By David Potter
The Department of Homeland Security’s disinformation agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), in early May 2020 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 virus on surfaces.
The President turned to members of his coronavirus taskforce and asked them if solar light could be investigated as a possible treatment for the virus. Trump said, “supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting…”
Trump compared the use of sunlight to “the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute,” asking, “is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” and concluding, “But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s — that’s pretty powerful.”
President Trump did not assert that such treatments were proven effective. Nor did he recommend that Americans ingest or inject disinfectants. Right or wrong, he wondered aloud if sunlight could somehow be used the treat the virus.
For most reasonable individuals, a key indicator that President Trump was asking questions to administration officials, rather than prescribing at-home cures for Americans, was that he held near constant eye contact with his coronavirus taskforce member while speaking. His vocal inflection was that of a person posing questions. Lastly, for most reasonable individuals, his choice of language was clearly indicative of a line of questioning. “And is there a way we can do something like that” and “you’re going to have to use medical doctors with” referred to his team acting with doctors to investigate.
To be fair, it did not look good for Trump when, being questioned about his questions the next day, he declared them as sarcasm. Nonetheless, his interactions are on camera for everyone to see and it is clear that he was asking questions, not professing decrees. Even PolitiFact (a left-wing fact-checking organization) author Daniel Funke, stated that “Trump did not say people should inject themselves with bleach or alcohol to treat the coronavirus”.
While some outlets were careful to be precise in stating that Trump was musing the treatment possibilities with his coronavirus taskforce, many were careless, factually incorrect, and promoting disinformation. PolitiFact declared that “several websites and social media posts have taken them out of context.” Some of those were factcheck.org, Politico, Washington Post, NBC News, ABC News, New York Times, and CNN, which respectively inaccurately reported that President Trump was “dangerously suggesting at a White House briefing that ingesting disinfectant could possibly be used to treat people who have the virus.”
Funke noted, “Trump’s remarks caused some companies and state agencies to issue warnings about ingesting disinfectants.”
Specifically, about two weeks after Trump’s press conference, CISA created a guideline that targeted the very language that President Trump used in late April of 2020 to pose questions, warning that “false information about COVID-19 treatments continue to circulate on social media, including potentially extremely harmful suggestions to drink bleach or chlorine dioxide, to use vitamin C or boiled garlic, or that illicit drug activity can ‘cure’ the virus.”
Unfortunately, the corporate media used Trump’s comments to construct a fake narrative so that they themselves “debunk” this narrative, generating publicity, profit, and to stoke negative sentiments towards President Trump in an election year. This isn’t a new phenomenon.
What was novel, however, was a United States government agency entering a political debate and arbitrating what is truth and what is falsehood.
When questioned about this, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki went on the defense and stated “but I think what’s important to note here is what the board is doing, which is continuing what is important disinformation-related work that began under the former administration.” That’s true. CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which was founded on November 16, 2018, during President Trump’s term in office, and operates within the Department of Homeland Security.
What Psaki failed to mention was that MDM did not exist under the Trump administration. The Countering Foreign Influence Task Force (CFITF) existed under the Trump administration. CFITF was altered by the Biden administration in 2021 and officially changed its name to the Mis-, Dis-, and Malinformation (MDM) team.
Unfortunately, Congress authorized the creation of CISA, and its disinformation activities, unanimously on November 13, 2018, authorizing 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.”
As it’s written and described in law, the reason for CISA is noble-sounding: preventing terrorist attacks against the United States. In CISA’s execution of its duties, however, priorities appear to have taken a dangerous partisan turn.
When some Americans innocently questioned the integrity of the 2020 Presidential election on social media, without harm, threat, or aggression, the Agency issued warnings against them, flagging them as disinformation to private social media companies. Covid “disinformation” such as anti-Covid vaccine activism, or even the President’s innocent question about using sunlight to fight the virus, was similarly elevated by the agency.
The implication is that these types of activism or inquiries pose a potential threat to homeland security or terrorism. But it is nothing less than a non-partisan agency acting in a partisan manner against political actors.
The activities of Biden and CISA’s disinformation governance is a salient example of how quickly liberty can erode when truth is entrusted in the hands of government bureaucrats instead of the marketplace of ideas. The government does not own truth. Give it back to the American people. Abolish MDM and limit the scope of CISA to prevent it from attacking Orwellian “thoughtcrimes”.
David Potter is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.
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