Congress Inquires on FBI’s Targeting of CWA

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News of FBI Targeting Concerned Women for America Sparks High Profile Congressional Inquiries

Last month we learned that in 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had considered targeting Concerned Women for America (CWA) for an investigation without cause or justification. This revelation, published July 14, 2021, in the Orange County Register, emerged from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Cato Institute. CWA had no awareness of the FOIA request or the case, so when this news broke during the dog days of summer, it was news to us, too.

The article sums up Cato’s discovery with an alarming description of the FBI’s action:

“It was a pure FBI domestic surveillance ‘fishing expedition’ for the digital age, with the agent focused on CWA’s alleged ‘two-star rating’ from Charity Navigator, as well as searches of other commercial and government databases (all conveniently redacted by the FBI).”

The predicate for what was classified as an “Assessment” had no foundation, but neither was it required.  “Unlike a normal FBI investigation,” explains the Cato author, “an Assessment requires no criminal basis to be opened – just the broad and nebulous formulation of an ‘authorized purpose.’” He concludes, “At no time was there an allegation of actual fraud or embezzlement – just an FBI agent looking to meet a quota for how many Assessments they had opened during the reporting period.”

The last five years have shown where a lack of transparency and accountability involving powerful government agencies led by faceless government bureaucrats can lead, especially with then-Director James Comey at the helm. CWA was shocked and disappointed by the unjustified actions of the FBI and the reality that any powerless organization could be the subject of such an act of surreptitious and baseless government action at the cost of American taxpayers.

As CEO and President Penny Nance explained in an opinion piece for Fox News, nothing in CWA’s storied history or our respected work as a public policy organization advocating for the values of conservative women and families would ever warrant such scrutiny. Maybe the very fact we are a notable presence in our nation’s capital had something to do with it.

Our allies on Capitol Hill agreed. That is why the two most powerful Republican elected officials on the U.S. Senate and U.S. House Judiciary Committees have written letters to the chiefs of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Director Christopher Wray, demanding answers to critical questions about the fishing expedition targeting CWA and a full accounting of other such assessments.

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) penned a letter to Attorney General Garland and Director Wray on July 20, 2021, asking for details and unredacted information “no later than August 3, 2021”.  We can report that this deadline for responding was not met.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) followed with a letter dated August 11 demanding more information about the use of FBI charity assessments and a briefing on our case “as soon as possible but not later than 5:00 p.m. on August 24, 2021.”

Will the FBI meet this deadline?  Stay tuned.