FBI’s Suppression of Speech on Twitter Calls for Congressional Investigation: Analysts
FBI’s Suppression of Speech on Twitter Calls for Congressional Investigation: Analysts

By Eva Fu

The FBI’s efforts to limit the free expression of speech on Twitter calls for a “thorough investigation” from the new Congress in January, according to longtime bureau agent Marc Ruskin.

The fact that the FBI is flagging accounts for Twitter to take action against, as shown in the sixth batch of Twitter disclosures, seems a government overreach and counter to FBI standard practice, Ruskin, author of the book “The Pretender: My Life Undercover for the FBI” and a contributor to The Epoch Times, said in an interview.

The emails released on Dec. 16 show that officials from the bureau and the Department of Homeland Security regularly sent social media content to Twitter requesting its suppression. The volume of exchange was “constant and pervasive,” according to journalist Matt Taibbi, who reported that Twitter seems no different from an FBI subsidiary after being given access to the internal files by Twitter owner Elon Musk. A portion of the accounts that the FBI marked for Twitter to review involved satirical posts with relatively low engagement.

While there’s nothing wrong with companies providing assistance in a legitimate investigation, what happened at Twitter was “in the opposite direction,” Ruskin told The Epoch Times. Instead of the government seeking help for a probe, it is the government “asking a private company to do activities it [the government] is not permitted to do” because of the First Amendment limits.

What stood out to Ruskin in the FBI-Twitter communications is the rank of one FBI official involved in the scheme.

Elvis Chan, who regularly communicates with his “Twitter folks,” was the assistant special agent in charge for the FBI San Francisco office’s cyber branch as of the Nov. 6 email. This makes him effectively the number two of the local FBI office, and two levels above the regular special agents handling such tasks.

‘How Deep Does the Sickness Go?’

For former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, what came out of the Twitter disclosures builds on the discussion Republicans were having about the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020. Gingrich said the so-called “Twitter Files” offer the latest proof that “we have a completely out of control, and subversive of the Constitution, senior leadership at the FBI.”

“It is amazing what they think they can do, and they can get away with,” Gingrich, an Epoch Times contributor, said in an interview.

“How deep does the sickness go? How many people need to be held accountable? And how do they clean house and reestablish the rule of law?” These, he said, will be questions the new Congress should and must dig into.

The inner workings revealed here are comparable to “the way in which the American people were lied to about COVID,” Gingrich added.

“What you have is what would have been called, in the 1920s, fascists. You have big government, big business, big education, big labor unions, all in alliance protecting each other against the American people,” he said. “It’s really sobering to realize how sick the system has become.”

In advising a private company like Twitter, the FBI has in effect turned the platform into an agent of the government, which Gingrich said is not only “clearly unconstitutional” but also troubling on many other fronts.

“When you start giving people this kind of power, you don’t know what’s going to motivate them or what particular things they are going to think should be censored,” he said.

‘It’s All Got to Be Uncovered’

Ruskin, like Gingrich, wants to see a thorough investigation to shed light on the questions that Twitter’s internal files have raised.

The congressional oversight committee and judiciary committee, he said, should hold hearings on who at the FBI and DHS are responsible for such activities.

But aside from that, options he sees include an investigation from the Office of Inspector General and the government oversight division that reviewed the alleged Trump-Russia collusion. This is also where a special counsel could come in to examine “all the communications between social media and government agencies” for potential wrongdoing, Ruskin said.

“This is exactly what the Special Counsel is designed for because if there’s all this communication between the Bureau and Twitter and other social media, it’s all got to be uncovered and examined to see what other agencies were doing this, what specifically was the content of all the communications, and who authorized it, and whether it’s legal or not legal.”

Republicans will likely take measures to address the revelations from the “Twitter Files.”

‘Not Based on Intelligence’

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has already indicated plans to subpoena the agency.

“We certainly intend to pursue subpoena power to expose the extent to which the FBI has been doing this,” he told Fox News on Sunday.

“The FBI had, under the cover of saying they were pursuing foreign malign influence, really exploded into activities that involved engaging with mainstream media and social media, and really impacting what is the normal debate of democracy,” Turner said. “What’s really troubling here, in my opinion, is this is not based on intelligence.”

The FBI has claimed that it “regularly engages with private sector entities to provide information specific to identified foreign malign influence actors’ subversive, undeclared, covert, or criminal activities” but leaves it up to the entities themselves as to what actions they take—the same statement it gave to the media when it came to light that the FBI had warned Twitter of a “hack-and-leak operation involving Hunter Biden” ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Ruskin finds such an answer “disingenuous.”

“It’s not like they found individuals involved in criminal activity. What they say may be more appropriate if they were notifying a company that there’s fraud going on inside the company,” he said. But what happened is “more like, ‘Oh, we’ve identified people who may have violated your content restrictions,’ wink, wink, nod, nod,” he said. “It looks more like a pretext. Why is it that they’re looking at these people’s accounts in the first place?”

There’s “the appearance of overreach,” Ruskin said, adding that he wants to avoid drawing an immediate conclusion, which he believes would be making the same mistake leftists often do.

“Neither side likes it when they’re convicted before trial,” he said.

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