• DHSFederal Judge: Chad Wolf Serving Unlawfully as Acting DHS Secretary

    Judge Paula Xinis, a federal judge in Maryland, has ruled that Chad Wolf is likely unlawfully serving as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The judge also temporarily barred the Trump administration from enforcing new asylum restrictions on members of two immigration advocacy groups. The judge said that since it is likely Wolf is serving illegally as acting DHS secretary, then the asylum restriction orders he signed may have been “promulgated without authority” and “must be set aside.” Legal experts say that if we apply Judge Xinis’s interpretation of the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) to other serving officials in the administration, there are definitely 15 who are occupying their positions illegally — and possibly 21 more, for a total of 36 officials with questionable legal authority to serve in their posts.

  • DHSRefocusing DHS to Address Today’s Threats to the Homeland

    DHS was created in 2003 to make sure that the United States does not again experience 9/11-like attack, in which nonmilitary means—four passenger aircraft— killed more Americans than died in the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The security challenges have changed since 2001. One example: As of August 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was killing as many Americans as died on 9/11— every four days. In addition to pandemics, the long-term threat to U.S. infrastructure from climate and weather changes and the increasing non-kinetic actions by nation-state adversaries seeking to undermine U.S. power, “all point to the need for the United States to make another fundamental change in how the U.S. government defends the nation and keeps the American people safe,” the authors on a new report say.

  • DHSReforming DHS

    The arrests of U.S. citizens on the streets of Portland, Oregon, by unidentified DHS personnel have raised concerns about the department, its mission, and its focus. These concerns were expressed, among others, by former DHS secretaries. Michael Chertoff, Tom Ridge, and Jeh Johnson. A new report published the Center for American Progress (CAP) recommends five immediate steps that the next administration and Congress should take to begin to refocus the department and prevent its personnel from being used in the future as federal police force.

  • Politicizing intelligenceDHS Intelligence Official Says He Was Pressured to Stop Providing Assessments of Russia’s Threat to U.S. Election

    Brian Murphy, the former head of DHS’s intelligence and analysis unit, said in a whistle-blower complaint  made public on Wednesday that he was pressured by acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf to stop providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the upcoming U.S. election. In his complaint, Murphy also says that acting DHS secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli directed agency analysts to downplay threats from violent white supremacy to make the threat “appear less severe,” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups and antifa. Murphy says that Wolf and Cuccinelli — both Trump appointees not yet confirmed by the Senate — appeared to want to shape DHS’s public announcements so they accord with the president’s language and political interests, even if modifying the department’s public announcements in this way contradicted the department’s own intelligence analysis.

  • EMP attacksCombatting Potential Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

    Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons have the potential to disrupt unprotected critical infrastructure within the United States and could impact millions over large parts of the country. DHS says it continues to prepare against evolving threats against the American homeland, most recently highlighting efforts to combat an EMP attack.

  • PERSPECTIVE: Domestic terrorismDHS Draft Document: White Supremacists Are Greatest Terror Threat

    White supremacists present the gravest terror threat to the United States, according to a draft report from the Department of Homeland Security. Betsy Woodruff Swan writes in Politico that two later draft versions of the same document — DHS’s State of the Homeland Threat Assessment 2020 — describe the threat from white supremacists in slightly different language. “But all three drafts describe the threat from white supremacists as the deadliest domestic terror threat facing the U.S., listed above the immediate danger from foreign terrorist groups.” Woodruff Swan notes that “None of the drafts Politico reviewed referred to a threat from Antifa, the loose cohort of militant left-leaning agitators who senior Trump administration officials have described as domestic terrorists.”

  • PERSPECTIVE: Countering violent extremism (CVE)To Prevent Extremist Violence in the United States, Think Beyond the Homeland Security Box

    Over the past decade, with the FBI focused on surveilling and otherwise investigating suspected terrorists, the United States has relied on the Department of Homeland Security to work with local law enforcement, municipalities and communities to strengthen their capacity to prevent violent extremism. “Our research and experience shows that the department’s emphasis on security can be counterproductive and that the most promising strategies can be found in models and partnerships led by actors not involved in security,” Eric Rosand, and Stevan Weine write.

  • CoronavirusHealth Officials Call on U.S. Government to Reverse COVID-19 Test Guidelines

    Public health departments throughout the United States are calling on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse changes the federal agency recently made to its public coronavirus testing guidelines. Earlier in the CDC announced that it would recommend stopping testing people who have been exposed to the virus but are asymptomatic.

  • Election securityPandemic Concerns and 2020 Election: Concerns Vary by Race, Education, Party Affiliation

    Although most voters say they believe that voting will be safe and that their ballot will be counted despite the coronavirus pandemic, those who question election safety and some who question election integrity appear less likely to vote, according to a new RAND survey. In addition, people who identify as Republicans are more likely to express concerns about the integrity of the 2020 elections, while Democrats are more likely to be concerned about safety—underscoring the need for election officials to communicate to the public about both issues.

  • Gender gapCOVID-19 Outcomes in Female-Led Countries “Systematically and Significantly Better”

    Female national leaders locked down earlier and suffered half as many COVID deaths on average as male leaders, according to analysis across 194 countries. The researchers say that the analysis holds even if outliers – the effective responses by Angela Merkel-led Germany and Jacinda Arden-led New Zealand, and the botched, inompetent response by the Trump administration – are removed from the statistics. The researchers note that “While this [early lockdown] may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”

  • DHSDHS Should Refocus Its Mission: Report

    A new report from the Atlantic Council about the future of DHS says that the Department of Homeland Security needs to refocus its mission to lead the defense of the United States against major nonmilitary threats. “Infectious diseases, cyber threats from hostile nation-states, threats to election security, foreign disinformation, threats to critical infrastructure from climate change, vulnerabilities from new technologies, and growing white supremacism present serious risks to homeland security,” the report argues.

  • PERSPECTIVE: DHS futureDHS’s Changing Mission Leaves Its Founders Dismayed as Critics Call for a Breakup

    The Department of Homeland Security has withdrawn its officers from the front lines of the protests in Portland, Oregon, but Nick Miroff writes that the backlash that President Trump’s intervention in the city triggered — and the lead role DHS has played in his presidency — could prove far more lasting. DHS, created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to respond to national traumas, carefully projecting a staid, strait-laced image. It grew exponentially larger and more powerful on the strength of broad bipartisan support, but Miroff says that nearly two decades later, Trump has changed that. “It was the president’s use of force in Portland last month that appeared to cross a line for DHS founders, who cringed at the department turning its powers inward against Americans,” Miroff writes. “The president has perverted the mission of DHS,” said Tom Ridge, who served as DHS first secretary under President George W. Bush.

  • ARGUMENT: Disturbing overreachI Ran the DHS Intelligence Unit. Its Reports on Journalists are Concerning.

    The intelligence arm of the Department of Homeland Security, known as the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A), has been the subject of extensive criticism recently, first for questionable intelligence support to law enforcement in Portland, Oregon, and then for its deeply problematic intelligence reports naming U.S. journalists reporting on I&A’s own actions. Gen. Francis X. Taylor (USAF, retd), who served as under-secretary of intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security from 2014 to January 2017, writes that the investigation of the mistakes DHS I&A made in Portland and in reporting on journalists “should focus not only on personnel on the ground, but—more importantly—on those who demanded that the intelligence agency depart from its guidelines,” and he adds that “it is important to distinguish between the danger of I&A acting beyond its authority and the value that the office can provide when it works well.”

  • ARGUMENT: Sidelining DHS watchdogsHow the DHS Intelligence Unit Sidelined the Watchdogs

    Several months ago, the leadership of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis asked DHS’s second-in-command, Ken Cuccinelli, to limit a department watchdog from regularly reviewing the intelligence products it produces and distributes. Cuccinelli signed off on the move, according to two sources familiar with the situation, which constrained the role of the department’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in approving the intelligence office’s work. Benjamin Wittes writes that “It is no wonder, under these circumstances, that there has been a rash of cases in which the office [DHS I&A] seems to have collected and disseminated “intelligence” on absurd subjects (including but not limited to me).”

  • ARGUMENT: Deconstructing DHSDismantle the Department of Homeland Security

    Richard A. Clarke, who served on the National Security Council for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, minces no words in calling for the dismantling of DHS. “President Trump has, often intentionally, damaged essential federal departments and agencies, driving from their ranks thousands of career civil servants who are global experts and national treasures,” he writes. But “No national institution has been more damaged than the Department of Homeland Security.” He adds: “For the patriotic, underpaid Americans working hard in the agencies of the DHS, what Trump has done to their reputations is a tragedy. The department, however, was doomed from the start.”