Ranking Member Thompson Issues Statement Following Repeated Extreme MAGA Republican Slander of CISA
Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, issued the following statement after Republicans again made misleading statements about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) efforts to build resilience to mis- and disinformation at a hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government today:
“The spirit of our democracy relies on a well-informed and civically engaged public. In 2016, the Russian government exploited the freedoms we cherish to spread false information and sow division among Americans – and we were caught flatfooted. In the years that followed – and as adversaries like China and Iran launched their own information operations – the Trump Administration led efforts to build resilience to our adversaries’ information operations.
“CISA’s efforts in this space were driven by requests for help by State election officials from both political parties, and it was transparent about its efforts from the start. Republicans didn’t object to CISA’s work until CISA refused to perpetuate the Big Lie. Unfortunately, some of my Republican colleagues are intent on slandering CISA to remain in the good graces of Donald Trump, and in so doing, they are misrepresenting the work of government officials and private citizens alike. The American people deserve better, and I want to start to correct the record.”
Earlier this year, Committee Republicans launched a so-called “investigation” to substantiate their baseless claims that CISA engaged in censorship in the months leading up to the 2020 election. As part of the “investigation”, the Committee conducted interviews with five officials from Stanford University, the University of Washington, and Atlantic Council who were part of the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP). The Committee also conducted an interview with a former senior CISA official who was responsible for overseeing election security activities.
The statements of these individuals make clear that CISA did not create or fund the EIP or direct its work. On-the-record excerpts from these interviews are provided below.
Mr. Alexander Stamos, Director, Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), Stanford University:
Preamble: Neither the EIP 2020 or Virality Project received any public funding.
Q: But just to be clear, did anyone from CISA or anywhere else in the Federal Government come to you and ask you to establish the EIP?
A: Nobody from the government asked us to establish EIP. It was my on my own volition that we established it.
Q: When EIP worked with CISA in 2020, who was President?
A: Donald J. Trump.
Q: And just to be clear on how EIP operated, did government entities ever direct the scope or research activities of EIP in 2020?
Q: Did government entities weigh in on SIO's research methodology related to the work in EIP in 2020?
A: I can't recall anybody in any government giving us feedback on the research methodology. No.
Q: Did government entities have the opportunity to shape or request changes to findings or conclusions SIO researchers made over the course of their work for EIP in 2020?
A: No. Our conclusions are all our own, and anything we published or sent to the platforms were the opinion of our researchers.
Dr. Kate Starbird, Associate Professor, Center for an Informed Public (CIP), University of Washington:
Q: Did CIP receive any Federal money to carry out its EIP work in 2020?
Q: To the best of your knowledge, did any of the government partners that you worked with direct the topics or scope of the research that ?? that was performed by EIP or CIP during 2020?
A: I can't speak for the EIP. For the CIP, none of the government partners directed any of our work.
Q: So they did not weigh in on CIP's research methodology for the work performed at EIP in the –
A: Not at all.
Q: Did the government have the opportunity to shape or request changes to findings or conclusions CIP researchers made over the course of their work for EIP in 2020?
A: For the CIP, not at all.
Mr. Graham Brookie, Vice President and Senior Director, Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), Atlantic Council:
Q: Do you know any CISA officials that were working directly with the EIP?
Q: What is your understanding of CISA's role with the EIP?
A: My understanding is that CISA wouldn't have a formalized or official role within the EIP, as the EIP being an independent research partnership with four specific 22 organizations.
Q: Well, I mean, it may not have been official. What was your understanding of CISA's role with the EIP?
A: My understanding of CISA's role in general is that they are engaged on election security and election integrity, which is a topic that is related to looking at mis- and disinformation about the process and results of the election.
Q: Okay. The EIP report describes CISA as a stakeholder, an important stakeholder and that the EIP was developed in consultation with CISA. So do you have any understanding of CISA's participation in the EIP?
A: My understanding of the term stakeholder is that we had a very broad audience that included any number of public or private entities in making that research as broadly available to them as possible.
Mr. Matt Masterson, Former Senior Cybersecurity Advisor at CISA:
Q: At any point in your experience working at CISA, were you advised that you had the authority to compel a social media company to take any particular action related to any particular content on social media?
A: No. I don’t recall that happening in my experience, no.
Q: Do you have that—did you ever try to exercise that authority?
A: I don’t—no, I don’t recall ever percieving that I had that authority.
Q: So did you or CISA force social media companies to talk to you? Did you say, “Show up here and talk to us or else”?
A: No I don’t recall that occurring.
Adam Comis (Thompson) at 202-225-9978
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