Members of Congress responsible for oversight of the Department of Homeland Security will introduce legislation strengthening its internal civil rights office, they announced Monday.
The move comes after POLITICO reported that a top DHS official limited the ability of that office to oversee the work of the department’s intelligence arm.
Several months ago, the department’s second-in-command constrained the ability of DHS’ Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) to review intelligence products from the department’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A). After making that change, I&A released intelligence reports to law enforcement partners with information about journalists and protesters — sparking national criticism.
On Tuesday, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Max Rose (D-N.Y.) will introduce legislation mandating reviews of I&A intelligence products by the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, they announced. The legislation will also mandate that CRCL train top I&A officials on civil rights and civil liberties, according to the release announcing their plans. Thompson chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Rose chairs its subcommittee on intelligence and counterterrorism.
“We can no longer assume that the right thing is going to happen, that this office will no longer be politicized and won’t do things that, quite frankly, infringe on people’s constitutional rights,” Rose told POLITICO. “And so we have to mandate it.”
“I would be doing this if there were a Democrat in the White House and this had happened,” Rose added. “This is ridiculous!”
The Washington Post reported last week that I&A released an intelligence report about journalists covering the department’s response to protests against racism and police brutality in Portland, Ore. The news generated concern in DHS, and department leadership removed Brian Murphy — who had been running I&A — from his post, and reassigned him. But that demotion hasn’t quelled concerns on Capitol Hill. On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee announced it has opened an investigation into I&A.