FBI Counterterrorism Unit Tracking ‘Threats’ Against School Officials, School Boards, Whistleblower Docs Show
Merrick Garland, U.S. attorney general, testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. The Justice Department will prioritize redlining investigations with Garland pledging the crackdown on discriminatory lending would be unprecedented in its aggressiveness. Photographer: Tom Brenner/Bloomberg
Tom Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

FBI counterterrorism officials are compiling and tracking investigations into “threats” directed at school board members and other school officials, whistleblower documents show.

House Judiciary Committee Republicans, led by the committee’s ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), released a whistleblower email on Tuesday showing that the FBI is using counterterrorism tools to track threats against school officials.

“We share an obligation to ensure all individuals are able to do their jobs without threats of violence or fear for their safety. This can only be accomplished with effective coordination and engagement with our law enforcement partners and United States Attorney offices,” says the email, sent on behalf of the assistant directors of the FBI’s counterterrorism and criminal divisions.

“As a result, the Counterterrorism and Criminal Divisions created a threat tag, EDUOFFICIALS, to track instances of related threats. We ask that your offices apply the threat tag to investigations and assessments of threats specifically directed against school board administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,” it continues. “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 partners at all levels.”

As the email acknowledges, the new “threat tag” was created in response to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s October 4 memo directing the FBI to crack down on threats directed at school boards and administrators.

The email encourages agents to look for a “federal nexus” in each case and says agents look out for any “potential federal violations that can be investigated and charged.” Agents should also try and identify the “motive behind the criminal activity.”

“We appreciate your attention to this matter and welcome any engagement to identify trends, strategies, and best practices to accomplish discouraging, identifying, and prosecuting those who use violence, threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation and harassment pertaining to this threat,” the email concludes.

Jordan sent a letter to Garland on Tuesday claiming that the whistleblower email “[calls] into question the accuracy and completeness” of Garland’s October 21 testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Specifically, you [Garland] testified that you could not ‘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.’ You also testified: ‘I do not think parents getting angry at school boards for whatever reason constitute domestic terrorism. It’s not even a close question,’” Jordan’s letter says.

Jordan goes on to say that Garland’s testimony last month was, at best, incomplete. Potentially, Garland “willfully misled” the committee about the FBI and its counterterrorism unit’s involvement in such investigations.

“To allow us to assess the accuracy and completeness of your sworn 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 relating to school board meetings,” Jordan wrote.

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