GOP seeks testimony from DHS disinformation board head
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are asking Nina Jankowicz, head of the new Disinformation Governance Board within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to brief the committee and provide documents and communications about the board, which they characterize as an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth.”
“This Board is un- American, anti-democratic, and a dangerous escalation of the Biden Administration’s embrace of government-endorsed censorship,” twelve of the committee’s Republicans, led by ranking member Jim Jordan (Ohio), wrote in a letter to Jankowicz on Thursday first shared with The Hill. “In addition, judging from your past statements, Americans can not and should not trust you with your newfound authority to act as the Biden Administration’s arbiter of the truth.”
The GOP members requested that Jankowicz provide by May 19 all documents and communications relating to the creation of the board, its mission and authorities, her appointment as executive director and coordination or interaction between the board and social media companies including Twitter and Facebook.
They also requested that Jankowicz “immediately” make herself available to the committee to answer questions relating to her characterizations of Hunter Biden’s laptop, how she defines misinformation and disinformation, what information the board seeks to collect and actions it plans to counter misinformation and what safeguards will be in place to respect First Amendment rights.
DHS has released few details about how the board, which was announced last week, will work. In a hearing on Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the board will “develop guidelines, standards, guardrails to ensure that the work that has been ongoing for nearly 10 years does not infringe on people’s free speech rights, rights of privacy, civil rights and civil liberties.”
The department has dealt with disinformation relating to scammers and smugglers distributing false information about the border and taking advantage of natural disaster victims. Other federal departments have efforts to combat foreign disinformation that poses a risk to U.S. security.
Republicans, concerned that the board could be used to police speech, have dubbed the new board the “Ministry of Truth” in reference to the dystopian novel “1984.”
“The ability of Americans to engage in robust debate and conversation is the foundation of American politics, and there is no place for a de facto ministry of truth in our government. The very idea of a ministry of truth should be revolting to all Americans who hold our Bill of Rights in high regard,” the letter said.
They have also taken aim at Jankowicz herself, accusing her of pushing “left-wing disinformation.”
In the letter, Jordan and other Republicans pointed to her previous statements saying that the infamous Steele Dossier on former President Trump “began as a Republican opposition research project.” The conservative Washington Free Beacon had hired the firm Fusion GPS to provide research on multiple candidates in the 2016 election cycle, but the outlet said that none of that research appeared in the dossier. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid Fusion GPS for research that later became the dossier.
Republicans also took aim at Jankowicz’s statements that were skeptical about the authenticity and origin of the contents of Biden’s laptop first reported in an October 2020 New York Post story.
The story said that “smoking gun” emails revealed a meeting between President Biden, his son Hunter Biden and Ukrainian business executives, insinuating shady dealings. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, then serving as Trump’s personal attorney, gave the emails to the outlet, saying that they came from a laptop that Hunter Biden left at a Delaware computer repair shop.
Jankowicz in October 2020 said that the laptop story should be viewed “as a Trump campaign product” and a “[fairy] tale about a laptop repair shop.”
House Judiciary Republicans last month launched an investigation into Facebook and Twitter for their suppressing the New York Post article about the laptop.