Republican Representative Jim Jordan (Ohio) today demanded the FBI explain why the federal agency investigated Concerned Women of America for financial crimes merely because an online rating service ranked the charity as “underperforming,” after a libertarian think tank released a redacted document regarding the investigation.
In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Jordan said, “This document raises serious questions about the FBI’s targeting of domestic civil society organizations on the basis of a third-party opinion, and not any credible allegation of a crime.”
Suspicionless FBI Snooping on Concerned Women of America – Cato Daily Podcast https://t.co/HuTZdq8oWc
— Christopher Weible (@midwestguru) July 24, 2021
Previously, Wray had testified to Congress that the FBI doesn’t investigate “investigate First Amendment groups . . . [or] people for speech, association, for assembly, [or] for membership in domestic First Amendment groups,” said Jordan.
Jordan’s inquiry comes after the Cato Institute revealed it had obtained documents regarding the investigation via a Freedom of Information Request.
Cato called the investigation of CWA a “fishing expedition for the digital age” with the agents scouring internet databases to come up with reasons to target this domestic organization, a practice for which the courts have criticized the FBI.
In 2008, says Cato, the FBI under Republican Attorney General Michael Mukasey changed the rules governing investigations, allowing a kind of quasi-investigative state knows as an “assessment.”
Assessments are thinly edged wedge that allows the FBI to investigate domestic organizations under another name, free of oversight, in order to determine if they can get a reason to open a larger investigation.
The assessments can include the recruitment of informants and private surveillance of people.
According to former FBI special agent Michael German, the FBI, two years after the new guidelines went into effect, did over 82,325 assessments, of which only 3,315 found information that warranted opening preliminary or full investigations.
“A 2010 Inspector General report found the FBI opened preliminary investigations on political advocacy organizations based on mere speculation that the subjects might commit a crime in the future,” said German, in May of 2017.
He also warned that the FBI was investigating political figures merely because they can without much oversight and the lack of oversight has had a corrosive effect on the country’s trust in the FBI — comments echoed by the CWA.
“We will probably never know why this really happened but the timing, June of 2016, would suggest that it may have had something to do with my personal support for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump,” said Penny Young Nance, president and CEO of CWA in an editorial on Foxnews.com. “It is an undisputed fact that the FBI circumvented the law in their zeal to get information on President Trump.”
Previously, former Directors James Comey and Robert Mueller were criticized for testifying to Congress that the FBI assessments of domestic groups needed a reasonable indication to be investigated, such as evidence of wrongdoing.
Jordan’s letter to Wray asks the FBI to produce an unredacted copy of the FBI’s CWA assessment, documents and communications relating to the investigation as well as an accounting of all assessments completed since January 1st 2016, especially those involving charities.