DHS Pauses Disinformation Governance Board: Jankowicz Resigns

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "paused" the Disinformation Governance Board three weeks after it was revealed to the public by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during an April 27, FY2023 Budget Request Hearing with Homeland Security. The Board and its Executive Director, Nina Jankowicz, has been widely criticized. Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) disliked the announcement so much he sent a scathing letter to Mayorkas citing violations of the First Amendment and the Antideficiency Act.

On May 2, the DHS arguably attempted to do damage control by publishing a Fact Sheet seeking to reassure Americans that free speech is still alive and well in America. DHS elevated its duty to keep Americans safe and secure as justification for the new Board. The Fact Sheet seems to imply there is nothing to worry about here, and this Board is "business as usual." However, language in the Fact Sheet also seemed to recognize that the announcement had hit a nerve with the American public. It went to some length to explain Americans may just be "confused" about its mission. The Fact Sheet directly discusses the idea Americans can continue to trust the DHS will continue to operate transparently. Excerpts from the Fact Sheet are provided below:

The Department is deeply committed to doing all of its work in a way that protects Americans' freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy...

There has been confusion about the working group, its role, and its activities. The reaction to this working group has prompted DHS to assess what steps we should take to build the trust needed for the Department to be effective in this space. As a result, we will be taking the following additional steps:

    • Under Secretary Mayorkas's leadership, the Department has renewed its commitment to transparency and openness with the public and Congress. DHS will proactively release comprehensive quarterly reports about the working group's activities to Congress, including its oversight committees.
    • Secretary Mayorkas will request that the bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) make recommendations for how the Department can most effectively and appropriately address disinformation that poses a threat to the homeland, while protecting free speech and other fundamental rights, and that HSAC Co-Chair Jamie Gorelick and HSAC Member Michael Chertoff lead this effort. Ms. Gorelick is a former U.S. Deputy Attorney General, and Mr. Chertoff was Secretary of Homeland Security during President George W. Bush's Administration. 
    • At Secretary Mayorkas's request, DHS is exploring additional ways to enhance the public's trust in this important work. 

On the same day as the release of the DHS Fact Sheet, Jankowicz stated on Twitter there is no such thing as the Deep State. Rather, she said the idea "there is a secret cabal here in Washington working to undermine the American people—it couldn't be further from the truth..."

Jankowicz officially resigned from the Board on Wednesday.

In a statement to CBS News, Jankowicz said she is leaving DHS to "continue her work in the public sphere." Mayorkas said the controversy swirling around the Board was becoming a distraction.

Jankowicz told CBS News in a statement Wednesday, "With the Board's work paused and its future uncertain, and I have decided to leave DHS to return to my work in the public sphere. It is deeply disappointing that mischaracterizations of the Board became a distraction from the Department's vital work, and indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, embodies why it is necessary."

Jankowicz has been ridiculed for her singing TikTok videos and other content posted on social media. She also contended in one post the Hunter Biden laptop controversy was nothing more than a "Russian influence op."

Revolver News wrote a powerful story on May 16 revealing Jankowicz's involvement in the Integrity Initiative, "a dark government-funded NGO that appears to have engaged in political meddling and covert influence operations in Western countries under the guise of fighting "disinformation'. Founded in mid-2015 under the auspices of the U.K. government-funded NGO "Institute for Statecraft," the Integrity Initiative boasted a precociously fashionable motto: "Defending Democracy Against Disinformation."

This is not the only organization she has worked for with that kind of focus. Her work with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) was similar in nature. She has described herself as "someone who has made a career in democracy assistance." Benjamin Norton, a Latin American journalist, writes she was essentially "helping with regime change with a CIA cutout."

"At the NDI, Jankowicz oversaw so-called "democracy assistance programs" in Russia in Belarus. In other words, she helped run regime-change operations aimed at overthrowing these independent Eastern European governments. U.S. intelligence cutouts like the NDI frequently use "democracy assistance" as a euphemism to mean regime change."

The "Mean Tweets" woman, Taylor Lorenz, contends in a Washington Post OpED that Jankowicz and the Disinformation Governance Board fell victim to "right-wing disinformation."

"Jankowicz's experience is a prime example of how the right-wing Internet apparatus operates, where far-right influencers attempt to identify a target, present a narrative, and then repeat mischaracterizations across social media and websites with the aim of discrediting and attacking anyone who seeks to challenge them."

Biden Administration Focus on Disinformation is Here to Stay

Some speculate the Disinformation Governance Board will either go underground or pop up again once Mayorkas finds a new Director. Either way, as UncoverDC has reported extensively, the Biden administration already has a substantial commitment to building a robust network of activity to combat Mis, Dis, and Malinformation throughout its agencies.

In April, CISA announced its first iteration of its "Secure Tomorrow Toolkit" with elaborate resources and "scenarios workshops" set in 2026 to explore "matrix games" and "four different future scenarios (Life Under a Microscope, A Fragmented World, Deep Disinformation, and A New Wave of Cooperation), and identify a set of strategies that would most effectively mitigate risk across all the scenarios."

The Toolkit is "designed to assist stakeholders across the critical infrastructure community to self-facilitate and conduct strategic foresight activities that will enable them to derive actionable insights about the future, identify emerging risks, and develop risk management strategies that, if taken today, could enhance long-term critical infrastructure security and resilience to implement now." Mitigation of Mis, Dis, and Malinformation is an essential focus of CISA's risk management strategy for the future.

CISA also has future disaster scenarios in the works to protect the 16 critical national infrastructure sectors. Its National Risk Management Center "is working to develop the next iteration of the Toolkit focused on the following topics: (1) synthetic biology; (2) brain computer interface (BCI); (3) mis-, dis-, and malinformation (MDM); and (4) quantum technologies (to include computing, communications, and sensors). The next Toolkit will be available later this year.

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