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‘Guarantee That?’: Dana Bash Corners Mayorkas With Concerns Disinfo Board Will Monitor Americans
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 28: U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Judicary Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on April 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. The House Judicary Committee held an oversight hearing of the Department of Homeland Security. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

CNN anchor Dana Bash pressed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the Disinformation Governance Board, asking whether he could guarantee that it wouldn’t result in an arm of the federal government monitoring the speech of everyday American citizens.

During a Sunday morning interview on “State of the Union,” Bash also asked whether Mayorkas would have trouble accepting a similar board created under a President Donald Trump — or the current board falling under Trump’s control if he were to be reelected as president in 2024.

“Republicans are calling it ‘Orwellian’ and comparing it to the Ministry of Truth in the novel ‘1984,’” Bash said of the board. “Can you clarify what exactly is this? What exactly will this disinformation governance board do? Will it monitor American citizens?”

“Dana, I’m very pleased to do so. It’s clear, I mean, those criticisms are precisely the opposite of what this small working group within the Department of Homeland Security will do,” Mayorkas replied. “And I think we probably could have done a better job of communicating what it does and does not do. The fact is that disinformation that creates a threat to the security of the homeland is our responsibility to address. And this department has been addressing it for years.”

Mayorkas then suggested that the board would simply be addressing disinformation from foreign sources — such as Russia, Iran, or China — that would pose a national security threat.

“We know the problems but it’s not clear to me how this governance board will act. What will it do?” Bash pressed.

“So, what it does, it works to ensure that the way in which we address threats, the connectivity between threats and acts of violence are addressed without infringing on free speech,” Mayorkas said, noting that the board would not have “operational authority” to act but would work to provide information to those who did.

“Will American citizens be monitored?” Bash asked directly.

“No,” Mayorkas replied.

“Guarantee that?” Bash pushed harder.

“So what we do, we in the Department of Homeland Security don’t monitor American citizens,” Mayorkas continued to object.

“You don’t, but will this change that?” Bash kept digging.

“No, no, the board does not have any operational capability,” Mayorkas said again.

Bash went on to point out some of the partisan questions about the board — and Nina Jankowicz, who has been tapped to head the board — noting that many appeared to be concerned that she would not act in a neutral fashion.

“Would you be okay 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?” she asked.

Mayorkas did not address her question directly, saying instead, “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 extraordinary important endeavor.”

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