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House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests

House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests
© Greg Nash

The House Intelligence Committee is launching an investigation into the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) response to protests in Portland and other cities across the United States.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Intel heads to resume threats hearing scrapped under Trump | New small business coalition to urge action on antitrust policy | Amazon backs corporate tax hike to pay for infrastructure Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden tasks Harris on border; news conference today MORE (D-Calif.), the panel's chairman, in a letter said he wanted information on DHS's intelligence activities, including how it had monitored protesters, and its reported dissemination of intelligence reports on journalists and protesters, saying its actions had gone "well beyond the Department’s traditional missions.”

“Let me be clear: the reporting regarding the monitoring of peaceful protesters, creating and disseminating intelligence reports about journalists and protesters, and potential exploitation of electronic devices is deeply troubling," Schiff wrote in the letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfIntel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye passage of infrastructure bill; health experts warn of fourth coronavirus wave Russia suspected of massive State Department email hack: report MORE and Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) acting Undersecretary Horace Jen. 

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“The revelations thus far require a full accounting, and, if substantiated, must never be allowed to occur again. The Committee is therefore initiating, pursuant to its unique oversight and legislative authority, an investigation of I&A’s activities in Portland and in support of the Department’s response to protests nationwide,” Schiff wrote.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schiff notes that while the I&A initially cooperated and provided some documents and briefings to the panel, their cooperation has "since decreased significantly." He also said that the information provided and additional public reporting has only "heightened our alarm."

Schiff's letter also raised concern about reports that a top intelligence official, who has since been reassigned, was seeking to change the contents of intelligence reports. 

The panel is seeking to hear from at least nine DHS officials in the month of August, including former acting Under Secretary for I&A Brian Murphy. Politico reported that Murphy is behind changes to intelligence reports.

Schiff wrote that he wanted information from DHS by Monday, including the remaining records that had previously been requested by the panel.

The chairman concluded his letter by noting that the panel will consider “all options necessary to obtain compliance—including compulsory process.”