Tuesday, October 3, 2023

FBI Indeed Spied on Protesting Parents, House Judiciary Finds

'The FBI has opened investigations into people without any evidence of criminal wrongdoing...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) The House Weaponization Subcommittee released a report Tuesday, confirming that the FBI spied on parents who protested COVID-19 restrictions and other issues at school board meetings.

By revealing that the FBI opened at least 25 “Guardian assessments,” Tuesday’s report undercuts Attorney General Merrick Garland’s claim that the FBI only investigated legitimate threats of violence against educators.

That’s because an FBI “assessment” is a constitutionally dubious category that allows the bureau to conduct surveillance against a target without a factual predicate of criminal wrongdoing. “Guardian” is an internal FBI system that tracks cases linked to terrorism.

Of the 25 guardian assessments of school board threats, the FBI determined that only one warranted opening a full investigation, according to the report. None of the assessments have resulted in federal prosecutions, the report said.

The report said its findings supplement FBI whistleblower disclosures, including allegations that the FBI investigated a mom because she belonged to a “right-wing mom’s group” and a dad because “he rails against the government.”

“This weaponization of law-enforcement powers against American parents exercising their First Amendment rights is dangerous,” the report said.

The FBI’s surveillance of protesting parents stems from the National School Boards Association’s September 2021 letter to President Biden, requesting federal law enforcement assistance to target parents voicing concerns at local school board meetings. That letter led to an Oct, 4, 2021, memorandum from Garland that directed the FBI to establish a “threat tag” to investigate Americans.

The NSBA has since rescinded its letter to Garland and apologized for it, but Garland’s memo is still in effect. The Weaponization Subcommittee, which was formed this year to investigate the weaponization of federal government, urged Garland to finally retract his memo.

“It is crystal clear that Attorney General Garland should rescind his unwise and unsupported directive to insert federal law enforcement into local school board matters,” the subcommittee’s report said.

The FBI’s use of assessments is something that has drawn the attention of lawmakers in the past. Last March, Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., and Jamie Raskin, D-N.Y., wrote a letter to Government Accountability Office requesting an audit of the bureau’s practice.

According to the letter, the FBI opened 11,667 assessments of individuals and groups between December 2008 and March 2009; only 427 developed into full investigations based on information collected. By 2011, the FBI had opened 82,235 similar assessments with fewer than 4,000 yielding any factual predicate to proceed with more intensive inquiries, the letter said.

“The FBI has opened investigations into people without any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, undermining our right to free speech and due process under the First Amendment,” Mace wrote last March.

“Under the FBI’s 2008 guidelines, the Agency is free to use ‘intrusive investigative techniques,’ including informants and unlimited physical surveillance, on individuals and groups without any link to criminality. This is scary, and it is a violation of the Constitution, plain and simple.”

The GAO did not immediately respond to a Headline USA email asking whether it has begun its review of FBI assessments. Neither Mace nor Raskin have provided updates since issuing their letter.

It’s not clear whether the FBI’s 25 Guardian assessments are still open. FBI policy requires agents to interview the targets of guardian assessments before closing them.

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