The Department of Homeland Security is using hard-earned tax dollars to smear and censor Americans they deem guilty of spreading “mis-, dis-, and malformation,” House Republicans on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability say.
DHS debuted a Disinformation Governance Board in April of 2022 with the intent to curb dissent via pressure on Big Tech companies. After facing pushback from free speech advocates who accurately worried about the government’s First Amendment overreach, the board was disbanded, but the Biden regime’s commitment to policing thought and speech continued.
Chairman Dan Bishop opened the hearing on Thursday by saying that this particular DHS board was only “the tip of the iceberg of their censorship laundering schemes.”
Republicans on the subcommittee and most witnesses agreed that underground government-led censorship efforts, especially by the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), pose a major threat to American citizens that, if left unchecked, will worsen.
“What we are seeing thus far, and we’ve only seen a fraction of the complex of censorship in the U.S. government, is a censorship system of breathtaking size,” legal scholar Jonathan Turley said in his opening statement.
CISA’s primary responsibility, according to its website, is to help “the American people understand the risks from foreign influence operations and disinformation and how citizens can play a role in reducing the impact of it on their organizations and communities.”
In recent years, CISA’s mission to suss out bad actors appears to have shifted inward to focus on American citizens the government believes are engaged in wrongthink.
The Constitution does not permit CISA to censor citizens because it is a government agency. Unwilling to let speech remain unfettered, however, CISA used several shared interns as an excuse to collaborate with non-government organizations like the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) at Stanford University to monitor and take action against the dissemination of certain kinds of online information.
In 2021 alone, the EIP flagged thousands of Americans’ social media posts related to the 2020 presidential election. Approximately 35 percent of those regime-offending posts were censored, blocked, or removed altogether based on the recommendation of the EIP.
As a result, CISA was called by one witness the “architect of the broader public-private censorship regime.”
“These systematic speech stifling efforts, often targeting core political speech and intensifying during elections, seem tantamount to a conspiracy to violate the First Amendment and running domestic election interference,” witness Benjamin Weingarten, an investigative journalist and Federalist senior contributor, said in his opening statement. “In short, we’ve unwittingly been paying unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats to silence ourselves. We’re told the speech police are pursuing thought crimes for our own good.”
Legislators say CISA has repeatedly denied having a hand in the regime’s massive censorship efforts and stonewalled Congress’s attempts to learn more. Witnesses confirmed that CISA has since attempted to cover up its domestic censorship footprint.
“There’s been scrubbing of not only documents but also websites, which illustrate the fact that system was intently focused and may well still be intently focused, and certainly its partners are intently focused on domestic speech,” Weingarten said.
That didn’t appear to faze Democrats who expressed optimism that people like witness Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the DHS-funded Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab, would be a participant in the left’s efforts to centralize speech control.
“The censorship issue, which we can talk about, is kind of tangential to the primary mission of this committee, in my view, which is protect protecting the homeland,” Ranking Member Max Ivey said.
Republicans and witnesses pushed back on this claim.
“The most important time to support somebody’s free speech isn’t when you agree with them. It’s when you disagree with them,” Republican Rep. Eli Crane said.
“The government should not be in the disinformation business, it should not be trying to shape speech. It’s a very clear line and one that we have lost,” Turley added.
Some Republicans also noted that Democrats’ definition of “disinformation” is selective and partisan, as evidenced by the lack of accountability for DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s lies about the border crisis.
“While fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana continue to pour into America, the Secretary of Homeland Security continues to testify and spew that, on every network, he has operational control of the southern border,” said Rep. Dale Strong.
The one thing that Democrats and Republicans did agree on is that the issue of censorship is far from getting resolved in just one short afternoon hearing.
Jordan Boyd is a staff writer at The Federalist and co-producer of The Federalist Radio Hour. Her work has also been featured in The Daily Wire, Fox News, and RealClearPolitics. Jordan graduated from Baylor University where she majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow her on Twitter @jordanboydtx.