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House Intelligence Committee Expands Investigation into Political Interference and Politicization of Intelligence at Department of Homeland Security and Office of Intelligence and Analysis

Following Whistleblower Complaint, Committee Requests 11 Additional Interviews with DHS Officials

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence, sent a letter to Joseph B. Maher, the senior official performing the duties of the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, advising the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) that the Committee has expanded its investigation. 

In the letter, Schiff informed Mr. Maher that in addition to investigating I&A’s expanded intelligence activities, including its actions in Portland and involvement in the Administration’s response to protests nationwide, the Committee would be expanding its investigation into 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. 

In the letter, Chairman Schiff writes:

“…Recent developments have obligated the Committee to expand the scope of its ongoing investigation. The Committee is continuing to probe I&A’s activities in Portland and in support of the Department’s protests nationwide, as outlined in the Committee’s August 3, 2020 letter to Mr. Chad Wolf immediately prior to the announcement of your appointment.  However, based on information that has recently come to light, 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.

“In particular, the Committee is reviewing allegations contained in a whistleblower reprisal complaint submitted on September 8, 2020, to the Department’s Office of Inspector General on behalf of your predecessor, former Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy. The misconduct and abuses detailed in the complaint occurred as early as 2018, continued through this year, and have been longstanding subjects of Committee oversight: intelligence reporting, analysis, and dissemination regarding foreign influence, interference, and threats regarding the 2020 U.S. elections, and any interference in this crucial mission; misuse of intelligence authorities and resources; and the suppression, manipulation, or misrepresentation of intelligence information for improper political ends.

“As a result, the Committee will need to address during its interviews and depositions of Department officials and other witnesses not only matters related to I&A’s activities in Portland and in support of the Department’s protests nationwide; but also the range of matters raised in Mr. Murphy’s reprisal complaint and any other related matters that may arise in the course of the investigation and that fall within the jurisdiction of the Committee.  I appreciated your pledge during our meeting, and since reaffirmed by Department personnel, that I&A will cooperate with the Committee’s expanded investigative focus.” 

This expansion comes on the heels of additional press reporting and a whistleblower reprisal complaint by a senior DHS official. The whistleblower reprisal complaint depicts a sustained and disturbing pattern of misconduct by senior Trump Administration officials within the White House and DHS relating to the activities of DHS’s I&A—an element of the U.S. Intelligence Community which Mr. Murphy led from May until August of this year, before he was reassigned to DHS’s Management Directorate, and where he previously served as Principal Deputy Under Secretary beginning in March 2018. The complaint alleges repeated violations of law and regulations, abuses of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis, and improper administration of an intelligence program related to Russian efforts to influence the U.S. elections.

This week, on September 9, Chairman Schiff met with Joseph Maher to discuss the Committee’s investigation, and its expanded scope. During the meeting, Mr. Maher pledged that I&A would cooperate with the Committee’s expanded investigative focus. In the letter, Schiff requests 11 additional interviews with relevant officials, including Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Horace Jen, I&A Chief of Staff Matthew Hanna, DHS Chief of Staff John Gountanis, and DHS Deputy Chief of Staff Tyler Houlton. These interviews are in addition to previous interviews and documents the Committee has requested.

On August 3, 2020, the Committee launched an investigation into I&A’s expanded intelligence activities, including its actions in Portland and involvement in the Administration’s response to protests nationwide, and requested a series of documents and raw intelligence reports. On August 19, 2020, following a limited production of documents by DHS, the Committee officially requested additional documents, raw intelligence reports and finished products, and requested interviews with senior officials.

On September 9, the Committee released a whistleblower reprisal complaint alleging serious wrongdoing by officials at the Department and reprisal against former I&A Acting Under Secretary Brian Murphy for making protected disclosures, and was provided by Mr. Murphy a supplemental clarification, which can be found here. The Committee conducted its first scheduled interview on September 10 with additional interviews scheduled next week, and the Department has produced additional, although limited, documents to the Committee. The Committee expects the Department to continue cooperating with its investigation.

The full letter can be found here, and the text is below:

Mr. Joseph B. Maher
Principal Deputy General Counsel and Senior Official
Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis
Office of Intelligence and Analysis
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Mr. Maher:

I appreciated the opportunity to meet on September 9, 2020, and to discuss your vision for the Department of Homeland Security’s (“Department” or “DHS”) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (“I&A”), as well as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s (“Committee”) oversight and investigative priorities. As I clarified during the meeting, recent developments have obligated the Committee to expand the scope of its ongoing investigation.

The Committee is continuing to probe I&A’s activities in Portland and in support of the Department’s response to nationwide protests, as outlined in the Committee’s August 3, 2020 letter to Mr. Chad Wolf immediately prior to the announcement of your appointment.[1] However, based on information that has recently come to light, 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.

In particular, the Committee is investigating allegations contained in a whistleblower reprisal complaint submitted on September 8, 2020, to the Department’s Office of Inspector General on behalf of your predecessor, former Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy. The misconduct and abuses detailed in the complaint occurred as early as 2018, continued through this year, and concern subjects of Committee oversight: intelligence reporting, analysis, and dissemination regarding foreign influence, interference, and threats regarding the 2020 U.S. elections, and any interference in this crucial mission; misuse of intelligence authorities and resources; and the suppression, manipulation, or misrepresentation of intelligence information for improper political ends.

As a result, the Committee will need to address during its interviews and depositions of Department officials and other witnesses not only matters related to I&A’s activities in Portland and in support of the Department’s response to nationwide protests; but also the range of matters raised in Mr. Murphy’s reprisal complaint and any other related matters that may arise in the course of the investigation and that fall within the jurisdiction of the Committee.  I appreciated your pledge during our meeting, and since reaffirmed by Department personnel, that I&A will cooperate with the Committee’s expanded investigative focus.  

The Committee also appreciates the commitment made yesterday by a Department attorney that the Director of the Homeland Identities, Targeting, and Exploitation Center (“HITEC”) will return, in a timely manner, for a follow-on transcribed interview to address matters in addition to those related to I&A’s activities in Portland. The Committee also expects that the two transcribed interviews already scheduled by the Committee for next week—with Deputy General Counsel Ian Brekke and the current official serving as Director of the Counterterrorism Mission Center—will occur as planned and that the interviewees will answer questions within the expanded scope of the investigation.

In addition, the Committee requests that the following officials be made available for transcribed interviews. This list includes officials referenced in the Committee’s August 3 and August 19 letters, as well other officials of interest to the investigation in light of new information.

  • Mr. Horace Jen, the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis;
  • Mr. Matthew Hanna, Chief of Staff, I&A;
  • Mr. John Gountanis, Chief of Staff, DHS;
  • Mr. Tyler Houlton, Deputy Chief of Staff, DHS;
  • Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence Enterprise Operations;
  • Director of the Cyber Mission Center;
  • Analytic Ombudsman;
  • Director of the Field Operations Division;
  • Regional Director and any other I&A officer principally responsible for I&A activities with respect to DHS operations in Portland;
  • Director of the Current and Emerging Threats Center; and
  • Associate General Counsel for Intelligence, Office of General Counsel.

Finally, with regard to Mr. Murphy, who is scheduled to be deposed by the Committee on September 21, 2020, consistent with the rules and procedures of the Committee and the House of Representatives, the Committee also asks that you expedite the request submitted on September 9, 2020, by his attorneys to receive appropriate security clearances in advance of his deposition. In light of some of the allegations in the complaint, the Committee will need to ask, and Mr. Murphy will need to answer, questions involving classified information. 

As I underscored during our meeting, the Committee appreciates I&A’s cooperation to date, including to produce and facilitate review of additional documents responsive to the Committee’s requests, and we welcome your pledge to continue cooperation as the Committee exercises its lawful oversight responsibilities in investigating the full range of allegations and developments now under review.

Committee staff will follow up with your office to coordinate the witness interviews and ongoing document production.


[1] Letter from Chairman Adam B. Schiff to Mr. Chad Wolf and the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Horace Jen, August 3, 2020, available at: https://intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/20200803_chm_letter_to_murphy_wolf_re_civil_liberties.pdf .

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