Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has ordered an investigation into agency’s intelligence unit which assembled reports on journalists covering the unrest in Portland.
The reports focused on the reporters’ use of leaked information about the agency’s operations in Portland where the federal deployment was denounced by local leaders and where officers had clashed nightly with protesters.
The DHS Intelligence and Analysis Directorate was ordered to halt the information collection, after Wolf was notified of the work, first disclosed by the Washington Post.
“In no way does the acting secretary condone this practice and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter,” the agency said. “The acting secretary is committed to ensuring that all DHS personnel uphold the principles of professionalism, impartiality and respect for civil rights and civil liberties, particularly as it relates to the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
Among the reporting cited in the intelligence documents, was information about the federal officers’ lack of preparation for the Portland assignment. The intelligence reports focused on the work of a New York Times reporter Mike Baker and Benjamin Wittes, the editor in chief of the Lawfare blog, according to the Post report.
The disclosure prompted Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats to demand a cache of documents related to the DHS unit’s mission and the people who carry it out.
“We have grown increasingly concerned about the role and operations of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis in particular, with regard to the protests in Portland,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Brian Murphy, DHS’ acting undersecretary, who oversees the unit.
“As a member of the Intelligence Community, (DHS Intelligence and Analysis) is obligated by statute to keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed of its operations. Given the intense national as well as congressional interest in DHS activities related to protests in Portland and around the country, documents and other information … should be provided to the committee pro-actively, and not merely in response to repeated requests or following revelations in the press.”
For weeks, state and local authorities had raised questions about tactics used by federal officers, leading to an agreement this week for federal authorities to withdraw its force from the streets of downtown Portland.Under the agreement, announced by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Wolf, state police troopers would replace the federal officers who had been posted on a perimeter ringing the federal courthouse.
At least 114 federal officers had been deployed to the city.