DHS outsourced censorship to third parties, then tried to cover it up: House Judiciary GOP report

Federal government's moves show it "implicitly admitting that its censorship activities are unconstitutional," interim staff report says.

Published: June 26, 2023 6:19pm

Updated: June 26, 2023 6:54pm

The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency outsourced its "censorship operation" to a nonprofit it funded following a First Amendment lawsuit by Louisiana and Missouri attorneys general, "implicitly admitting that its censorship activities are unconstitutional," according to an interim staff report by House Judiciary Committee Republicans shared with Just the News.

CISA also wanted to use the Center for Internet Security, which operates the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) and Elections Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EI-ISAC), as its "mouthpiece" to obfuscate its own role in censorship, the report says.

It cites spring 2022 meeting notes from the subcommittee on "Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Misinformation & Disinformation," which was established by CISA's Cybersecurity Advisory Committee.

The notes show that the so-called MDM Subcommittee was "fully aware" of the contemporaneous "severe public outcry" about DHS's Disinformation Governance Board, which was disbanded after a few months, and the AGs' lawsuit against the Biden administration and CISA for pressuring social media to censor disfavored narratives, according to the report.

The subcommittee discussed circumventing the First Amendment by outsourcing these activities to third parties, which would also "avoid the appearance of government propaganda," according to meeting notes quoted by House Judiciary Republicans.

Suzanne Spaulding, a former CIA legal advisor who's currently at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Geoff Hale, who leads CISA’s Election Security Initiative, "suggested designating the ISACs as the clearing house [sic] for information to avoid the appearance of government propaganda," the meeting notes say. The report characterized this as "laundering" the government's messages through EI-ISAC.

Spaulding emailed Kate Starbird, cofounder of the University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public and MDM Subcommittee chair, worrying that it was "only a matter of time" before their work was publicly exposed and suggesting they be "proactive in telling our story." Starbird agreed, saying they had "a couple of pretty obvious vulnerabilities."

House Judiciary Republicans said CISA "still has not adequately complied with a subpoena for relevant documents, and much more factfinding is necessary."

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