(CNN)Homeland Security official John Cohen will take over leadership of the department’s intelligence branch, an office that is still trying to find its footing after a series of controversies during the Trump administration.
In a letter to the DHS workforce, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Friday that Cohen will serve as the senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Cohen will continue serving as the DHS coordinator for counterterrorism. He held similar positions at DHS in the Obama administration and rejoined DHS in January when President Joe Biden took office.
During the final year of the Trump administration, the Intelligence and Analysis office became embroiled in a series of public controversies, starting with a revelation that the office compiled “intelligence reports” about the work of two US journalists covering protests in Portland, Oregon.
Last summer, former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf directed the intelligence branch to cease collecting information involving US members of the media and ordered a review of the incident. And Brian Murphy, who served at the time as the acting under secretary for the DHS intelligence office, was reassigned.
About a month later, in a scathing whistleblower report first reported by CNN, Murphy alleged that top DHS political appointees repeatedly instructed career officials to modify intelligence assessments to suit President Donald Trump’s agenda by downplaying Russia’s efforts to interfere in the US and the threat posed by White supremacists.
Most recently, the office came under scrutiny for not producing a bulletin or warning about the potential for violence at the US Capitol on January 6.
The DHS inspector general office is reviewing whether the Office of Intelligence and Analysis fulfilled its responsibility for providing intelligence to law enforcement for the January 6 events at the Capitol.
Asked about the lapse by CNN, a senior DHS official previously said there has “absolutely” been a concerted effort under the Biden administration to push more information from DHS to the public, as well as state and local governments.
In recent years, the intelligence branch suffered in less seen ways as well, according to a person familiar. The office became overly focused on intelligence originating from the federal intelligence community at the expense of its unique ability to capitalize on relationships with non-federal law enforcement entities.
“What I&A has is the relationships with state and local law enforcement and its ability to leverage a broad range of intelligence, law enforcement information and other data to develop unique analytic judgments on emerging threats,” the person said, adding that when the office is “doing its job well it provides tremendous value to protecting the nation.”
Under Mayorkas’ DHS leadership, the office intends to focus on developing analytic products that are valuable to state and local officials, ensuring that personn
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