CISA’s Election Meddling: A Threat to Democracy

Anton Vierietin /
Anton Vierietin /

In a scathing rebuke that reverberated through the halls of power, West Virginia’s Secretary of State, Mac Warner, delivered a blistering critique of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). His words, spoken at a high-stakes panel alongside FBI and CISA representatives, cut through the political veneer to expose what he saw as a dangerous erosion of electoral integrity.

Warner stated that the CISA is overstepping its bounds and engaging in what he considers to be censorship activities detrimental to electoral integrity. Speaking at a panel with FBI and CISA representatives during the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) winter meeting in Washington, D.C., Warner did not mince words about the federal agency’s misleading actions towards the American public.

His concerns underscore the tension between safeguarding election security and the potential for government overreach. As part of its mandate to combat cybersecurity threats and protect critical infrastructure, DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been accused of exceeding its mandate by collaborating with Big Tech and disinformation partners to censor Americans.

A congressional investigation revealed extensive coordination between CISA and third-party intermediaries aimed at suppressing speech deemed misinformation, disinformation, and misinformation—a term used by CISA to describe factually correct information that is purportedly manipulated to mislead or harm.

This collaboration expanded to include direct interactions with social media giants, raising concerns about the government’s influence in regulating free speech online. Notably, leaked communications unveiled discussions on fostering a closer relationship between Big Tech and the government, as evidenced by a conversation between a Microsoft executive and CISA’s director.

Further compounding the issue, reports revealed that Facebook created a portal specifically for Homeland Security to report so-called disinformation. Perhaps the biggest reveal of this so-called collaboration with Big Tech  was the release of the “Twitter Files.”

The Twitter Files revealed the government’s heavy involvement in censoring and shadow-banning users. The information was released when Elon Musk purchased the company in 2022. The Times reported that Twitter had allegedly collaborated with the United States military to manipulate public opinion.

The social media platform was accused of allowing U.S. intelligence officials to publish false stories using fake names to advance the country’s policy objectives. This supposed partnership between Twitter and the military has sparked concerns about online privacy and the ethics of social media companies.

Legal challenges have arisen against the administration’s actions, leading to judicial interventions that temporarily halted some of these practices. Moreover, the creation of the Disinformation Governance Board by DHS, although short-lived, and the involvement of CISA in initiatives like the Election Integrity Partnership have prompted lawsuits alleging violations of First Amendment rights.

Despite the mounting criticism and legal scrutiny, CISA has attempted to rebrand its censorship activities under the guise of fighting misinformation, even considering establishing a rapid response team to deal with misinformation physically across the U.S.

This has led to fears of government propaganda and an overreach into the regulation of speech, with some suggesting that CISA’s actions represent one of the most significant assaults on American democracy in history.

Warner’s outspoken stance against CISA has not been without controversy, with critics labeling him an “election denier.” However, his military and diplomatic background, coupled with his firsthand experience in security, lends credibility to his concerns over the agency’s direction and its impact on the integrity of U.S. elections.

The backlash against CISA and its practices has sparked a debate on the balance between national security and the protection of civil liberties, with Warner leading the charge among state officials wary of the federal government’s encroachment on free speech and electoral integrity. As the controversy unfolds, the future of CISA’s role in election security and misinformation remains uncertain, highlighting the ongoing struggle between safeguarding democracy and preserving the fundamental rights that underpin it.