Facing an increasing backlash against the Biden administration’s Disinformation Governing Board (DGB), Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas promised it would not monitor Americans. It was not enough. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was forced to put the DGB on “pause,” and its director, Nina Jankowicz, resigned under public pressure.
Now DHS says it is “reviewing” the board while “continuing” its “critical work…to address disinformation.”
No matter what happens with the board, it is hard to take Mayorkas’s promise not to monitor Americans seriously. Several recent cases of the federal government spying on Americans as well as DHS’s own actions were certain to make people skeptical.
For example, in February of this year, DHS issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin, a memo prioritizing “false or misleading narratives” as a top domestic security threat. The bulletin states that “there is widespread online proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding unsubstantiated widespread election fraud and COVID-19.”
This bulletin clearly referenced Americans inside our borders. Also, unlike with the DGB, DHS made no promise to not monitor Americans’ speech. (My organization, the Center to Advance Security in America, submitted several Freedom of Information Act requests for records regarding the NTAS bulletin and the DGB.)
Don’t forget Carter Page, either. Page was an advisor to the Donald Trump 2016 campaign. In 2016-17 the government investigated him on suspicion of being an intermediary between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. A later inspector general’s report identified “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” in the application for a warrant to surveil Page. A Department of Justice attorney was convicted of falsifying a document that led to a Page warrant.
Also recall the James Clapper spying scandal. Clapper, the director of national intelligence under President Obama, responded, “No, sir” and “not wittingly,” when asked at a Senate hearing if the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans without a specific warrant. About three months after making that claim, documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed Clapper’s answer was untruthful, as the NSA was in fact collecting in bulk domestic call records, along with various internet communications.