The House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on May 18 released a detailed report on Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showing repeated retaliation against FBI whistleblowers who uncovered abuses in the course of investigations into Jan. 6, 2021 protesters, traditional Catholics and parents opposing critical race theory and transgender ideology being taught at public schools at school board meetings, with one agent testifying that the Bureau had become “rotted at its core.”
In his opening statement on the May 18 hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), stated, “Politics is driving the agenda in federal agencies… [I]t’s not just presidential campaigns today, it’s the American people. They’re the target. You know, you’re not politically correct, you’re not in line with what they think should be the political position, the proper position, you’re the target. Parents attending a school board meeting pro-lifers praying at a clinic or Catholics simply attending Mass, you could be a target.”
Jordan added, “And maybe what’s just as frightening is if you’re one of those good employees in our government who come forward to talk about the targeting, you then become a target. You face retaliation. If you’re one of those and I think there are thousands and thousands of good employees working across our country in the FBI and other agencies, but if you’re one of those good employees driven by your commitment to the Constitution and your conscience, and you come forward, they’re going to come after you.”
Jordan outlined the retaliation against whistleblowers: “If you come forward and tell us about the radical traditional Catholic memo, or you if come forward and tell us about this idea they’re going to create some snitch line to report on parents going to school board meetings, you do that, they will try to crush you. They will retaliate against you, they’re coming after you. But these guys today, they were brave enough, they took their oath seriously, they believe in the Constitution the Bill of Rights and the rule of law and they came forward, and I want to thank them for doing it, but because they did, man, oh man, they face retaliation.”
The report outlined several examples of unconstitutional targeting of American citizens, including Jan. 6, 2021 protesters who were not violent at the U.S. Capitol, parents who speak up at school board meetings and Catholics attending church, all in violation of their First and Fourth Amendment rights, to free speech, the freedom of religion and the freedom against unreasonable surveillance.
On the Jan. 6 protesters, the report found, “The FBI’s Washington Field Office (WFO) pressured a field office in Boston, Massachusetts, to open investigations on 138 individuals who traveled to Washington, D.C., to exercise their First Amendment rights on January 6, 2021, with no specific indication that these people were involved in any way in criminal activity. The only basis for investigating these people was that they shared buses to Washington with two individuals who entered restricted areas of the Capitol that day. Rather than limiting the investigation to just the two people who entered restricted areas, the WFO instructed the Boston Field Office to open investigations on all 140 individuals who attended the political rally.”
The report continued, outlining what happened when “the Boston Field Office asked the WFO for more evidence, including video from the Capitol, to properly predicate the investigations,” stating, “The WFO provided pictures of the two individuals inside the Capitol; however, the WFO refused to provide video evidence from the Capitol out of fear it would disclose undercover officers or confidential human sources inside the Capitol.”
In addition, Bank of America was pressured to turn over data on gun purchases to target Jan. 6 protesters who were gun owners. And, to create an illusion of domestic terrorism, there is pressure inside the Bureau to reclassify cases as “violent extremism”: “FBI leadership pressured agents to reclassify cases as domestic violent extremism (DVE), and even manufactured DVE cases where they may not otherwise exist, while manipulating its case categorization system to create the perception that DVE is organically rising around the country.”
The report also found that a number of cases were being pressured to be turned into “violent extremism” cases: “whistleblower testimony has also uncovered that the agency is engaging in the practice of ordering its agents to classify, and in a number of cases, reclassify, particular investigations as involving ‘domestic violent extremism’ in efforts to merely support political talking points that the number of such cases is ‘on the rise.’”
As for targeting parents at school boards, the FBI appears to be treating these as domestic terrorism cases: “The FBI then began to open investigations with the EDUOFFICIALS threat tag across the nation and established case files on dozens of parents with information that included their political views and the application of this ‘threat tag’ simply because they exercised their fundamental constitutional right to speak.”
This resulted in criminal, counterterrorism and even weapons of mass destruction investigations: “The FBI also provided that 17 of the 25 cases ‘were assigned to the [FBI’s] Criminal Investigative Division; six were assigned to the Counterterrorism Division; and the remaining two were assigned to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate…’ In other words, the FBI’s disclosure confirmed whistleblower allegations that the FBI had misused criminal and counterterrorism resources against parents attending school board meetings.”
On targeting, Catholics, here, Jordan was referring to a Jan. 23 memorandum from the FBI entitled, “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”
The memo highlighted what it said was a “radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology”: FBI Richmond assesses the increasingly observed interest of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) in the radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology almost certainly presents opportunities for threat mitigation through the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development. FBI Richmond makes this assessment with high confidence based on FBI investigations, local law enforcement agency reporting, and liaison reporting, with varying degrees of corroboration and access.”
It alleged that violent extremists could connect with RTC “adherents” “both virtually via social media and in-person at places of worship.” The Bureau defines RTC as “the rejection of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) as a valid church council; disdain for most of the popes elected since Vatican II, particularly Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II; and frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.”
And then if FBI employees come forward to blow the whistle on these and other abuses of power, they are targeted, with whistleblowers saying that FBI leadership in Washington, D.C. is “rotted at its core” and maintains a “systemic culture of unaccountability.”
Take Special Agent Garret O’Boyle, who was indefinitely suspending for bring forward a cash bonus system for agents “who get a monetary bonus at the end of the year if they meet metrics”: “Special Agent O’Boyle made protected disclosures to his Supervisory Special Agent about potentially illegal activity, and the FBI transferred him to a new unit that required him to move his family across-country. When O’Boyle arrived for his first day, the FBI placed him on unpaid, indefinite suspension, effectively rendering his “family homeless” and leaving them without any personal effects—including his young children’s clothing—because these items were in FBI storage.”
Or Special Agent Stephen Friend, who because he questioned the narrative of “domestic violent extremism” being wrongly applied to American exercising their First Amendment rights, was also suspended: ”the FBI suspended his security clearance after making protected disclosures. This suspension rendered Friend unable to fulfill his duties as a special agent—thus, the FBI suspended him indefinitely. While on suspension, the FBI refused to allow Friend to obtain outside employment, leaving his family without income.”
Friend testified the Bureau is attempting to create a misleading narrative of a “rise” of domestic extremism: “The manipulative casefile practice creates false and misleading crime statistics. Instead of hundreds of investigations stemming from a single, black swan incident at the Capitol, FBI and DOJ officials point to significant increases in domestic violent extremism and terrorism around the United States.”
And Staff Operations Specialist Marcus Allen, who was suspended for conducting open-source intelligence gathering on Jan. 6 protesters that was critical of the Bureau’s handling of the cases, including the potential of “Federal involvement with the activities on January 6th”: “I sent [the emails] just for awareness because the[y] . . . indicated potential problems with the investigation as far as informants were concerned, and our organization’s potential forthrightness about the utilization of informants there on that day. That might have some impact on our cases and the subjects that we’re looking up, and just a general awareness overall for the investigation as a whole, that there might have been some kind of potential Federal involvement with the activities on January 6th, and I thought it was important enough that it like warranted our attention, you know.”
Allen also testified that there was dissent among agents being tasked with targeting parents at school boards after the Joint Task Force on Terrorism created a “EDUOFFICIALS” threat tag for those cases: “they had ire with the threat tag and comments of the nature of, “What are we doing, going after parents now?” You know, almost like a ridiculousness, you know?”
Allen similarly testified that there was pressure to reclassify cases as domestic terrorism, but couldn’t recall if he had learned it at work or heard it second-hand: “I learned at some point that FBI agents were being directed to reclassify 170—I think it was 176 cases, so that would be domestic cooperation with police—to reclassify any of those into some type of domestic terrorism case…”
Allen revealed that the Bureau was opening individual case files on groups of individuals suspected of domestic terrorism in order to exaggerate the number of terrorism cases in its crime statistics: “Where in my case, John Doe one, two, three, and four all had their own separate case because then the FBI can—from my perspective—the FBI can come back to Congress and say, look at all the domestic terrorism we’ve investigated. Where, really, I was working one case. But the FBI can then say, well, he actually had four, and so we need you to give us more money because look at how big of a threat all this domestic terrorism is.”
And on and on it goes. We’ve already seen examples where the Justice Department and FBI were weaponized to go after the Trump campaign in 2016 and 2017 on the false belief that former President Donald Trump and his campaign were Russian agents, thanks to the work of Special Counsel John Durham and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. And now we know that it applies on down the line to target conservatives and Republicans because of their political and religious beliefs, so that President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland can make speeches about “violent extremism” with padded statistics.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.