Former Republican Legislator and Lead Author of the Patriot Act Says Biden Administration Attack on Parents Protesting COVID-19 Restrictions and Race-Based Curriculum During School Board Meetings Confirms His Worst Fears on the abuse of federal laws “as instruments of political repression.”
Former Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, who served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, says he He warned of possible abuse of the Patriot Act when drafting the legislation nearly two decades ago. Looking back now, Mr. Sensenbrenner He says he I couldn’t have imagined that it would be used to target citizens’ rights to freedom of expression.
“When debating the Patriot Act and other federal antiterrorism laws, no one in any of the houses of Congress could have imagined that these laws would turn against concerned parents at local school board meetings,” said the former Republican congressman. wrote in an opinion piece published Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal.
“However, on October 4, Mr. Garland issued the memorandum that he will live in infamy,” said Mr. Sensenbrenner he wrote, referring to a memo that Attorney General Merrick Garland circulated in early October and that has since drawn the ire of many Republicans.
The controversy in question stems from a letter the National Association of School Boards (NSBA) wrote to President Biden in late September. The letter specifically cited the Patriot Act, among other legal measures, as justification for requesting “federal assistance to stop threats” that concerned parents pose against public school officials who protest at school board meetings.
In response, Mr. Garland issued his memo citing a “disturbing increase” in “threats of violence” against school officials, and directed federal law enforcement officials to discuss strategies “to address threats against” the local school boards and administrators, and to “open dedicated lines of communication for threat notification, assessment and response.”
Garland’s memo was quickly rejected by Republican lawmakers, who said the call to action represented a worrying overreach against American citizens exercising free speech.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee responded with their own letter to Mr. Garland, telling the attorney general that they are concerned about the “appearance” of the Justice Department “controlling the speech of concerned citizens and parents.”
“We urge you to make it very clear to the American public that the Department of Justice will not interfere with the rights of parents to appear before school boards and speak with educators about their concerns, whether regarding coronavirus-related measures, teaching critical race theory in schools, sexually explicit books in schools, or any other topic, ”the senators wrote.
They went on to assert that it is inappropriate to use the Patriot Act or any other federal power “to override those who challenge local school boards.”
“Unless immediately withdrawn, the memorandum will chill free speech, undermine civil liberties, erode public confidence in federal law enforcement, divert resources from actual terrorist threats, and weaken Congressional support for counterterrorism laws. key”. he wrote. “All of these developments would make Americans less free, less secure, and less secure.”