By Greg Piper, Just the News
Critics are sounding the alarm that a new federal office to shield U.S. public opinion from purported threats of foreign disinformation is a thinly veiled reboot under a new name of the abortive Disinformation Governance Board, the Homeland Security Department office abandoned after being defined in the public mind as an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth.”
Housed in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the new Foreign Malign Influence Center was launched with little public notice but is already provoking fears that it will use overstated foreign threats as a pretext to interfere in domestic political debate or will duplicate other federal efforts, especially a controversial State Department unit that tries to squelch populism abroad.
“The threat to U.S. democratic processes and institutions from foreign malign influence is persistent and dynamic,” according to FMIC’s undated fact sheet. “Informing efforts to counter it requires constant attention, a whole-of-government approach, support from the private sector, and engagement from the public.”
It’s not clear whether ODNI proactively told the public about the center until Thursday, when Director Avril Haines mentioned it 45 minutes into a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. It’s not even mentioned in her prepared testimony, which discusses “malign influence” several times.
Though its name starts with “foreign,” FMIC’s congressionally determined objective includes protecting American “public opinion,” suggesting the potential for policing domestic narratives.
Journalism participants in an Aspen Institute exercise before the 2020 election, intended to prevent the spread of “hack-and-dump” disinformation from foreign governments, were explicitly told their suspects were “foreign or other adversarial entities,” meaning domestic sources.
“It’s the basic rhetorical trick of the censorship age: raise a fuss about a foreign threat, using it as a battering ram to get everyone from congress to the tech companies to submit to increased regulation and surveillance,” Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi wrote Friday. “Then, slowly, adjust your aim to domestic targets.
The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 approved initial funding for FMIC, which was first established in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report March 28.
But it only became “activated” Sept. 23 after Haines convinced the committee FMIC wouldn’t duplicate the work of other IC elements, the report says. Archives show its home page on ODNI’s site was live by Oct. 26, but ODNI’s news releases don’t mention it.
Read the full article here: Disinfo Governance Board 2.0? New intel office targets ‘foreign influence’ to shield U.S. ‘opinion’ | Just The News