Privacy | Protest | Surveillance

DHS Reassigns Official Who Collected Intelligence Reports on Journalists and Protesters

A senior Department of Homeland security official has been removed from his position for compiling intelligence reports on journalists and protesters in Portland, Oregon.

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official, whose agency compiled reports on journalists and protesters in Portland, Oregon, has been removed from his position as the acting undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I & A), according to The Washington Post. 

While leading I & A, Brian Murphy compiled intelligence reports on two journalists–a New York Times reporter and Lawfare’s editor-in-chief– who had published leaked department documents. The intelligence reports described the journalists’ tweets and the number of times they’d been liked and retweeted. Murphy also compiled reports analyzing protesters’ electronic messages that discussed tactics such as which routes to follow and how to avoid the police. 

“It’s not the sharing of my tweet that’s disturbing. It’s the construction of it as an intelligence report on a U.S. person that’s disturbing,” Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare, told The Post

According to The Post, intelligence reports are typically used to share information about suspected terrorists and violent actors among federal agencies. When officials higher up in DHS learned that Murphy was using the government system to surveille journalists, they ordered him to stop. 

“Upon learning about the practice, Acting Secretary Wolf directed the DHS Intelligence & Analysis Directorate to immediately discontinue collecting information involving members of the press,” a department spokesman said in a statement issued on July 31st. “In no way does the Acting Secretary condone this practice and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter. 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.”

The Washington Post