The Department of Homeland Security restricted the flow of "election-related threats" to law enforcement prior to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to a DHS memo from October.
The memo said that all open-source intelligence reports — such as threats made by social-media users — needed to be reviewed due to First Amendment concerns before being shared with law enforcement.
Now, government watchdogs are raising questions because the former DHS intelligence chief who wrote the memo, Joseph Maher, serves as a staff member for the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning watchdog group, obtained a copy of Maher's memo and shared it with CNN.
"Because of the very real concerns about apparent failures to disseminate and act on intelligence in the leadup to the January 6 insurrection, this memo raises important questions about the intent behind the change, the origins of it, and the effect this policy change had on intelligence dissemination," CREW President Noah Bookbinder told the network. "The January 6 select committee should consider these questions."
Mark Zaid, an attorney who represents a DHS whistleblower, added: "Maher was in charge. So how can he be a staffer on the Committee investigating whether (DHS) failed in its job?"
Zaid's client, Brian Murphy, filed a complaint last year alleging that former president Donald Trump's DHS appointees "repeatedly instructed career officials to modify intelligence assessments to suit Trump's agenda by downplaying the threat posed by White supremacists," according to CNN.
The Select Committee has defended Maher's role as a staffer, and a spokesman for the panel said he will be recused from matters involving DHS, which has come under intense scrutiny for security failures related to the insurrection.
A bipartisan Senate report on the security failures concluded that DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which Maher led, "'never produced an intelligence product, bulletin, or warning specific to the January 6 Joint Session of Congress."
"One I&A official informed the Committees that he was 'not aware of any known direct threat to the Capitol before January 6,' despite many online posts mentioning violence," the Senate report stated.