Last fall, Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before the House Judiciary Committee that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was not using counterterrorism statutes to investigate parents who were exercising their First Amendment rights at local school board meetings.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee produced evidence that Garland's FBI was doing just that.
“Like you, I can’t imagine any circumstance in which the PATRIOT Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children, nor can I imagine a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorism,” Garland told the committee last October.
Now, ranking member Jim Jordan (R-OH) has identified three separate instances in which counterterrorism statutes were indeed used to open investigations into parents whose only crime was speaking at a public event about their local school. Jordan claims that a whistleblower has identified dozens of other similar cases.
In one case, the FBI interviewed a mother after an informant called the National Threat Operations Center tip line to report that a woman who belonged to a “right wing mom’s group” had told a local school board, “We are coming for you.” The mother, a member of Moms for Liberty, told the FBI she was upset about the school’s mask mandate and that the only threat she leveled at anyone was to replace the school board members at the ballot box.
In another case, an informant again utilized the National Threat Operations Center tip line to report a father who “fit the profile of an insurrectionist,” “rails against the government,” and “has lots of guns and threatens to use them." When an FBI agent interviewed the informant, the informant admitted to having “no specific information or observations of any crimes or threats.”
In the final case, a Democratic Party official used the National Threat Operations Center tip line to report that Republican state officials had “incited violence” by expressing public displeasure at a school district's vaccine mandates. Again, after opening an investigation, the FBI found nothing.
That the FBI ultimately abandoned these investigations is cold comfort. An FBI agent at your door is at minimum an unwanted disruption in anyone’s life and can be quite intimidating. At a minimum, these opened cases were a waste of Department of Justice resources, and at worst, they were a chilling example of one political party using our nation's premier law enforcement agency to silence political dissent.
In each of these cases, mothers and fathers now have FBI files under their names that describe their political views and have had a “threat tag” applied to them. Their only crime was that they opposed policies supported by Democrats and President Joe Biden.
Where are the investigations into the hundreds of violent Black Lives Matter protests from 2020? Is the FBI investigating the protesters shouting profanities at the homes of Supreme Court justices? In 2020, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “I want to tell you, Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Gorsuch, you have unleashed a whirlwind, and you will pay the price.” Kavanaugh and Gorsuch have lifetime appointments, so what was Schumer threatening if not violence? Has the FBI opened an investigation into Schumer?
Garland’s October 2021 memo directing the FBI to use counterterrorism tools, including the National Threat Operations Center tip line, to monitor “threats” against school boards has proven to be a colossal mistake. It is suppressing First Amendment protected speech through intimidation. Garland must rescind the memo immediately or resign.