DHS official to be reassigned after intelligence collection on journalists

The Department of Homeland Security official who oversaw the intelligence division at the department is being reassigned after it was revealed his office had gathered intelligence reports on two US journalists, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Brian Murphy, who served as the acting under secretary for the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, was summoned to acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf’s office Friday night, as speculation grew that he would be moved out of his role, according to another source familiar.

Murphy is a career official who filled the position after the Senate-confirmed Under Secretary David Glawe left DHS earlier this year. It’s unclear what Murphy’s next role will be.

On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that DHS had sent Open Source Intelligence Reports to federal law enforcement agencies summarizing tweets sent by two journalists — New York Times reporter Mike Baker and Benjamin Wittes, the editor-in-chief of the blog Lawfare — who had published leaked unclassified government documents while covering the unrest in Portland, Oregon.

The collection and dissemination of information on journalists was carried out by lower level officials acting on broad guidance, the source told CNN, adding that Murphy was not fully aware until after the fact.

Wolf, who has led the department in an acting capacity since last November, sought to distance himself from the incident.

“In no way does the Acting Secretary condone this practice, and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter,” the DHS spokesperson said in a statement earlier this week.

CNN reached out to the department for comment.

On Friday, Wolf issued an internal memo directing the intelligence branch to cease collecting information involving journalists and ordered a review of the incident.

The department “will no longer identify US members of the media in our intelligence products,” he wrote in a memo obtained by CNN, adding that he is ordering an “immediate review of the circumstances surrounding the collection and dissemination of intelligence on US members of the press.”

The department’s inspector general is also investigating the incident, according to an official familiar with the matter.

The House Intelligence Committee has been “conducting rigorous oversight” of the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis for the last two weeks, including actions by Murphy, said Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, on Saturday.

“In light of recent public reports, we are concerned that Murphy may have provided incomplete and potentially misleading information to Committee staff during our recent oversight engagement,” Schiff said in part in a statement.

“We will be expanding our oversight even further in the coming days. We expect full and timely compliance from the Department and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis,” he added.

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