DHS Announces New Intelligence Advisory Board

Some members from an earlier Experts Group were involved in discrediting the Hunter Biden laptop story.
DHS Announces New Intelligence Advisory Board
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Committee on Homeland Security concerning his 2025 budget request in Washington on April 16, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Naveen Athrappully

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is setting up a new intelligence advisory board just weeks after it was forced to shut down a similar group due to concerns of political bias among its members.

The DHS announced the creation of the Homeland Intelligence Advisory Board on Friday. The board will comprise up to 40 members appointed by the Under Secretary of DHS. The new board could include 19 members from the controversial Homeland Intelligence Experts Group, which the agency had committed to shut down earlier this month. The Board plans to meet at least once every quarter and will be used as a source of ideas as well as a “critical assessment of our intelligence activities,” the DHS said.

“The Board will provide information and advice to the Under Secretary and the DHS Counterterrorism Coordinator on homeland intelligence activities and issues, including those around operational adherence to the principles of privacy and civil liberties.”

The Experts Group was set up by the DHS in September last year for stated purposes of offering advice on national security and intelligence. However, legal advocacy America First Legal (AFL) sued the DHS and Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, arguing that the group violated provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

Section 5 of FACA requires that an advisory committee be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view.” It also mandates there be provisions to ensure that “the advice and recommendations of the advisory committee will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest.”

The lawsuit noted that the members of the Experts Group were “political allies of the Biden Administration. Most members have applauded the Administration’s decisions and fervidly condemned former President Trump’s America First approach to foreign policy.”

“They have overwhelmingly donated to President Biden or other Democrats. Defendant Mayorkas selected members that are agreeable, not balanced.”

Some of the members were signatories of a letter that dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop scandal as Russian disinformation.

DHS and AFL resolved the matter on May 2, with the agency agreeing to wind up the Experts Group within 30 days.

However, the agreement stated that DHS has the “right to create an advisory committee under the provisions of the FACA, including the authorization to exempt that advisory committee from the public notice, reporting, and open meeting requirements of FACA.”

The DHS admits the new advisory board “builds upon” the Experts Group. The new board is also exempted from “public notice, reporting, and open meeting requirements” of FACA as was agreed upon with DHS’s deal with AFL.

It is unclear whether the Advisory Board announced by DHS is in compliance with FACA.

The 40-member board is yet to be determined. However, the potential inclusion of 19 members from the Experts Group, some of whom were accused of being politically biased, may bring the Advisory Board under scrutiny.

Members will be selected from the following sectors: national or homeland security, including intelligence collection and information sharing; privacy and civil liberties; state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector with homeland security responsibilities; law; law enforcement; legislative activities; academia and the research community; and owners and operators of critical infrastructure or resources.
The Advisory Board members would serve a term of five years, with the potential of being reappointed for one more term. The Under Secretary shall chair the board and select a co-chair from the 40 members. The Under Secretary will be a non-voting member of the board.

Controversial Members

The formation of the earlier DHS Experts Group drew criticism from Republicans. On Sept. 21, Reps. Mark E. Green (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and August Pfluger (R-Tex.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence, wrote a letter to Mr. Mayorkas on the matter.

They pointed out that “multiple members of this newly-formed group, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, signed a discredited public statement on October 19, 2020, that incorrectly implied the New York Post’s reporting about Hunter Biden’s political influence peddling was the product of Russian disinformation.”

In addition, another member of the group, Tashina Gauhar, former Associate Deputy Attorney General for the Department of Justice (DOJ), “was extensively involved in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into baseless allegations that former President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.”

“Your decision to appoint members to this group who have demonstrated political bias suggests misplaced priorities,” the letter states.

A few days later, on Sept. 27, committee Republicans introduced legislation to block funding for the Experts Group.
Meanwhile, the DHS is facing another controversy due to the recently announced Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security Board. The panel is expected to advise agency officials on the “safe and secure development and deployment of AI technology in our nation’s critical infrastructure.”
The board has 22 members. A controversial figure on the board is Fei-Fei Li, co-director of the Stanford Human-centered Artificial Intelligence Institute, who is alleged to have ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Ms. Li was a former Vice President at Google Cloud and led the company’s efforts to build Chinese AI operations. Under her leadership, Google Cloud established an AI operation in partnership with China’s Tsinghua University.

The university has received millions of dollars from the Science and Technology Committee of China’s Central Military Commission, a CCP organ overseeing the military, to work on an AI project for the Chinese military.

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.