribbean and left thousands without water and electricity.

    Trump Calls for Lower Taxes, Political Unity in North Dakota Address

    Andrew Soergel | Sept. 6, 2017

    The president on Wednesday asked lawmakers to put country before party in lowering taxes.

    Why This NFL Star Sits For the National Anthem

    Megan Trimble | Sept. 6, 2017

    The defensive lineman's recent, personal story of alleged police brutality has gone viral.

    Trump Strikes Deal With Democrats on Debt Ceiling

    Gabrielle Levy | Sept. 6, 2017

    A three-month extension for government funding and the debt ceiling will be attached to Hurricane Harvey relief.

    Senator Reveals Opioids Inquiry Findings

    Katelyn Newman | Sept. 6, 2017

    The report on Insys Therapeutics, released by Sen. Claire McCaskill, are part of an investigation into the business practices of manufacturers of America’s top-five prescription opioids.