By Guy Page
On Feb. 7, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security led by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a startling bulletin declaring a crackdown on online speech in an apparent effort to prevent domestic terrorism.
The bulletin characterizes some American online speech about Covid-19, election fraud, and 5G technology as mis- dis- and mal-information or “MDM.” These online communications by “domestic threat actors” threaten US critical infrastructure and undermine public trust in government institutions, the bulletin said.
The bulletin elicited criticism from Marcia Blackburn, U.S. senator from Tennessee: “The Department of Homeland Security appears to endorse particular narratives regarding controversial issues that are at the center of our national political conversation. By identifying dissenting beliefs as ‘key factors contributing to the current heightened threat environment,’ the Department comes dangerously close to suggesting that publicly disagreeing with the current administration is akin to domestic terrorism.”
The bulletin invites state and local governments to participate in the crackdown with the help of federally-funded grants. On Friday, Feb. 10 and again on the Friday, Feb. 17, Vermont Daily Chronicle asked Vermont legislators if they would accept this proffered DHS funding.
Vermont officialdom’s response has been, to say the least, muted. Gov. Phil Scott professed ignorance of the bulletin when asked about it at a press conference a week later, despite having met just days prior with Homeland Security officials. Only two responses have been received from legislators, both Republicans in the Northeast Kingdom.
“I was against the creation of Homeland Security to begin with, as I considered it an overreaction to the fear of the moment and an unnecessary expansion of government given we already had the FBI and CIA. So of course I’m nervous about any expansion of its powers,” Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) said. “I hesitate to commit for or against any unknown proposals with respect to your question about state involvement, but my track record is pretty clear that I am opposed to blurring the lines between state and federal jurisdiction. This is especially true when it comes to police expansion and/or financial incentives that invite mischief around those lines of demarcation.”
Rep. Vicki Strong (R-Albany) took a more direct stance in opposition.
“I was recently alarmed and felt disbelief when I read that our own US Department of Homeland Security stated that certain beliefs and opinions held by American citizens are considered “domestic threats” to our country. What has happened to open and honest dialogue and to our Constitutional right of freedom of speech? Even when we don’t agree with the opinions and beliefs of others, don’t they have the right to express them?
“More and more I have witnessed the suppression of differing beliefs in every sector of our society. If we allow this suppression and oppression of freedom to continue we will see this precious gift erode and be extinguished. Our right to this fundamental freedom is paramount to freedom itself, and to the flow of all information, discussion, and debate in our country. It is what has always made us stronger and more compassionate in our search for answers and solutions in the problems we face in our country.
“If we stay silent, those who have fought to give us this freedom would have done so in vain. Let’s each have courage from their example to stand up to face anything that seeks to diminish our most basic right of free speech. This is a right that needs to be exercised sometimes during great pressure and stress, or we will risk the fate of losing it.”
While zealously targeting free speech of U.S. citizens, Mayorkas is being criticized for slack protection of U.S. citizens from the consequences of a porous southern border. A Feb. 22 letter from 14 state attorneys general ( but not Vermont’s TJ Donovan) demands he resign. Authored by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, the letter alleges that Mayorkas has allowed:
- Smuggling of enough fentanyl to kill every American six times over;
- Illegal entry of 213% more arrested sex offenders;
- Deportations to fall 70%.
Vermont Daily Chronicle will gladly publish any response from a Vermont legislator, regardless of gender or party, on the DHS bulletin.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.