A relatively new federal agency, ostensibly set up to crack down on cyber threats from foreign hackers, is now facing increased scrutiny from Republican lawmakers over allegations that the agency has abused its power and turned against American citizens.
As Politico reports, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been actively and disproportionately targeting conservative voices online in an effort to combat so-called “misinformation” since it was founded in 2018, according to multiple Republican members of Congress.
“CISA has blatantly violated the First Amendment and colluded with Big Tech to censor the speech of ordinary Americans,” said Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which has jurisdiction over CISA.
After CISA’s director Chris Krebs rejected claims of voter fraud in 2020 despite widespread evidence, President Donald Trump fired him. Now, Republicans in Congress have increasingly voiced support for defunding the agency, particularly after the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives in 2022.
In June of 2023, the House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), released a report declaring that CISA was “the nerve center” of the Biden Administration’s systematic efforts to suppress conservative voices online. At the end of September, over 100 House Republicans launched an effort to cut CISA’s $3 billion budget by 25%. Earlier this month, after multiple lawsuits against CISA by Republican attorneys general across the country, several new restrictions were implemented against CISA by various court rulings.
On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case against CISA, freezing any restrictions implemented by lower courts in the meantime.
Meanwhile, Democrats have defended CISA by claiming that it is a crucial national security apparatus. Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said in a statement that “defunding CISA is inviting a Chinese and/or Russia cyberattack against our government and thousands of costly ransomware attacks against small and medium-sized businesses.”
CISA frequently colluded with social media platforms in both 2020 and 2022; in the former election cycle, the agency actively forwarded tips about possible hoaxes to social media giants like Facebook and Twitter. In the 2022 midterm cycle, CISA held regular calls between other federal agencies and social media companies to discuss what they considered to be “disinformation.”