The U.S. Department of Homeland Security  has been ordered to stop gathering data on journalists who cover protests following a report on the issue from the Washington Post on Thursday.

The order came from acting secretary Chad Wolf  after he learned of the practice from the report,  according to a spokesman for the department.

The Washington Post report found that the department had been creating “intelligence reports” on journalists at the recent Portland protests using a system intended to track terrorists and other criminals.

Those reports included information about a journalist from the New York Times and the editor-in-chief for Lawfare, a blog, and featured summaries or tweets related to their coverage of the Portland protests. The reports also noted that the journalists had published leaked documents related to DHS activities in the city.

“In no way does the acting secretary condone this practice and he has immediately ordered an enquiry into the matter,” a DHS spokesman said about Wolf’s order.

“Upon learning about the practice, Wolf directed the DHS Intelligence and Analysis Directorate to immediately discontinue collecting information involving members of the press,” a DHS spokesman said. “In no way does the acting secretary condone this practice and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter. The acting secretary is committed to ensuring that all DHS personnel uphold the principles of professionalism, impartiality and respect for civil rights and civil liberties, particularly as it relates to the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Former DHS acting general counsel John Sandweg said the surveillance “has no operational value whatsoever. This will just damage the intelligence office’s reputation.”

This development comes on the heels of DHS agents being pulled from Portland after being deployed by the White House to protect a federal courthouse and arrest protesters. The agents’ tactics – which included grabbing people off the street and forcing them into unmarked vans – were roundly criticized by city and state officials, who said that the federal agents were not welcome.

Federal police guard the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland as protesters take part in a rally against police brutality late on July 24, 2020 Federal police guard the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in downtown Portland as protesters take part in a rally against police brutality late on July 24, 2020 Photo: AFP / Kathryn ELSESSER