Internal documents leaked by whistleblowers at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) show that the administration’s proposed Disinformation Governance Board (DGB), commonly referred to as the Ministry of Truth, was intended to silence the Biden administration’s political opponents.
The DGB project was put on hold last month after widespread backlash concerning the board being a threat to free speech. It did not help that Nina Jankowicz, a “disinformation expert” who has been known to spread disinformation and "shudder" at the thought of free speech, was tapped to be the board’s executive director.
After the project was axed, Jankowicz went on a media tour blaming her termination on Right-wing disinformation. She said that the DGB was meant to simply be an “internal coordinating mechanism” and would not police speech.
“Basically, everything you may have heard about the Disinformation Governance Board is wrong or is just a flat out lie,” she told NPR. “The board was quite simple and anodyne... But we weren't going to be doing anything related to policing speech.”
But leaked internal DHS documents show that Jankowicz’s statements were disinformation.
The documents were attached to a 36-page letter sent Tuesday from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The material included internal memos showing that the DGB was not intended to be the mundane “working group” according to Mayorkas testimony before Congress last month. Instead, the board was to act as a “departmental forum for governance of DHS policies, plans, procedures, standards, and activities,” and interact with NGOs and the private sector.
In other words, the DGB was designed to be the nerve center of the DHS and use the full might of the department to stamp out what it considered “mis-, dis-, and mal- information,” or “MDM”.
MDM was not defined in the memos. Instead it was left to the DGB’s sole discretion. Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans Under Secretary Robert Silvers, one of the memos’ authors, wrote that the DGB “must not be politicized and must be protected from perceptions of politicization.”
But the memo then revealed that politicized is exactly what the board was going to be, and the Biden administration’s opponents were going to be the targets.
Specifically, anyone who questioned the 2020 election results – or elections in general – was to be considered a threat to national security. Anyone who questioned “the origins and effects of COVID-19 vaccines or the efficacy of masks” was also considered a national security risk, along with those who spread “falsehoods surround[ing] U.S. Government immigration policy.”
In the attached letter, the senators began listing the disinformation peddled by Jankowicz, whom they called “a known trafficker of foreign disinformation and liberal conspiracy theories.”
“Jankowicz once asserted that the Hunter Biden laptop should be viewed as a ‘Trump campaign product’,” the letter read. “Content on the Hunter Biden laptop has since been verified by multiple major news outlets.
“In 2016, Jankowicz also sent out multiple tweets spreading the now-debunked claim that President Trump had a ‘secret server’ to communicate with Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank.
“In 2020, Jankowicz tweeted that a podcast by Christopher Steele, the author of the debunked Steele Dossier containing Russian disinformation, had provided ‘some great historical context about the evolution of disinfo’.
“So this begs the question, if the (former) Executive Director of the DGB is incapable of determining what is and is not disinformation, how could the DGB ever have expected to function properly under her leadership?” the senators asked.
Another memo revealed plans by the DHS to collude with Twitter in rooting out disinformation. As if the first memo had not been clear enough about who the “disinformers” are, Silvers had a meeting scheduled for April 28, 2022, with Twitter’s Head of Policy Nick Pickles and Head of Site Integrity Yoel Roth, who publicly referred to President Donald Trump and his administration as “ACTUAL NAZIS”. The meeting was to enlist the social media giant’s help in the fight against MDM.
The whistleblowers also allege that Jankowicz may have been hired due to her pre-existing relationship with Pickles and Roth.
The senators concluded the letter by demanding answers to the following questions:
“1. Has DHS at any point in time asked or suggested to Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, or any other social media executives that they should censor, flag, add context to, or remove any social media posts that it believes to be disinformation?
“2. Has DHS at any point in time asked or suggested to Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, or any other social media executives that they suspend or ban the account(s) of individuals believed to be promoting information it believes to be disinformation?
“3. Please provide all documents, including all written and electronic communications, memoranda, and organizational documents, related to the DGB from the point that DHS first considered establishing a DGB until the present.
“4. Please provide all documents, including all written and electronic communications and memoranda, related to Nina Jankowicz’s selection as Executive Director of the DGB.
“5. Please explain why, in your public statements and testimony before Congress, you have not fully explained the key role that the DGB was designed to play in coordinating among DHS components and engaging the assistance of the private sector.
“6. Please explain how DHS defines ‘MDM’ and how DHS decides whether a given news story or other piece of information fits its definition of ‘MDM.’ Please identify who exactly is ultimately responsible for making this determination.
“7. Please explain the criteria DHS uses when deciding whether to spend taxpayer resources addressing a particular news item or narrative that it has classified as ‘MDM.’
“8. Please describe all safeguards that DHS has put in place to ensure that its efforts to counter the spread of disinformation do not infringe on Americans’ constitutional right to free speech.
“9. Did DHS Under Secretary for the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans Robert Silvers meet with Twitter executives on April 28, 2022? If so, please provide a summary of topics discussed during the meeting.
“10. Please define what DHS means by the phrase, ‘operationalizing public-private partnerships.’”