A senior official at the Department of Homeland Security has alleged in a whistleblower complaint that he was pressured to alter intelligence documents, including about the threats posed by Russian election interference and white supremacist violence, for political reasons.
The official, Brian Murphy, was until last month the principal deputy under secretary in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis. But then, his whistleblower complaint alleges, he was demoted to a position in the DHS Management Division.
The complaint, which was released by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, details Murphy’s allegations of repeated abuses and retaliation from DHS higher-ups, including a current top deputy at the department, Ken Cuccinelli, and the current acting secretary, Chad Wolf.
Perhaps most explosive of the several allegations included in Murphy’s complaint are his claims that Wolf and Cuccinelli pressured him to change intelligence assessments to match President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about “antifa” (a catch-all term for anti-fascist groups), the threat posed by white supremacists, and Russian election meddling.
Though the complaint notes that much of the alleged abuses Murphy witnessed are classified, some are detailed in the document.
In March, for example, Murphy allegedly learned that a Homeland Threat Assessment was held up because Wolf and Cuccinelli were concerned about “how the HTA would reflect upon President Trump,” according to complaint.
In meetings over the summer, Cuccinelli subsequently told Murphy that he needed to “modify the section on White Supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent ‘left-wing’ groups,” according to the complaint. Murphy declined to make the changes, his complaint said.
After a meeting with Wolf about the HTA — in which Wolf asked for a copy of the document so that he could add information regarding the unrest in Portland, Oregon — Murphy alleged that he was excluded from the HTA drafting process. A subsequent draft, his complaint alleged, “will more closely resemble a policy document with references to ANTIFA and ‘anarchist’ groups than an intelligence document.”
Separately, in May, Murphy recounted how Wolf instructed him to stop providing intelligence assessments on Russia, and instead to start reporting on China and Iran, citing instructions from White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. The next month, Murphy alleged, Wolf instructed him to hold an intelligence notification regarding Russian disinformation efforts because it “made the President look bad.”
Murphy refused both instructions, he said, and Wolf subsequently took steps to exclude him from meetings on the subject, according to his complaint.
Two more sections in the complaint address the alleged politicization of the Trump administration border and asylum policy. Murphy alleged he faced pressure from then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s office to reinterpret data on border crossings to fit the administration’s belief that known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) were crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in large numbers — even though he knew that was not true. Despite his efforts, Murphy alleged that Nielsen subsequently provided false testimony to Congress about the threat of KSTs crossing the border.
Murphy’s complaint alleged that he was nearly fired for refusing to provide intelligence about KSTs that he believed was inaccurate. His now-retired supervisor, then-I&A Under Secretary David Glawe, intervened to stop it, per the complaint.
In a separate instance referenced in the complaint, Cuccinelli ordered Murphy and Glawe to fire or reassign the “deep state intelligence analysts” who authored reports on conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador that Cuccinelli believed undermined Trump’s messaging around the United States’ asylum policy. But Murphy and Glawe later agreed that firing the authors would be an abuse of authority over political differences. “Mr. Cuccinelli’s instructions were never implemented,” the report stated.
According to the complaint, Murphy is represented by Mark S. Zaid and other attorneys from Zaid’s firm, which specializes in whistleblower cases.
Read the whistleblower complaint below:
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