Federal judge orders FBI to turn over relevant documents on probes of school board meeting parents in FOIA lawsuit

April 18, 2023
Ben Marquis

In 2021, a government watchdog group filed a Freedom of Information Act request and lawsuit against the FBI for all documents related to the agency's response to a letter from the National School Boards Association that appeared to label concerned parents at school board meetings as domestic terrorists.

The FBI had resisted turning over any of the requested documents, but a federal judge ordered the bureau to do so in a ruling last week, the Washington Examiner reported.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, said in his ruling that the FBI and Justice Department had "dragged its feet" in failing to respond to the FOIA requests from the watchdog group known as Protect the Public's Trust.

He also ruled against two motions filed by FBI attorneys, one that would have dismissed the suit altogether and another that sought a summary ruling in the FBI's favor, as he determined that the bureau had failed to prove that the FOIA requests were unreasonable and had offered only "scant evidence for summary judgment."

NSBA complained about concerned parents, demanded federal action

Newsmax reported that the NSBA sent a controversial letter to President Joe Biden's administration in September 2021 that pleaded for not just assistance but also criminal investigations under a domestic terrorism law in response to the trend of parents protesting elements of curriculum and policies at school board meetings across the country.

Just weeks later, in early October 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo in response to that letter from the NSBA that announced the formation of a special task force that would open investigations and potentially prosecute the concerned parents over alleged risks and threats posed against school board members, of which there was very little actual evidence.

That memo sparked an immediate public backlash that resulted in the NSBA retracting the letter and issuing a public apology, but Garland was undeterred and stood by his order for the DOJ and FBI to investigate parents exercising their constitutional rights to express their concerns and opposition at school board meetings.

Lawsuit filed swiftly following Garland's memo

Just days after AG Garland issued his memo, Protect the Public Trust announced its FOIA request for all documents related to the NSBA letter and subsequent DOJ actions, both in the interest of transparency as well as to find out if there had been any solicitation by the Biden White House with respect to the letter or DOJ response.

In a statement issued at that time, PPT Director Michael Chamberlain said, "We don’t have to look too far into the past for examples of federal agencies abusing their power to advance White House priorities across administrations, which has contributed to the American public’s trust in its government falling to an all-time low."

"We all should condemn the use of criminal activity, threats and violence to further policy goals. By the same token, the federal government must provide transparency and respect the legitimate rights of American citizens in order to avoid abuses of its immense power when it inserts itself into a highly-charged atmosphere," he added.

Just one example of Biden's efforts to "weaponize the government"

Now, in response to the order from Judge McFadden for the FBI to turn over the requested documents, Chamberlain told the Examiner, "Obviously, PPT is happy with the court’s ruling."

"This is certainly not one of the FBI’s finest moments," he continued. "There is evidence the FBI participated in targeting parents who protested to protect their kids, and their effort to dismiss this case could be an attempt to conceal the extent of their role in it."

"Yet again, the FBI finds itself at the center of a Biden Administration effort to weaponize the government against the American public," the watchdog group's leader added.

It remains unclear at this time when, exactly, the requested documents will actually be turned over to the watchdog group and presumably released for the public to see, and the DOJ declined a request for comment from the Examiner.

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