FILE - Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas talks to the media, Friday, June 25, 2021, after he toured of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas. 

(The Center Square) – Twenty attorneys general are demanding that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “immediately disband” the agency’s newly created Disinformation Governance Board and “cease all efforts to police Americans’ protected speech.”

In a letter dated May 5, they argue the board is unconstitutional, illegal and un-American. If Mayorkas doesn’t shut it down, the AGs say they will sue.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares led the coalition of attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

They expressed alarm after learning of the board after Mayorkas announced its creation in his testimony before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

“No statutory authority exists to support your creation of a board of government censors,” the attorneys general wrote. “Although Congress has considered a variety of measures to address the perceived dangers of ‘disinformation’ in the United States, none has passed.

“Instead, while the people’s elected representatives continue to debate this issue, you have arrogated to yourself the power to address it without congressional authorization, despite the far-reaching effects of the Disinformation Governance Board on Americans and our political process,” they add.

Having a federal board slap a “federal-government label of ‘disinformation’ or ‘misinformation’ on speech that government bureaucrats, operating behind closed doors, decree to be improper” is “an unacceptable and downright alarming encroachment on every citizen’s right to express his or her opinions, engage in political debate, and disagree with the government,” they wrote.

“Your censorship will not drown out misinformation; it will suppress the lawful speech of well-meaning but unpopular speakers, and it will turn bad actors into martyrs with far more influence than if you simply allowed ‘more speech’ to combat their alleged misinformation,” they warned.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who signed the letter, said, “I will not allow the Biden Administration to continue to erode our democracy by silencing millions of people in defiance of our Constitution and First Amendment freedoms, and deny every American the right to be heard. You cannot simply label as ‘disinformation’ all speech you disagree with or find politically damaging to your cause and expect the American people to tolerate the government telling them what they can think or say.”

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who also signed the letter, said, “President Biden is attempting to confuse and distort legitimate criticism and the perspective of American citizens. This authoritarian maneuver could be straight out of the novel 1984 and should frighten Americans of all political persuasions."

The AGs also expressed alarm over the board’s new director, Nina Jankowicz, pointing to erroneous claims she’s made while labeling others as “ dis-informers” and “information launderers.”

Jankowicz previously claimed that Hunter Biden’s laptop was “the product of a foreign disinformation campaign,” which was later proven to be false. She asserted that the coronavirus lab leak in China was “invented because it was ‘politically convenient for Trump,’” even though the U.S. intelligence community “now assesses that this theory may very well be correct,” they write. She also “even praised Christopher Steele, the discredited author of the infamous false ‘dossier’ about President Trump, and one of the most notable peddlers of disinformation in recent memory,” they add.

“It would be amusing that a self-proclaimed expert in disinformation like Ms. Jankowicz has proven to be so bad at identifying it, except that you have placed her in charge of doing so on behalf of the United States government,” they argue.

AG Miyares also it’s extremely troubling that Jankowicz described parents in Loudoun County, Virginia, as “‘disinformers’ engaged in ‘disinformation for profit’” simply because they don’t want their children taught Critical Race Theory.

DHS published a fact sheet about the board, calling it an internal working group with a stated purpose of “protecting free speech and other fundamental rights when addressing disinformation that threatens the security of the United States.”

DHS said it’s focused on “disinformation that threatens the security of the American people, including disinformation spread by foreign states such as Russia, China, and Iran, or other adversaries such as transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling organizations. Such malicious actors often spread disinformation to exploit vulnerable individuals and the American public, including during national emergencies.”

It also states the working group will be coordinating with “other federal agencies and a diverse range of external stakeholders.”

A bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council co-chaired by former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and former DHS Secretary under the George W. Bush administration, Michael Chertoff, will also offer recommendations according to the fact sheet.