CNN’s Dana Bash grilled Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the role of its newly formed Disinformation Governance Board and whether it will increase governmental surveillance of U.S. citizens, ala George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in “1984,” as some critics are calling it.
Bash pressed Mayorkas on the matter during her “State of the Union” show Sunday, pointing out how quickly conservatives have denounced it. “Republicans are calling it ‘Orwellian,’” she said. “Can you clarify what exactly is this? What exactly will this disinformation governance board do? Will it monitor American citizens?” she questioned.
“Those criticisms are precisely the opposite of what this small working group within the Department of Homeland Security will do,” Mayorkas answered, though he conceded that “we probably could have done a better job of communicating what it does and does not do.” The official maintained the board’s necessity, reiterating that disinformation from other nations is a “threat to the security of the homeland.”
However, Bash pressed on, asking what the board will actually do and how it will approach tackling disinformation. Mayorkas said that the internal working group will “draw from best practices” that do not infringe on the rights of free speech and privacy.
Bash asked again if American citizens will be monitored; Mayorkas answered in the negative. “Can you guarantee that?” Bash persisted. While Mayorkas side-stepped a direct answer to the question, he maintained that the board does not have any “operational authority or capability” and instead will just relay information it gathers to DHS officials who have been handling security threats for years.
Mayorkas also defended the appointment of Nina Jankowicz, an author specializing in disinformation, who he called an “eminently qualified renowned expert” despite Republican complaints that she’s not a “neutral” figure.
Bash shifted gears, wondering if Mayorkas would “be OK if Donald Trump were president if he created this disinformation governance board? Or — if it is in place and he wins again in 2024 — that he’s in charge of such a thing?”
The secretary, not directly addressing the issue brought up in the question, again defended the board’s creation and its goals. “I believe that this working group, that gathers together best practices, makes sure that our work is coordinated, consistent with those best practices, that we’re safeguarding the right of free speech, that we’re safeguarding civil liberties, I think, is an extraordinarily important endeavor,” he concluded.