Citing an FBI whistleblower, House Republicans said the bureau used anti-terrorism tools to investigate parents who were vocal in their criticism of COVID-19 policies enacted by school board officials.
U.S. Reps. Mike Johnson, R-La., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sent Attorney General Merrick Garland a letter stating that they have evidence to support the claim despite his assurances that parents would not be subjected to probes of this nature for exercising their First Amendment rights.
“In sworn testimony before this Committee, you denied that the Department of Justice or its components were using counterterrorism statutes and resources to target parents at school board meetings,” Jordan, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Johnson said in the letter. “We now have evidence that contrary to your testimony, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has labeled at least dozens of investigations into parents with a threat tag created by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division to assess and track investigations related to school boards.”
The letter cited Garland’s Oct. 4, 2021, memo to the FBI instructing the bureau to address alleged threats to school board members to say an accompanying press release “highlighted the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center to serve as a snitch-line for tips about parents at school board meetings,” and that by Oct. 20, the FBI had “operationalized” Garland’s directive by announcing the creation of a “new threat tag.”
In sharing the letter on Twitter, the House GOP called this — in all caps — the “SMOKING GUN.”
🚨 SMOKING GUN: Whistleblowers reveal the FBI has labeled dozens of investigations into parents with a threat tag created by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division pic.twitter.com/uDMd7x1no3
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) May 11, 2022
“We have learned from brave whistleblowers that the FBI has opened investigations with the EDUOFFICIALS threat tag in almost every region of the country and relating to all types of educational settings,” the GOP lawmakers wrote. “The information we have received shows how, as a direct result of your directive, federal law enforcement is using counterterrorism resources to investigate protected First Amendment activity.”
After detailing examples, the letter said, “This whistleblower information is startling. You have subjected these moms and dads to the opening of an FBI investigation about them, the establishment of an FBI case file that includes their political views, and the application of a ‘threat tag’ to their names as a direct result of their exercise of their fundamental constitutional right to speak and advocate for their children.”
The lawmakers accused the Biden administration of “using federal law enforcement, to include counterterrorism resources, to investigate concerned parents for protected First Amendment activity.”
“This whistleblower information raises serious concerns that your October 4 memorandum will chill protected First Amendment activity as parents will rightfully fear that their passionate advocacy for their children could result in a visit from federal law enforcement,” the letter added.
In conclusion, after requesting specific documentation related to the issue, Jordan and Johnson wrote: “You have refused to rescind your October 4 memorandum and its anti-parent directives. In light of this new whistleblower information, we again call on you to rescind your October 4 memorandum.”
Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, responded to the story to call it “a grave abuse of power.”
“The Biden Administration has mobilized FBI counterterrorism resources to investigate parents, including at least one member of @Moms4Liberty, for expressing protected political speech at local school board meetings. This is a grave abuse of power,” Rufo tweeted.
BREAKING: The Biden Administration has mobilized FBI counterterrorism resources to investigate parents, including at least one member of @Moms4Liberty, for expressing protected political speech at local school board meetings.
This is a grave abuse of power. pic.twitter.com/MdK0vm51VN
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) May 12, 2022
In a follow-up, he stressed that, in the end, it all about one thing: control.
“The Biden Administration wants the Disinformation Governance Board to police your speech on social media and the FBI Counterterrorism Division to police your speech at your local school board. They don’t want democracy; they want control,” he tweeted.
The Biden Administration wants the Disinformation Governance Board to police your speech on social media and the FBI Counterterrorism Division to police your speech at your local school board. They don’t want democracy; they want control.
— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) May 12, 2022
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