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Whistleblower: FBI using counterterrorism tools to target parents challenging schools

FBI agents. (Melanie Rodgers Cox/US Air Force)
November 16, 2021

A whistleblower from President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed this week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is using its counterterrorism division to apply a new “threat tag” to track parents challenging school boards over curriculum, internal documents obtained by the House Judiciary GOP showed.

The new “threat tag,” called “EDUOFFICIALS,” is part of a broader effort to discourage, identify, and prosecute “those who use violence, threats of violence and other forms of intimidation and harassment” against school officials, according to internal emails from the Counterterrorism and Criminal Investigative Divisions released on Tuesday.

“We ask that your offices apply the threat tag to investigations and assessments of threats specifically directed against school board administrators, board members, teachers and staff,” the October 20 FBI email stated.

“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 partners at all levels,” the email added.

The message was signed by Timothy Langan, the FBI’s assistant director for counterterrorism, and Calvin Shivers, the assistant director of the bureau’s criminal division, who retired shortly after the email was sent.

The top FBI officials justified the “threat tag” by citing Attorney General Merrick Garland’s October 4 memo calling for federal law enforcement to crack down on “efforts to intimidate” and “threats” aimed at school officials.

After receiving the “explosive” FBI whistleblower documents, Rep. Jim Jordan, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary GOP, sent a letter to Garland calling into question the accuracy of his sworn testimony last month, during which Garland stated that neither the Department of Justice nor the FBI were using counterterrorism tools to target concerned parents at local school board meetings.

The FBI’s “threat tag” email was sent on October 20, one day before Garland testified in front of Congress.

“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,” Jordan’s letter stated.

“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 to the Committee was incomplete and requires additional explanation,” the letter continued. “If, however, you were aware of the FBI’s actions at the time of your testimony, this evidence shows that you willfully misled the Committee about the nature and extent of the Department’s use of federal counterterrorism tools to target concerned parents at school board meetings.”

Jordan asked that Garland amend his sworn testimony in light of the whistleblower documents.

In September, the National School Board Association (NSBA) — representing 90,000 school-board members — asked President Biden to direct the FBI, the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security to provide protection for members facing “threats” amid ongoing tensions over COVID-19 regulations and critical race theory in the classroom. The group also requested that the federal government investigate “threats of violence” and “acts of intimidation” as possible forms of “domestic terrorism.”

Garland’s October 4 memo was written in response to the NSBA’s letter.

It was later revealed that the NSBA colluded with the White House prior to sending the letter that characterized parents as “domestic terrorists.” After facing significant backlash, the organization apologized for the letter. Despite the NSBA’s retraction, the DOJ has not walked back any of its directives or efforts.