FBI documents apparently leaked by a bureau whistleblower suggest that federal law enforcement is treating threats against school board members as potential acts of domestic terrorism. Retired FBI agent and author of “The Pretender: My Life Undercover for the FBI” Marc Ruskin spoke with The Epoch Times about what the documents mean and why they matter.
Though the documents released by the whistleblower have sparked outrage among parents, civil libertarians, and Republican lawmakers, the documents themselves don’t say much. The whistleblower provided an Oct. 20 email sent by Carlton L. Peeples, who serves in the bureau’s Inspection Division, stating that the Counterterrorism and Criminal Division “created a threat tag, EDUOFFICIALS, to track instances of related threats.”
“We ask that your offices apply the threat tag to investigations and assessments of threats specifically directed against school board administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,” the email reads, signed by Counterterrorism Division Assistant Director Timothy Langan and then-Criminal Division Assistant Director Calvin Shivers.
Though the email isn’t much longer than that, Ruskin said it’s significant because it suggests that federal law enforcement is taking this investigation seriously.
“The fact that a tag has been assigned to these cases would indicate to me that it’s something they’re anticipating moving forward with these investigations,” he said.
The EDUOFFICIALS tag is likely a data-processing device similar to a hashtag on social media, according to Ruskin. The bureau is trying to coordinate its efforts, so that agents investigating school board threats in one jurisdiction know what’s going on nationwide, he said.
“Applying the tag across the counterterrorism and criminal divisions would be to avoid any cases being lost in the cracks,” Ruskin said.
He also said the fact that the tag is being used by the counterterrorism division suggests that the FBI will also be treating some of the school board threats as domestic terrorism cases. This is the true significance of the whistleblower documents, he said.
“There’s an intention or a likelihood that individuals being investigated are going to be categorized as domestic terrorists,” Ruskin said.
He said the decision by the FBI to classify angry parents as domestic terrorism threats has dark implications for free speech rights.
“The idea that the FBI is treating individuals who express opinions contrary to the prevailing government opinion as domestic terrorists is disturbing from a First Amendment point of view,” Ruskin said. “And it may very well be intended to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
“Why is the FBI using its counterterrorism division to investigate cases of parents who get upset—even if they’re yelling or shouting? How does that fit into any sort of definition of terrorism?”
By Ken Silva