- The Washington Times
Friday, February 11, 2022

Republican lawmakers say the Department of Homeland Security warning of “the proliferation of false or misleading narratives” in its latest terrorism threat advisory bulletin is a state-sponsored threat to free speech.

The top Republican on the House Oversight Committee said the bulletin is yet another step toward authoritarianism under President Biden.

“From targeting parents who express concerns at school board meetings to Americans who disagree with authoritarian vaccine mandates, the Biden administration is attempting to silence and demonize anyone who objects to their radical agenda,” Rep. James Comer, Kentucky Republican, said Friday.

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawmakers and watchdog groups have grown increasingly concerned over what they say is a march toward a police state under President Biden.

Earlier this week, the Center to Advance Security in America, a watchdog group based in Washington, said the Biden administration’s policy involves “the use of the domestic security state to potentially target political opponents, squash free speech and deliver federal dollars to special interest allies.”

“What is a ‘misleading narrative,’ and who’s deciding what’s misleading, and how are they going to go after and conduct intelligence on it?” CASA Director Adam Turner said Wednesday in an interview. “I think they’re referring to people that don’t agree with whatever their talking points are for that time.”

He said the policy could lead to chilling free speech on such matters as the origins of COVID-19, the effectiveness of vaccines or election integrity claims.

“This should frighten every American,” Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican and member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, tweeted Friday. “Will I be next? Will you?”

The National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin issued Monday is the fifth of its kind released since January 2021.

The bulletin warns that the U.S. “remains in a heightened threat environment field by several factors,” including misinformation “introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors.”

“These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence,” the bulletin reads.

The administration announced a sweeping strategy this summer for confronting a rising domestic terrorism threat that it said largely “emerges from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and networks whose racial, ethnic, or religious hatred leads them towards violence.”

In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, the Biden administration redoubled efforts to counter the threat of “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists,” which Homeland Security described as a “national threat priority.”

Last month, the Justice Department announced the formation of a specialized unit to combat domestic terrorism, saying investigations into violent extremism have skyrocketed.

The FBI opened 2,700 investigations of domestic extremism in 2021, more than double the usual number of cases, counterterrorism officials said in November, underscoring the administration’s accelerated pursuit of what it calls “domestic violent extremists.”

Concerns are growing, however, that the hunt for domestic extremists is resulting in the trampling of civil liberties in the U.S.  

“President Biden believes the greatest threat to the homeland is any American using their First Amendment right to question the Government,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, tweeted this week in response to the latest DHS bulletin.

“State-sponsored threats against free speech are un-American,” he said. “[Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas should rescind this intimidation tactic immediately.”

Mr. Mayorkas said earlier this week that DHS “remains committed to proactively sharing timely information and intelligence about the evolving threat environment with the American public.”

“We also remain committed to working with our partners across every level of government and in the private sector to prevent all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, and to support law enforcement efforts to keep our communities safe,” he said.

Dave Boyer contributed to this story.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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