Whistleblower Lawyer Says Homeland Security Obstacles Could Block Congressional Testimony

The Department of Homeland Security has yet to approve top secret security clearances for lawyers representing Brian Murphy, a whistleblower who headed its intelligence office, raising questions as to whether Murphy will appear for a scheduled deposition in Congress on Friday.

Murphy’s lawyer, Mark Zaid, said the department also declined a Murphy request for access to classified materials related to a whistleblower complaint he filed.

The complaint alleged that top DHS officials pressured Murphy to stop providing assessments of the threat of Russian interference in the Nov. 3 election and to play down U.S. white supremacist activity.

“All of our requests to receive one time, limited access to classified information in order for one of us to defend the legal interests of a protected whistleblower as part of a congressional deposition, have been denied,” Zaid told Reuters.

“Without our access, we cannot adequately represent Mr. Murphy and it would be malpractice to allow him to appear without counsel. DHS has effectively and intentionally blocked constitutional oversight,” he added.

Zaid said DHS only agreed to give Murphy access to unclassified materials related to his DHS work.

DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment. House of Representatives Intelligence committee chair Adam Smith sent a related letter to DHS on Wednesday.

In a September 22 letter to Zaid, Chad Mizelle, DHS’ acting general counsel, said that to consider Zaid’s request for Top Secret clearance, the Department would “need to conduct an appropriate investigation…expeditiously.”

Regarding Murphy’s request for classified material access, Mizelle said Murphy “does not have the required ‘need to know’ the classified information he wishes to review.” While DHS did not “oppose” Murphy talking to the House committee, Mizell added, “it is not necessary for him to have special access to classified documents for that purpose.”

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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