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Senator from the Biden administration on the FBI’s 2016 investigation into a conservative group

Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa says the Biden administration refuses to answer his questions about the FBI’s 2016 targeting of the conservative group Concerned Women for America, which has sparked concerns about political bias in the bureau’s ranks.

“The FBI’s failure to fully answer Congress’ questions about its activity to secretly investigate Concerned Women for America is completely unacceptable, especially when the agency has already acknowledged the existence of its activities in response to [Freedom of Information Act] inquiries, ”said Mr. Grassley in a statement to The Washington Times.

The FBI revealed last year that in July 2016, it determined that there was nothing to pursue with the prominent pro-life group after making an assessment.

But the agency told Mr. Grassley in December last year that the agency did not need to explain its investigation of Concerned Women for America and declined to answer the legislator’s questions about the rationale for the investigation.

“We know that the FBI misused its intelligence to target conservatives around the same time it investigated the CWA. The Americans deserve to know how far the FBI’s politically charged abuse went and whether the CWA was also in the FBI’s crosshairs,” he said. Grassley to The Times.

The FBI’s “charity assessment” of the CWA for potential “nonprofit / corporate fraud embezzlement” that did not yield any investigation was revealed by the FBI in response to a FOIA request from the Cato Institute.

Such assessments may lead to investigations and may include surveillance that does not require a court order, use and recruitment of human sources, and investigation of publicly available information about a target and data collected by federal, state, and local authorities about the target, according to the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations.

Mr. Grassley wrote to FBI Director and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in July 2021 asking for an explanation and its records, detailing information about its actions involving the Conservative group.

The FBI has refused to give his records or justification to Mr. Grassley. FBI Assistant Director Jill C. Tyson responded in a December 2021 letter that although the agency’s assessments “do not require a specific factual prediction, they do require an authorized purpose.”

“Regarding your questions regarding specific assessments, long-standing Justice and FBI policies preclude the sharing of information on criminal subjects, witnesses or victims, including confirmation or denial of the existence of an investigation,” Ms. Tyson wrote in a letter to Mr. . Grassley obtained by The Washington Times. “Therefore, the FBI can not comment on public reporting regarding concerned women of [sic] America.”

But the FBI already acknowledged the existence of its assessment of the CWA in response to a FOIA from Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick Eddington, who first revealed the FBI’s surveillance of the CWA.

Mr. Eddington has continued to press the federal government for answers, and the Cato Institute sued the FBI and the Department of Justice last year for access to records on whether and when the FBI has gone too far in investigating Americans.

The Ministry of Justice told Mr. Eddington that the FBI was right to withhold information about records relating to the CWA. The Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy cited laws protecting “intelligence sources and methods” as among the rules that gave the FBI the legal basis for keeping information about the Conservative group hidden, according to a November letter to Mr. Eddington.

Mr. Eddington said the Justice Department’s response was very alarming, especially because he saw it as a confirmation that the FBI used classified databases and methods to target the CWA.

“The very fact that they would invoke a national security-related statute involving intelligence gathering, which is inevitably supposed to be directed outward at entities like Russia, like China, like North Korea, like Iran, etc. – it is very disturbing.” said Mr. Eddington. “And it’s, in my opinion, clearly beyond the pure, it’s clear, totally inappropriate, and it’s something that absolutely must be examined from a congressional investigative point of view.”

Concerned Women for America said it is talking to its attorneys about what it, if anything, will do next, and the group plans to continue working with lawmakers seeking to understand what happened.

The Conservative group is not alone in coming under scrutiny from the FBI through its assessments. Mr. Eddington has previously estimated that the FBI has made hundreds of thousands of assessments, based on data obtained in 2011 by the New York Times, suggesting that the FBI conducted more than 82,000 assessments of individuals and groups for potential misdemeanors in the previous two years.

Eddington wrote last year that the Cato Institute had also collected evidence that the FBI opened assessments of the Muslim Justice League in Massachusetts, a chapter of the League of Women Voters in New York, and a chapter in Colorado in the International Rescue Committee.

The Ministry of Justice declined to comment on this story. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment, and it has previously directed The Washington Times to the information it released under FOIA.

The FBI told Mr. Grassley that its assessments are not unsubstantiated. Ms. Tyson cited the FBI Domestic Investigations Operations Guide, saying assessments can be used to control cases through “less intrusive methods” than through full-scale investigations.

“Important, according to [guidelines]”The basis for an assessment cannot be arbitrary or unfounded speculation, nor can an assessment be based solely on the pursuit of First Amendment protected activities or on the subject’s race, ethnicity, national origin or religion,” she wrote.

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