CHARLES C. W. COOKE – National Review
Linguistically, the name of the Department of Homeland Security has always sounded a little off to me — a little . . . well, Russian. So I suppose that it is only fitting that it should be the DHS, and not, say, the Post Office, that will house America’s newest Ministry of Truth. Per Secretary Mayorkas, his already-sprawling agency will be adding a “Disinformation Governance Board” to its offerings, the better to fight the “huge threat to our homeland” that is free American citizens saying things that the federal government doesn’t like. At the head of this new venture will sit an extremely strange woman named Nina Jankowicz, who, if her other activities are any indication, was apparently asked to choose between agreeing to the role at DHS and being turned down after yet another audition for the musical Wicked. A cursory look at Jankowicz’s social-media history suggests that, while she is certainly interested in disinformation, her passion is dressing up as Liza Minnelli. In one video, Jankowicz adapts the tune of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to convey that “Information laundering is really quite ferocious / It’s when a huckster takes some lies and makes them sound precocious.” In another, she offers up that pornographic twist on the Harry Potter books for which we’ve all been clamoring. “I helped him solve the mystery of the egg,” she warbles. “But I’d like to solve the mystery between his legs.” Her canon is limited in scope, but what I’ve seen of it is enough to test even the most committed civil libertarian in his opposition to casual waterboarding. Fielding questions about the move, Jen Psaki told reporters yesterday that “it sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities,” before adding, “I’m not sure who opposes that effort?” As it happens, I can help Psaki out here: I do. I oppose it, because it’s grotesque and indefensible. If by “prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country” Psaki means that the federal government intends to censor its critics, then Jankowicz and her friends will immediately find themselves in court. And if she doesn’t mean that — if she means that Jankowicz and her team will act as PR agents for the Department of Homeland Security — then there is no need for anything as lofty as a “Disinformation Governance Board” in the first instance. The DHS already has a press office. Given the manner in which Jankowicz’s appointment has been received by pretty much everyone, we are likely to see some backtracking over the coming days. But at this point, it’s too late for all that. Instead, we need some guarantees. At the very least, Americans ought to know what Jankowicz and Co. are up to at every point their “board” is in action. Her meetings must be taped; her emails must be made public; her phone calls must be recorded; and, as a modest prophylactic measure, she ought to wear a bodycam whenever she is carrying out her duties. This is the United States of America, not Cuba, and, as a matter of elementary principle, we ought not to have anything called the “Disinformation Governance Board of the Department of Homeland Security.” If, for whatever reason, the president disagrees with that principle, he must be made to account for it. Adding 24/7 surveillance and closely monitored ankle bracelets to figures such as Nina Jankowicz is the minimum the citizenry can demand in return.