Disinformation Inc: State Department gets sued for stonewalling records on blacklist group
- May 6, 2023
EXCLUSIVE — The State Department is being sued by a right-leaning watchdog group for failing to turn over records related to the Global Disinformation Index, a British organization it funded that has been covertly blacklisting conservative media.
Protect the Public’s Trust filed seven Freedom of Information Act requests in mid-February to the State Department, a nonprofit group it has bankrolled called the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, seeking communications with GDI and other parties after multiple Washington Examiner reports on the blacklist operation. But because the State Department has estimated that it won’t provide the records until August 2025, the watchdog is alleging that the agency is unlawfully withholding them, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday and obtained by the Washington Examiner.
“Government involvement in the Censorship Industrial Complex is one of the most significant stories of our time — implicating legal and constitutional issues that go to the core of what our nation stands for,” PPT Director Michael Chamberlain, an ex-Trump Education Department official, told the Washington Examiner. “For the State Department to claim they can’t provide records until 2025, after the next presidential election, flies in the face of their obligations to the American public.”
PPT’s records request to the government came after several Washington Examiner reports revealing how GDI has been quietly feeding blacklists of conservative websites, including the New York Post, the Federalist, Reason, and RealClearPolitics, to advertisers with the intent of shutting them down. In late February, House Oversight and Accountability Committee James Comer (R-KY) demanded that Secretary of State Antony Blinken provide records on the department’s funding of GDI.
Moreover, PPT is asking for correspondence between GEC officials with GDI personnel, including its CEO Clare Melford. It’s also seeking correspondence between the agency with personnel from the Atlantic Council, which in 2021 partnered with the State Department for the U.S.-Paris Tech Challenge — a program that saw GDI receive $100,000 “to advance the development of promising and innovative technologies against disinformation and propaganda” in foreign countries.
PPT is requesting that the government turn over the relevant records within 10 days of a court order, “or by other such date as the Court deems appropriate.” It’s also asking to be awarded for the costs of the proceeding, including for attorney and litigation fees.