The Biden administration has quietly stepped up back-channel efforts to censor Americans’ social media posts after its discredited “Disinformation Governance Board” was quickly shot down, warns Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley.
Hawley has been hounding Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for months to explain what his department is doing and why.
Indeed, a new report has shed light on the Department of Homeland Security’s attempts to muzzle Americans’ posts that take issue with the administration on key national issues.
The Intercept reports DHS “is quietly broadening its efforts to curb speech,” based on what the outlet says is “years of internal DHS memos, emails, and documents – obtained via leaks and an ongoing lawsuit, as well as public documents.”
The emerging picture is one of “an expansive effort” by DHS to curb political speech on social media, The Intercept writes.
Hawley is even more pointed.
“Under your tenure, you have transformed the Department of Homeland Security into an engine to suppress the freedom of speech,” Hawley wrote Mayorkas in a letter Monday. “According to explosive reports, you are yet again hiding information about your efforts to suppress speech you dislike – in flagrant disregard of congressional oversight requests and federal law.”
As a member of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Hawley had a chance to question Mayorkas in the two committees’ hearings Wednesday and Thursday.
The Heartlander asked Hawley if he got any answers from Mayorkas on the censorship in either hearing.
“No, a total stonewalling, which is always the case with him,” Hawley said. “I tell you what, though, the evidence is piling up. I confronted him today with these emails upon emails from federal agencies pressuring, coercing social media companies to censor Americans’ speech – on COVID vaccines, on COVID mask mandates, on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“He denies it all, but of course he’s a liar. He’s lied to us time and time again. He’s lied about their censorship. He’s lied about the disinformation campaign. And he continues to lie, which is why he needs to resign or be impeached.”
Is combating what it considers domestic disinformation even part of DHS’ mission?
“Well, they want it to be,” Hawley told The Heartlander. “I mean, this is their new frontier. They now think under this administration that they’re going to be a national censorship board, that they’re going to go around and tell Americans that, ‘Hey, if you express some disapproval of Anthony Fauci, you’re going to get censored, you’re going to get monitored, you’re going to get tracked.’
“I think it is totally unconstitutional. Totally unconstitutional. And we’ve got to take action against it. I hope this is something the new Republican majority in the House will go after hard.
“And if that means we need to defund portions of DHS, if that means that we need to take away their federal authority in various areas, we ought to do it, and certainly Mayorkas ought to be impeached.”
After a ferocious backlash from both the right and left, Mayorkas in August abandoned plans for a “Disinformation Governance Board” to monitor what his agency considers disinformation in Americans’ social media posts.
But a report by The Intercept says “a strategic document reveals the underlying work is ongoing.”
“In other words, you professed to disband that board but in fact simply transferred its speech-suppression activities to other groups in your Department,” Hawley wrote to Mayorkas. “Despite my repeated requests for information in letters dated April 28, May 23, July 7, and July 13, you still have not come clean about the full extent of your Department’s operations.”
Where are Hawley’s colleagues, or the media, on this apparent government censorship, The Heartlander asked Hawley.
“You know, I think for the media’s part, they love it. The liberal media absolutely loves it, because they want conservatives to be censored,” he said.
As for his Senate colleagues, Hawley said, “I don’t think they realize the extent, the breadth, of the effort to shut down speech that is being directed by the government.
“Our Constitution does not allow the government to use private companies to censor speech. You can’t do that. You can’t go to a private company and say, ‘Hey, we want you to go pressure and censor these Americans, these private citizens. That’s not permitted by our First Amendment, and that is exactly what Joe Biden is doing.”
The idea behind having a Department of Homeland Security was to protect the country from foreign adversaries. That’s not what DHS is doing under Biden, Hawley notes.
“They are not after foreign adversaries,” Hawley argues. “They’re after Americans. Their own internal documents, that we have now seen, show that they are targeting domestic speech by American citizens. That’s what makes it so grossly unconstitutional.”
As for Senate Republicans’ decision to retain Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, as their leader, neither Hawley nor Missouri Sen.-elect Eric Schmitt wanted McConnell kept on. Asked at a pre-election rally for Schmitt who should be that leader, Hawley said, “not Mitch McConnell.”
“Well, I voted no on that,” Hawley said Thursday after the Wednesday leadership vote. “I’ve been very clear. I think we need a change in leadership. I did not support him for leader, so the next two years will be interesting.
“I hope that we see a change in course. I don’t know that we will, but I can say from my part, I’m going to continue to stand up for what Missourians believe in. I’m going to be for what Missouri wants, not what Washington, D.C. wants. And that’s going to be my policy.”