The House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on Thursday heard testimony from three former FBI agents about the agency’s targeting of ordinary Americans, particularly conservatives and Catholics, as well as its complete disregard for whistleblower protection laws.

“If you’re a parent attending a school board meeting; if you’re a pro-lifer praying at a clinic, or you’re a Catholic simply going to Mass, you are a target of the government, a target of the FBI,” said House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-OH, ahead of the hearing.

Former FBI Special Agents Garret O’Boyle, Steve Friend, and Marcus Allen described harrowing ordeals they and their families underwent after they approached designated oversight officials with concerns about the internal operations of their FBI field offices.

Under Department of Justice regulations, a person can claim whistleblower status if he or she “reasonably believes” that there was “a violation of law, rules, or regulations; gross mismanagement; a gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.”

‘Orwellian atmosphere’

The hearing became heated when Democrats questioned the witnesses’ whistleblower status. Congressman Daniel Goldman, D-NY, accused Jordan of withholding information from the Democrats on the committee. Goldman also suggested the committee should not take the whistleblowers’ testimony seriously, because the FBI had suspended them.

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, D-TX, told O’Boyle that she doubted he was a true whistleblower, accusing him of “playing politics” and implying that he was seeking public attention.

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O’Boyle described the FBI work environment as “an Orwellian atmosphere that silences opposition and discussion.” He told Congressman Hank Johnson, R-LA, that this atmosphere extends to ordinary American citizens, pointing to the FBI’s tagging of parents as “domestic terrorists” for planning to attend school board meetings. O’Boyle stated:

When citizens in this country get to a point where they can call the most powerful law enforcement agency in the world on their neighbor just because they disagree with them… that is chilling to the First Amendment rights of the people who are [targeted].

In spite of threats of retaliation, O’Boyle stated he still came forward because, “I never swore an oath to the FBI. I swore an oath to the Constitution.”

‘Weaponized fashion’

According to O’Boyle, the FBI made good its threats to him:

In weaponized fashion, the FBI allowed me to accept orders to a new position halfway across the country. They allowed us to sell my family’s home. They ordered me to report to the new unit when our youngest daughter was only two weeks old. Then, on my first day on the new assignment, they suspended me, rendering my family homeless, and refused to release our household goods, including our clothes, for weeks.

Whistleblower and former FBI Special Agent Steve Friend testified that after his August 2022 disclosures of concerns to his immediate supervisor, the FBI waged “a campaign of humiliation and intimidation to punish and pressure me to resign.”

The bureau leaked his personal medical information to a New York Times reporter and prevented him from finding new employment by refusing to release his own training records, to which he is legally entitled.

Departing from the Rules

Friend’s disclosures centered on instructions he received to ignore normal rules of investigation regarding January 6th cases. “I believed our departures from case management rules … could have undermined potentially righteous prosecutions and may have been part of an effort to inflate the FBI’s statistics on domestic extremism,” he said.

He “also voiced concerns that the FBI’s use of SWAT and large-scale arrest operations to apprehend suspects who were accused of nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors,” such as in the case of Mark Houck.

Friend testified that the intimidation continues. The day prior to the hearing, FBI Acting Director Christopher Dunham sent a letter to Rep. Jordan’s committee alleging “criminal activity” on the part of Friend and seeking to discredit his testimony.

During the hearing, the New York Times broke a story confirming that Stephen Friend – as well as fellow witness Marcus Allen – had lost their security clearance for expressing “views about [January 6th] that placed into question their ‘allegiance to the United States.’”

LifeNews Note: Joshua Mercer writes for CatholicVote, where this column originally appeared.

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