PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Unredacted reports from the Department of Homeland Security show that federal agents “spied” on Oregonians who participated in the 2020 protests in Portland and collected lists of their friends and family, travel history, social media and other records, Sen. Ron Wyden, D.-Ore., said.
Wyden’s office released new details about the surveillance and interrogation of Portland demonstrators by Department of Homeland Security agents on Thursday.
The two reports DHS made regarding Portland protesters had been previously released, but with key information redacted and kept from the public.
The unredacted reports were released publicly Thursday and show the surveillance of Portland protesters in 2020 was far broader than previously known.
“Oregonians had a right to get a full accounting of the Trump Administration’s twisted efforts to provoke violence in Portland for his political gain,” Wyden said in a statement. “Now the public knows much more about how political DHS officials spied on Oregonians for exercising their First Amendment right to protest and justified it with baseless conspiracy theories. Undersecretary Wainstein deserves credit for following through on his commitment to me to review the last administration’s unnecessary redactions and release these important details.”
Wyden accused Trump-appointed officials at DHS of endorsing baseless conspiracy theories as an excuse to violate Oregonians’ civil rights.
The two reports included “Office of Intelligence and Analysis Operations in Portland,” by the DHS intelligence office from 2021, and a review by DHS Office of General Council.
The redactions reveal that DHS officials proposed developing dossiers known as Operational Background Reports, or OBRs, for everyone who attended protests.
DHS never followed through with this plan, but the report shows it did create dossiers on people who were arrested.
After racial justice protests erupted in Portland in late May 2020 over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minn., DHS deployed law enforcement to the city to help protect federal facilities that were being targeted by demonstrators.
The DHS report focuses on whether information collected about Portlanders at the time was within the guidelines that govern the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
According to the report, Acting Undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy ordered Current and Emerging Threat Center staff to produce “Baseball Cards” or OBRs for anyone arrested or charged for violent acts related to attacks on critical infrastructure, law enforcement resources, or for potential acts of domestic terrorism.
Brian Murphy, who was acting undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the time of the protests, directed reports regarding Portland to use “Violent Antifa Anarchist Inspired” as a term of reference, according to the report.
The 2021 report found that there were significant irregularities surrounding this practice and said that information was collected, retained and possibly disseminated about people who were arrested for offenses that were seemingly unrelated to homeland security.
“Convinced that there was a coordinated effort to commit violence, Mr. Murphy’s intended purpose was to use the OBRs to confirm his suspicions that a link existed amongst the arrestees and identify a single individual or group that was ‘masterminding’ the attacks,” the report states.
The report says Murphy gave little to no guidance when he conveyed the new directive.
On June 4, 2020, the report said an email was issued tasking Current and Emerging Threat Center staff to create “a baseball card EVERY TIME there is a confirmed attack on law enforcement officers.”
The Field Operations Division provided the Current and Emerging Threat Center with the subjects for the OBRs. Staff was asked to complete the OBR template, which included information on a person’s travel history, U.S. passport number and immigration status, according to the report.
DHS says staff used a social media aggregation tool to compile information from each subject’s available social media profiles and merged the information to form a complete OBR.
The report said it collected information on the subjects’ interest, their friends and family, and some of their posts.
Several Current and Emerging Threat Center staff voiced their concerns over the legality of such an intrusive collection of information on protesters who were arrested for trivial criminal infractions that had little to no connection to domestic terrorism, the report states, according to the report, and that some employees refused to work on the OBRs, because their concerns were so serious.
These concerns were raised to the Intelligence Law Division, which also noticed red flags about the report. Chief among the Intelligence Law Division’s concerns was labeling the arrested protesters as “anarchist extremists” without sufficient facts to support such a characterization, the report says. They were also worried about the collection of the account names of each subject’s friends and followers and interest groups from social media.
DHS said that Murphy wanted to collect information on the protesters to demonstrate that the violence in Portland was not random and that the individuals were connected, but “hunches or intuitions are not sufficient bases for collection.”
The report says an analyst from the Field Operations Division was tasked with developing a “link chart” of those arrested to meet Murphy’s directive, and the analyst determined immediately that the OBRs “were thrown together. Didn’t even know why some of the people were arrested.”
The report found that while Murphy worked as undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis, he created a toxic work environment. It said he often criticized and haragued his subordinates and junior analysts in public, refused to listen to counter viewpoints, made decisions abruptly and ignored data that did not comport with his perceived analysis.
According to the report, some people called him a bully and others said it was “his way or no way.”
After leaked reports showed DHS Intelligence and Analysis was engaging in intelligence activities outside the scope of its mission in Portland, the report said Murphy was temporarily reassigned from Intelligence and Analysis to a different position in DHS.
When he was asked about complaints against him and the issues identified in the report, DHS said Murphy blamed prior mismanagement of Intelligence and Analysis, DHS leadership, his subordinates and other offices at DHS.
Read the full DHS report
The report said its findings show the Intelligence and Analysis branch of DHS is an organization in need of repair. In the future, DHS said Intelligence and Analysis needs leaders who will restore trust and confidence in its workforce and its partners. It strongly recommends never allowing Murphy to return to Intelligence and Analysis in any capacity.
KOIN 6 News has requested comment about the report from DHS and is still waiting on a response. The article will be updated if the agency provides comment.