The FBI used “threat tags” created by the bureau’s counterterrorism division to launch dozens of investigations into parents who had protested at school board meetings, whistleblowers disclosed.
The probes targeted parents who were reported on a new Justice Department “snitch line.” The FBI investigations included a father opposed to mask mandates and a mother deemed a threat for “owning guns” and belonging to a group called “Moms for liberty.”
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland accusing the FBI of opening “at least dozens” of investigations into parents and others using the counterterrorism threat tag “in almost every region of the country and relating to all types of educational settings.”
Mr. Jordan also accused Mr. Garland of lying to Congress.
Mr. Garland testified in October that the Justice Department was not using counterterrorism statutes or resources to investigate parents who complained or protested at school board meetings.
A spokesman for Mr. Garland did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on Mr. Jordan’s accusation or the whistleblower information.
The investigations began after Mr. Garland sent an Oct. 4 memorandum to the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s offices seeking to coordinate efforts to monitor “an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools.”
Mr. Garland acted following a Sept. 29 letter to President Biden from the National School Boards Association asking for “immediate assistance” to deal with “the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation occurring across the nation.”
The NSBA said school boards and educators were under attack by those who opposed mask mandates or “propaganda” that schools were teaching such as critical race theory.
Weeks later, the Justice Department, under Mr. Garland’s direction, opened the National Threat Operations Center “snitch line.”
Mr. Jordan said whistleblowers have revealed the call line yielded complaints about parents who voiced opposition to school boards, mask and vaccine mandates or appeared to be “right-wing” or “insurrectionist.”
“The information we have received shows how, as a direct result of your directive, federal law enforcement is using counterterrorism resources to investigate protected First Amendment activity,” Mr. Jordan said.
Mr. Jordan said the FBI, by Oct. 20, had created the new threat tag EDUOFFICIALS and directed that it be applied to “school board-related threats.”
One woman phoned in a complaint alleging a mom was a threat because she told the local school board “we are coming for you,” owned guns and belonged to a “right-wing mom’s group.” The FBI interviewed the accused mother, who told agents she was upset about the mask mandate and wanted the school board to know they would be voted out of office.
Another person phoned in a complaint that a father “fit the profile of an insurrectionist” because he “rails against the government,” “believes all conspiracy theories,” and “has a lot of guns and threatens to use them.”
The person who phoned in the complaint couldn’t provide the FBI with any evidence the dad had made threats or committed a crime, but reported the dad after hearing about the new tip line.