CNN’s Dana Bash pressed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about his agency’s new “Disinformation Governance Board” and its purported role during an interview on Sunday.
In particular, Bash asked Mayorakas for assurances that the new panel, to be headed by former Ukrainian government adviser Nina Jankowicz, that the board won’t be policing speech of ordinary Americans and censoring content.
“Republicans are calling it ‘Orwellian’ and comparing it to the Ministry of Truth in the novel ‘1984,’” Bash said of the board. “Can you clarify what exactly is this? What exactly will this disinformation governance board do? Will it monitor American citizens?”
“Dana, I’m very pleased to do so. It’s clear, I mean, those criticisms are precisely the opposite of what this small working group within the Department of Homeland Security will do,” Mayorkas responded. “And I think we probably could have done a better job of communicating what it does and does not do. The fact is that disinformation that creates a threat to the security of the homeland is our responsibility to address. And this department has been addressing it for years.”
He went on to say the board will be focused on disinformation activities of potential nemeses including Iran, China, and Russia.
“We know the problems but it’s not clear to me how this governance board will act. What will it do?” Bash pressed.
“So, what it does, it works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech,” Mayorkas said, noting that the board would not have “operational authority” to act but would instead work to provide information to those who did.
“Will American citizens be monitored?” Bash asked pointedly.
“No,” Mayorkas claimed.
“Guarantee that?” Bash pressed further.
“So what we do, we in the Department of Homeland Security don’t monitor American citizens,” Mayorkas continued to object.
“You don’t, but will this change that?” Bash dug deeper.
“No, no, the board does not have any operational capability,” Mayorkas said again.
Bash then noted that GOP critics have said they don’t believe Jankowicz can be non-partisan.
“Would you be okay if Donald Trump were president, if he created this disinformation governance board? Or — if it is in place and he wins again in 2024 — that he’s in charge of such a thing?” Bash queried.
Mayorkas did not address her question directly, but said: “I believe that this working group, that gathers together best practices, makes sure that our work is coordinated, consistent with those best practices, that we’re safeguarding the right of free speech, that we’re safeguarding civil liberties, I think, is an extraordinarily important endeavor.”
Mayorkas: Ministry of Truth won’t “monitor American citizens … the board does not have any operational capability. What it'ill do is gather together best practices … & disseminate those best practices to the operators that have been executing & addressing this threat for years”
— Tom Elliott