Watchdog: Acting DHS Secretary Delayed Report on Alleged Russian Interference in 2020 Elections

© AP Photo / Shawn ThewActing Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf is sworn in before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee during his confirmation hearing, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 on Captiol Hill in Washington.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf is sworn in before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee during his confirmation hearing, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 on Captiol Hill in Washington. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.05.2022
An intelligence report in question claimed that "Russian malign influence actors" were circulating rumors about then-candidate Joe Biden's health in order to undermine voters' trust in him. Russia was allegedly employing both overt and covert channels, and the activities were identical to those carried out during the 2016 presidential election.
According to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, DHS acting Secretary Chad Wolf, appointed by former President Donald Trump, delayed a report on the alleged Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election in a way that gave the watchdog an impression that information was politicized.
The document, released last week, said that employees of DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis made changes to the analysis of foreign election interference "that appear to be based in part on political considerations, potentially impacting I&A’s compliance with Intelligence Community policy."
Acting Secretary Wolf, who is, however, not identified in the study, "participated in the review process multiple times despite lacking any formal role in reviewing the product, resulting in the delay of its dissemination on at least one occasion," according to the inspector general's report.
More to that, the analysis asserted the release of the study was twice postponed on Wolf's orders.
"In one of these instances, the Acting Secretary asked for the product to be “held” from its pending release on HSIN during a July 8, 2020 meeting," the report said. "We determined that the Acting Secretary’s involvement led to the rare occurrence of I&A ceasing dissemination of a product after it had already been approved by the mission manager and circulated via advanced notification."
Other officials added a "tone box" (used for "related, ancillary information that is not essential to [the] main story but enriches the understanding of the reader"), which described efforts by Chinese and Iranian influence players to spread narratives about then-President Donald Trump's mental health.
"The tone box is the only part of the product where Iran and China, as well as President Trump, are discussed,” the document read.
Investigators were unable to conclude that Wolf or other officials acted for political reasons, according to the IG report. Rather, it concludes that their acts were responsible for the perception of politicization.
“DHS did not follow its standard process and requirements when editing and disseminating an I&A intelligence product regarding Russian interference with the 2020 US Presidential election. The Acting Secretary disrupted dissemination of the product when he asked for the product to be ‘held’ during the July 8 meeting,” they wrote.
According to the report, "this resulted in a delay in the dissemination of an intelligence product intended to inform stakeholders about foreign influence efforts relating to the 2020 US Presidential election."
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An ombudsman within the DHS intelligence office questioned if the intelligence report had been politicized, according to the watchdog's investigation.
“Given the structure, vagueness, and use of a ‘balancing’ tone box, there are some questions about objectivity and freedom from political consideration,” the ombudsman reportedly reasoned. "In particular, the piece seems to almost avoid the main message that is made explicit in the key judgment — that Russian influence actors are targeting the Democratic candidates in 2020."
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