New revelations, made public in an interim staff report by the House Judiciary Committee, show that a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency has overstepped its mission by monitoring American citizens’ speech on social media and conducting a massive domestic surveillance and censorship regime.
The agency in question, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), has been accused of colluding with Big Tech and government-funded third parties to facilitate censorship and hide unconstitutional activities.
The report disclosed, “Secret documents obtained by the House Judiciary Committee show that a Department of Homeland Security agency expanded its mission to surveil Americans’ speech on social media, colluded with Big Tech and government-funded third parties to censor by proxy, and tried to hide its plainly unconstitutional activities from the public.”
The accusations extend to CISA’s reported efforts in mitigating purported misinformation related to elections, Hunter Biden, and COVID-19 — actions that could arguably be perceived as election meddling.
The report further revealed that after the “severe public outcry” against the DHS’s Disinformation Governance Board in spring 2022, CISA tried to cover their actions, including eliminating references to domestic ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ from their website.
Additionally, it appears that the agency outsourced its censorship operation to a CISA-funded nonprofit to circumvent First Amendment litigation. The House Judiciary Republicans commented on this action saying, CISA was “implicitly admitting that its censorship activities are unconstitutional.”
The report describes CISA as having morphed into a “domestic intelligence and speech-police agency, far exceeding its statutory authority.” The transformation of CISA was controversial even within the government. A 2021 email from a former DHS official to the incoming CISA director suggested, “[O]ff the record, some at ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] are not big fans of CISA.”
Several members of the subcommittee encouraged CISA to continue its activities, despite criticisms. There were plans to institute a “whole-of-government approach” to counter misinformation, which included the possibility of performing “narrative or content-based analysis” for the FBI.
The report criticized CISA’s focus on “malinformation,” defined as factual information presented without adequate context. It argued that evaluations of truth and falsity are inherently subjective when determined by government actors.
Despite objections from some stakeholders, CISA defended its activities. CISA’s Executive Director Brandon Wales stated, “CISA does not and has never censored speech or facilitated censorship; any such claims are patently false.” He emphasized that CISA’s mission was reducing risk to U.S. critical infrastructure while protecting Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy.