PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has spent years operating a relatively covert program that gathers domestic intelligence through concerning and legally questionable methods – including during the 2020 protests in Portland, according to an article published by POLITICO Monday.
This report comes months after Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., publicly shared a DHS report that investigated its methods and reasoning for collecting private information on Portlanders arrested during the 2020 protests.
The report released by Wyden divulged that former Undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy may have acted outside agency guidelines by ordering his employees to collect such private information on people.
In its Monday report, POLITICO said it reviewed documents that stated under DHS’ domestic intelligence program, officials could interview almost anyone in the United States, including “people held in immigrant detention centers, local jails, and federal prisons.” Legal experts told POLITICO that the fact that intelligence professionals can speak directly to incarcerated people without their lawyers present raises civil liberties concerns.
POLITICO also reported that a large number of DHS intelligence employees raised concerns about the legality of the work they were doing to managers and felt their concerns were not properly addressed.
Wyden, who’s a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said this new article uncovering questionable DHS practices shows the department has more explaining to do.
“These fresh reports of Homeland Security acting on its worst impulses add to the reports I released last fall that confirm the agency repeatedly abused its surveillance and law-enforcement powers,” Wyden said in a statement sent to KOIN 6 News on Thursday. “This piece documenting the concerns of multiple Homeland Security employees speaking out raises troubling questions that must be answered.”
In addition to questioning the legality of its interviewing practices, POLITICO’s report also highlighted the fact that in the summer of 2020, during the racial justice protests in Portland, DHS leadership emailed Intelligence & Analysis’ intelligence collectors and directed them to treat the protection of public monuments, memorials and statues as part of their mission.
The order came at a time when demonstrators had been toppling statues of American historical figures as acts of protest around the country.
The order was later rolled back after Murphy was ousted from the position and Joseph Maher took over for him, according to POLITICO.
Maher instructed employees to instead focus only on threats to damage federal government facilities or national monuments and icons, rather than protecting memorials and statues, POLITICO reported.