House GOP leaders want DHS administration to shut down disinformation group

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House GOP leaders want DHS administration to shut down disinformation group

WASHINGTON - House Republican leaders are calling for Congress to pass legislation that would shut down a new Department of Homeland Security working group that is tasked with combatting disinformation and blocking federal funds from being used for similar activities.

The Biden administration has come under fire since DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the creation of a group called the Disinformation Governance Board, because opponents argue that its purpose is vague.

In a response to the backlash, DHS released a fact sheet in early May about the group's goals, which it said are to protect Americans' freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy in the department's disinformation work.

Mayorkas said at a Senate hearing on his department's budget request last week that DHS worked over the last decade to prevent disinformation from threatening the nation, but he thought there weren't enough safeguards in place to make sure that it doesn't infringe on fundamental rights.

He said that we put together a working group to make sure that the guide, guardrails are in place, that we have clear definitions, that we have good policies and practices in place, and that we protect the rights that are our responsibility not to infringe upon.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, said the group, which he called President Joe Biden's ministry of truth, was an unAmerican abuse of power and accused Democrats of using the group to manipulate facts and discredit the truth when it's inconvenient for their narrative. It is a scheme conjured up by Washington Democrats to give themselves the authority to control free speech, McCarthy said at a press conference calling for the group's termination. They fear Americans will have unfettered access to information because it will challenge the power they want to have over people's lives. McCarthy and other GOP lawmakers claimed that the administration wants to exploit the office and manipulate information. They accused the group's executive director, Nina Jankowicz, of spreading misinformation. Jankowicz was previously a disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, where she studied the intersection of democracy and technology in Central and Eastern Europe.

When her appointment was announced in late April she said she would help shape the government's counter-disinformation efforts and said a HUGE focus of the Board's work is to maintain the Dept's commitment to free speech, privacy, civil rights and civil liberties. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who introduced the measure to dismantle the group, said Wednesday that free speech is under attack here in America and part of the administration's efforts to silence dissenting voices. She said that misinformation has become a rallying cry for the left to discredit facts that are inconvenient to their liberal agenda. The Covid lab leak theory, Hunter Biden's laptop and the Russia collusion hoax were all labeled misinformation by big tech until the truth prevailed. Boebert's bill has no chance of getting a vote in the House, where Democrats have a majority. During the debate on the next spending package, Republicans could try to influence spending decisions, including defunding of the group.

20 state attorneys general sent a letter to Mayorkas last week threatening to take legal action against the department if it is not disbanded.

The Republican group wrote that the existence of the Disinformation Governance Board will inevitably have a chilling effect on free speech, and the damage to our political system and our culture will be incalculable.