The recent public release of the Department of Homeland Security, Inspector General report on “DHS Actions Related to an I&A Intelligence Product Deviated from Standard Procedures” details how a DHS political appointee did not follow the proper processes and procedures outline in the function of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, specifically during the investigation on Russia’s interference in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

Throughout the government, there exists a bevy of positions that are presidentially appointed. Indeed, there are over 7,000 such positions, detailed within the tome, “United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions,” also known as the “Plum Book.” The book is published every four years following the presidential election, the most recent iteration is for the year 2020. A plethora of such positions exists within DHS, including seven within the Office of Intelligence & Analysis.

The expectation is that these individuals, all who are picked to fill positions of trust will help advance the vision of the Administration, while also placing the interests of the country first and foremost.

Whistleblower Murphy

In September 2020, the former principal deputy undersecretary within the I&A, Brian Murphy, filed a “Whistleblower Reprisal Complaint” following his demotion and reassignment within DHS. He alleged, that Chad Wolf, then Acting Secretary of DHS, had told Murphy that the intelligence should be “held” because it “made the President look bad.” Murphy in his I&A role, objected noting the information was a “vetted intelligence product.” At the time of Murphy’s whistleblower complaint, the report which the IG is referencing had been expanded beyond the topic of Russian interference to include the actions of China and Iran. This inclusion, according to Murphy’s complaint, was made in “a manner that is misleading and inconsistent with actual intelligence data.”

In November 2021, Murphy withdrew his whistleblower complaint having reached an agreement with DHS.

DHS IG review

The IG’s review came to the same conclusion. “DHS did not adequately follow its internal processes and comply with applicable IC policy standards and requirements when editing and disseminating an I&A intelligence product regarding Russian interference with the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. “

Wolf’s actions served to dilute the report’s content in an attempt to ameliorate the Russian interference as the same or equal to that of Iran or China, while at the same time delaying the dissemination of the report, multiple times. The end result being, the published piece left the “perception of a lack of objectivity or an attempt at political influence” according to the DHS Analytic Ombudsman’s review.

DHS IG recommendation

The DHS IG only had one recommendation:

“Working with the Office of the Secretary and “group of four” oversight entities as appropriate, identify and implement changes to the review and dissemination process for I&A’s election-related intelligence products to ensure they are in accordance with applicable policies and guidelines.”

I&A concurred, with implementation completed NLT December 30, 2022

“I&A’s Research Director, on behalf of the Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence Enterprise Operations, leads I&A’s corporate analytic program, which includes analytic tradecraft and production processes. The Research Director, in coordination with leadership; I&A’s Strategy, Policy, and Plans Branch; and with appropriate legal, privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties oversight entities, will review and adjust or issue policies and procedures, as needed, to ensure the following: (1) safeguarding intelligence products from inappropriate interference; (2) preventing distortions and/or delays to intelligence products; and (3) mitigating the perception of politicization of any I&A intelligence products, including those related to elections. I&A will also develop training for all I&A personnel, DHS oversight entities, and DHS leadership regarding policies and procedures designed to prevent politicization of intelligence and intelligence processes.”

In a DHS statement, provided to CBS News, “This troubling report raises concerns over the prior Administration’s inappropriate interference in the review and clearance process for an intelligence product…the Department of Homeland Security is focused on ensuring the safety and security of communities across our country, while conducting our work with integrity and in ways that protect privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. Since January 2021, DHS has renewed its commitment to providing accurate, timely, and actionable information and intelligence, free from politicization and bias, to the public and our partners across every level of government, in the private sector, and local communities.”

Intelligence independence

Processes and procedures exist to prevent exactly what the IG identified: alleged insertion of political considerations into finished intelligence analysis. Such actions hamstring the intelligence analysts who are trained to present the facts, along with their unvarnished analysis. The attempt to guild the intelligence product or obfuscate the conclusions results in diminishing the value of the instant product and brings into question the value of future products produced by the office.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of