House Intelligence Committee expands probe into DHS office

The House Intelligence Committee is expanding its investigation into alleged abuses and improper politicization at the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), days after the committee released a whistleblower complaint filed by a senior DHS official who alleged that he was retaliated against for refusing to suppress reports on white supremacist organizations and Russia’s election interference efforts.

“Recent developments have obligated the Committee to expand the scope of its ongoing investigation,” Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote in a letter to Joseph Maher, the senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary for intelligence and analysis. The committee over the summer began an investigation into the actions of DHS officials in Portland, Oregon, amid ongoing protests.

“The Committee’s investigation must now encompass and review a wider range of reported abuses, deficiencies, and problems, including allegations of improper politicization of intelligence and political interference in I&A’s mission and activities,” Schiff continued. He referenced the complaint by Brian Murphy, the former undersecretary of intelligence and analysis.

The committee is requesting documents, as well as transcribed interviews with I&A officials. Murphy is expected to be deposed before the Intelligence Committee on September 21.

In his complaint, filed September 8, Murphy said that he was instructed by then-Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf to withhold an intelligence notification on Russian activities because it “made the president look bad.” 

Murphy objected, the complaint says, telling Wolf “it was improper to hold a vetted intelligence product for reasons for political embarrassment.” 

He claims he was later excluded by Wolf from meetings on the subject and that the draft was ultimately edited in a “misleading” way in order to “place the actions of Russia on par with those of Iran and China,” which, Murphy says, is “inconsistent with the actual intelligence data.”  

The draft with the revised analysis was then leaked to the media, according to the complaint, which also details other instances of misconduct and intelligence manipulation by senior Trump administration officials in the White House and DHS.

DHS confirmed earlier this month that it withheld publication of a July intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies warning that Russia may try to undermine Joe Biden’s candidacy by denigrating his mental and physical health, citing “quality concerns” about the report’s sourcing. A source familiar with the draft DHS report told CBS News that the memo was withheld it because it was poorly written and thinly sourced.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio and Ranking Member Mark Warner also announced Friday that they will investigate some of Murphy’s claims.

“These allegations, if true, raise serious concerns about a potential disregard for the objectivity and impartiality of intelligence analysis and the role of I&A in the Department,” Rubio and Warner said in a letter to Maher.

Murphy was reassigned in August amid reporting that his office compiled “intelligence reports” about journalists and protesters in Portland.

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