“One could argue we’re in the business of critical infrastructure, and the most critical infrastructure is our cognitive infrastructure, so building that resilience to misinformation and disinformation, I think, is incredibly important.”
– CISA Director Jen Easterly, November 10, 2021.1
The First Amendment recognizes that no person or entity has a monopoly on the truth, and that the “truth” of today can quickly become the “misinformation” of tomorrow. Labeling speech “misinformation” or “disinformation” does not strip it of its First Amendment protection. As such, under the Constitution, the federal government is strictly prohibited from censoring Americans’ political speech. The government also may not use third parties to bypass the First Amendment and conduct censorship by proxy.2
The Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government have been conducting an investigation into government-induced censorship on social media. Although the investigation is ongoing, information obtained to date has revealed that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)—an upstart agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—has facilitated the censorship of Americans directly and through third-party intermediaries.
Founded in 2018, CISA was originally intended to be an ancillary agency designed to protect “critical infrastructure” and guard against cybersecurity threats.3 In the years since its creation, however, CISA metastasized into the nerve center of the federal government’s domestic surveillance and censorship operations on social media.4 By 2020, CISA routinely reported social media posts that allegedly spread “disinformation” to social media platforms.5 By 2021, CISA had a formal “Mis-, Dis-, and Malinformation” (MDM) team.6 In 2022 and 2023, in response to growing public and private criticism of CISA’s unconstitutional behavior, CISA attempted to camouflage its activities, duplicitously claiming it serves a purely “informational” role.7
This interim staff report details, among other things, that:
CISA is “working with federal partners to mature a whole-of-government approach” tocurbing alleged misinformation and disinformation.8
• CISA considered the creation of an anti-misinformation “rapid response team” capable ofphysically deploying across the United States.9
• CISA moved its censorship operation to a CISA-funded non-profit after CISA and theBiden Administration were sued in federal court, implicitly admitting that its censorshipactivities are unconstitutional.10
• CISA wanted to use the same CISA-funded non-profit as its mouthpiece to “avoid theappearance of government propaganda.”11
• Members of CISA’s advisory committee agonized that it was “only a matter of timebefore someone realizes we exist and starts asking about our work.”12
The Committee and the Select Subcommittee are responsible for investigating “violation[s] of the civil liberties of citizens of the United States.”13 In accordance with this mandate, this interim staff report on CISA’s violations of the First Amendment and other unconstitutional activities fulfills the obligation to identify and report on the weaponization of the federal government against American citizens. The work, however, is not done. CISA still has not adequately complied with a subpoena for relevant documents, and much more factfinding is necessary. In order to better inform the Committee’s legislative efforts, the Committee and Select Subcommittee will continue to investigate CISA’s and other Executive Branch agencies’ entanglement with social media platforms.