A Defiant State Department Threatens to Obstruct Censorship Investigation

February 20th, 2024 4:32 PM

The Biden administration hinted that it may attempt to obstruct a congressional investigation into efforts to censor right-leaning outlets, documents revealed.

In a letter to the House Small Business Committee Chairman Roger Williams (R-TX), the State Department informed investigators that they may be forced to view documents pertaining to a congressional probe into the agency’s support of censorship in an “in camera setting.” Such a threat could limit the committee’s access to documents in its probe of the Global Engagement Center, the State Department’s subagency that in recent years has emerged as a financial backer of censorship efforts.

The State Department’s letter came in response to the committee’s apparent release of “sensitive but unclassified” documents to the Washington Examiner. “I am writing to express the Department’s deep concern regarding certain information that appears to have been publicly released by the Committee without prior consultation with the Department,” wrote Naz Durakoğlu, the State Department’s assistant secretary bureau of legislative Affairs, on Feb. 14. 

“The Committee made no effort to consult with the Department to protect or even ascertain any particular sensitivities before making the information public,” Durakoğlu whined after claiming the Examiner may have jeopardized GEC’s programs. As a consequence, the State Department threatened to force the congressional investigators to only view documents in an “in camera setting,” limiting the spread of documents and most disturbingly, strangling out media coverage of the infamous censorship efforts.

Williams and Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX) rebuked the threat in a Friday letter to Rubin. “Not only is this an impermissible standard, but it improperly hinders congressional oversight,” the lawmakers wrote, according to the Examiner.

MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider also scolded the State Department’s threats in response. “The State Department can manufacture any lazy ass justification to deny the American public the right to see government records. It does not justify this unconstitutional denial. Congress has oversight powers, the State Department does not,” he said.

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The battle over the documents began on June 7, 2023, when the House Small Business Committee issued a letter to GEC Special Envoy and Coordinator James P. Rubin asking for documents related to the GEC. The State Department returned documents to the committee on Dec. 3. 

The Examiner subsequently obtained the damning documents and published them in a Jan. 9 story. The story reported how GEC funded even more censorship activities, including a grant to an entity called Albany Associates. The money was intended “to counter terrorist group narratives” in 2019 and to fight “disinformation surrounding mass casualty attacks” in 2021.

Related: Taibbi: Unearthed Emails Accuse State Department of ‘Targeting Americans’

Republicans are investigating GEC’s funneling of taxpayer-funded grants to the media blacklister Global Disinformation Index (GDI), which has been embroiled in well-documented advertising censorship efforts. Notably, GEC’s funding of GDI and NewsGuard, another censorship media ratings firm, is the center of a lawsuit filed by The Daily Wire and the Federalist against the State Department.

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