Rand Paul Stymies Cyber Bills Over DHS Agency’s Alleged Censorship

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  • Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has said that he will withhold support for cybersecurity legislation until the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) regains the trust of the American people, following allegations of biased censorship, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
  • “CISA has blatantly violated the First Amendment and colluded with big tech to censor the speech of ordinary Americans,” Paul told the Post. 
  • “CISA does not and has never censored speech or facilitated censorship,” CISA Executive Director Brandon Wales told the Daily Caller News Foundation. 

Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul says he will not back cybersecurity bills until the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) earns back Americans’ trust after it allegedly engaged in biased censorship, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Paul is unwilling to support increases to CISA’s authority until they cease censoring Americans and regain eroded trust by being more transparent, he asserted in a committee hearing and in a statement to the Post. CISA is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency that has allegedly pushed to censor Americans in a biased manner, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported in April. (RELATED: New Bill Would Put An End To DHS-Linked Agency’s Alleged Censorship Practices)

“CISA has blatantly violated the First Amendment and colluded with big tech to censor the speech of ordinary Americans,” Paul told the Post. “Federal courts have ordered CISA to stop, but the trust CISA has abused cannot be restored until the agency gives a full accounting of what it has done, and Congress changes the law to create severe penalties for anyone who tries to do the same thing in the future.”

Paul became the leading Republican member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in 2023, and he has opposed 11 or more bills primarily or heavily centered on cybersecurity, according to the Post. In many instances, Paul was the sole dissenting “no” vote for these bills.

Senate rules enable a lone senator to stop bills from progressing or decelerate their advancement to the extent that Senate leaders must allocate a substantial amount of time to address them, according to the Post.

At least some of the bills Paul opposed did not relate to speech control and instead focused on issues like safeguarding satellites and creating a cyber workforce initiative, according to the Post.

“I cannot support expanding CISA’s authorities while it surveils and censors Americans,” Paul remarked during a June committee meeting which contained a vote on a bill aimed at broadening federal efforts to encourage cybersecurity awareness, according to the Post.

CISA convened a Cybersecurity Advisory Committee’s Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Misinformation and Disinformation subcommittee in December 2021 to give the agency recommendations on addressing misinformation, disinformation and malinformation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. However, internal meeting minutes, emails and notes obtained by the DCNF through a public records request show committee members often pressed to enlist outside left-wing groups and individuals linked to Democratic causes to advance their efforts.

The subcommittee’s role was to guide CISA on how to counter mis- and disinformation perceived as threatening “critical functions” of democracy, including public health measures, the financial system, elections and the court system, according to the committee’s initial recommendations published in June 2022. The recommendations included that CISA should detect “informational threats,” work with “non-governmental” sources to dispel mis- and disinformation and expand misinformation research.

While the DHS does not formally censor content itself, it advises its partners, including social media companies, on methods to counter information considered to be threatening, and flags examples of content they deem to be disinformation to these platforms, according to the agency’s website and reporting from The Intercept. Tech firms also held regular meetings with CISA and intelligence agencies related to misinformation, according to The Intercept.

A federal appeals court recently expanded its injunction blocking President Joe Biden’s administration from coercing or significantly encouraging social media platforms to censor speech to include CISA, asserting the agency likely violated the First Amendment, according to a court filing.

“CISA does not and has never censored speech or facilitated censorship,” CISA Executive Director Brandon Wales told the DCNF. “Every day, the men and women of CISA execute the agency’s mission of reducing risk to U.S. critical infrastructure in a way that protects Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. In response to concerns from election officials of all parties regarding foreign influence operations and disinformation that may impact the security of election infrastructure, CISA mitigates the risk of disinformation by sharing information on election literacy and election security with the public and by amplifying the trusted voices of election officials across the nation.”

Paul and the DHS did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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