- Theresa Opeka / Carolina Journal
Bishop examines “largest censorship program ever run by the government”
North Carolina’s Congressman Dan Bishop, R-08, and members of the newly-created Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, exposed details in its inaugural hearings into what some witnesses called a government censorship campaign. Part of the House Judiciary Committee, the two-year investigative sub-committee is looking into what members believe is discrimination by the federal government and social media platforms against conservatives and others.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman, opened the discussion by mentioning the numerous FBI whistleblowers that have given testimony about the targeting that certain individuals at the FBI have done.
In November 2021, the FBI created a threat tag for parents voicing their concerns at school board meetings; on July 27, agents were pressured to reclassify cases as domestic violent extremism cases to hit self-created performance metrics; on September 19, a whistleblower said the Washington field office deliberately manipulated January 6 case files to make it appear that domestic violence extremism is on the rise. He was later suspended. And on November 4, the FBI accepted private user information from Facebook without the user’s consent, and information is from only the conservative side of the political spectrum.
The first panel of witnesses included Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii, who became an Independent after leaving the Democratic Party.
The contradictory cover-up of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal from Twitter, other social media platforms, and media sources was mentioned by Grassley and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, who stated the FBI paid Twitter $3.4 million to keep the laptop story buried. She quoted a poll that said 53% of those who voted in the 2020 presidential election would have changed their votes, including 61% of Democrats, after hearing the laptop story.
Bishop credited Elon Musk, in part, for buying Twitter and disclosing information that was kept secret during his time questioning Jonathan Turley, professor of public interest law at George Washington University and a criminal defense attorney, who was among those testifying on the second panel. Turley had written about the “Twitter Files.”
“You said that it could well constitute the largest censorship program ever run by the government of the United States, and I think what attracts you is there is a body of evidence, not accusations, it is evidence that we would not have but for the extraordinarily unlikely voluntary act of a very wealthy American who had the will and interest to purchase that company and then disclose what its files hold,” Bishop told Turley. “Here’s what’s notable, we didn’t get any information about what the FBI and the CIA and the ODI and GC and all these other agencies are engaged in from those agencies. The American people wouldn’t know but for Elon Musk’s disclosures and the independent journalists who then used them.”
Bishop said in the debate over big tech, social media platforms have content moderation policies that are narrower than the First Amendment, and they take down speech as a matter of practice that the First Amendment would protect if it were the government. He said many people say they have a right to do that because they are private businesses.
“The question that gets at me is this, how could the FBI who is sworn to protect the constitution ever justify using intense application of its resources, agents, etc., to urge social media platforms to use those standards to take down speech that the constitution protects?” Bishop asked.
“You have the agency identifying American citizens and others for their viewpoints and saying we think these people should be suspended or removed,” Turley said. “As I say in my testimony, it’s a particularly ominous thing to have the chief law enforcement agency performing this role, an agency with incredible powers.”
Bishop added that they did it in private.
“Right,” Turley agreed. “Here you had the government itself looking for citizens who should be silenced and targeted. That’s a problem in and of itself and whether it also triggers an agency relationship. Do we want to go back to the day when governments created those types of lists?”
Bishop went on to speak about Elvis Chan, from the San Francisco FBI office. Bishop said according to the Twitter File disclosures, Chan wrote to a Twitter executive and said his colleagues at Fort Meade had a query for Twitter. Twitter said they would no longer provide their data feed to members of the intelligence community. He goes on to ask whether colleagues at the NSA want to know if they’d reconsider that because the NSA would like to vacuum up every word mentioned on Twitter by American citizens to be analyzed by computers to figure out what they would make of it. Bishop asked Turley what he made of that piece of information.
“Well, that’s another troubling aspect of this Interstitial relationship between the government and social media companies,” Turley said. “On some occasions, the social media companies said we’re not going to do that, but all these different layers of interaction that the Twitter files refer to make it harder and harder to discern where the government ends and the social media company begins.”
A more recent example of targeting by the FBI occurred when the agency arrested a Catholic Pro-Life Activist in Pennsylvania. Mark Houck was arrested in his home in September by multiple FBI agents. He was charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. He pleaded not guilty.
Houck was accused of allegedly pushing a Planned Parenthood escort during a clash outside an abortion clinic in Philadelphia in October 2021.
In September, Houck’s wife told the Catholic News Agency that a SWAT team of 25 agents came to their home and threatened to break down the door if her husband didn’t open it. She said agents had guns pointed at her, her husband, and their children.
A jury acquitted Houck in January.
Also, a purported FBI document is reported to allegedly target Catholics who attend Latin Mass. The FBI told Fox News that it removed the document from its systems and is reviewing it.
The investigation by the subcommittee is expected to take up to two years to complete.