Americans For Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) filed suit to enforce a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records related to the body the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced earlier this year.
“More than two months after the agency announced the new body, the public still doesn’t know basic information about its authority, its goals, its origins,” said AFPF policy counsel Ryan Mulvey. “It is critical that we get more clarity on what happened here. DHS is an agency that wields significant power over Americans with a mission supposedly focused on national security. The idea that it would start monitoring and potentially adjudicating what is ‘misinformation’ threatens First Amendment principles.”
AFPF’s lawsuit aims to help answer those critical questions for the public by expediting the government’s release of requested records. Though the agency “paused” the board in May, anything short of a full accounting of the how it came to be and what it planned to do is not enough. Given the power DHS wields and its track record of violating civil liberties, the details of what it was trying to do here cannot continue to be shrouded in secrecy.
AFPF raised similar concerns when we first filed the FOIA request, noting the broad coalition of ideologically diverse organizations that questioned the purpose of the board:
It’s one thing for private organizations to “fact check.”
It’s something entirely different for an enormous powerful government agency to broadly step into the game, asserting that it will go beyond merely engaging in counter-speech and step forward to “safeguard” the country by coordinating the “the Department’s engagements on this subject with other federal agencies and a diverse range of external stakeholders.”
This has raised red flags for civil liberties advocates over a broad ideological spectrum, from the ACLU to the Knight First Amendment Institute to the Heritage Foundation to GOP members of Congress to AFP Foundation. We all are questioning the need and authority of this board.
It’s moments like this — a vague government program potentially threatening free speech — where open government tools like FOIA are most critical, so citizens can know exactly what the government is planning behind closed doors.
Read the full lawsuit here.