US House Judiciary Republicans: DOJ labeled dozens of parents as terrorist threats

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

RALEIGH — U.S. House Judiciary Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) released a statement on May 11 indicating they had sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland regarding his Oct. 2021 memorandum directing the targeting of parents by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

“This is about intimidation. This is about chilling free speech,” Jordan said at a hearing held the same day the letter was released. 

Garland’s memorandum was prompted by a letter to President Joe Biden by the National School Boards Association (NSBA). That letter drew comparisons between parents protesting actions by their local school boards to “domestic terrorism.” Within weeks of Garland issuing his memorandum, the NSBA apologized for their letter. In February 2022, an email was uncovered showing the NSBA had advanced knowledge of the release of Garland’s memorandum. 

As of April 2, 30 states have distanced themselves from the NSBA with 22 of those states, including North Carolina, dropping their membership entirely. 

The Republican House Judiciary letter describes information from whistleblowers covering at least dozens of investigations into parents using the threat tag “EDUOFFICIALS.” House Judiciary Republicans uncovered the threat tag last year and apparently is actively being used by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division to track investigations related to parents protesting at school board meetings around the country. 

“These investigations into concerned parents were the direct result of your October 4 directive to the FBI. Each of the cases was initiated following your directive. Each of the complaints came into the FBI through the same snitch-line—the National Threat Operations Center—highlighted in the press release accompanying your October 4 memorandum,” reads the House Judiciary Republicans letter to Garland.  

“One complainant even told an FBI agent that they reported the tip to the FBI because of the snitch-line, despite having ‘no specific information’ about any actual threat,” the letter says. “These facts lead us to conclude that these investigations into concerned parents, and likely many more like them, would not have occurred but for your directive.” 

The other point is that Garland’s memorandum is a violation of the First Amendment rights of parents and seeks “to intimidate parents into silence via the threat of federal agents coming to their homes to “investigate” their attempts to effectively participate in and freely discuss the education of their children. “   

According to the statement, one example involves the FBI investigating whether a mom was a threat to her local school board because she belonged to a “right wing mom’s group” known as “Moms for Liberty” and because she “is a gun owner.” The allegation against the Moms for Liberty parent was reported to the FBI via a hotline set up last fall by Garland.  

Another example was an investigation into a father who opposed mask mandates. Garland’s hotline was also used in that case, alleging that the father in question “fit the profile of an insurrectionist,” and “rails against the government,” and the complainant claimed he “has a lot of guns and threatens to use them.” 

The complaint against the father turned out to be meritless after an FBI agent interviewed the complainant, who admitted they had ‘no specific information or observations of . . . any crimes or threats’.”  

This latest round of whistleblower information further contradicts testimony given to Congress by Garland October 2021. 

“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,” Garland said at the time. 

The month following Garland’s statements to Congress, 16 state attorney’s general led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita sent a letter to President Biden and Garland decrying Garland’s memorandum. 

Rokita’s letter demanded the Biden administration immediately cease attempting to “to intimidate parents under the threat of being investigated as “domestic terrorists” from exercising their rights.” 

North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein was not among the other 15 signing the letter. 

The letter to Garland contains two key points related to Garland’s Oct. 4, 2021, Memorandum. One is that the memorandum “repeats the canard that ‘there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff’.” 

In addition to Indiana’s Rokita, also signing the letter were attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.