Nearly a dozen GOP senators from the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday demanding that he rescind a memo greenlighting a campaign by federal law enforcement to go after parents who speak up at school board meetings across the country.
“Are concerned parents domestic terrorists or not?” the letter asked.
As noted in the letter, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division took action on Garland’s October directive to target parents after the National School Boards Association begged the Biden administration to get involved in silencing those opposed to COVID-19 protocols and objectionable content in curricula. The senators said this information came to light after a whistleblower from the U.S. Department of Justice shared an email detailing the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Criminal Divisions decisions to tag and track “instances of related threats” related to school board members and other educational staff.
“This followed your October 4 memorandum alleging a ‘disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools,’” the letter to Garland said.
The Judiciary Committee lawmakers noted that Garland had previously claimed parents should exercise their First Amendment rights to express discontent at local school board meetings but also pointed out that “it should be abundantly clear to you now that no matter what your claimed intention was at the time of issuing that memo, the subsequent reaction of American parents and the public shows it has had a clear chilling effect on them.”
The FBI’s new plan initiated shortly after Garland’s memo, the letter continued, “leads normal, loving, and impassioned parents to wonder whether the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division – an eyebrow raising fact that cannot be emphasized enough – will be reviewing and storing videos of them speaking at school-board meetings.”
“Speaking in public is a nerve-racking experience for most people. Undoubtedly many of them will now just skip it. When that happens, democracy is failing. Other parents will be even more nervous speaking their minds and will not be as clear as they would like to be when speaking. All of this is an outrageous tipping of the scales in the marketplace of ideas in favor of school officials, who just happen to be a major constituency of the political party that currently controls the White House and the Department of Justice. And you have now enlisted the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division as muscle in that marketplace of ideas,” the letter said. “No matter how you might rationalize this, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division should never have had anything to do with school-board meetings.”
The senators concluded the letter by once again demanding that Garland withdraw his October memo encouraging further action by the federal government.
“By now involving the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division in this effort, even if you personally believe that division would never cross a line into silencing criticism of local governments, you have given life to the idea that dissidents are synonymous with terrorists. This is a common tactic of third-world dictatorships, but it should never be FBI practice,” the letter stated. “Parents and other citizens who get impassioned at school-board meetings are not domestic terrorists. You may believe that, but too many people involved in this issue seem to think harsh words can be criminalized. Getting the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division involved in the matter only makes this worse—dramatically worse.”