Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
The Department of Homeland Security has become an armed extension of Trumpism.
IF CHAD WOLF, the man currently running the largest law enforcement agency in the country, had any idea of what was coming, he didn’t show it. On Wednesday, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security stood before his colleagues and delivered the 2020 “State of the Homeland Address,” detailing the many ways in which his department was living up to its post-9/11 mission and supporting President Donald Trump’s agenda. Everyone on the DHS livestream was socially distanced and wearing masks — everyone, that is, but Ken Cuccinelli, the department’s “senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary.”
Last month, the Government Accountability Office issued a report concluding that both Wolf and Cuccinelli are illegally occupying their positions atop DHS. But what the two men lack in legal authorization to work, they make up for in fealty to the president. Teeing up the crowd for Wolf’s remarks this week, Cuccinelli spoke of threats to “our cherished homeland” and said that “after decades of putting global interests ahead of the safety and the prosperity of our citizens, this administration has boldly put America first.”
Wolf, a former Transportation Security Administration lobbyist, struck a similar tone in his prepared remarks, drawing applause when he mentioned Homeland Security’s role in policing protests in Portland, Oregon, and his department’s ongoing efforts to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. The event had just barely concluded when the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence published a 24-page whistleblower complaint accusing Wolf, Cuccinelli, and other current and former DHS leaders, including former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was also present at Wednesday’s address, of illegally manipulating and politicizing intelligence to bolster the president’s talking points and policy objectives in numerous ways across multiple years.
The man behind the complaint was Brian Murphy, a war on terror veteran who ran Homeland Security intelligence operations and served as a principle adviser to the secretary of DHS and the director of national security. Though complicated by the fact that Murphy himself had previously been accused of overseeing disturbing surveillance practices earlier this year, the whistleblower complaint marked the latest revelation in a long line of stories suggesting that DHS has become the armed extension of a Trumpian political project.
Murphy’s allegations ranged from inflating the number of known or suspected terrorists crossing the border, to the suppression of intelligence on right-wing terrorists, to the stifling of reports on Russian interference in the coming election. Murphy claimed that his efforts to push back on the senior DHS officials were met with retaliation and a demotion. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chair of the intelligence committee, described his complaint as “grave and disturbing,” adding in a statement, “We will get to the bottom of this, expose any and all misconduct or corruption to the American people, and put a stop to the politicization of intelligence.”
John Sandweg, a former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the politicization of Homeland Security operations under the Trump administration has been “tremendous,” and that it first began in the border and immigration realms and steadily expanded to include militarized Border Patrol BORTAC units deployed to arrest protesters in a major American city against the wishes of local officials.
“It’s at the point now where it’s really undermining the operational capability of DHS to work with the state and local governments,” Sandweg told The Intercept. “There’s going to be repercussions.”… more