by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Margot Cleveland of the Federalist explains how government censors exceeded their mandate.
The State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) served as one cornerstone of the Censorship-Industrial Complex, colluding with nongovernmental organizations and tech giants to silence disfavored speech during the 2020 election cycle. An investigation by The Federalist now indicates GEC violated its congressional mandate by financing activities and organizations that targeted the speech of Americans.
The Global Engagement Center is a multi-agency center housed in the State Department that originated in 2011 as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), which the Obama administration established by executive order to support federal agency communications in targeting “violent extremism and terrorist organizations.” …
… The 2017 NDAA directed the GEC to “coordinate efforts of the Federal Government” to counter foreign state and foreign nonstate “propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.” The 2019 NDAA then further expanded the GEC’s mission, authorizing it to counter foreign “propaganda and disinformation” that undermines not only the United States’ national security interests but also the “policies, security, or stability” of the U.S. and our allies. While Congress dramatically expanded the breadth of the GEC’s mission, its purpose still remained limited to combatting “foreign” disinformation.
Further, in authorizing GEC to provide grants or contracts to “society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions,” Congress required the awards be directed to combating “foreign propaganda and disinformation,” analyzing techniques of “foreign information warfare,” or countering “efforts by foreign entities.” Congress also explicitly included a limitation in the spending bills. …
… Open-source material reviewed by The Federalist, however, establishes GEC exceeded its statutorily defined purpose by seeking to counter supposed domestic “misinformation” and “disinformation.” Likewise, it illegally used funds appropriated to counter “foreign propaganda and misinformation” for other purposes.