DHS continues to threaten the First Amendment rights of the American people

May 11, 2022

Washington, DC – The Center to Advance Security in America (CASA) expressed serious concern today regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) contradictory statements about free speech and monitoring U.S. citizens. Last week, DHS announced the establishment of a “Disinformation Governance Board” (DGB). This board, DHS Secretary Mayorkas promised, would not monitor Americans. However, just a few months ago, DHS issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin, a memo prioritizing “false or misleading narratives” as a top domestic security threat. That NTAS Bulletin states that “there is widespread online proliferation of false or misleading narratives regarding unsubstantiated widespread election fraud and COVID-19.” Here they are clearly targeting American citizens, and Americans could not be faulted for assuming that this memo was a precursor to the Disinformation Governance Board.

At CASA, we are very concerned that the NTAS Bulletin and the Disinformation Governance Board could lead to an infringement of the First Amendment rights of Americans. At the time of its release, we submitted Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the NTAS bulletin. We are now seeking additional information from DHS concerning the DGB.

The American people have every right to be skeptical of this new entity because, unfortunately, there are numerous instances of the government spying on U.S. citizens in the recent past. These include:

• The Carter Page Incident: Page was an advisor to the Trump 2016 campaign. In 2016-17 the government investigated him on suspicion of being an intermediary between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. A later Inspector General’s report identified “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” in the application for a surveillance (FISA) warrant against Page and a Department of Justice attorney was convicted of falsifying a document that led to a Page warrant.
• The James Clapper Spying Scandal: The former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper apparently made false statement to Congress in March 2013, when he responded, “No, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. About three months after making that claim, documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the answer was untruthful and that the NSA was in fact collecting in bulk domestic call records, along with various internet communications.
• CIA Spying: Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are privy to classified information, have warned about the existence of a secret bulk collection program that the CIA has operated “outside the statutory framework that Congress and the public believe govern this collection,” and without oversight by the courts or Congress. The secret program appears to be related to bulk data swept up by the CIA in terrorism operations, including information on an unknown number of Americans, according to a heavily blacked-out report from a CIA oversight board that was declassified at the urging of the two senators. The program still seems to be in operation.

“Unfortunately, the federal government has a history of spying on innocent Americans, so it is not surprising that DHS would be monitoring them for MDM,” said Adam Turner, Director of CASA. He continued, “But this is still Orwellian and disturbing. I call on DHS to issue far stronger assurances that the Disinformation Governance Board, and all other programs, will not monitor the American people or infringe on their First Amendment rights.”

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