Senate Democrats probing Homeland Security response to summer anti-racism protests

Mark Hosenball
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Portland Police face off against demonstrators on the 100th consecutive night of protests

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide more details on how its intelligence office responded to anti-racism protests in Portland, Oregon last summer.

The committee's Democrats said in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, obtained by Reuters, that an internal report issued in January by DHS's legal office identified "significant problems within the intelligence arm of DHS and its involvement in responding to protests in Portland, OR in June and July of last year."

Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner and the committee's six other Democrats said the report raised questions about the legality of DHS intelligence operations and the relationship between DHS's intelligence office and federal, state and local government agencies.

An official familiar with the report, which is not public, said it focused on how the office was run under Brian Murphy, who subsequently was removed from leadership.

In a whistleblower complaint, Murphy alleged that DHS leaders appointed by then-President Donald Trump abused their authority, attempted to censor intelligence reporting and pressured him to stop reporting on alleged Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. politics and instead report on alleged U.S. political interference by Iran and China.

Murphy has also said he was pressured to overplay the role of far-left groups during summer protests.

Mark Zaid, a lawyer for Murphy, on Wednesday criticized DHS's internal investigation, saying department lawyers interviewed "a very select and intentionally targeted number of people, including those who were disciplined by Mr. Murphy." He said in an email he sent DHS the names of numerous DHS employees who could praise Murphy's leadership, "but not one was interviewed."

"We hope the department's new leadership will appropriately and fairly review what happened to Mr. Murphy and we have no concerns regarding the likely findings," Zaid added.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)