A watchdog group is pressing the Department of Homeland Security to disclose its methods behind a new domestic terrorism threat bulletin that warns of “the proliferation of false or misleading narratives” as a cause of undermining public trust in the federal government.
The Center to Advance Security in America (CASA) said it will file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the basis for the DHS bulletin.
The group said the Biden administration’s policy involves “the use of the domestic security state to potentially target political opponents, squash free speech and deliver federal dollars to special interest allies.”
“What is a ‘misleading narrative,’ and who’s deciding what’s misleading, and how are they going to go after and conduct intelligence on it?” CASA Director Adam Turner said Wednesday in an interview. “I think they’re referring to people that don’t agree with whatever their talking points are for that time.”
He said the policy could lead to chilling free speech on such matters as the origins of COVID-19, the effectiveness of vaccines, or election integrity claims.
The National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin, issued Monday by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, is the fifth of its kind released since January 2021.
It says the U.S. “remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors.”
The bulletin cites “the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions; continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents; and calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States based on recent events.”
Mr. Turner said it’s not clear how the government uses the advisory system’s justification.
“It depends on how motivated they are,” he said. “So many people are canceled these days because of that type of language. And to have the American governments also get involved, that’s exactly what the founders were worried about. They wanted free speech. And to have the American government decide to get involved … it’s just very dangerous.”
He said his group’s FOIA request will seek information on whether government funding will be sent to politically motivated nonprofit organizations dedicated to promoting the administration’s policy agenda, whether it is the basis for funding groups that purport to “correct” misinformation, and whether the Nonprofit Security Grant Program will be used to fund “partisan organizations or those with close ties to public officials in an effort to bolster their public communications efforts.”
DHS did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
In his announcement Monday, Mr. Mayorkas said the advisory system bulletin “outlines the key factors that have increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the current threat environment, and highlights resources for individuals and communities to stay safe.”
“DHS remains committed to proactively sharing timely information and intelligence about the evolving threat environment with the American public,” Mr. Mayorkas said. “We also remain committed to working with our partners across every level of government and in the private sector to prevent all forms of terrorism and targeted violence, and to support law enforcement efforts to keep our communities safe.”
A rabbi from Colleyville, Texas, told Congress this week that training provided by the Nonprofit Security Grant Program was invaluable in helping him to save himself and three members of his synagogue during a hostage crisis last month.
The gunman, a British national seeking the release of a convicted terrorist from a U.S. prison, was eventually shot and killed by law enforcement agents.