Watchdog Files Suit to Obtain Documents Around National School Boards Association “Domestic Terrorism” Letter
- January 21, 2022
Agencies have failed to fulfill statutory obligations related to controversial letter and DOJ memo
Today, federal watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced it has filed lawsuits in federal court to enforce Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests it had submitted to the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security regarding the September 29 National School Boards Association (NSBA) letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland that referred to protests at school board meetings as “domestic terrorism.” The Attorney General responded to the letter with a controversial memo. NSBA has since expressed regret and apologized for the letter in the face of backlash from parents and its membership.
Citing the need for transparency and concerns about the potential misuse of authority, PPT submitted FOIA requests in October with the Departments of Education (ED), Homeland Security (DHS), and Justice (DOJ) seeking records regarding communications around the NSBA letter and DOJ memo. These documents have since been the subject of intense media scrutiny and highly charged Congressional hearings. At least 11 states have withdrawn their memberships in the NSBA since the letter.
Recently, documents obtained from separate public information requests have uncovered evidence that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona may have requested the NSBA letter, though ED has denied the allegation. Dozens of members of Congress have issued a demand for Secretary Cardona’s resignation.
PPT filed lawsuits today against the Departments of Education and Homeland Security, alleging the agencies had not complied with their statutory obligations.
“The release of these records takes on increasing urgency, especially with the emergence of a controversy over whether Secretary Cardona or other high-ranking officials at the Department of Education may have requested the letter from NSBA in the first place,” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust stated. “This is precisely the sort of conduct we were concerned may have happened. Protect the Public’s Trust believes it is incumbent on the Department of Education and other agencies involved to provide the transparency necessary to allow the American public to determine exactly what transpired in this shocking episode. Unfortunately, this is just the latest instance where federal agencies have failed to meet their legal obligations until they are placed in front of a judge.”