Aug 1, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Schiff expands oversight on "unprecedented" protest-related intelligence

Rep. Adam Schiff speaking on June 30.

Rep. Adam Schiff speaking on June 30. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called reports that the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis compiled intelligence on at least two American journalists associated with protests "unprecedented."

Why it matters: Schiff cited a Washington Post report from July 30 that noted I&A compiled intelligence reports about protesters and journalists covering protests in Portland, even though such intelligence is meant to provide information about suspected terrorists and violent actors.

Context: I&A reportedly disseminated three Open Source Intelligence Reports to federal law enforcement agencies and others that summarized tweets written by two journalists — a reporter for the New York Times and the editor in chief of legal blog, Lawfare.

  • The reports noted that the journalists had published leaked, unclassified documents about DHS operations in Portland, where federal officers and protesters have repeatedly clashed.
  • Unnamed current and former DHS officials told the Post that such intelligence reports are not intended to distribute information about U.S. citizens who have no connection to terrorism and whose actions are protected by the First Amendment.

Of note: After the Post's report, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf ordered the intelligence office to stop collecting information on journalists and announced an investigation into the matter.

  • DHS also reassigned Brian Murphy, acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, after the Post's report, according to Politico. Schiff noted that Murphy was reassigned, calling the action "abrupt."

What they're saying: “None of this is acceptable, none of this is ok, and all of it must be fully exposed and investigated," Schiff said in a statement Saturday.

  • "In light of recent public reports, we are concerned that Murphy may have provided incomplete and potentially misleading information to Committee staff during our recent oversight engagement, and that the Department of Homeland Security and I&A are now delaying or withholding underlying intelligence products, legal memoranda, and other records requested by the Committee that could shed light on these actions."

DHS did not respond to a request for comment regarding Murphy's reassignment and I&A's intelligence reports on journalists.

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