The former head of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging that senior officials at DHS are asking analysts to alter intelligence reports to support political goals. Among the most disturbing of these claims are allegations that DHS officials downplayed reports containing possible Russian election interference and reported instead on Chinese and Iranian interference activities.
Whistleblower Brian Murphy filed the report on September 8, after being demoted on August 1 from the position of Principal Deputy Under Secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis to the role of Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary for the DHS Management Division. Murphy claims that this demotion was retaliation for disclosures he made to individuals up the chain of command at DHS and for concerns he brought to the Office of the Inspector General of DHS.
Murphy is a career public servant with an until-now spotless record of service in the Marine Corps, FBI, and DHS. His complaint alleges that his boss, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, instructed him to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.” Murphy also claims Wolf told him these instructions came from White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien. Murphy identifies this exchange as merely one of the multiple times that he witnessed abuses of authority and instances of improper administration while working at DHS.
Murphy’s complaint also details other instances when top DHS officials misrepresented information in service of a political agenda. He claims that former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen knowingly overrepresented a terrorist threat to Congress. On October 29, 2018, Murphy claims that he was asked to “ensure the intelligence assessments he produced for Secretary Nielsen’s review supported the policy argument that large numbers of Known or Suspected Terrorists (KSTs) were entering the United States through the southwest border.” Before Secretary Nielsen’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on December 20, Murphy met with her and other DHS officials to prepare for the session. At the meeting, Murphy claims that he clarified for Secretary Nielsen the difference between a Special Interest Alien (SIA) and a KST. An SIA is a migrant who comes from a country where there is a terrorist threat, but there is no evidence that they are a terrorist themselves. Murphy says that at her testimony Secretary Nielsen purposefully conflated SIAs as KSTs to make the threat appear more serious than it was, saying that there were 3,755 KSTs crossing the southwestern border when the intelligence only supported a claim of 3 KSTs at the time.
The whistleblower complaint also alleges that Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, the second-in-command at DHS, instructed Murphy to modify a March 2020 Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA) in a way that would downplay White Supremacist threats and activities. “Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically modify the section of the HTA on White Supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent ‘left-wing’ groups.” Murphy claims that Wolf and Cuccinelli removed him from the HTA project when Murphy told them he would not accept their edits to the HTA. Although the HTA has not been made public, the complaint states: “It is Mr. Murphy’s assessment that the final version of the HTA will more closely resemble a policy document with references to ANTIFA and “anarchist” groups than an intelligence document as originally formulated by DHS I&A.”
A spokesman for the DHS rejected Murphy’s claims, stating that the DHS “looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation, and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr. Murphy.” House Democrats have asked Murphy to testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee in private on September 21.