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Department of Homeland Security shuts down disinformation board that drew fire from GOP

Republicans denounced the disinformation board when it was created this year, eventually leading to a pause in its work and the resignation of its director.
Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, speaks in Miami on Aug. 1, 2022.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks in Miami on Aug. 1.Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that it has shut down a disinformation working group that generated controversy this year when Republicans denounced it as an effort to curb free speech.

In a statement, DHS said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas decided to terminate the Disinformation Governance Board following a recommendation from the Homeland Security Advisory Council, which provides the DHS secretary with independent advice.

DHS will "continue to address threat streams that undermine the security of our country consistent with the law, while upholding the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of the American people and promoting transparency in our work," the department's statement said.

House Republican leaders called on Congress in May to pass legislation that would shut down the board and block federal funds from being used for similar activities. At the time, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that the group was President Joe Biden's "ministry of truth" and that it was an "un-American abuse of power."

GOP opponents of the board said its purpose was vague and claimed that the administration wanted to exploit the office and manipulate information.

Amid the backlash, DHS released a fact sheet about the group’s goals, saying, "When it comes to DHS’s work, the department is focused on disinformation that threatens the security of the American people, including disinformation spread by foreign states such as Russia, China, and Iran, or other adversaries such as transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling organizations."

About a week after Republicans lashed out, the expert appointed to oversee it, Nina Jankowicz, resigned after the program was paused amid the GOP criticism. She said she and her family had received numerous death threats since the board was formed in April.

Republicans had accused Jankowicz of previously spreading misinformation. Jankowicz was a disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, a public policy think tank, where she studied the intersection of democracy and technology in Central and Eastern Europe.