There's fresh concern that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appears to now be using terrorist-tracking tools to track parents who have spoken out at local school board meetings.
Law enforcement officials and Republican lawmakers want some answers after an FBI whistleblower furnished a copy of an internal email to several members of the House Judiciary Committee.
Republican members of the committee released the email Tuesday. It reveals the FBI has created a way to track alleged threats against school board members, school officials, and teachers in response to Attorney General Merrick Garland's controversial Oct. 4 memo.
The National Review reports the FBI's "Counterterrorism and Criminal Divisions created a threat tag, EDUOFFICIALS, to track instances of related threats," according to the email.
"The purpose of the threat tag is to help scope this threat on a national level and provide an opportunity for comprehensive analysis of the threat picture for effective engagement with law enforcement," the email reads. It was signed by Counterterrorism Division assistant director Timothy Langan, and former Criminal Division assistant director Calvin Shivers, who retired earlier this month.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday, U.S. Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the committee, wrote: "This disclosure provides specific evidence that federal law enforcement operationalized counterterrorism tools at the behest of a left-wing special interest group against concerned parents."
FROM THE WHISTLEBLOWER: pic.twitter.com/4IfJRPVKMk
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) November 16, 2021
The FBI denied that it's investigating parents in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
"The FBI has never been in the business of investigating parents who speak out or policing speech at school board meetings, and we are not going to start now," the FBI said Tuesday in a statement. "We are fully committed to preserving and protecting First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech."
In its statement, the FBI described a threat tag as a tool to compile statistics and track information about a range of issues, including drug and human trafficking cases, according to the Journal.
"The creation of a threat tag in no way changes the long-standing requirements for opening an investigation, nor does it represent a shift in how the FBI prioritizes threats," the statement said.
As CBN News reported, during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee in late October, Garland refused to recant his Oct. 4 DOJ memo that sparked a backlash among politicians and parents.
It showed the attorney general deployed the FBI after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) demanded President Biden take action against parents who have spoken up during contentious school board meetings across the country.
The association said the threats are comparable to "domestic terrorism" as angry parents protest issues like critical race theory, pandemic restrictions, and transgender activism. The group sent a letter telling Biden that protests made by parents and other concerned citizens should be classified as "hate crimes" and urged him to use the USA Patriot Act against them.
After a national backlash, the NSBA later apologized for the letter on Oct. 22, writing: "We wanted to write to you directly to address this matter. On behalf of NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter. There was no justification for some of the language included in the letter."
The initial 6-page letter sent on Sept. 29, asked the administration to examine whether apparent threats to school-board members over mask mandates and "propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory" required a federal investigation.
Then on Oct. 4, Garland had announced the FBI was looking into what he called "a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff."
During a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill on Oct. 21, Garland told U.S. Rep. Jordan that no one at the White House had talked to him about the NSBA letter.
Garland also insisted during the hearing that the DOJ was not going to investigate parents who take issue with school board policies.
"The Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as vociferously as they wish about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in the schools," he said. "That is not what the memorandum is about at all, nor does it use the words 'domestic terrorism' or 'Patriot Act.'"
In his letter to Garland on Nov. 16, Jordan wrote the attorney general's testimony was "incomplete."
"At best, if we assume that you were ignorant of the FBI's actions in response to your October 4 memorandum at the time of your testimony, this new evidence suggests that your testimony…was incomplete and requires additional explanation," the Ohio congressman wrote.
"If however, you were aware of the FBI's actions at the time of your testimony, this evidence showed that you willfully misled the Committee about the nature and extent of the Department's use of counterterrorism tools to target concerned parents at school board meetings," Jordan added.