National Security

DHS taps new head for intel office

Greg Nash

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is tapping a new head for its intelligence operations, a shift in leadership for a wing of DHS that has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

In a letter to staff, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced John Cohen will lead the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) in addition to his role as the coordinator for counterterrorism.

Cohen’s title is officially listed as senior official performing the duties of the under secretary, a designation that sidesteps the formal nomination process and leaves the top intelligence office for the department without a Senate-confirmed leader six months into the new administration.

While DHS has issued numerous bulletins under the Biden administration warning about risks tied to domestic terrorism, I&A has been criticized for failing to issue warnings ahead of the January riot. Under the Trump administration, the office also came under fire for its involvement in surveilling protesters in Portland, Ore., along with journalists covering them.

Cohen previously served at DHS during the Obama administration, working as the acting under secretary and principal deputy under secretary of I&A.

Melissa Smislova, the acting official that had been leading the office, will return to her role as deputy under secretary for intelligence within I&A.

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