On March 21, 2022, the Brennan Center submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), and the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) seeking full and unredacted copies of four reports related to I&A’s activities during the summer of 2020 protests.
I&A is a component of DHS that carries out surveillance within the United States in support of “authorized intelligence missions,” including counterterrorism. It shares information with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial entities, many of which are law enforcement agencies. Because I&A focuses on activity within the United States that often closely overlaps with political speech, it must take particular care to stay true to its specific security mission and observe constitutional limits on what it may do.
I&A transgressed these limits in the summer of 2020 during its scrutiny of racial justice protests in Portland, Oregon. Prompted by an executive order signed by President Trump, I&A issued guidance justifying intelligence gathering to address the supposed “significant threat to homeland security” posed by racial justice demonstrators vandalizing monuments, memorials, and statues. The disclosure of this guidance raised alarms in Congress and among the public. I&A’s intelligence reporting on two journalists covering this guidance – and what emerged more broadly about its activities connected to the 2020 protests in Portland – ultimately triggered several oversight efforts. These include a review by the DHS general counsel, an investigation by the OIG (not yet released), and disclosure obligations as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
Relatedly, the OIG released a report on March 4, 2022, detailing I&A’s failure to disseminate intelligence products to law enforcement agencies before the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. As part of its analysis, the OIG contrasts I&A’s reticence to release information regarding credible threats in the run-up to the insurrection with I&A’s intelligence collection on nonviolent protesters and journalists in Portland.
Nearly two years later, the public continues to lack a complete understanding of I&A’s activities in Portland during the summer of 2020. The Brennan Center seeks information from DHS, I&A, and the OIG, including full and unredacted copies of:
- The DHS Office of General Counsel’s Report on DHS Administrative Review into I&A Open Source Collection and Dissemination Activities during Civil Unrest Portland, Oregon, June through July 2020.
- A report prepared on behalf of the Secretary of Homeland Security on April 20, 2021, pursuant to the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2021, Office of Intelligence and Analysis Operations in Portland.
- The DHS OIG report, if completed, examining I&A’s inappropriate dissemination of open-source intelligence reports on journalists in the summer of 2020, as referenced in the January 6, 2021, report by the Office of General Counsel.
- The DHS OIG’s report from March 4, 2022, I&A Identified Threats prior to January 6, 2021, but Did not Issue Any Intelligence Products before the U.S. Capitol Breach.
Read the FOIA request here.
Department of Homeland Security
Updated March 29, 2022: On March 21, 2022, DHS acknowledged its receipt of the Brennan Center’s FOIA request.
Office of Intelligence & Analysis
Updated March 29, 2022: On March 21, 2022, I&A acknowledged its receipt of the Brennan Center’s FOIA request.
DHS Office of Inspector General
Updated March 29, 2022: On March 21, 2022, OIG acknowledged its receipt of the Brennan Center’s FOIA request.