Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation expert with experience working on Ukraine and Russia issues, was tapped to helm the “Disinformation Governance Board” earlier this month. The interagency team was meant to coordinate department activities related to disinformation aimed at the US population and infrastructure.
But Jankowicz’s appointment quickly drew condemnation from GOP lawmakers and right-wing media, who pointed to her past tweets and statements regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop and Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called Steele Dossier. Jankowicz told CNN on Wednesday evening that she resigned because the board’s future was uncertain.
“I had hoped we would be more transparent about how the board was going to operate and what it was going to do,” she said, acknowledging that the new initiative should have been rolled out differently. “For whatever reason, that didn’t happen, and that information vacuum only grew. And I think the information vacuum kind of directed a lot of the attacks and digging around in my personal life.”
Some attacks, she said, were vicious and targeted her family and DHS engaged its Federal Protective Service to monitor threats against her online.
The situation, Jankowicz told CNN, was “frustrating and saddening” because she had gone into the job “with the intention of serving the American people and bringing my expertise to bear to protect us from threats that affect all of us.”
Asked about the criticism that she was overly political in some of her tweets, Jankowicz said that her comments had been taken out of context. “All of the attempts to just decontextualize things I’ve written, and remove any nuance from them, just shows exactly how these disinformation campaigns work,” she said.
Review of the board
DHS and the White House had previously defended the new initiative, and backed Jankowicz to lead it.
In a statement, a DHS spokesperson said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has asked former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and former US Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to lead a review of the board through the Homeland Security Advisory Council. During that review, the board’s work will be paused and it will not convene.
“The Board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights,” the spokesperson said. “However, false attacks have become a significant distraction from the Department’s vitally important work to combat disinformation that threatens the safety and security of the American people.”
Ultimately, Jankowicz told CNN she resigned because she wasn’t sure whether the board had a future after the “debacle” of the last few weeks. She said she was “deeply disappointed,” though, by the administration’s announcement that it will conduct a “review” of the board, because she believes it should continue even in her absence.
The board was “simple” and “anodyne,” she said, and largely revolved around coordinating efforts within DHS to combat misinformation related to threats to public safety, like natural disasters.
Jankowicz has focused on disinformation and Eastern Europe for years and advised the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on the subject in 2016 and 2017, according to her website. She is fluent in Russian, and her book “How to Lose the Information War” examines how five Western governments have dealt with Russian disinformation.
Despite her expertise, critics argued she held biases on certain issues. For instance, in a TikTok video posted prior to her appointment to lead the board, Jankowicz singled out Rudy Giuliani and TikTok influencers to a Mary Poppins jingle.
DHS previously said Mayorkas asked department officials to enhance the public’s trust in the group. The board is an…