A whistleblower at the Department of Justice furnished an email to the House Judiciary Committee that confirms the agency is using anti-terrorism surveillance tools to identify and track parents who protest education policies at local school board meetings. The October 20 email, sent on behalf of the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division and assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, under the subject line, “Guidance: Threat to Violence against School Administrators,” advised the head of each FBI field office to use a “threat tag” and apply the tag to “investigations and threats specifically directed against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
FBI agents were asked to determine any “federal nexus” or “federal violations” related to potential threats, a clear indication the Justice Department would criminally prosecute school board threats under its counterterrorism authority. This is the same approach the Justice Department is using against hundreds of Americans charged with various offenses, including misdemeanors, related to the Capitol protest on January 6.
The email appears to contradict Attorney General Merrick Garland’s sworn testimony to the House Judiciary Committee last month; Garland denied that his department considers parents angrily protesting at school board meetings “domestic terrorists” and hedged on whether the National Security Division, the Justice Department office responsible for handling federal terrorist threats, would be involved in an effort to monitor and flag parents accused of threatening conduct toward educators.
His testimony was in response to questions about his October 4 memo that instructed the FBI and his U.S. attorneys to host meetings with state and local law enforcement authorities to combat an alleged “spike” in violence aimed at public school officials. “These meetings will facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response. The Department is steadfast in its commitment to protect all people in the United States,” Garland wrote.
Garland’s directive came just four days after the National School Board Association sent a letter to Joe Biden describing protesting parents as “domestic terrorists” and demanded the administration use terrorism statutes including the Patiot Act and hate crime laws to prosecute parents who got out of line. “Coupled with attacks against school board members and educators for approving policies for masks to protect the health and safety of students and school employees, many public school officials are also facing physical threats because of propaganda purporting the false inclusion of critical race theory within classroom instruction and curricula,” the group wrote in a letter dated September 30.
After pushback from the public, state school board associations, and Republican governors, the group rescinded and apologized for the letter. Reports later revealed that Biden’s White House worked with the NSBA prior to the release of the letter.
Representative James Jordan (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Garland today “calling into question the accuracy and completeness” of his October 21 testimony. “[We] invite you to amend your testimony as to whether the Department or any of its components has used or is using counterterrorism resources or tools for the purpose of investigating, tracking, or prosecuting threats retailing to school board meetings.”