Homeland Security officials altered intelligence reports about border security, White supremacy and Russian interference in the U.S., a senior department official claims in a new whistleblower complaint released Wednesday by congressional Democrats.
Brian Murphy, who used to lead the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and is facing controversy himself, says former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen disregarded his research and misled Congress by claiming thousands of potential terrorists have crossed the border, in an attempt to justify border wall construction.
Mr. Murphy says his research showed at most three “derivative” terrorism suspects had crossed the border.
He also says current acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf ordered him several months ago to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference” and instead provide information on Chinese and Iranian efforts. According to Mr. Murphy, Mr. Wolf said those directives came straight from the White House.
The whistleblower says Ken Cuccinelli, the No. 2 official at the department, asked him to fire employees who wrote a report on the security situation in Central America that Mr. Murphy says didn’t match President Trump’s needs.
And Mr. Murphy says Mr. Cuccinelli ordered him to change a homeland threat assessment that labeled White supremacy a serious danger.
“Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically 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,” says the whistleblower complaint, filed with the Homeland Security inspector general and released by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Homeland Security denied the accusations.
“The department generally does not comment on the specifics of OIG referrals, but we flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy’s claim,” spokesman Alexei Woltornist said. “DHS looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr. Murphy.”
Mr. Murphy, in his complaint, also names Miles Taylor, a former deputy chief of staff, as being involved in some of the misleading intelligence. Mr. Taylor has since become a major backer of Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, complaining that Mr. Trump was a bad manager.
The Biden campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Murphy was ousted from his intelligence job in August after it was revealed that his office had compiled reports on journalists covering the protests in Portland, Oregon.
He also reportedly ordered his staff to change the wording of reports from “violent opportunists” to “violent antifa anarchists.”
His new post is assistant to the deputy undersecretary for management.
In his complaint, Mr. Murphy says his demotion was retaliation for standing up to Ms. Nielsen, Mr. Wolf and others, and for complaining about their behavior to the inspector general.
Democrats have done an about-face on Mr. Murphy.
A month ago Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, accused him of a “shocking misuse” of his office.
On Wednesday, though, Mr. Thompson piled on Mr. Murphy’s claims, calling them “damning — but wholly unsurprising.”
“Trump administration officials are consistently prioritizing the president’s personal and corrupt priorities over our national security,” Mr. Thompson said, also calling for Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli to resign their jobs.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the new complaint publicly and said Mr. Murphy has been called to testify.
“Mr. Murphy’s allegations are serious — from senior officials suppressing intelligence reports on Russia’s election interference and making false statements to Congress about terrorism threats at our southern border, to modifying intelligence assessments to match the president’s rhetoric on Antifa and minimizing the threat posed by White supremacists,” Mr. Schiff said.
The California Democrat said the accusations are particularly troubling because the Trump administration recently announced it would refuse to do in-person classified election security briefings for Congress, and would only provide them in writing.
Mr. Schiff said those written products are now suspect, based on Mr. Murphy’s description of behind-the-scenes manipulation.
Meanwhile, questions about Homeland Security downplaying the threat from White supremacists have swirled for months.
Mr. Wolf, delivering the annual State of the Homeland address on Wednesday, said the department isn’t ignoring it.
“DHS stands in absolute opposition to any form of violent extremism, whether by white supremacist extremists or anarchist extremists,” he said.