Aug. 1 (UPI) — The Department of Homeland Security is removing its acting chief of intelligence and analysis amid criticism of his office’s role in responding to civil unrest in Portland, Ore.
As of Saturday, Brian Murphy was still listed as Acting Under Secretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy on the DHS website.
But the Washington Post has reported that DHS Secretary Chad Wolf has removed Brian Murphy from his role following a series of reports about how his office responded to nightly protests in the city.
Most recently, the reports surfaced reported that DHS had compiled “intelligence reports” on journalists who published leaked documents, and that the agency had monitored protesters’ electronic communications.
On Saturday House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the committee had been conducting an investigation into Murphy and his department for more than two weeks.
“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, and that the Department of Homeland Security and I&A are now delaying or withholding underlying intelligence products, legal memoranda, and other records requested by the Committee that could shed light on these actions,” Schiff said in the statement.
The demonstrations have been part of a nationwide protest against police brutality and racism following the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Tensions between demonstrators and police — who had used tear gas and other means of crowd dispersal repeatedly in late May and throughout June — were high before the arrival of federal officers in early July.
After DHS agents arrived in the city, viral videos showed officers — who have dressed in military gear have not worn badges revealing their names or agencies — appearing to arrest protesters without probable cause, drawing criticism from city officials and the public.
Video also shows federal agents shooting a protester, who was holding a boom box over his head during the incident, in the head with a rubber bullet and sending the man to the hospital.
On July 23 U.S. District Judge Michael Simon blocked federal agents from arresting and using force against clearly identified journalists in Portland for 14 days.
A group of journalists and legal observers has filed a motion accusing federal agents of defying that order.
On Wednesday Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced federal officers would begin a phased withdrawal from the city beginning Thursday.
Wolf said later that day that DHS would remain in the city “until the violent activity toward our federal facilities end.”
On Friday DHS published a press release saying federal officers had been present to protect the federal courthouse as part of a collaboration agreement with Oregon State Police and the Portland Police Bureau, but described the protests as peaceful and not resulting in any arrests.