Most recently, the office came under scrutiny for not producing a bulletin or warning about the potential for violence at the US Capitol on January 6.
Asked about the lapse by CNN, a senior DHS official previously said there has “absolutely” been a concerted effort under the Biden administration to push more information from DHS to the public, as well as state and local governments.
In recent years, the intelligence branch suffered in less seen ways as well, according to a person familiar. The office became overly focused on intelligence originating from the federal intelligence community at the expense of its unique ability to capitalize on relationships with non-federal law enforcement entities.
“What I&A has is the relationships with state and local law enforcement and its ability to leverage a broad range of intelligence, law enforcement information and other data to develop unique analytic judgments on emerging threats,” the person said, adding that when the office is “doing its job well it provides tremendous value to protecting the nation.”
Under Mayorkas’ DHS leadership, the office intends to focus on developing analytic products that are valuable to state and local officials, ensuring that personnel that work closely with law enforcement across the US and expanding communication beyond bulletins to “real discussions” at the local level, the person added.
Melissa Smislova, a career official who has led the intelligence office during recent months, will return to her role as deputy undersecretary for intelligence enterprise readiness, working under Cohen’s leadership.
Smislova was left to answer for the role DHS intelligence played leading up to the deadly January 6 riot at the US Capitol. She testified to Capitol Hill committees in March that it is a “complex challenge” to distinguish between people engaged in constitutionally protected activities and those involved in violent behavior.
In a letter to the intelligence branch workforce, Cohen said the US faces a broad range of homeland threats, including increased violent activity from domestic terrorists, increased violent crime in communities across the US, disinformation campaigns by foreign actors and cyberattacks targeting government institutions and the nation’s critical infrastructure.
“Our ability to execute our mission depends on the strength of our partnerships across every level of government and the private sector, ” Cohen wrote, adding that is especially true for the intelligence office, which was established to “focus primarily on supporting the diverse stakeholders that comprise the homeland security enterprise.”
Also announced Friday, Samantha Vinograd, a former CNN national security analyst, will take over Cohen’s other role and serve as the acting assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention, while continuing to serve as senior counselor for national security.
The department is limited in how it can monitor citizens online without justification and is banned from activities like assuming false identities to gain access to private messaging apps used by extremist groups such as the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers — an ongoing challenge for federal authorities.