Garland’s memo, issued in October, instructed “the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district,” in order “to facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats.”
The attorney general’s directions were inspired in large part by a letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) citing a number of incidents and arguing that some of them verged on domestic terrorism.
Both the incidents themselves and the label have come under significant scrutiny. Sixteen of the 24 examples listed by the NSBA constituted tense verbal altercations, which did not include physical threats. And the remaining examples, if criminal, fall squarely under local and state jurisdiction. One of the instances pointed to by the NSBA was the arrest of Scott Smith, the father of a sexual-assault victim in Loudoun County, Va. None of these, critics say, fall under the category of “domestic terrorism,” or even fit within the Bureau’s purview.
The NSBA has apologized for the letter, having seen significant membership losses as a result of it. Since its release, 17 state school-board associations have left the NSBA and 27 have publicly condemned it.
Adam Lee is a former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond division and national executive for the FBI’s public-corruption and civil-rights programs. He oversaw the FBI’s involvement in the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and even interviewed with former president Donald Trump to replace James Comey as director of the FBI.
Lee called the memo “pretty rare,” in an interview with National Review, noting that in his long tenure at the Bureau, he only saw a couple of items like it. Of even more concern to Lee was the fact that “the only way that [the memo] is hitting FBI jurisdiction at all is under the rubric of domestic terrorism.” According to Lee, the bureau’s domestic-terrorism program, which is held within its counterrorism division, includes resources and permission structures that he’d be concerned to see brought to bear against Americans.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
“The counterterrorism division’s incredible capabilities were built to target foreign terrorist organizations under Title 50, which is all the PATRIOT Act enabling statutes. It is a juggernaut and has saved countless American lives,” explained Lee.
But, he added, “it is a scary prospect to turn those capabilities inward on U.S. persons. The Bureau is bound by the constitutional protections which all law enforcement in America is rightly constrained by.”
Lee doesn’t “have concerns that FBI professionals will run out and start violating core constitutional principles,” but he submits that “the worrisome dimension of tagging Americans as domestic terrorists is the scrutiny it brings and the resulting data collection and assessments of the counterterrorism division. Americans should be confident that, absent an existing predicate of criminality, the government has no interest in their personal activities.”
Lee’s concerns were echoed by Bill Corbett, a retired supervisory agent who worked on national security and criminal matters for the Bureau. He told National Review that “it doesn’t seem like, substantively, there’s really anything. I don’t think that anyone’s seen any incidents of actual organized violence for political ends that might fit in that rubric of terrorism.”
Corbett was particularly surprised that even after the NSBA apologized for its letter, Garland declined to back down from his memo and the instructions therein during hearings on Capitol Hill. In rebuffing calls to rescind his memo, Garland claimed it was only partially motivated by the letter and cited unspecified media reports as the other motivator. Corbett emphasized the ways in which the memo might further undermine confidence in the FBI and federal law enforcement more generally, arguing that it constituted a betrayal of trust and an “encroachment into the public square, into First Amendment spaces, and we’re doing it because of safety and security.”
“It turns out that was sort of an empty, politically-loaded claim,” he observed, calling it a “black eye” for Garland’s DOJ that “quickly kind of collapsed in on itself.”
Corbett was, however, encouraged by reporting from the Daily Caller that FBI director Christopher Wray had told a group of former agents that the FBI would stay in its lane and refrain from any behavior that might have a chilling effect on speech about educational policy. The Bureau has, however, created a “threat tag” for data collection on threats against schools and officials, but Lee and Corbett both downplayed them as direct threats to Americans’ civil liberties, describing them as a sorting mechanism.
The downstream effects, however, could be somewhat more pronounced. the tags are “a mechanism just for general bookkeeping, passively,” said Corbett. “But it also has an ability of kind of chilling people because this isn’t the Department of Agriculture here, this is the FBI,” an agency capable of investigating and jailing Americans. As such, Corbett argues that anything, even something seemingly innocuous like creating a threat tag, “has to pass the sniff test.”
Lee concurred, calling the tags themselves a “passive way of compiling data around a threat issue to determine its scope,” but he also acknowledged that “it is fair to call the creation of a tag follow-through and, depending on what the data reveal to FBI analysts, it could foretell further steps for the FBI.”
He also expressed concerns over not just the appearance of political bias, but its consequences on Bureau behavior. “It is essential that FBI leadership remain politically agnostic and actively resist the pressures of political actors within government. The vast majority of my career was spent in field assignments; the special agents I worked alongside for nearly a quarter-century are the most honorable among us,” said Lee.
And yet, he nevertheless observed, “even those street agents with the highest integrity, however, are still working a mission dictated to them by leadership.”
Crazy but true: Critics of the Biden administration's critical race ideology and coronavirus policies have been classified as domestic terror threats.
It is no coincidence that the Department of Justice heeded the National School Boards Association’s call for the Biden administration to target parents critical of critical race theory curricula and dubious coronavirus policies in schools by labeling them domestic terrorists and mobilizing the DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The administration’s National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism mandates just such chilling action.
That little-discussed but hugely significant document codifies a War on Wrongthink, demanding that the full weight of the federal government and private-sector allies like Big Tech be brought to bear against dissenters from Biden regime orthodoxy. Consider “pillar four” of the strategy, titled “Confront Long-Term Contributors to Domestic Terrorism.” It reads in part:
…tackling the threat posed by domestic terrorism over the long term demands substantial efforts to confront the racism that feeds into aspects of that threat. We are, therefore, prioritizing efforts to ensure that every component of the government has a role to play in rooting out racism and advancing equity for under–served communities that have far too often been the targets of discrimination and violence. This approach must apply to our efforts to counter domestic terrorism by addressing underlying racism and bigotry.
On day one of the Biden presidency, the administration issued an executive order lamenting America’s “systemic racism.” In response, it called for the administration to pursue “an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda.”
It also revoked the Trump administration’s executive order barring training of federal employees in “anti-American race … stereotyping and scapegoating” — an implicit reference to critical race theory and related critiques of America. This revocation could be seen as at minimum a tacit endorsement of CRT, as could the Biden administration’s dissolution of the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, a group whose work could be seen as challenging CRT.
A Department of Education proposal in April represented a more direct demonstration of the Biden administration’s pro-CRT position. The rule would have prioritized grants for American history and civics programs that “incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives,” citing as examples The New York Times’ 1619 Project and “anti-racist” par excellence Ibram X. Kendi.
The rule promoted “culturally responsive teaching,” which Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz describes as an “ultra-woke and utterly politicized pedagogy derived from Critical Race Theory.” That rule was ultimately shelved amid a massive backlash, but the administration’s position was made clear: It fully supports critical race theory.
It stands to reason that the Biden administration would see support of CRT as consistent with its “equity” agenda, and therefore opposition to CRT as an impediment to it. “Equity” is a concept firmly rooted in the “anti-racism” of the likes of Kendi. Kendi asserts that “Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.” CRT is therefore an anti-racist idea. To critical race theorists, then, opposing them is racist.
If, as the Biden administration argues, countering domestic terror, the greatest threat of which comes from white supremacism, requires “addressing underlying racism and bigotry,” as the national strategy says; and opposition to CRT is racist; then targeting CRT critics becomes a national security imperative.
With respect to the Chinese coronavirus, the Biden administration’s purported counter-terror strategy quotes from a March 2021 intelligence community domestic violent extremism (DVE) threat assessment noting that “Newer sociopolitical developments—such as narratives of … conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic … will almost certainly spur some DVEs to try to engage in violence this year.”
That assessment followed a January 2021 national terrorism advisory bulletin noting that in 2020 “domestic violent extremists” were motivated by “anger over COVID-19 restrictions” and that “Threats of violence against critical infrastructure … increased in 2020 with violent extremists citing misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 for their actions.”
Subsequently, an August 2021 national terrorism advisory bulletin warned that:
…anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists will remain a national threat priority for the United States. These extremists may seek to exploit the emergence of COVID-19 variants by viewing the potential re-establishment of public health restrictions across the United States as a rationale to conduct attacks.
The bulletin cited “continued, non-specific calls for violence on multiple online platforms associated with DVE ideologies or conspiracy theories on…alleged reinstatement, and responses to anticipated restrictions relating to the increasing COVID cases.”
The Biden administration of course supports more restrictive coronavirus measures generally, and has vowed to combat policies barring universal masking in classrooms — the kind of policy parents have protested nationwide. Its purported counterterror strategy notes that “domestic terrorists” “espouse a range of violent ideological motivations,” including not just racism but “anti-government or anti-authority sentiment.”
The Biden administration apparently believes challenges to school boards on its favored coronavirus policies reflect such anti-government or anti-authority sentiment, as the DOJ memorandum responding to the NSBA argues that it is compelled to act given “Threats against public servants.” The NSBA notes that “groups” are “spreading misinformation that [school] boards are … working to maintain online learning by haphazardly attributing it to COVID-19.”
The Biden strategy calls for “enhancing faith in government and addressing the extreme polarization, fueled by a crisis of disinformation and misinformation … which can tear Americans apart and lead some to violence … Enhancing faith in American democracy demands accelerating work to contend with an information environment that challenges healthy democratic discourse. We will work toward finding ways to counter the influence and impact of dangerous conspiracy theories that can provide a gateway to terrorist violence.”
Seeking to frighten parents into silence by threatening to sic our nation’s most powerful law enforcement bodies on them for challenging critical race theory, or coronavirus policies, would seem to be perfectly consistent with the Biden administration’s “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.”
Its reach is virtually limitless if dissent from the regime’s agenda constitutes a danger to “democracy.” At minimum, it should be clear that critics of the regime’s CRT ideology, and coronavirus policies, have been classified as threats.
The irony here, in the case of school boards, is that to justify its call for federal protection, the NSBA cites all of two instances where individuals were arrested at school board meetings for their behavior. Those two arrests concerned disgruntled parents at board meetings, one of whom allegedly struck a school official escorting him from the premises, and another of whom reportedly physically threatened someone and resisted arrest.
These acts are unacceptable, and anyone who breaks laws ought to be prosecuted accordingly. But is this the stuff of domestic terrorism?
Otherwise, the NSBA largely substantiates its concerns by flagging a series of disrupted school board meetings, some ending in the face of “angry mobs”; a report of menacing social media posts threatening several schools without any readily discernible connection to school boards and their positions on CRT or Chinese coronavirus policies; and another report that “A resident in Alabama, who proclaimed himself as “vaccine police,” has called school administrators while filming himself on Facebook Live.”
It appears the NSBA actually got this story wrong. “Vaccine police,” according to the link it includes, was “confronting pharmacists in a Missouri Walmart.”
Once again, is this the stuff of domestic terrorism? Is the threat so dire that it demands, as the NSBA called for, the intervention of no less than: the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center, and U.S. Postal Service, under laws including the Gun-Free School Zones Act, PATRIOT Act, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights statute, Conspiracy Against Rights statute, an executive order to enforce all applicable federal laws for the protection of students and public school district personnel, and any related measure?
So far, the Biden administration has only enlisted a subset of these agencies, but perhaps more is to come. One thing is clear: The Biden administration’s War on Wrongthink, masquerading as a domestic counterterrorism mission, will inflict infinitely more terror on America than will loving and impassioned parents concerned about the education and health of their children in the taxpayer-funded schools.