June 9, 2022 For Immediate Release
Hawley, Grassley Demand Answers on New Whistleblower Documents Exposing DHS Disinformation Board Efforts to Monitor Americans’ Speech
WASHINGTON — New whistleblower documents, obtained by U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), expose shocking new details about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) planned Disinformation Governance Board. The documents reveal that DHS drafted plans for the Disinformation Governance Board as early as September 2021 and explored the possibility of partnerships with Big Tech companies like Twitter to assist in their efforts.
In a new letter to Secretary Mayorkas, Senators Hawley and Grassley call for DHS to release all internal communications related to the Disinformation Governance Board and to clarify why he did not fully explain the Disinformation Governance Board’s role in his testimony before Congress.
“The First Amendment of the Constitution was designed precisely so that the government could not censor opposing viewpoints – even if those viewpoints were false. DHS should not in any way seek to enlist the private sector to curb or silence opposing viewpoints. It is therefore imperative for DHS to provide additional clarity regarding its policies and procedures for identifying and addressing ‘MDM,’ as well as its efforts to ‘operationalize’ public-private partnerships and the steps it is taking to ensure that it does not infringe on the constitutional rights of American citizens,” the senators wrote.
On May 4, 2022, Secretary Mayorkas testified under oath to Senator Hawley that the Disinformation Governance Board “had not yet begun its work.” On May 1, 2022, the Secretary told the news media that the Board would be focused on disinformation “from foreign state adversaries [and] the cartels” and would not monitor American citizens. At the White House on May 2, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed that the Board would be focused on “human traffickers and other transnational criminal organizations.”
In spite of the administration’s claims, the new whistleblower documents reveal:
- The Disinformation Governance Board was originally conceived in part to monitor domestic speech regarding “conspiracy theories about the validity and security of elections” and “disinformation related to the origins and effects of COVID-19 vaccines or the efficacy of masks.”
- DHS planned for a partnership with Twitter to suppress disfavored content and planned a meeting with Twitter executives exploring the concept.
- The Disinformation Governance Board charter was drafted in January 2022 and personally signed by Secretary Mayorkas on February 24, 2022. The document states that the charter goes into effect immediately upon the Secretary’s signing of the document.
- Despite the Secretary’s assertion that the Board had not yet begun its work, a planned meeting with social media executives appears to have been staffed by Nina Jankowicz.
- DHS officials appear to have prepared legislation to codify a “Rumor Control Program of the Department of Homeland Security to Counter Misinformation, Disinformation, and Malinformation,” including a public-facing website known as “Rumor Control.”