The Department of Homeland Security has created a “disinformation” board led by a woman who has criticized First Amendment rights and dismissed troubling reports of Hunter Biden’s laptop as a “Trump campaign” ploy.
Nina Jankowicz has been on the job for a couple of months, but Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas only revealed the disinformation board’s existence this week in testimony to Congress, when prodded about what his department is doing to help minority communities combat election disinformation.
“The goal is to bring the resources of the department together to address this threat,” Mr. Mayorkas told lawmakers.
Homeland Security described the board’s expansive duties, saying it will combat the wide swath of disinformation. In the immediate term, its focus will be on disinformation surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and on the messaging smuggling groups are peddling to would-be illegal immigrants, the department said.
But the broad scope of its purview and the appointment of Ms. Jankowicz as its lead have raised questions about the board.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, called the board a “speech police.”
Lora Ries, a former Homeland Security deputy chief of staff and director of the Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center, called the board “an overtly political ploy” to try to chase opposing viewpoints from the political debate ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
“The left can no longer use COVID restrictions or now, seemingly Twitter, to mislabel and hide legitimate information American voters should have in casting their ballots. Instead, they are standing up this board to declare what the left believes is mis- or dis-information,” Ms. Ries said.
She also said policing disinformation “is not remotely the mission of the Department of Homeland Security.”
The disinformation board isn’t Mr. Mayorkas’ first foray into policing information. Last year he told Congress he was working with the Education Department on a program to help young schoolchildren spot when they’re being fed dangerous information. (https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/may/23/alejandro-mayorkas-targets-kids-bid-tackle-disinfo/)
In his testimony, Mr. Mayorkas said the new board was being led by Robert Silvers, under secretary for policy, and Jennifer Daskal, principal deputy general counsel at Homeland Security.
Homeland Security then revealed that it was being “led” by Ms. Jankowicz, and Ms. Silvers and Ms. Daskal were co-chairs.
In 2020, as explosive reports of President Biden’s son’s laptop roiled the presidential campaign, Ms. Jankowicz told The New York Daily News she thought it was disinformation spread by the Trump campaign.
New reporting by a number of news organizations has since substantiated the authenticity of the laptop, which was first reported by The New York Post.
Ms. Jankowicz has just published “How to be a Woman Online,” a book about facing internet abuse and harassment. She detailed some of the “unsettling and creepy” messages she has received since she has become a public figure making television appearances.
Ms. Jankowicz, a prolific tweeter, confirmed her position in a post Wednesday, insisting that she isn’t a threat to robust speech and that a “key” reason the board was created was to protect “free speech, privacy, civil rights [and] civil liberties.”
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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