Mayorkas: New Federal Organization 'Addresses Disinformation That Imperils the Safety and Security of Our Homeland'

By Susan Jones | April 29, 2022 | 8:24am EDT
 
 
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - "We have just established a mis- and disinformation governance board in the Department of Homeland Security to more effectively combat this threat not only to election security but to our homeland security," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayaorkas told Congress on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Mayorkas said the new disinformation board "addresses disinformation that imperils the safety and security of our homeland. And one of the primary areas that we are focused on is the dissemination of disinformation and its potential connectivity...to violence."

According to the Associated Press, DHS said in a statement on Wednesday: "The spread of disinformation can affect border security, Americans’ safety during disasters, and public trust in our democratic institutions."

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, challenged Mayorkas on the creation of a board dubbed "the Ministry of Truth" by critics:

Here is that exchange:

"Mr. Secretary, yesterday you announced the formation of Disinformation Governance Board at DHS. You put out a bulletin two months ago, big fancy bulletin here, red, white and blue. You said that misleading narratives mis-, dis- and mal-information, MDM, as you call it, misleading narratives undermine the trust in government," Jordan said.

"I was just wondering, when the head of the CDC, Ms. Walensky said that the vaccinated can't get the virus, did that undermine trust in government? When the highest paid official in our government, the smartest man on the planet, Dr. Fauci, when he said the virus didn't come from a lab, did that undermine trust in government?

"And will that be something that this governing board will look at? How about this one? How about when 51 former intel officials told us that the Hunter Biden story was--had all the earmarks of Russian misinformation, will that be something that this governance board that you just formed, will you be looking into that?"

Mayorkas responded, "Congressman, the disinformation board addresses disinformation that imperils the safety and security of our homeland. And one of the primary areas that we are focused on is the dissemination of disinformation and its potential connectivity--

"But that's not what your bulletin talked about," Jordan interrupted. "It talked about COVID. It talked about COVID."

"Gentleman's time has expired," Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) interrupted. "I am permitting the witness to answer the question, but the gentleman can say nothing now. It's witness's privilege to answer the gentleman's question. Continue your answer," Nadler told Mayorkas, who finished his sentence:

"And it's connectivity to violence. Thank you, Mr. Chairman," Mayorkas said.

On April 12, DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released an updated set of "Disinformation Stops With You" infographics, explaining that "False or misleading information can evoke a strong emotional reaction that leads people to share it without first looking into the facts for themselves, polluting healthy conversations about the issues and increasing societal divisions."

DHS released an updated "disinformation" infographic on April 12, including "five proactive steps you can take to help stop the spread of disinformation."
DHS released an updated "disinformation" infographic on April 12, including "five proactive steps you can take to help stop the spread of disinformation."

The infographics present "five proactive steps you can take to help stop the spread of disinformation," such as: recognize the risk, question the source, investigate the issue, think before you link, and talk with your circle.

Who's Nina?

Later in Thursday's hearing, Rep. Jordan asked Mayorkas, "who's Nina Jankowicz?"

"She is the newly appointed individual in our Office of Policy in the Department of Homeland Security," Mayorkas said.

"Is she the new executive director for Disinformation Governance Board?" Jordan asked.

"She is the executive director of the Disinformation Governance," Mayorkas confirmed.

"And this is -- is this the same individual who said the dossier was real and the Hunter Biden laptop story was false? Is that the individual who's now running the Disinformation Governance Board?" Jordan asked.

"I'm not familiar with those statements," Mayorkas said.

"It's been reported widely," Jordan told him.

"I'm not familiar with those statements," Mayorkas repeated.

Jordan tried to follow up, but once again, Nadler called "time has expired."

'I really haven't dug into this'

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki seemed unaware of what DHS's Disinformation Governance Board will do on Thursday.

A reporter told Psaki, "Secretary said that part of its intention was to tackle misinformation in Hispanic communities especially. Can you give us an idea of what this board is going to be doing, what their authority would look like?

"I really haven't dug into this exactly," Psaki said. "I mean, we of course support this effort, but let me see if I can get more specifics. We know that there has been a range of disinfo out there about a range of topics, I mean, including COVID, for example, and also elections and eligibility. But I will -- I will check and see if there's more specifics."

The reporter also asked about Nina Jankowicz, the head of the new board: "She had previously called the Hunter Biden laptop a Trump campaign product, seeming to discredit its validity or validity of reporting surrounding that. How can -- can you assuage concerns of people who are looking at this person who's been appointed to this position and wondering if she's going to be able to accurately judge misinformation now that a lot of that reporting has been proven to be factual in some ways?" the reporter asked.

"Well, I don't have any comment on the laptop," Psaki said. "But what I can tell you is that it sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities. I'm not sure who opposes that effort. And I don't know who this individual is, so I have no comment on it specifically."

MRC Store