President Trump's Department of Violent Goons Investigates Tweets of Portland Journalists

A demonstrator is pepper sprayed by DHS troops before being arrested on July 29, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.
A demonstrator is pepper sprayed by DHS troops before being arrested on July 29, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.
Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez (AP)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent local police departments in Oregon at least three intelligence reports about the journalism and tweets of reporters in Portland over the past week, according to the Washington Post. The intelligence reports included tweets from journalists at the New York Times and Lawfare as well as other information, including likes and retweets. The journalists were apparently targeted for publishing unclassified DHS documents about plans to effectively treat protesters like terrorists.


DHS and its sub-agencies like CBP and ICE have received criticism over recent weeks for violent attacks against peaceful protesters and illegal arrests made with unmarked vehicles in Portland—the kinds of tactics more typically seen in authoritarian countries. President Donald Trump has vowed to clamp down on civil rights protests, not just in Portland but around the country, and often refers to anti-fascists (or “antifa”) as “terrorists.”

The Department of Homeland Security, perhaps best known as an agency that has overseen the deaths of at least seven children in custody held under horrifically sadistic conditions, told the Post that it will discontinue the practice of issuing intel reports about journalists to local police.

“In no way does the Acting Secretary condone this practice and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter,” a spokesperson for the DHS told the Post.

Chad Wolf, the acting head of DHS, has proved to be an able and willing executor of President Trump’s agenda of white supremacy and cruelty to children since his ascension to the role in November of 2019. Wolf helped create the family separation policy that caused intense psychological trauma for hundreds of asylum seeking families and has drawn scorn from human rights groups around the world. Many children are still lost in the system and some may never see their parents again, according to former U.S. government officials.

Wolf is currently in his position almost certainly illegally because he’s never been confirmed by the U.S. Senate and his time as an interim Secretary has technically expired. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act says that people at Cabinet-level positions can only serve for up to 210 days without Senate approval, while Wolf has been in the job for 261 days and counting. Some experts believe his appointment was illegal to begin with, since his predecessor was only an “acting” secretary as well, never receiving Congressional oversight.

The Post reports the intelligence reports on journalists in Portland were compiled by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, a sub-agency established in 2007, five years after Homeland Security was created in 2002. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis is often ridiculed within the broader intelligence community for being lightweights and a “junior varsity” team, according to the Post.


DHS, which has recently detained separated children at hotels in Texas, was founded ostensibly to protect the United States from international terror threats after the attacks of September 11, 2001, but has become increasingly weaponized for domestic purposes over the past two decades. And lately Trump has turned DHS into his own national police force.

Strangely enough, Wolf may be publicly promising to investigate his agency’s infringement on the First Amendment, but he did so on the same day the U.S. Justice Department sought permission to strip protections from journalists under the argument that protesters in Portland were posing as journalists to avoid having to “disperse,” which would effectively prevent journalists from doing their jobs of continuing to document police violence.


Trump’s vow to put down the protests that are happening across the country seems to have little to do with protecting the rule of law and instead appears to be a ploy to galvanize white reactionaries before the November presidential election. Coincidentally or not, the three cities where Trump has recently promised to send troops are all in swing states, including Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan.

But DHS insists that everything it’s doing is in the name of freedom and the American way, according to the statement sent to the Washington Post.


“The Acting Secretary is committed to ensuring that all DHS personnel uphold the principles of professionalism, impartiality and respect for civil rights and civil liberties, particularly as it relates to the exercise of First Amendment rights,” the DHS spokesperson said.

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog



It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything even close to romantic notions about America as the “land of the free” or anything like that, but even I’m kind of surprised at how willing so much of the country has been to just normalize, and even celebrate, fascist-adjacent behavior. Really, if Trump put any effort into it at all, and had even a little bit of political savvy, we’d basically he an authoritarian state by now.

Speaking of which, where are all the guns rights folks who insisted, during the Obama administration, that they couldn’t accept any gun control because they needed to be armed to the hilt to defend against the onset of fascism?  What part of secret police kidnapping people do they not understand?