House Foreign Affairs Republicans sent a letter on Tuesday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding more information about the department’s funding of groups that censor conservatives and free speech.
Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Foreign Affairs Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee Chair Brian Mast (R-FL), Reps. Chris Smith (R-FL), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Maria Salazar (R-FL), Keith Self (R-TX), Cory Mills (R-FL), and Ken Buck (R-CO) mentioned that the committee would postpone reauthorizing the Global Engagement Center (GEC) as Republicans have accused the State Department subagency of funding censorship.
The lawmakers accused the GEC of mission creep, expanding well beyond its primary mission of fighting terrorism to funding groups that hound conservative media outlets under the guise of diminishing disinformation.
“The GEC’s founding mission, effectively, was to provide a ready resource for the truth about America and our fight against global terror, particularly ISIS,” the Foreign Affairs Republicans wrote.
“[But now we] are forced to wonder about the authority by which the GEC justifies its mission creep, and the direction of its current evolutionary trajectory,” the lawmakers added. “Congress originally authorized the GEC to ‘support the development and dissemination of fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at the United States and United States allies and partner nations.’”
“While the GEC performs some unquestionably important work, it has also provided social media companies with access to tech applications that ‘detect and either knock down or flag malign-foreign-influence activity,’ but, according to the FBI, also ‘might accidentally pick up U.S. people[‘s] information,'” the lawmakers continued.
The House Foreign Affairs Republicans noted that the GEC funded the Global Disinformation Index, a foreign data-driven advocacy organization, which “created blacklists of U.S. domestic media voices to cripple U.S. citizen journalists’ advertising revenue.”
GDI receives funding from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and offers advertising clients its Dynamic Exclusion List, which lists the likeliness of an outlet to be at risk of spreading disinformation. As Breitbart News has detailed, GDI often labels right-wing outlets as being at risk of spreading disinformation and left-wing and establishment outlets as being the least likely to spread disinformation.
Paul Fitzpatrick, the president of the 1792 Exchange, recently told Breitbart News Daily host Alex Marlow that GDI possibly changed some elections’ outcomes because it chokes off information.
The State Department also partnered with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, and Moonshot CVE on combatting disinformation, according to the House Republicans.
The GOP members of Congress noted that the federal government cannot scrap the First Amendment merely because they want to curb “disinformation” or “misinformation:”
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits government officials from censoring disfavored speakers and viewpoints. Merely labeling speech “misinformation” or “disinformation” does not strip away First Amendment protections, and government officials may not circumvent the First Amendment by inducing, threatening, and/or colluding with private entities to suppress protected speech.
They continued, noting the first head wrote an op-ed that was highly critical of free speech:
In 2019, Richard Stengel, the very first head of the GEC after its 2016 founding, published an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for an effective end to the First Amendment. This fact calls into question not only the founder, but the founding vision of the GEC itself. Stengel went on to say in a televised interview: “[T]he basis of the First Amendment, the marketplace of ideas model, is actually not working. Marketplace of ideas is this notion that good ideas will drive out bad ideas. Well, it was kind of a mystical notion coming from Milton and John Stewart Mill and that doesn’t really happen anymore … I’m actually very sympathetic now to the U.S. adopting some versions of hate speech laws in Europe.”
The group also requested all documents and communications about the State Department’s contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements relating to:
- Alliance for Securing Democracy
- Atlantic Council Digital Public Square
- Global Disinformation Index
- German Marshall Fund of the United States
- Google Jigsaw
- Institute for Strategic Dialogue
- Moonshot CVE
The lawmakers also demanded all documents, emails, and correspondence to/from employees, contractors, subcontractors, or consultants at the GEC mentioning “disinformation,” and “misinformation,” relating to the Washington Examiner, RealClear Politics, the Federalist, Newsmax, Breitbart News, the Daily Wire, One America News, and the New York Post.
Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.