GOP-Created Panel’s First Hearing on ‘Weaponization’ of Government Draws Fire From Democrats
A new House panel is underway to investigate the abuse of federal power.
A former FBI agent told members of the new House panel investigating the abuse of federal power that she left the agency after she believes it became “politically weaponized.”
“I am here to stand for the truth based on my experience at the FBI,” former agent Nicole Parker testified at the first hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government held on Thursday afternoon.
Saying that numerous FBI agents share her concerns but “do not have a voice,” she told the committee that she saw her job as “very sacred.”
“Lady Justice must remain blind,” Parker said in testimony that set the tone for future hearings featuring whistleblowers from the FBI.
The select subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, was established to investigate alleged abuses committed by federal agencies motivated by political considerations. The panel has the authority to issue subpoenas for investigations into agencies including the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and public-health agencies.
The subcommittee is expected to investigate the FBI’s use of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act to target and arrest pro-life activists in addition to the government’s investigations that may have been influenced by political considerations.
The investigation is also looking into direct agency actions as well as coordination with social-media companies and other businesses.
“[Agencies] are being weaponized against us,” former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said during her testimony, because “they think we’re too stupid to think for ourselves.”
She said the “cozy relationship” between the federal government and “Big Tech” has led to businesses “doing their dirty censorship” for government agencies because they are not subject to the same First Amendment rules that the government is.
The former representative said social-media companies frequently censor information and manipulate algorithms because “they get to determine what disinformation is.”
Gabbard cited as an example what she characterized as Facebook and Twitter’s censorship of the New York Post’s reporting on President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
Weeks before the 2020 election, the social-media platforms censored a New York Post report that alleged that leaked emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop showed that Biden, who was then vice president, was improperly helping his son with his business dealings in Ukraine.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg later admitted that the FBI had advised them to censor the story.
Gabbard told the panel her own Google Ads account was temporarily shut down during her presidential campaign and then reinstated with “no explanation” or apology.
George Washington University Law Center Professor Jonathan Turley testified about the threat to free speech from government officials overstepping their bounds.
He said if an official calls an employer to get someone fired over speech, “that is government action [and] that is a violation of the First Amendment.” Because online speech has become “much of what is the marketplace of ideas,” this relationship is one of the “most serious threats against free speech.”
There was also a discussion of allegations that the federal government targeted parents who protested at school board meetings. Last week, Jordan issued subpoenas to the FBI, the DOJ and the Education Department related to these accusations.
Rep. Elise Stefanik said the FBI is “illegally targeting the American people [and] parents” and equating them with “domestic terrorists.”
Democratic committee members pushed back against some of their Republican colleagues and some of the panelists. Several, including Ranking Member Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, said the FBI did not target parents but instead investigated threats of violence.
Plaskett also questioned the usefulness of the subcommittee, which she said seems like “little more than a political stunt.”
She said “congressional oversight can serve to protect … integrity,” but that Republicans want people to believe these agencies are “part of a deep state cabal” when they are simply “doing their best to protect us from sliding into chaos.”
Democrats, Plaskett added, will not allow Republicans to prevent “ongoing legitimate investigations into President Trump, any other president, and others in his orbit.”
Jordan said in subsequent hearings several FBI whistleblowers will address the weaponization of the agency. He said they are expected to testify on the bureau’s leadership, which he said is “rotten at its core.”
The whistleblowers, he said, have information showing “the FBI accepts private user information from Facebook without the user’s consent.” Others are expected to testify about being fired after filling out anonymous surveys from their managers.