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Chairman Schiff Statement on DOD Response to Inquiries Regarding Protests

Washington, DC, June 15, 2020

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released a letter from Joseph D. Kernan, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security at the Department of Defense.

The full letter from Under Secretary Kernan can be found here. Following a staff briefing today, Chairman Schiff released the following statement:

“We applaud Under Secretary Kernan for the Department’s timely and thoughtful response, and for briefing the Committee today. Our overriding concern continues to be the protection of Americans’ civil liberties and constitutional rights, and ensuring that intelligence authorities and capabilities designed to target our foreign adversaries are not being inappropriately used against protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.

“In his letter to us, Under Secretary Kernan confirmed that defense intelligence components have not been asked by anyone in the Administration or DOD to undertake any unlawful or inappropriate intelligence activities, and that in fact, none of the combat support agencies – NSA, DIA, or NGA – have received any requests for DOD support to civil authorities in relation to the recent domestic civil disturbances. We also appreciate the Department’s commitment to promptly notify Congress and to promote transparency with the American public in the event any such support is requested of a defense intelligence component.

“Our country faces a myriad of foreign bad actors attempting to interfere in our political process, and those threats are only likely to increase as we approach the 2020 elections. Constant vigilance, robust congressional oversight, and greater transparency will be necessary to combat that interference. It was reassuring to hear Under Secretary Kernan's assurance that the 'internal coordination group' described in media reporting focused on the grave threat of foreign interference in our political processes, not on the domestic political activities of U.S. persons.”

Schiff earlier this week sent a letter to Kernan requesting detailed information on any activities the Defense Intelligence Enterprise may have undertaken or plans to undertake, or for which support has been requested, in connection with the federal government’s response to nationwide protests following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans by police officers. Schiff’s letter comes after the Administration’s recent deployment of the National Guard and federal law enforcement personnel and the Administration’s pre-positioning of active duty military units to respond to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial discrimination towards Black Americans in the United States.

In the letter he sent earlier this week, Schiff requested information from and assurances that the Department and other combat support agencies are not providing support to domestic-focused activities by military or federal law enforcement components involved in responding to the protests, including to monitor, assess, or otherwise track Americans who are taking to the streets or otherwise engaging in constitutionally-protected activity within the United States. Schiff also requested information about whether the agencies received inquiries, requests, or direction of any kind from the Administration, the Department of Defense, or other federal departments or agencies to begin planning or preparing for such support.

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