Citing an internal email provided by an FBI whistleblower, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee revealed Tuesday that the Bureau has created a system to track threats against school board officials and administrators, and accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of misleading lawmakers when he was asked about the subject during his previous testimony before the committee.
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 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, Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote that the whistleblower email “provides specific evidence” that federal law enforcement employed counterterrorism tools “against concerned parents.”
The FBI denied that it has targeted 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 agency said. “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 disclosure comes after the National School Boards Association released a letter in September calling on federal agencies to investigate whether alleged threats to school-board members constituted a domestic terrorist threat. The NSBA cited alleged threats made in opposition to masking policies and “propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory” in schools.
Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices on October 4 to investigate threats against school boards following publication of the letter, which the NSBA apologized for on October 22. The attorney general testified on October 21 that the Department of Justice and FBI were not using counterterrorism tools to investigate the alleged threats.
“I do not think that parents getting angry at school boards for whatever reason constitute domestic terrorism,” Garland said at the time. “It’s not even a close question.”
Jordan wrote in his letter to Garland on Tuesday that the attorney general was “at best” mistaken, citing the whistleblower email.
“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,” Jordan 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.
Nicole Neily, the president and founder of nonprofit Parents Defending Education, said the whistleblower documents “prove” that the FBI used “counterterrorism tools to investigate concerned parents” who participated in school board meetings.
“Not only has America’s education bureaucracy declared war on parents concerned about local schools—but so has the Department of Justice, which has weaponized the FBI against parents to chill their speech,” Neily claimed in a statement. “The American people deserve a full accounting of exactly who was involved, and when—so that egregious overreach like this may be prevented in the future.”