A whistleblower within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is alleging that at least two of the agency’s politically-appointed officials instructed employees within the department to revise intelligence assessments to better fit statements and narratives made by President Donald Trump.
Specifically, higher-ups at the department demanded changes in order to hype antifa (an umbrella term for those with beliefs in opposition to fascism) as a bigger threat to the U.S. than they actually are and to downplay the threat posed by white supremacists to the country.
Brian Murphy alleges in his 24-page complaint that when he refused to alter intelligence assessments he said were requested of him by acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, he faced retaliation for his objections.
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“The protected disclosures that prompted the retaliatory personnel actions at issue primarily focused on the compilation of intelligence reports and threat assessments that conflicted with policy objectives set forth by the White House and senior Department of Homeland Security,” Murphy’s complaint reads.
Murphy states in his complaint that he refused to make the changes that were asked of him in a draft report on domestic terror threats in the U.S. Following his refusal, both Wolf and Cuccinelli halted that report from being made public.
There were concerns by Wolf and Cuccinelli, Murphy alleges, that emphasis on the threat of white supremacist groups and individuals would reflect disfavorably on Trump.
The complaint also alleges that there was “a repeated pattern of abuse of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis and improper administration of an intelligence program related to Russian efforts to influence and undermine United States interests.”
Drafts of the report halted from publication obtained by the website Lawfare demonstrate that changes were indeed planned when it came to language on white supremacy. In the first draft, for example, direct references to such groups were explicitly stated.
“Lone offenders and small cells of individuals motivated by a diverse array of social, ideological, and personal factors will pose the primary terrorist threat to the United States,” the first draft read. “Among these groups, we assess that white supremacist extremists – who increasingly are networking with likeminded persons abroad – will pose the most persistent and lethal threat.”
In subsequent drafts, however, that paragraph was changed, replacing “white supremacist extremists” with the less specific terminology of “Domestic Violent Extremists.”
None of the three drafts obtained by Lawfare, however, referred to antifa as a significant threat to the country.
The Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee is requesting that Murphy testify about his complaint. Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) decried the alleged actions of Cuccinelli and Wolf in a statement on Wednesday.
“We will get to the bottom of this, expose any and all misconduct or corruption to the American people, and put a stop to the politicization of intelligence,” Schiff said.
Trump has made a number of baseless comments about the supposedly violent actions of antifa in the U.S., announcing on May 31 that he would be designating the organization (which, again, doesn’t exist in a formal way) as a terrorist group. That designation, however, has not yet been officially made.
The president has also pushed conspiracy theories in recent weeks alleging that individuals in “dark shadows” had attempted to cause “damage” to the Republican National Convention (RNC) last month. It’s unclear how Trump developed that theory, however, because there is no evidence to support that allegation.
Trump’s descriptions of the supposed conspiracy against the RNC, however, do align with a number of baseless claims made on Facebook that members of antifa were planning to cause harm to local communities. Those posts have been discredited, although they did lead to some violent altercations between Trump supporters and individuals they wrongly identified as belonging to the fictional version of antifa.