Despite Attorney General Merrick Garland's insistence otherwise, the FBI has, in fact, begun using counterterrorism tactics to track and investigate concerned parents protesting at school board meetings, according to a whistleblower email released this week by House Republican lawmakers.
What are the details?
The email, obtained and posted to Twitter by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, shows that FBI leadership instructed agents to monitor and "track" any "threats of violence or fear" against "school board administrators, members, teachers, and staff" to determine whether the alleged threats violated federal law.
To do so, the bureau created a "threat tag, EDUOFFICIALS," for agents to use to "identify" the motivation behind the threats and decipher whether there are "federal violations that can be investigated and charged."
In the email, sent on Oct. 20, FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Timothy Langan specifically mentions that these actions were taken in accordance with an internal Department of Justice memo sent by Garland on Oct. 4.
FROM THE WHISTLEBLOWER:pic.twitter.com/4IfJRPVKMk— House Judiciary GOP (@House Judiciary GOP) 1637093531
Yet during testimony in front of Congress last month, Garland emphatically dismissed the notion that his department was treating parents like "domestic terrorists" and using counterterrorism tactics to investigate them.
"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," the attorney general said, in part.
In his Oct. 4 memo, Garland called on the FBI to help address an alleged "disturbing spike" of "harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence" against local education personnel. The email came just days after the National School Boards Association sent a letter to the White House comparing concerned parents to "domestic terrorists."
House Judiciary Republicans, led by ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), said Tuesday that the email "calls into question the accuracy and completeness" of Garland's testimony before Congress.
"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 evidence suggests that your testimony to the committee was incomplete and requires additional explanation," Jordan wrote in the letter addressed to the attorney general.
In a separate statement, House GOP Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the email shows that "Garland was either ignorant of the actions of the agency he leads, or was purposely misleading Congress during his answers."
McCarthy further called the FBI's actions against concerned parents "an egregious abuse of power" and "further proof that we have a President in the White House who is more interested in going after our own citizens, including concerned parents, than he is in going after actual threats.""Attorney General Garland must return to Congress to address, under oath, in detail, the discrepancies regarding the directives he issued involving investigating America's parents," he demanded.