Home Politics Federal Agencies Tapped Protesters’ Phones in Portland

Federal Agencies Tapped Protesters’ Phones in Portland

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Portland looked like a war zone that summer. Phalanxes of shady police officers fired ammunition to control the crowd as plumes of tear gas rose in the sky. Federal agents with no clearly visible ID rallied protesters and loaded them into unmarked cars on American streets. As videos spread online, it was hard to tell what was going on or how far.

The public backlash was gruesome and prompted Congress to require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to disclose information about the operation. However, the DHS has never disclosed to the public the full extent of its Portland intelligence operations, which two former intelligence agencies said consisted of covert activities, including intercepting phone calls from protesters conducted by a task force that included federal agencies in addition to the DHS Officers who are familiar with the matter.

“Unknown stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing serious injuries in response to graffiti. These are not the acts of a democratic republic. [Department of Homeland Security’s] Actions in Portland are undermining its mission, “said House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi tweeted Mid-July. Later that month The Washington Post reported that DHS ‘intelligence division, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), had produced intelligence reports on several prominent journalists covering the protests in Portland. Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to know immediately what kind of intelligence they had gathered on both journalists and protesters. A Senate letter contained a suggestive admonition that the department “is required by law to keep the intelligence committees of Congress fully and currently informed of its operations”.

However, at the time of this writing, the DHS has not responded to Congress’ questions. “Notwithstanding the selective and incomplete production of documents, the committee has reason to believe that DHS and I&A are holding back responsive records of I&A activities in Portland and supporting DHS’s response to nationwide protests,” said Adam Schiff. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee wrote in a letter to the DHS intelligence department.

This does not mean that the DHS did not respond to the public fuss. Shortly after the first inquiries from Congress, the DHS shocked the national security community by removing its senior Undersecretary of State for Intelligence, Brian Murphy. Murphy was the head of I&A, the wing of the DHS that is a member of the dilute intelligence community and has the authority to process highly classified information on security threats to the United States. Although Murphy’s removal appeared to reassure Congress, the public tale that he had been removed for the purposes of intelligence reporting on journalists found some intelligence officials dubious.



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