DHS heavily redacted Disinformation Board emails despite claiming agency had nothing to hide

After claiming the Disinformation Governance Board would be run in line with "best practices," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is now shielding communications that may reveal its true purpose.

Published: March 28, 2023 11:34pm

When the existence of the Disinformation Governance Board burst into public view, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said there was nothing sinister to hide and claimed the office was rooted in "best practices."

A year later, Mayorkas' department is refusing to let Americans see most of the legal justifications and talking points it created to defend the now-disbanded board from "blowback," FOIA documents showed. 
More than 100 pages of internal communication between the board's former executive director, Nina Jankowicz, and her staff were released with heavy redactions to the conservative nonprofit Citizens United. 
What little is visible makes clear that DHS underestimated the negative reaction the board would provoke and was scrambling to find ways to keep the story from being pushed by "hostile" news outlets.
In the FOIA emails, Jankowicz cited "blowback and abuse" after certain media outlets began describing the board as the "Ministry of Truth" as word spread about its formation. 

"There is a fair possibility this could end up on a hostile TV network in the coming days," she wrote.

Some of the communications show the board's responses to direct questions posed in a letter from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), such as what language in the Constitution allows DHS to create such a board and hire staff for it.

Other questions included which parts of DHS would be "responsible for monitoring and collecting data" on misinformation and what "specific actions" DHS intended to take to "counter misinformation." Each answer was redacted by the department. 

Screen Shot of DHS email
Email redactions from DHS emails regarding Disinformation Board
DHS/FOIA Screenshot

See full PDF files here: 

About four months after it was formed, the board was disbanded amid outcry over Jankowicz's leadership and failure to articulate what its mission would actually be.

Citizens United President David Bossie provided a statement to Just The News, accusing the Biden administration of politicizing the executive branch to persecute political opponents. 

"Joe Biden's Orwellian Disinformation Governance Board ("DGB") is just the latest example of the left's push to weaponize the massive powers of the federal government for political purposes," he wrote. "Whether it's the Justice Department, the IRS, or the Department of Homeland Security, the Biden Administration is laser focused on targeting, silencing, and censoring Americans who do not agree with their radical agenda."

In an interview on "Just The News No Noise" Tuesday, Bossie noted that Jankowicz herself was a spreader of disinformation who publicly denied the authenticity of the Hunter Biden "laptop from hell." 

"The American people realize what's going on," he said. "Because the American people don't believe in government censorship."

Addressing the "blowback" quote from Jankowicz, Bossie said it betrayed a certain anxiety from the board's staff and showed how the group really felt about the project.

Bossie argued that the administration's internal communications and public actions alike betray anxiety about public reaction to their information control efforts. He cited as an example the IRS visit to the home of Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi even as Taibbi was testifying before Congress about government censorship through outside surrogates.  

"You see these folks in these internal memos, emails," Bossie said, "talking about how nervous they are, saying, 'Oh, my goodness, you know, I expected some blowback, but I didn't expect this type or this level of blowback.' Just right now, this week, we are seeing the story break about the IRS sending jackbooted thugs to Matt Taibbi's house at the very moment he is a witness about government power and what the government is doing ... by stifling speech on Facebook and on Twitter."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan earlier this month announced the issuance of subpoenas to a group of Biden administration officials, including Jankowicz, as part of the GOP's ongoing investigation into the perceived political "weaponization" of federal agencies. 

"We have repeatedly sought information from you concerning your official actions and duties as a DHS employee and former Executive Director of the Board," Jordan wrote to Jankowicz in March, "including how the Board intended to define disinformation, how it planned to collection information and from what sources, how it anticipated countering disinformation, and how it proposed to protect First Amendment rights.

"As the former Executive Director of the Board, you are uniquely situated to provide information that is relevant and necessary to inform the Committee's oversight and potential legislative reforms. Accordingly, and in light of your disregard of our earlier voluntary requests, please find attached a subpoena compelling you to appear for a deposition."

Jankowicz replied that she would be happy to appear before the committee. 

"I will happily testify," she tweeted earlier this month, "to the truth of the Board under oath: That it was a working group meant to address disinformation that endangered Americans' safety, and that — because of the Republican Party's irresponsible lies about it — our democracy is less secure." 

Just The News reached out to DHS and the White House for comment, but did not receive a reply. 

You can follow Nick and John on Twitter @NGivasDC and @JohnsolomonReports

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