Chairman Schiff Announces that Committee Will Begin Compulsory Process and Schedule Open Hearing with Acting I&A Head if DHS Continues to Obstruct Investigation
Department Has Not Granted Clearances to Whistleblower’s Lawyers for Friday Deposition, Refused to Turn over Documents and Records
Washington, September 24, 2020
Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, made public a letter to Joseph B. Maher, the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis (I&A). The letter advises the Department of Homeland Security (DHS or Department) that the Committee may resort to compulsory process and schedule an open hearing with Maher next week if the Department does not cooperate fully—including by turning over documents and providing appropriate temporary security clearances for the lawyers to Brian Murphy. Murphy, a whistleblower and Maher’s predecessor as the Acting Under Secretary of I&A, is slated to testify before the Committee on Friday, September 25.
The Department has conditioned Mr. Murphy’s access to classified information, and his attorney’s requests for temporary security clearances, on the fulfillment of arbitrary and unnecessary requirements, thus prejudicing Murphy, and obstructing the Committee’s ability to hear his complete, classified and unclassified testimony regarding alleged wrongdoing by senior officials at the Department and White House. The Department also continues to withhold documents and communications relevant to I&A’s activities in Portland, and allegations advanced by Mr. Murphy’s whistleblower reprisal complaint, including the suppression of intelligence regarding Russian efforts to influence and interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections.
In the letter, Schiff wrote:
“…the Committee has a responsibility to independently investigate and substantiate allegations of such a serious nature, and your office has an obligation to comply. Your decision to withhold all relevant records related to this investigation and circumscribe testimony obstructs the Committee’s ability to carry out its constitutional oversight and legislative function.
“Absent your cooperation, including authorization of appropriate security clearances for Mr. Murphy’s attorneys in time for his deposition on Friday, September 25, please be advised that the Committee is prepared to resort to compulsory process to compel I&A’s production of responsive records that remain concealed from the Committee and your appearance next week at an open hearing of the Committee, during which you will be expected to explain why the Department is preventing a whistleblower from providing classified testimony by stonewalling authorization of clearances to his personal attorneys and your own knowledge and involvement in matters under investigation.”
On August 3, 2020, the Committee launched an investigation into I&A’s activities, including its actions in Portland and involvement in the Administration’s response to protests nationwide, and requested a series of documents, including finished intelligence and raw intelligence reports. On August 19, 2020, following a limited production of documents by DHS, the Committee officially requested additional documents, and interviews with senior officials.
On September 9, the Committee released Mr. Murphy’s complaint to the DHS Inspector General, which alleges serious wrongdoing by officials at the Department and reprisal against for making protected disclosures, Mr. Murphy then filed a supplemental clarification to his complaint, which can be found here. The 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 where Mr. Murphy previously served as Principal Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Under Secretary, until he was abruptly reassigned to DHS’s Management Directorate in August of this year.
The Committee conducted its first scheduled interview on September 10 and has conducted two additional interviews since, and the Department has produced additional, although limited, documents to the Committee. On September 18, the Committee requested additional documents and informed the Department it would schedule additional interviews.
Read the full letter here, or below:
September 23, 2020
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:
Contrary to your statutory obligation as the head of an element of the U.S. Intelligence Community, you have failed to keep the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (“Committee”) fully and currently informed of intelligence activities undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS” or “Department”) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (“I&A”) and you have failed to furnish to the Committee, pursuant to its requests, responsive information and material concerning such activities.
I&A continues to withhold numerous documents and communications within the possession, custody, or control of the Department or I&A that refer or relate to the factual allegations advanced in the whistleblower reprisal complaint filed by your predecessor, Brian Murphy. These include, among others, records relating to the Department and I&A’s involvement in suppressing, manipulating, or otherwise interfering in intelligence reporting, analysis, and dissemination regarding Russian efforts to influence and interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections. I&A also continues to withhold responsive records related to I&A’s activities in Portland and in support of DHS’ response to nationwide protests.
The Department’s decision, moreover, to impose arbitrary and unnecessary requirements on Mr. Murphy and his attorneys prior to authorizing temporary security clearances for Mr. Murphy’s attorneys has obstructed the Committee’s ability to hear comprehensive testimony, particularly of a classified nature, from a whistleblower alleging wrongdoing by the most senior officials at the Department. Due to the Department’s delay, the Committee had to reschedule Mr. Murphy’s deposition from Monday, September 21 to Friday, September 25.
Although the Department informed Mr. Murphy’s attorneys yesterday that it “plans to process” their request for temporary security clearances at the appropriate level and that the Department “does not oppose Mr. Murphy appearing before” the Committee, the Department has made such authorization contingent on an unspecified “investigation” of unknown scope and duration, which the Department indicated today is “not yet complete”—even though the Committee’s rescheduled deposition of Mr. Murphy is on Friday, September 25. The Department also continues to refuse to allow Mr. Murphy and his attorneys to review any classified documents in preparation for the deposition. DHS’s refusal to make these documents available, and its insistence on imposing spurious bureaucratic hurdles prior to granting attorney clearances in time for the deposition, deprives Mr. Murphy of his ability to be represented by counsel and is a transparent effort to delay the deposition, obstruct the Committee’s investigation, and bury the truth.
Relatedly, the Department’s claim that Mr. Murphy does not have the required “need to know” the classified information he wishes to review is baseless. The classified information in question is central to his allegations as a whistleblower and his testimony before the Committee, and therefore relate to information and documents that Mr. Murphy previously accessed, reviewed, or approved as the former Acting Under Secretary of I&A.
Additionally, the Department continues to insist on limiting and circumscribing which officials the Committee should hear from. As a result, the Committee sent letters on September 18 directly to nine officials requesting their testimony before the Committee. The Committee expects them to appear on the specified dates for their transcribed interviews.
As I stressed in my September 18, 2020 letter to you, the Committee has a responsibility to independently investigate and substantiate allegations of such a serious nature, and your office has an obligation to comply. Your decision to withhold all relevant records related to this investigation and circumscribe testimony obstructs the Committee’s ability to carry out its constitutional oversight and legislative function.
Absent your cooperation, including authorization of appropriate security clearances for Mr. Murphy’s attorneys in time for his deposition on Friday, September 25, please be advised that the Committee is prepared to resort to compulsory process to compel (1) I&A’s production of responsive records that remain concealed from the Committee and (2) your appearance next week at an open hearing of the Committee, during which you will be expected to explain why the Department is preventing a whistleblower from providing classified testimony by stonewalling authorization of clearances to his personal attorneys and your own knowledge and involvement in matters under investigation.
During our September 9, 2020, meeting, you pledged that I&A would cooperate with the Committee’s broadened investigation, and I sincerely hope that you will fulfill your legal obligation by cooperating in full with the Committee’s oversight and investigative requests.