Whistleblowers: FBI targeted parents via terrorism tools despite Garland’s testimony that it did not happen

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Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Mike Johnson say they have evidence that the FBI targeted parents who protested schools’ COVID policies despite assurances from Attorney General Merrick Garland that it never happened.

In a letter to the Justice Department, Jordan and Johnson said they have evidence that the FBI labeled dozens of investigations into parents with a threat tag created by the bureau’s Counterterrorism Division to assess and track investigations related to school boards. The evidence comes from “brave whistleblowers” within the Department of Justice, they say in the letter addressed to Attorney General Garland.

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Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a news conference to announce actions to enhance the Biden administration's environmental justice efforts, Thursday, May 5, 2022, at the Department of Justice in Washington.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a news conference to announce actions to enhance the Biden administration’s environmental justice efforts, Thursday, May 5, 2022, at the Department of Justice in Washington.
(AP Photo / Patrick Semansky)

The National School Boards Association (NBSA) sent a letter to the Biden administration in September comparing parents who protested school’s COVID policies to domestic terrorists. Five days later, the DOJ issued a memo directing the FBI to investigate threats to school boards.

The memo highlighted the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center, which Jordan and Johnson likened to a “snitch-line” for tips about parents at school board meetings.

An internal email from the FBI’s criminal and counterterrorism divisions instructed agents to apply the threat tag “EDUOFFICIALS” to all investigations and assessments of threats directed specifically at education officials.

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Jordan and Johnson, citing a whistleblower, said the FBI opened investigations with the EDUOFFICIALS threat in every region of the country and relating to all types of educational settings.

The lawmakers cited several examples where someone reported a parent, or a state elected official using the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center.

In one investigation, FBI officials interviewed a mom for allegedly telling a school board member “we are coming for you.” The person reported the mom because she belonged to a “right wing mom’s group” called “Moms for Liberty” and because she is a gun owner. FBI officials eventually determined this mom was not a threat.

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People gather to protest different issues including the board's handling of a sexual assault that happened in a school bathroom in May, vaccine mandates and critical race theory during a Loudoun County School Board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, US, October 26, 2021. Picture taken October 26, 2021.

People gather to protest different issues including the board’s handling of a sexual assault that happened in a school bathroom in May, vaccine mandates and critical race theory during a Loudoun County School Board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, US, October 26, 2021. Picture taken October 26, 2021.
(REUTERS / Leah Millis)

In another investigation, FBI officials interviewed a dad opposed to masks, according to Jordan and Johnson. The person who reported the dad did so because he supposedly fit the bill of an “insurrectionist” and “rails against the government” and “has a lot of guns and threatens to use them” – claims which the person later admitted they had “no specific information or observations of crimes any crimes or threats. ”

Republican elected officials in an undisclosed state were also reported by a state Democratic Party official who said that Republicans “incited violence” by expressing displeasure with school districts’ vaccine mandates.

Jordan and Johnson said these investigations were a direct result of Garland’s Oct. 4 directives to the FBI. They noted that the FBI agents ultimately determined that these cases did not amount to terrorist threats, but they lamented the waste of “valuable law-enforcement time and resources (that) could have been spent on real and pressing threats.”

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“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 lawmakers said.

In testimony before Congress in October 2021, Garland told lawmakers that his Department of Justice had not deployed antiterrorism tools against parents protesting the actions of school boards. “I can not 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,” he said at the time.

Fox News has reached out to the DOJ for comment but did not hear back before publication time.

Fox News’ Tyler O’Neil and Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.