Friday, March 31, 2023

Lawmakers criticize Homeland Security’s ‘Disinformation Governance Board’

Lawmakers Criticize Homeland Security'S 'Disinformation Governance Board'

A new coordinating body proposed by the Department of Homeland Security to focus its efforts on combating propaganda has run into opposition from members of Congress. Some have portrayed the Disinformation Governance Board as a dystopian threat to free speech.

The new working group was announced last week with little fanfare and almost immediately sparked an intense backlash from lawmakers, mainly Republicans, who accused the agency of attempting to suppress free expression.

A group of Republican lawmakers led by senior Republican Representative James Comer on the House Oversight and Reform Committee attacked the group in a letter, saying, “The creation of the ‘Disruptive Governance Board’ appears to double down on this. has repeatedly misused taxpayer dollars and abused the powers of the federal government to attack Americans who disagree with its policies, smearing them as extremists and perpetrators of ‘misinformation and misinformation’.

damage control efforts

The attacks left DHS Secretary Alejandro Meyerkas scrambling to defend the board on Sunday’s television talk show and through a fact sheet distributed by the department on Monday.

“The department is deeply committed to doing all of its work in a way that protects Americans’ freedom of expression, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy,” the fact sheet said.

It established the board “with the clear goal of ensuring that these protections are appropriately incorporated into DHS’s propaganda-related work and that stringent safeguards are in place.” It also stressed that the board has “no operational authority or capability,” meaning it will not function as a law enforcement agency.

Congress’s testimony

Meyerkas appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security subcommittee on Wednesday and continued his effort to convince lawmakers that the new working group was designed to do the exact opposite of what its opponents claim.

“The department does not counter speech,” he said. “The department is involved in protecting the motherland, protecting the security of the motherland, and when we engage in violence we get involved (with the speech).”

While acknowledging that the group’s announcement was not handled ideally, he stressed that the purpose of the working group is to “bring together experts from across our department to ensure that there is a great deal of effort in combating disinformation.” Our ongoing work is done in a way that does not infringe on free speech, a fundamental constitutional right enshrined in the First Amendment, nor on the right to privacy or other civil rights and civil liberties.

Republican unaffiliated

It quickly became clear that the Department’s efforts for damage control had done little to persuade some Republicans.

Senior Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito on the panel advised Mayrakas to stay away from the new working group, saying, “I think, quite honestly, for the good of the rest of the department, now is a good time to do this. Give up the ridiculous and reprehensible idea.”

Republican Senator John Kennedy questioned Meyerkas about the decision to appoint Nina Jankowicz, formerly a disruptive researcher with the Washington-based Wilson Center, to head the Disinformation Governance Board.

Jankowicz was one of many who questioned the emergence of laptop computers containing compromising material about President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, that was made public during the 2020 presidential race, suggesting Giving that it could be a Russian disruptive strategy. The information on the laptop has since been confirmed to be genuine.

free speech activist shocked

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression advocates said it was not surprised by the hostile reception when the board’s existence was made public.

“I think DHS really blames itself for the response,” Ben Weisner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s speech, privacy and technology project, told VOA. “They declared something that sounded somewhat scary, that we have a sort of government truth board that went out of the Department of Homeland Security, and they didn’t, at the same time, very clearly say, ‘Here we Why are you doing this.’ ,

“It was executed very badly,” Kevin Goldberg, a First Amendment expert at Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization in Washington, told VOA. “In an area where you’re talking about speech and anything related to government involvement in speech, we want to act with precision. And it was anything but.

“Again, this is all complicated by the fact that this is the Department of Homeland Security, a government agency with certain enforcement powers that was created specifically as a response to 9/11,” Goldberg said. “This is wrong and concerning on many fronts.”

Wiesner said he thought the agency might consider Capito’s suggestion and end the program.

“I don’t think there will be any harm if they decide to put an end to this idea,” he said. “Even if it’s nowhere near as nefarious as some of its critics have suggested, I’m still not entirely convinced it’s absolutely necessary.”

However, during Wednesday’s hearing, Mayerkas gave no indication that he was preparing to disband the new organization.


This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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