After The Post published an online story Thursday evening detailing the department’s practices, Homeland Security Secretary Adad Wolf ordered the intelligence office to stop gathering information for journalists and announced an investigation into the matter.
“After learning of the internship, Acting Secretary Wolf instructed the DHS Intelligence and Analysis Directorate to immediately discontinue gathering information involving members of the press,” a department spokesman said in a statement. “In no way does the Acting Deputy Secretary allow this practice and he immediately ordered an investigation into the matter. The Acting Secretary is committed to ensuring that all DHS staff uphold the principles of professionalism, impartiality and respect. of civil rights and civil liberties, in particular as they relate to the exercise of the rights of the First Amendment. “
Some of the failed DHS documents that reporters posted and wrote about the shortcomings discovered in the department to understand the nature of the protests in Portland, as well as the techniques used by intelligence analysts. A memo from the department̵7;s top intelligence official, which was sent to Twitter by Lawfare’s editor, says the staff relied on “FINTEL”, an acronym for financial intelligence, as well as the “Baseball Cards” of the protesters’ finished intelligence. arrested to try to understand their motivations and plans. Historically, military and intelligence officials have used such cards for biographical files of suspected terrorists, including those aimed at deadly drone strikes.
DHS intelligence reports, which are unclassified, are traditionally used to share departmental analysis with federal law enforcement agencies, state and local officials, and some foreign governments. They do not intend to disseminate information to U.S. citizens who have no connection to terrorists or other violent actors and who are engaged in activities protected by the First Amendment, current and former officials said.
“This has no operational value,” said John Sandweg, who previously served as the department’s general counsel.
“It will simply damage the reputation of the intelligence bureau,” Sandweg said, calling the decision to report to reporters “extremely dumb.”
Officials who were familiar with the reports, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to honestly discuss them, said they were in line with the department’s aggressive tactics in Portland, and in particular the work of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, to which they worried was overstepping the bounds of its authority in an attempt to crack down on “antifa” protesters to appease President Trump. He and other senior administration officials have used that “anti-fascist” label to describe people in Portland and other cities protesting police violence, as well as others vandalizing statues and memorials to confederate the officers they consider them racist.
The reports reflect the intelligence office’s concerns about inside information leaks.
“Spreading an intelligence report, including numerous state and local law enforcement agencies, about a DHS leak to a reporter strikes me as strange,” said Steve Bunnell, who served as the department’s general counsel for three years in the Obama administration. If department officials were concerned about unauthorized disclosures, they should refer the matter to the inspector general or address it domestically, he said.
Dissemination of information about internal leaks of this nature through intelligence reports “has nothing to do with the original DHS mission,” Bunnell said.
The Bureau of Intelligence and Analysis has for years been behind jokes among the larger, more established agencies like the CIA and FBI, which compare it to a team of young athletes. The DHS office produces reports that rely heavily on unclassified, often public, sources of information that current and former officials have said have limited use.
During operations in Portland, the office has sought to expand its capabilities. Earlier this month, DHS staff were authorized to gather information on protesters threatening to damage or destroy public monuments and statues, regardless of whether they are federally owned, a significant expansion of authorities that have historically been used to protect monuments from terrorist attacks, former officials said.
Intelligence reports to journalists say they are “intended for intelligence and leadership purposes” and “are deemed necessary for the intended recipient to understand, evaluate or act on the information provided”.
One of the reporters, Times reporter Mike Baker, co-wrote an article on July 28 that revealed a DHS internal memo stating that camouflaged federal agents sent to quell the riots in Portland did not understand the nature of the protests with him. which faced.
The DHS memo described the conflict as linked to a years-long history of violence against government personnel and facilities in the Pacific Northwest by “anarchist extremists”. But she acknowledged that “we have low confidence in our assessment” when it comes to understanding the current protests in Oregon’s largest city.
“We have no knowledge of the motives for the latest attacks,” the memo said.
Baker included an image of that part of the memorandum on a Twitter thread that also linked to the Times article. The DHS intelligence report included that tweet and said Baker had posted “an in-house product of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)”.
A Times spokeswoman declined to comment.
The other reporter, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and editor-in-chief of Lawfare, had also posted various internal documents on his Twitter feed, including, on July 24, a memorandum warning department staff about not to provide information to reporters.
“The ongoing leaks regarding our work in Portland remain a major concern as they are distracted from our mission and create opportunities for others to utilize this information to their advantage,” the unsigned memo said.
The memo was written in response to reports in Lawfare and The Washington Post days ago in connection with the new instruction to gather information on the people who threatened the monuments and statues. Memo defended the authority of the intelligence office and said that its work had “informed our analysis of the sustainable threat environment [in Portland] and stopped violent attempts at attempt. “
Wittes told The Post that he did not object to the department expressing concerns about the leaks and that if officials had sent a link to Tweet in the message to employees, he would not object.
“It’s not the sharing of my tweet that worries me. It’s building it as an intelligence report for an American person that is troubling,” Wittes said.
If the department were willing to document public statements this way, what would stop DHS from “making a public record file on me?” Asked Wittes.
“I am considering my legal options and will have to say more about it at a later date,” he added.
In a subsequent tweet that was also the subject of an intelligence report, Wittes posted an internal memo by Brian Murphy, DHS acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis and a former FBI agent, announcing that officials were changing the terminology used for individuals who attacked federal facilities. The decision, Murphy wrote, was based in part on Open Source Intelligence Reports that officials had reviewed in connection with the protesters.
“We can no longer say that this violent situation is opportunistic,” Murphy wrote, adding that intelligence “overwhelmingly” led officials to believe the attackers were driven by “anarchist” and “violent antifa” ideologies.
Murphy’s findings cut off the previous DHS memo, reported by the Times, which said the department did not have enough information to know if the Portland protesters were affiliated with anti-government groups that had a history of operating in the region.
Nick Miroff contributed to this report.