Whistleblower docs show use of FBI counterterrorism tactics on parents

Documents prompt House GOP to question AG Garland, FBI Director Wray, and Education Sec. Cardona

Attorney General Merrick Garland is sworn in to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)

RALEIGH — Documents provided by an employee at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appear to show the agency using counterterrorism tactics on parents, according to a letter sent by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Jordan sent two letters, one to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and one to the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray.

In his letter to the FBI, Jordan describes the whistleblower documents and outlines the FBI’s apparent use of “threat tags” being used by the FBI to compile reports and which potentially could target and categorize parents as threats.

“On October 20, 2021, the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division sent an email to an ‘FBI_SACS’ listserv ‘on behalf of’ the FBI’s Assistant Director for the Counterterrorism Division, Timothy Langan and the Assistant Director for the Criminal Division, Calvin Shivers,” Jordan wrote in the letter to Wray. “The email, which is enclosed, referenced the Attorney General’s October 4 directive to the FBI to address school board threats and notified FBI personnel about a new ‘threat tag’ created by the Counterterrorism and Criminal Divisions.”

The threat tag described by Jordan and the whistleblower document is “EDUOFFICIALS.”

“The email directed FBI personnel to apply this new threat tag to all ‘investigations and assessments of threats specifically directed against school board administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,’” wrote Jordan. “The email articulated the purpose as ‘scop[ing] this threat on a national level and provid[ing] an opportunity for comprehensive analysis of the threat picture for effective engagement with law enforcement partners at all levels.’”

Jordan’s letter to Wray goes on to demand the number of parents tagged with “EDUOFFICIALS,” all documents and communications related to that tag, as well as the communications of specific individuals involved in the investigation of school board threats.

The FBI’s actions stem from an Oct. 4 memorandum issued by Garland directing the FBI to investigate protests at local school boards around the country. Neither the memorandum nor the Department of Justice’s press release announcing the document gave any specific examples of threats.

Garland indicated in hearings before Congress that he had based his memorandum on a letter sent to President Biden by the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

The use of such tactics by the FBI revealed in the whistleblower documents appear to contradict the testimony of U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland given during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Oct. 21.

During that testimony, Garland said he couldn’t “imagine any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children, nor . . . a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorists.”

Jordan’s Nov. 16 letter to Garland reminds Garland that “appeared surprised to learn about the National Security Division’s involvement in the task force,” and that Garland “avoided a direct answer to the question and offered no clarification or explanation for the National Security Division’s role in the task force.”

Also on Nov. 16, Jordan and U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, sent a letter to Biden Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Jordan and Foxx’s letter requests all documents and communications between the Department of Education, its staff and that of the NSBA.

“Publicly available information shows that the Education Department interacted with the NSBA before the group urged President Biden to target concerned parents in local school board meetings,” wrote Jordan and Foxx. “The NSBA’s September 29 letter, signed by the group’s President Viola M. Garcia and Interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven, noted that the group had been in discussions with the Biden White House and the Education Department.”

Following the backlash to Garland’s memorandum, the NSBA retracted its Sept. 29 letter and issued an apology to its members. The damage was done, however, with dozens of state chapters dropping their affiliation with the group, including North Carolina. It was also learned that the NSBA’s Garcia and its CEO Chip Slaven had sent the letter to the White House without the knowledge or approval of its members.

The letter to Cardona goes on to say that “NSBA President Garcia wrote that the NSBA had ‘been engaged with the White House and Department of Education . . . for several weeks now’ and that “On October 13, shortly after the NSBA’s letter and the Attorney General’s memorandum, you appointed Dr. Garcia to the National Assessment Governing Board.”

The position referred to by Jordan and Foxx is the board which oversees the Nation’s Report Card, commonly referred to by the acronym NAEP. Cardona announced the appointment on Oct. 13, just two weeks after the NSBA sent its letter to Biden.

Jordan and Foxx also requested “All documents and communications for the period January 20, 2021, to the present” pertaining to Garcia’s appointment.

About A.P. Dillon 750 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_