DHS employees warned about safety amid family separations backlash

'Assessment is based on specific ... threats'

By TAL KOPAN AND CLARE FORAN, CNN
Alex Wong/2009 Getty Images

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Amid the furor over the policy that resulted in thousands of families separated at the border, Department of Homeland Security employees have been warned about threats to their personal safety, according to a department-wide email obtained by CNN.

In the message from Claire M. Grady, the acting deputy secretary of homeland security, on Saturday afternoon, DHS employees were given information about the security resources available to them and were provided with tips for security, like not wearing their badges in public and being on guard for risks in public and online.

"In recent days, DHS has determined there may be a heightened threat against DHS employees in response to U.S. Government actions surrounding immigration," Grady wrote.

"This assessment is based on specific and credible threats that have been levied against certain DHS employees and a sharp increase in the overall number of general threats against DHS employees -- although the veracity of each threat varies. In addition, over the last few days, thousands of employees have had their personally identifiable information publically (sic) released on social media."

The message went to the entire DHS workforce of more than 200,000, a source familiar with the message told CNN. That includes individuals who work for DHS sub-components like US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The message comes just days after President Donald Trump reversed course and signed an executive order that he said would help keep families together, a decision the President made in the wake of intense backlash against the administration's separation of undocumented parents and children at the border.

Grady's email warning of risks outlined a list of "general security awareness measures that all DHS employees can take to protect themselves while in public."

According to the email, those measures include calling 911 in the event of feeling threatened. Other advice ranged from "Always keep doors and windows locked. Be aware of unexpected changes in and around your home" to "Utilize maximum security setting on social media platforms."

At the end of the email, Grady wrote, "Keep your heads held high and focused on the Department's important missions. You are making a difference to secure our country. And in the meantime, let's continue to be security-conscious and look out for each other."

There were several days of protests at an ICE office in Portland, Oregon, earlier this week that forced the office to close, and WikiLeaks published a database of ICE employees' information this week. Protesters showed up at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's house, and pictures and at least one address of a DHS employee in public affairs have been published online.

On Tuesday night, Nielsen left a restaurant in Washington after she was confronted by protesters chanting "shame" and "end family separation."

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