Schiff Alleges DHS Is ‘Stonewalling’ Whistleblower From Accessing Records Ahead of Deposition

September 25, 2020 Updated: September 25, 2020

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Thursday alleged that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been preventing former DHS acting intelligence chief Brian Murphy, a whistleblower, from accessing classified information ahead of a testimony by “stonewalling” authorization of security clearances.

The testimony is scheduled for Friday. In a letter (pdf) to Joseph Maher, who is currently performing the duties of the under secretary of the office of intelligence and analysis (I&A) at the DHS, Schiff said that if the DHS does not “comply” with requests for information, the House committee may “resort to compulsory process to compel” the requisite materials and schedule an open hearing next week with Maher.

Murphy formerly served as the acting under secretary of the I&A. Schiff had announced on Sept. 9 that a whistleblower had filed a complaint alleging suppression of intelligence reports on Russian election interference. He remains with the department in a different capacity.

In a statement released on Thursday, the House committee alleged that the DHS has not granted clearances to Murphy’s lawyers for the Friday deposition and has also “refused to turn over documents and records.”

“The Department has conditioned Mr. Murphy’s access to classified information, and his attorney’s requests for temporary security clearances, on the fulfillment of arbitrary and unnecessary requirements, thus prejudicing Murphy, and obstructing the Committee’s ability to hear his complete, classified and unclassified testimony regarding alleged wrongdoing by senior officials at the Department and White House,” the House committee statement said.

It continues, “The Department also continues to withhold documents and communications relevant to I&A’s activities in Portland, and allegations advanced by Mr. Murphy’s whistleblower reprisal complaint, including the suppression of intelligence regarding Russian efforts to influence and interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections.”

In the letter to Maher, Schiff said, “Your [The DHS’s] decision to withhold all relevant records related to this investigation and circumscribe testimony obstructs the Committee’s ability to carry out its constitutional oversight and legislative function.

“Absent your cooperation, including authorization of appropriate security clearances for Mr. Murphy’s attorneys in time for his deposition on Friday, September 25, please be advised that the Committee is prepared to resort to compulsory process to compel I&A’s production of responsive records that remain concealed from the Committee and your appearance next week at an open hearing of the Committee, during which you [Maher] will be expected to explain why the Department is preventing a whistleblower from providing classified testimony by stonewalling authorization of clearances to his personal attorneys and your own knowledge and involvement in matters under investigation.”

Schiff had previously delayed the deposition for Murphy from Sept. 21 to Friday.

Mark Zaid, a lawyer for Murphy, told Reuters late on Wednesday that the DHS only agreed to give Murphy access to unclassified materials related to his work.

“All of our requests to receive one time, limited access to classified information in order for one of us to defend the legal interests of a protected whistleblower as part of a congressional deposition, have been denied,” Zaid told Reuters.

In a letter to Zaid this week Chad Mizelle, DHS’ acting general counsel, said that to consider Zaid’s request for Top Secret clearance, the Department would “need to conduct an appropriate investigation … expeditiously.”

The Epoch Times has reached out to the DHS for a response to Schiff’s allegations.

A DHS spokesperson told Reuters that the department had been cooperating in good faith and accused the committee of trying to “needlessly rush” its investigation.

“To that end, DHS has also agreed to process Mr. Murphy’s attorneys’ request for clearances, and is doing so on an expedited basis. That process, however, takes time as DHS has a duty to protect our national security interests by properly vetting anyone seeking a clearance,” the spokesman said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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