WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, America First Legal (AFL) released additional documents obtained from a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Administration (CISA) revealing extensive “pre-bunk” channels to “fact-check” the American people and possible violations of the federal records act.
Last week, America First legal filed a federal class action lawsuit against key persons and entities involved in the so-called “Election Integrity Partnership” and the “Virality Project,” on behalf of Jill Hines, the co-Director of Health Freedom Louisiana, and Jim Hoft, the founder the popular news website The Gateway Pundit. As we detailed in the lawsuit, these orchestrators of the censorship industrial complex worked closely with the federal government — CISA, in particular — to influence the 2020 Election, violate the First Amendment, and censor conservative political speech.
The documents released today only further bolster AFL’s claims that the Deep State was intricately involved in a mass surveillance and censorship campaign to target dissenting views. These documents provide more evidence of:
- Formal and Informal government partnerships with private sector tech companies to monitor, “fact-check,” and remove speech and flag accounts;
- Multiple modes of communication, including government clearance for employees to communicate with non-governmental actors via a self-deleting messaging app “Signal” for “official” business;
- Communications boasting of how many Tweets were flagged or removed.
Established “Debunk” and “Pre-bunk” “Fact-Checking” Networks
As we learned from the Missouri and Louisiana deposition, Brian Scully was in charge of censoring election “misinformation” in CISA’s Countering Foreign Interference Task Force during the 2020 election cycle.
On November 5, 2020, two days after Election Day, an external sender sent Brian Scully an email asking if he had seen or heard of any “debunks” of the Project Veritas videos
Scully asks the sender to clarify which Project Veritas video they’re referring to and the sender replied “I just checked with our teams so you don’t have to spin your wheels. Doesn’t look like a debunk exists yet.”
Notably, the sender and their organization are redacted, but we can tell they are clearly outside of the DHS domain, and likely outside of the United States government.
But the implication of the two parties checking to see if a “debunk” exists is to see if they can take action against the post, to either throttle or remove it.
The sender’s statement “Doesn’t look like a debunk exists yet” also implies that these actors can influence whether one will exist in the future—all they need to do is ask (which is the subject of AFL’s lawsuit in the Hines matter).
Even more concerning is CISA’s efforts to “pre-bunk” information which is an Orwellian term for stopping disfavored ideas before they spread (most infamously, the Aspen Institute hosted a “tabletop exercise,” to “pre-bunk” reporting around a potential “hack and leak” relating to Hunter Biden for the top censors at Facebook and Twitter, as well as national security reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN, in the summer of 2020, months before the October 14 publication). Again, we do not know who this was sent to, but the most logical conclusion is that it was sent to a social media company.
Whoever it was sent to, though, apparently thought it was useful for speech suppression and shared it with their “teams.”
Routine Communication by Government Officials Off of Government Servers and Networks
The documents reveal that Scully and his team were communicating with non-governmental parties about their government-related work on the secure, and self-deleting, messaging app Signal. This raises not only questions of what were they saying that they did not even want picked up on email searches, but did they comply with the Federal Records Act.
Despite the email saying they went through legal and went through “records management issues” to get access to Signal, those messages were not produced. AFL will follow up relentlessly to obtain and publish these records.
On Election Day 2020, Brian Scully appears to email Yoel Roth from Twitter confirming the existence of outside communications saying “We’re going to email only. We’ll only report critical items from outside email chains. We’ll continue to monitor the chat though.”
Cozy and Familiar Relationships
Finally, the production is replete with examples of a cozy relationship between private industry, government, and Tech Companies where everyone understands that CISA can ask Twitter to have content and speech removed and censored.
In this tweet, someone (presumably from Twitter) brags “We have labeled so many Tweets tonight”
And in this example, we see someone who appears to be a senior lobbyist for Dominion Voting Systems, reaching out to CISA to request “Twitter Assistance” saying a narrative online is false, and asking CISA officials to work with Twitter to remove the speech.
Again, regardless of whether a given statement is true or false, it is 1) illegal for the government to censor it and 2) not for unelected bureaucrats or political leadership to determine what is true and what the American people can see.
Statement from Gene Hamilton, America First Legal Vice President and General Counsel:
“These documents reveal an extraordinarily close relationship between the federal government and private entities committed to a censorship campaign. And while these documents should be alarming to all Americans, what’s even more so is what isn’t in these records. These emails contain direct evidence of an encrypted chat group that included communications about the censorship conspiracy—which apparently were not maintained in compliance with federal records laws—between government actors, big tech platforms, and other private entities. More information, not less, is the key to a truly free and open society,” said Gene Hamilton.
Read the entire production here.
View the FOIA Request, case documents, and previous productions here.
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