One of the reporters, Mike Baker of the New York Times, had leaked a leaked DHS memo that discussed the confusion among federal agents sent to Portland. The memo showed that the camouflaged officers had little understanding of the nature of the demonstrations requested of them from the police.
The second reporter was Benjamin Wittes, who edits the National Security Lawfare blog. He had also released leaked DHS documents, one of which was a note warning department officials not to release information to reporters.
It was only after the Post ran its bombshell article that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of DHS, issued a statement saying he was immediately ending the practice of collecting information about members of the press and ordered an investigation into what had happened.
The revelation that DHS officials were not only monitoring the work of reporters covering Portland, but disseminating their findings in the form of “intelligence reports” normally reserved for terrorism suspects or foreign adversaries, sparked an immediate outcry.
In a Twitter thread, Wittes said he was considering his legal options. He called the content of the information gathered from his reports “harmless enough” but said what troubled him was that DHS officials shared his work “as intelligence reports … If this activity is acceptable, is it acceptable to compile a complete public record of information about a journalist?
Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, argued that this was just the tip of an iceberg. “An agency that is so cavalier in compiling Intel reports on establishment numbers like these almost certainly compiles more comprehensive reports on others.
Ned Price, a former CIA intelligence officer who acted as Barack Obama’s special assistant in the White House, said he never advised a colleague in the intelligence community to quit his job . “But if that’s what you’re being asked to do, you absolutely must quit.”
The relationship between the Trump administration, the federal agents – dubbed “Trump’s troops” – sent to Portland, and the press has been troubled on several levels. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing DHS for the brutal treatment inflicted on reporters covering the events at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Portland.
The ACLU complaint says federal agents, led by a border patrol, assaulted journalists in violation of a court order. Several members of the press were shot at point blank range despite being clearly identified as journalists and photographers.