In war, it is said that the first casualty is the truth.
Almost certainly, that has been true ever since the war in Ukraine broke out in 2014 after Viktor Yanukovych was deposed as Ukrainian president — President Joe Biden took credit for it in his memoirs from his time as Vice President — Russia annexed Crimea and laid claim to Donetsk and Luhansk and a civil war broke out.
Specifically, in U.S. politics, the war sparked counterintelligence activities, directly interfering with the elections, by casting first the idiotic Russiagate allegations against former President Donald Trump in 2016, accusing him of aiding Moscow in hacking the DNC servers and giving the emails to Wikileaks. The Clinton campaign commissioned the Christopher Steele dossier, which the FBI used to get Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act surveillance warrants against Trump campaign advisors, and among other things accuse Trump of having the Republican National Committee’s position on Ukraine weakened.
None of it was true, but it didn’t matter. Trump was a threat to the war effort. Recall in 2016 Trump ran as a nominally anti-war candidate, and spoke of trying to prevent Word War III with Russia. He thought he could make a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The result was a propaganda storm the country had not seen since the Red Scare of the 1950s and the result of big lies is that the truth is censored.
America wasted three years on Russiagate only for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to basically say, “Whoops” as his final report found no Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia to hack the DNC. But by then the damage was already done in the way of public opinion. Importantly, any deal Trump might have come to with Russia to avoid war would have been tainted under the specter that he had been a Manchurian Candidate all along.
The consequence has been we haven’t really had a president after 2014 that could communicate with Russia as relations collapsed to historic lows, so poisoned the well had become, which made war more likely.
And it would not end there. Congress passed laws to make more censorship bureaus, so that the work could be replicated down to the micro level on social media, targeting messaging not only anything to do Russia, but Covid, anti-vaccine issues, anti-health mandate issues, election integrity, school boards speaking out against critical race theory in public schools, anything to do with Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China or Ukraine and Hunter Biden’s laptop, where most recently the FBI agents told Facebook to censor the story prior to the 2020 election, saying it was Russian disinformation when it was actually real.
An Oct. 10 filing by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt office says section chief of the Foreign Influence Task Force Laura Dehmlow and cyber branch head of the San Francisco FBI field office Elvis Chanwere “involved in the communications between the FBI and Meta that led to Facebook’s suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.” Now, it’s been revealed that they naturally were partisans who were donating to Democrats in 2020.
And it was all legal, if not constitutional. In 2018, Congress unanimously passed legislation in the closing days of the Republican-controlled House on unanimous consent, H.R. 3359, that authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to disseminate information to the private sector including Big Tech social media companies in a bid to combat disinformation by potential foreign and domestic terrorists.
Did anyone even read the bill?
The law authorizes CISA to “disseminate, as appropriate, information analyzed by the Department within the Department, to other agencies of the Federal Government with responsibilities relating to homeland security, and to agencies of State and local governments and private sector entities with such responsibilities in order to assist in the deterrence, prevention, preemption of, or response to, terrorist attacks against the United States.”
With that authority, CISA says it “rout[es] disinformation concerns” to “appropriate social media platforms”: “The [Mis, Dis, Malinformation] MDM team serves as a switchboard for routing disinformation concerns to appropriate social media platforms and law enforcement,” according to the agency’s website.
This has been going on since 2018: “This activity began in 2018, supporting state and local election officials to mitigate disinformation about the time, place, and manner of voting.”
And it was expanded in 2020: “For the 2020 election, CISA expanded the breadth of reporting to include other state and local officials and more social media platforms.”
The agency even brags about its “rapport” with Big Tech firms in censoring speech so they’re on the same page: “This activity leverages the rapport the MDM team has with the social media platforms to enable shared situational awareness.”
During the pandemic, CISA also targeted Covid “disinformation” too: “COVID-19…create[d] opportunities for adversaries to act maliciously. The MDM team supports…private sector partners’ COVID-19 response…via regular reporting and analysis of key pandemic-related MDM trends.”
In early May 2020 the agency issued a disinformation warning against “potentially extremely harmful suggestions to drink bleach” after a controversial April 23, 2020 press conference by former President Donald Trump about the use of solar light and other disinfectants to kill Covid on surfaces when Trump proposed using solar light to treat the virus.
Even the truth about Russiagate is still being suppressed. On his way out of office, Trump declassified documents related to the defamatory investigation, the Justice Department refused to publish the redacted versions of those documents as noted by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and so they were apparently declassified completely. Those documents belong to the American people, and we should all be allowed to publish them now, protected fully by the First Amendment, but instead it’s a crime and they raided his house. It’s also more censorship.
And all of it was directed at the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, for seven years now, his advisors and more broadly, the heads of his campaigns, all designed to harm Republican prospects at the polls. These are partisan activities by the FBI, Homeland Security and the national security apparatus. The implication is that Republican messaging, since many of the talking points targeted for suppression have been also used by Republican candidates, are viewed by the federal government as a terrorist threat. But in case there was any doubt Biden’s dark Independence Hall speech in early September left no doubt where he called Trump and Republicans a threat to democracy that this is the official view of the government. Crushing the opposition is policy now. The most dangerous thing for Republicans to do is doubt it.
A Republican Congress could fix it. But first they’d have to admit they authorized it in the first place and that Trump signed the law into existence. They would similarly have to review how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has been administered, which they also reauthorized, and to do that, they would minimally need the documents Trump declassified to conduct proper oversight. The sad truth is there is very little will to do anything like that, even when Republicans were in power. Instead they passed laws to their own party and president’s detriment.
This is a coordinated political attack against the nominal opposition party in America, complete with surveillance, censorship, propaganda, prosecutions and imprisonments, because even when Republicans win, they don’t win, as they are now ensnared in the trappings of what can only be plainly described as a fascist censorship regime. It has no place in America under the Constitution’s First and Fourth Amendments, and Congress should end it before it’s too late.
Unfortunately, as America keeps wandering towards a wider war, a time when opposition parties usually shrink into compliance, it keeps getting worse and Republicans are either silent — or they’ve been silenced.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.