Networks Ignore Report That Obama Was Briefed on ISIS Going Back ‘at Least a Year’

On Tuesday night, the three major broadcast networks omitted from their coverage on the Islamic group ISIS a report that President Barack Obama has received briefings on the terrorist organization “for at least a year before the group seized large swaths of territory over the summer.”

ABC, CBS, and NBC all led their evening newscasts with multiple segments on the gruesome murder of American journalist Stephen Sotloff at the hands of ISIS in a propaganda video released on Tuesday afternoon. Over on the Fox News Channel (FNC), Special Report with Bret Baier aired three segments on the story, including a report from chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge. [MP3 audio here; Video below]

Herridge, who first reported the news earlier during the day on Tuesday, cited “a former Pentagon official” who said that what the President received in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) on intelligence matters was “strong and ‘granular’ in detail” regarding the threat ISIS posed. 

In addition, the official said that “a policymaker,” such as the President, would be unable to “come away with any other impression: This is getting bad.”

Here’s more from an article by Herridge that was published on FNC’s website: 

Obama, unlike his predecessors who traditionally had the document briefed to them, is known to personally read the daily brief. The former Pentagon official, who has knowledge of the process, said Obama generally was not known to come back to the intelligence community with further requests for information based on the daily report. 

The claims come as the Obama administration continues to launch airstrikes against Islamic State targets in northern Iraq and weighs whether to expand that campaign, particularly into Syria. 

The president's team has publicly suggested that the group only recently gained in strength, accounting for why Obama earlier this year dismissed such extremists as akin to a "JV" team. 

But after suggestions that the administration may have been blindsided by the rise of ISIS, and that poor intelligence was to blame, the former Pentagon official said some of the intelligence was so good in the region, that when the president drew a red line on chemical weapons use in Syria in 2012, the information was "exquisite."

The source said "[we] were ready to fire, on a moment's notice, on a couple hundred targets," but no order was given. In some cases, targets were tracked for a "long period of time" but then slipped away.

The execution of Sotloff comes two weeks after another American journalist, James Foley, was murdered in a video released by the group and included a threat that Sotloff would be killed if President Obama did not cease U.S. air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq.


The complete transcript from the report that aired on FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier on September 2 is transcribed below.

FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier

September 2, 2014

6:01 p.m. Eastern

BRET BAIER: But we begin with another example of ISIS savagery and the taunting of the President. Chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge is here tonight. Hello, Catherine.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE: Well, thank you, Bret. Steven Sotloff's family seemed to be bracing itself for the worst news tonight. A spokesman said they are aware of the video and grieving in private. The new video called “A Second Message to America” purports to show the execution of journalist Steven Sotloff, a masked terrorist knife in hand stands next to him and the video end with a horrific image of a head placed on top of a bloody body. While the intelligence community analyzes the video, the White House offered condolences, but no confirmation that it's genuine.

WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN JOSH EARNEST: I'm not in a position to confirm the authenticity of that video or the reports. At this point, our prayers, first and foremost, are with Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Sotloff’s family and those who worked with him.

HERRIDGE: Two weeks ago, ISIS threatened to kill Sotloff at the end of the Foley execution video if the U.S. continued air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. Another hostage, believed to be British, is shown at the end of this latest video and there is a warning from the executioner to those joining a U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, quote, “our knife will continue to strike the next of your people.” The apparent execution of two Americans at the hands of Islamic extremists known as ISIS, or ISIL, seem to give more credence to complaints from Capitol Hill that the President is too cautious. The State Department was asked whether it amounts to an act of war. 

STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN JEN PSAKI: I'm not going to again put new labels on it. I think it's clear that we are concerned about the threat of ISIL to western interests, to interests in the region. 

HERRIDGE: Earlier, a former Pentagon official told Fox News the detailed and specific intelligence about the rise of ISIS was included in the president's daily brief, also known as the PDB for at least a year before the group took large swaths of territory in June. The official said the data was strong, adding a policymaker such as the president, who often takes his brief electronically, could only conclude the situation was getting bad. Today, neither the White House nor the Pentagon denied the claim, emphasizing they were on top of the situation

PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY: We’ve talked about ISIL for many months now and as I’ve said before, we were very closely monitoring and tracking their progress, their growth, their development, well before they rolled into Mosul. So, this is not an organization that we haven't been watching. 

HERRIDGE: On whether the administration delayed acting on the Foley rescue, as first reported by the Sunday Times of London, the former Pentagon official said a heavily-defended compound was identified and believed to be holding Foley and other potentially captives, but the White House was hesitant and continued to ask for more intelligence and, within the last few minutes, we've had confirmation from the White House that the President has been briefed on the latest execution video from ISIS before heading overseas, Bret.

BRET BAIER: Catherine, thank you. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is a news analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division