A rare whistleblower complaint released Wednesday detailed behind-the-scenes efforts by top Department of Homeland Security officials to build a false narrative to support President Donald Trump's bogus claims about terrorists crossing the southern border.
Brian Murphy, the principal deputy undersecretary in the department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, said in his complaint that he was told to provide intelligence reports for former Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that supported the White House's false argument of a border wall being necessary to keep out large numbers of terrorists crossing into the US from Mexico.
Despite Murphy's refusal and statements to Nielsen that the documented number of known or suspected terrorists only consisted of no more than three people — not the 3,755 she had told Congress on Dec. 20, 2018 — the former secretary knowingly made false statements to Congress on the topic again on March 6, 2019.
The complaint also says acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told Murphy to stop producing intelligence reports on Russian disinformation efforts because it “made the President look bad.”
Ken Cuccinelli, a senior official performing the duties of deputy DHS secretary, also told Murphy to modify intelligence threat assessments on white supremacists to appear "less severe" and include information on the prominence of "violent 'left wing' groups," according to the complaint.
Murphy also says Wolf told him “to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.”
CNN was the first to report on the existence and details of the complaint.
Earlier on Wednesday, Wolf gave the “State of the Homeland Address” and singled out Nielsen for her contributions to DHS. Wolf also called China a growing threat to the United States and protesters in Portland "violent rioters" who were attacking federal law enforcement officers.
Murphy claims he was later demoted from his post to assistant to the deputy undersecretary for the DHS Management Division in retaliation for not cooperating. The personnel move prompted him to file his complaint on Tuesday.
Before Murphy was demoted, the Washington Post reported that his office at DHS had compiled intelligence reports on journalists covering protests in Portland, Oregon, who published leaked and unclassified documents. The revelation prompted an immediate outcry, and former officials said the reports damaged the the intelligence office's reputation.
Murphy downplayed the reporting on the issue in the complaint, saying the reporting on the topic was "significantly flawed." Murphy said there were attempts to track publicly available reporting that had information from government sources, but that there were no efforts to surveil journalists' private data.
The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, ordered Murphy to appear before the committee later this month, saying on Twitter that the alleged actions put "our national security at risk."