Did Merrick Garland Commit Perjury?
Category: Op/EdVia: vic-eldred • 2 weeks ago • 29 comments
By: By ANDREW C. MCCARTHY
A ttorney General Merrick Garland has been shamefully disingenuous , with the public and Congress, regarding his mobilization of the FBI — under the guise of a nonexistent spate of violent attacks on public-school administrators — to harass and intimidate parents who are protesting against progressive indoctrination of their children. Garland’s October 4 memo on this subject was obviously the result of a Biden administration political gambit, in which the White House recruited progressive operatives of a school-board association to collaborate on a letter to the president, almost immediately after which Garland issued the memo that directed the FBI and U.S. attorneys’ offices to conduct investigations the federal government has no business conducting.
But did Garland go beyond the usual bobbing and weaving when confronted by Congress on the Biden administration’s threats? Did he commit perjury when he insisted that the government has not and would not employ anti-terrorism investigative measures against America’s parents?
Well, it depends on the meaning of “threat tag.”
In a letter to the attorney general on Tuesday, Congressman Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, recounts Garland’s congressional testimony to the effect that the Justice Department and the FBI were not — as Jordan put it — “using counterterrorism statutes and resources to target concerned parents at school board meetings.” Jordan then quotes Garland’s assertion that he could not “imagine any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children, nor . . . a circumstance where they would be labeled domestic terrorists.”
By alluding to the Patriot Act here, the attorney general was referring to a set of investigative techniques that the FBI and Justice Department attorneys are permitted to use in counterterrorism investigations. Initially enacted 20 years ago, right after the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act empowers the FBI’s national-security agents to use many of the same tools that have long been available to the bureau’s criminal investigators — on analogous terms, which reflect that the principal task of the FBI’s National Security Branch (which used to be referred to as its Foreign Counterintelligence Division) is to safeguard the nation from the plots and machinations of terrorists and hostile foreign agents, not to investigate and prosecute criminal offenses.
So to be clear, Garland’s reference to the Patriot Act is shorthand for investigative measures — e.g., the secret collection of business and financial records, pen registers and “trap and trace” orders to monitor phone-calling activity (often the lead-up to an eavesdropping warrant), sharing of intelligence information between national-security and criminal investigators, some tweaks to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and monitoring of suspected “lone wolf” terrorists.
With that as background, Jordan’s letter reports that committee Republicans have received information from a “ whistleblower” from within the Justice Department . This person provided them with an October 20 email sent “on behalf of” the heads of the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Criminal Divisions — since identified in Wall Street Journal reporting as Timothy Langan and Calvin Shivers (the latter has since retired). Purporting to act pursuant to Garland’s October 4 memo, these top officials instructed FBI personnel that the bureau would henceforth use a new “threat tag” created by the two divisions.
The “threat tag” is to be applied to all “investigations and assessments of threats specifically directed against school board administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” Its purpose is to “scope this threat on a national level and provide an opportunity for comprehensive analysis of the threat picture for effective engagement with law enforcement partners at all levels.”
Congressman Jordan surmises that this new “threat tag,” in whose creation Langan, the top FBI counterterrorism official, collaborated, constitutes “specific evidence that federal law enforcement has operationalized counterterrorism tools at the behest of a left-wing special interest group against concerned parents.” Presumably, by “left-wing special interest group,” Jordan means the National School Boards Association, some of whose members colluded with the Biden White House on the now infamous NSBA letter that triggered Garland’s memo — and that, as Jordan elaborates, the NSBA board has disavowed (and evidently scrubbed from its website).
Jordan is right to be disturbed, but he is reading too much into the term threat tag . A threat tag is not a set of investigative techniques, nor does it necessarily imply the use thereof.
In FBI jargon, a tag is simply a category created so that investigations with a common subject-matter — here, threats to school officials — can be grouped together. This enables supervisors and analysts to develop patterns of offender behavior that may be helpful to agents assigned to individual cases — telling them what to look for. The fact that the National Security Branch (at the counterterrorism level) worked with the Criminal Division to establish the category so that all FBI agents could organize a set of investigations (just as they have categories for organized crime, political corruption, narcotics trafficking, and so on) does not mean that the FBI is exploiting Patriot Act investigative measures in cases in the “school threat” category.
The problem here is not that the FBI is organizing (or “tagging”) investigations categorically — that’s what bureaucracies do. The problem is that the FBI is being mobilized to open such investigations in the first place.
To repeat points I’ve made before, the federal government has no jurisdiction to prosecute threats of violence , or even actual incidents of violence, that do not involve violations of federal law. The claim by self-interested Education Inc. progressive activists that there is an unusual surge of violence against school administrators is false; but even if there were more incidents than usual (and there are always incidents in a country of our size), it would not mean federal crimes were being committed. It would be nothing state and local police could not handle.
It is thus egregious for the Justice Department to intimidate parents by overtly announcing that the FBI and federal prosecutors would be dispatched to conduct investigations. Garland’s Justice Department and the Biden White House are obviously scheming to appease their hard-left base by floating the suggestion that parents could find themselves under investigation for engaging in political dissent — i.e., by implying that parental threats to take legitimate action against school boards would be interpreted by the feds as violent threats.
In this context, moreover, it was outrageous for the attorney general to invoke and involve the components of the FBI that investigate terrorism. We must observe, though, that Garland’s doing so was entirely consistent with the pattern of Democratic administrations to use legal processes punitively against their political opposition . It is also in harmony with partisan theme music ( often warbled by our attorney general ) about the grave “ domestic terrorism” threat from white supremacists — the Democrats’ rote response to any objection to their radical, socially destructive, economy-busting agenda.
But this does not mean that the FBI is using Patriot Act provisions or other U.S. counterintelligence investigative tools (such as the FISA) against America’s parents. Again, it is ridiculous that Garland directed the FBI to involve itself in a category of non-federal investigations in the absence of both cause (other than advancing a partisan political narrative) and jurisdiction. But the FBI maintains that the term threat tag simply means they are grouping any investigations they open under this heading.
The bureau is adamant that it is not actually investigating parents or using counterterrorism techniques against them. The whistleblower apparently does not say otherwise. Sadly, in recent years the FBI has forfeited the “take it to the bank” credibility it once had; but at least so far, there is no evidence that it is treating parents as if they were al-Qaeda.
I will end by repeating what I thought was the defining tactic of the Obama–Biden administration because it has become the MO of the Biden administration: threats to take unconstitutional actions and exploitation of investigative processes .
When the president and his minions warn that they are about to do something they are not allowed to do — essentially saying, “We dare you to stop us,” because they calculate that Congress has no such will and courts have no such means — it changes the facts on the ground. It paralyzes people in the exercise of their rights — which are rights rather than aspirations because they are supposed to be immune from government abuse. Presidential administrations don’t actually have to follow through on their threats most of the time. They know you have to assume they’re serious, and, if called on their machinations, they still want to be able to say, in high dudgeon, “How could you accuse us of such a thing?”
This is how progressive government suffocates a vibrant society.
ANDREW C. MCCARTHY is a senior fellow at National Review Institute, an NR contributing editor, and author of BALL OF COLLUSION: THE PLOT TO RIG AN ELECTION AND DESTROY A PRESIDENCY .
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