The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) confirmed that President Joe Biden’s administration has plowed ahead with efforts to tackle so-called “disinformation” through one office under the oft-repeated threat of “interference in elections.”
Homeland Security’s defunct Disinformation Governance Board appeared to be only one piece of a larger attempt at wrangling the flow of public opinion when DNI Avril Haines testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. Addressing global threats, Haines was asked directly what efforts were being taken to tackle disinformation, prompting reference to the Foreign Malign Influence Center (FMIC).
“Congress put into law that we should establish a Foreign Malign Influence Center in the intelligence community; we have stood that up,” Haines asserted. “It encompasses our election threat executive work, essentially looking at foreign influence and interference in elections, but it also deals with disinformation more generally.”
“What we have been doing is effectively trying to support the Global Engagement Center and others throughout the U.S. government in helping them to understand what are the plans and intentions of the key actors in this space: China, Russia, other…Iran, etc., and then give them a sense of what it is we’re seeing in terms of the techniques that they use, how they go about this and provide that for policy makers so that they’re able to take that information and hopefully counter it and address it,” the DNI continued.
According to The Intercept, though the FMIC was established on Sept. 23, 2022, upon funding approval from Congress, there had been no public mention of the entity until they had fielded questions about it. Due to its placement with the Office of the DNI, it was detailed that FMIC “enjoys the unique authority to marshal support from all elements of the U.S. intelligence community to monitor and combat foreign influence efforts such as disinformation campaigns.”
Opinion on the purpose of the FMIC appeared to be that its “mission is identical to DHS Disinformation Governance Board,” in allegedly seeking “to influence public opinion & behavior.”
1. #DisinfoGate PART 2
FOREIGN MALIGN INFLUENCE CENTER#FMIC quietly opened it’s doors in Sept 2022
It’s mission is identical to DHS Disinformation Governance Board
FMIC mission is to counter “malign influence” that seeks to influence public opinion & behavior@elonmusk pic.twitter.com/9JSapMdGAW
— Name Redacted (@NameRedacted247) February 23, 2023
In March, Jeff Brown of Brownstone Research wrote, “The government simply dropped the ‘hot potato’ (Disinformation Governance Board) by shutting it down, appearing to give a win to those who believe in freedom and constitutional rights. And the next month, it reinstituted the planned thought police with a new name in a different governmental agency. And almost no one noticed.”
The FMIC’s own fact sheet argued, “The threat to U.S. democratic process and institutions from foreign malign influence is persistent and dynamic. Informing efforts to counter it requires constant attention, a whole-of-government approach, support from the private sector, and engagement from the public.”
However, in advance of its creation, concerns had been voiced by a number of figures including Air Force Reserves intelligence officer Maj. Neill Perry. Referring to the FMIC by its earlier name, the Foreign Malign Influence Response Center (FMIRC), Perry wrote in the Army’s Cyber Defense Review for Spring 2022 “The decision to create a new agency is puzzling for two reasons.”
“First, the FMIRC duplicates the mission of the GEC. The GEC already produces assessments on influence operations, including a team of thirty data scientists who monitor the public information environment and share their analysis with the State Department and interagency partners,” he said.
“Second,” the intelligence officer went on, “Congress did not elaborate on how the FMIRC would work with the GEC. In passing this legislation, Congress did not eliminate the GEC or reduce its mission. Not only does the GEC continue to exist, it may soon wield greater resources. In May 2021, the Senate passed legislation that would double the GEC’s annual budget.”
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) had also called into question the need for the FMIC in January 2022 stating, “We want to be sure that this center enhances those efforts rather than duplicating them or miring them in unnecessary bureaucracy,” before adding there were, “legitimate questions about how large such an organization should be and even about where it would fit.”
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