Sen. Josh Hawley is accusing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of withholding from Congress key details surrounding his agency’s push to influence online speech.
In a letter to Mr. Mayorkas on Monday, the Missouri Republican said recently unveiled details have revealed an “expansive effort” by DHS to continue its “speech-suppression mission” despite disbanding the so-called “Disinformation Governance Board” amid Republican uproar.
The letter follows the release of documents obtained by The Intercept last month that show DHS has maintained a direct line to Facebook to report claims of “disinformation” to the company despite DHS backtracking on its public plans to create a council to combat disinformation.
“While you were publicly announcing that you had disbanded the Disinformation Governance Board, your Department was still ‘having biweekly meetings’ behind closed doors with Facebook to suppress speech,” Mr. Hawley wrote citing The Intercept’s reporting.
“When you last appeared before the Senate, you testified under oath in response to my questioning that you ‘owe openness and transparency’ to the Senate and that, absent a legal prohibition, you would ‘produce the documents’ related to your speech-suppression efforts,” he wrote. “Yet despite my repeated requests for information … you still have not come clean about the full extent of your Department’s operations.”
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Hawley concluded his letter with a demand that Mr. Mayorkas turn over “all communications and records related to your department’s efforts to suppress free speech” ahead of his scheduled appearance before Congress later this week.
Mr. Mayorkas disbanded the disinformation board in August.
When he announced the project in April, Mr. Mayorkas told members of Congress that its purpose would be to police disinformation aimed at minority communities.
Critics have continued to argue that the fact Mr. Mayorkas entertained the idea of having a board to shape online discourse in the first place is troubling.
Mr. Mayorkas is scheduled to appear alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray before the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday for hearings focused on threats to the U.S.