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Homeland Security leaders downplayed threats from Russia and white supremacists, whistleblower says

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf listened to Hondura’s President Juan Orlado Hernandez during a press conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jan. 9. Brian Murphy, the former head of the intelligence branch of the Homeland Security Department, said in a whistleblower complaint filed on Tuesday that he was directed by Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the department, to stop producing assessments on Russian interference.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf listened to Hondura’s President Juan Orlado Hernandez during a press conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jan. 9. Brian Murphy, the former head of the intelligence branch of the Homeland Security Department, said in a whistleblower complaint filed on Tuesday that he was directed by Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the department, to stop producing assessments on Russian interference.

WASHINGTON >> Top officials with the Department of Homeland Security directed agency analysts to downplay the threat of violent white supremacy and of Russian election interference, according to a whistleblower complaint filed by a top intelligence official with the department.

Brian Murphy, the former head of the intelligence branch of the Homeland Security Department, said in a whistleblower complaint filed on Tuesday that he was directed by Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the department, to stop producing assessments on Russian interference. The department’s second highest ranked official, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, also ordered him to modify intelligence assessments to make the threat of white supremacy “appear less severe” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups, according to the complaint, which was released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee.

Murphy, who was removed from his post in August after his office compiled intelligence reports on protesters and journalists in Portland, Oregon, asserted in the complaint that he was retaliated against for raising concerns to superiors and cooperating with the department’s inspector general. He asked the inspector general to investigate.

“The protected disclosures that prompted the retaliatory personnel actions at issue primarily focused on the compilation of intelligence reports and threat assessments that conflicted with policy objectives set forth by the White House and senior Department of Homeland Security” officials, Murphy’s lawyers wrote in the 24-page complaint.

The department has stalled in releasing an implementation plan on combating white supremacy and other forms of domestic terrorism for nearly a year. Hours before the release of the complaint, Wolf highlighted the threat of “white supremacists extremists or anarchists extremists” in an annual address summarizing the work of the department. He said the department would release a blueprint to combat the threats this week, although it was not clear if it would be made public.

The complaint was released on Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, which said it detailed violations of law and abuses of authority that put “our nation and its security at grave risk.”

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