DHS withheld intel about election interference cleared for the public with no explanation
2020/09/07 | Update
DHS withheld a July 2020 intelligence bulletin for months. The bulletin should have alerted the public to Russian attacks on Biden’s mental health.
Not sharing information about a known foreign-state sponsored propaganda campaign is troubling, but it's all the more so because Trump's campaign has repeatedly engaged in a similar line of attack. Leaked emails have raised questions for which no good answers exist.
The information was scheduled for public disclosure on July 9, 2020, but the July 7 email (pictured below) instructed the reader to speak with AS1 before release.
While it’s not clear what happened exactly. The bulletin and the intel stayed secret. Even months past the planned release date, the bulletin had still failed to circulate.
Who is AS1?
AS1, better known as Chad Wolf, held the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security position at the time the bulletin was withheld. Perhaps an unlikely candidate, Wolf held a BA in history and lacked relevant work experience. Instead, Wolf had worked for over two decades as a lobbyist.
At least one of Wolf’s previous employers received $160,000,000 in contracts from Homeland Security during his time at the position.
Before accepting the appointment in DHS, Wolf worked as a lobbyist who intentionally replaced American workers by bringing in immigrants to work for less.
Although it’s technically illegal to displace American workers, there’s a loophole—the loopiest of holes. An employer can displace US workers if the immigrant has H1-B status, and a subcontractor employs them.
Unwelcome words from the GAO
The Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency often called the “Congressional watchdog,” released a statement after it found that AS1 had been appointed illegally.
Ordinarily, Congress would prevent, or at least ask hard questions concerning, the approval of unqualified parties. The oversight of the selections of the president is most critical for positions like those in DHS leadership; however Congress never approved AS1.
Wolf served in the position anyway, seemingly ignoring that he had not been legitimately appointed. Still, the report from the GAO provoked a heated response from Wolf.
DHS responded by demanding the GAO rescind the assessment. The hostile request was noteworthy for its personal attacks on the GAO staff’s qualifications. The letter failed to refute the chief concern of the GAO, which was that succession had been unlawfully subverted.
Changing up succession in other roles
The head of Homeland was not the only position to see irregular succession. Wolf attempted to change the order of succession for the position of Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.
The change was not something Wolf had the authority to change, but the Trump administration accepted the unlawful change made by an unlawfully appointed official to unlawfully place yet another official, Ken Cuccinelli–a rather exceptional number of unlawfuls.
Cuccinelli also appeared in the GAO report for the same reason as Wolf, illegal appointment.
The Committee for Homeland Security condemned the violations
The Chairpersons on the Committee for Homeland Security wrote of concern about still more abuses of power. Both Cucinelli and Wolf continued to display a willingness to push the limits of legality. Their actions concerned watchdog organizations, human rights organizations, and ally countries.
The Committee for Homeland Security penned a letter condemning the violations of First Amendment rights and DHS’s collection of intelligence on American journalists who later suffered injuries.
A letter to the Inspector General of the Homeland Security members of the Committee read:
“To restore the faith of the American public in DHS, it is imperative that the DHS OIG swiftly investigate the matters referred to it by GAO. We request that you brief our Committees no later than September 4, 2020, on your office’s investigative plan. Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.”
The bipartisan “Rubio Report” from August 2020, detailed actions Russia had taken in 2016 and that they are likely to take in 2020. Rubio said upon releasing his report:
“As we head towards the 2020 elections, China and Iran have joined Russia in attempts to disrupt our democracy, exacerbate societal divisions, and sow doubts about the legitimacy and integrity of our institutions, our electoral process and our republic.”
Pre-bunking beats a fact-check
The most troubling part of withholding intelligence about the Russian attack on the public was like also a rational for scheduling the information’s immediate release.
Forewarning helps us identify and defend against these kinds of attacks. We also more readily accept ideas that are both repeated and “first.”
Even if we get better information or evidence to the contrary, we give a message we heard first an advantage without knowing it.
Documents related to “DHS Manipulated Report on Russian Election Interference, Watchdog Says”
- May 2022 - Trump's DHS Manipulated Report on Russian Election Interference, Watchdog Says
- May 2022 - DHS Actions Related to an I&A Intelligence Product Deviated from Standard Procedures
- Mar 2021 - Intelligence assessment of disinformation prior to the 2020 election
- Sept 2020 - Letter to DHS Wolf “about the apparent politicization of the Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A) with regard to its responsibility to produce and disseminate impartial intelligence and law enforcement products”
- Sept 2020 - DHS Russia Intel Sept 3 2020 Voting with Redactions
- Sept 2020 - Committee on Homeland Security writing to Wolf about withholding intel from public
- Aug 2020 - GAO report stating that Wolf and Cuccinelli served unlawfully in DHS
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