DHS whistleblower testimony delayed again amid security clearance dispute

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A Department of Homeland Security whistleblower’s testimony to House investigators has been postponed a second time as his attorney awaits a top secret security clearance that he now accuses DHS of slow-walking in order to “prevent the deposition.”

The witness, Brian Murphy, has accused top DHS officials of suppressing evidence of malign Russian activity in the U.S. and downplaying white supremacist violence in order to bolster President Donald Trump’s emphasis on leftist extremism. DHS leaders have sharply denied the allegations.

Murphy was slated to testify to the House Intelligence Committee earlier this week, but the interview was postponed to Friday after his lawyer, Mark Zaid, indicated that DHS had not yet processed his request for an expedited security clearance so that they could review the classified evidence Murphy planned to discuss with lawmakers. Now, because Zaid’s request is still pending, the interview has been postponed again, and both he and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), say it’s the result of intentional foot-dragging by DHS.

“It is now clear,” Schiff said in a statement, “that DHS political appointees have commandeered the security clearance process by obstructing and delaying clearances for whistleblower attorneys as part of a transparent effort to impede the Committee’s ability to ascertain the truth about serious allegations involving senior DHS and White House officials.”

DHS rejected the notion that it is slow-walking Zaid’s clearance, and suggested that pressure to speed up an already-expedited process would require cutting corners with serious national security matters.

“DHS is cooperating with the Committee in good faith and attempting to engage through the accommodation process — what the Supreme Court has referred to as the ‘tradition of negotiation and compromise’ — between Congress and the Executive Branch,” a DHS spokesman said. “It is the Committee that is ignoring the required accommodation process and instead seeking to needlessly rush an expansive, undefined investigation.”

DHS indicated that Murphy — who was demoted by the department in July amid allegations that he deployed DHS intelligence resources to monitor journalists covering protests and riots in Portland, Ore. — did not have a “need to know” basis to access the classified information he is seeking. “His filing of a complaint does nothing to change that,” the spokesman said.

Zaid said that the reply from DHS was “simply a joke,” and accused the agency of refusing to process his expedited request for a clearance as a delay tactic.

“It is very common for this type of limited access to be permitted, especially in this type of situation, and I have been granted temporary access to TS/SCI in other cases,” Zaid said, using the shorthand for top secret and sensitive compartmented information. “That DHS did not do so is intentional and designed to prevent the deposition.”

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