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Lawyers for U.S. Homeland Security whistleblower get security clearances

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Department of Homeland Security emblem is pictured at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) located just outside Washington in Arlington, Virginia September 24, 2010. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for a former Department of Homeland Security intelligence chief who says he was ordered to skew intelligence to support Trump Administration political messaging have been granted high-level security clearances, one of the lawyers told Reuters on Friday.

DHS approval of Top Secret clearances for two lawyers for whistleblower Brian Murphy means that the lawyers should be able to access classified materials Murphy worked on when he served earlier this year as acting DHS undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, said Mark Zaid, one of Murphy’s lawyers.

Zaid said DHS is still working on a Top Secret clearance for a third Murphy lawyer. Murphy was transferred out of DHS’ intelligence office in late summer but still works for the department

Murphy said in a Sept. 8 whistleblower complaint that President Donald Trump’s acting DHS chief, Chad Wolf, told him to stop providing assessments of the threat of Russian interference in the Nov. 3 election in part because it “made the President look bad.” Wolf also asked Murphy to play down U.S. white supremacist activity, the complaint said.

In both matters, Murphy said he refused to comply with Wolf’s instructions.

The House Intelligence Committee, led by Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, planned to conduct a closed-door deposition of Murphy in September but postponed the session while Murphy’s lawyers awaited security clearances and Murphy sought access to documents he worked on in his previous position at DHS.

Spokespeople for DHS and Schiff had no immediate comment.

Zaid said that even though members of Murphy’s legal team now have Top Secret clearances, DHS was squabbling with Schiff’s committee over its access to documents that are unclassified but that the department has deemed “privileged.”

Zaid said it was nonetheless likely the committee would depose Murphy before the end of the year.

Reporting By Mark Hosenball

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