CV NEWS FEED // After nearly three months, the FBI has responded to CatholicVote’s Freedom of Information Act request, saying CatholicVote is “not entitled” to records pertaining to alleged spying on American Catholics by the FBI.
As previously reported by CatholicVote, a leaked memo in February 2023 revealed that the FBI has been developing sources within Catholic churches to spy on American Catholics, linking them to “white supremacist” groups. In response, CatholicVote requested access to the records, citing the 1996 Freedom of Information Act.
“On March 6th we filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI in Richmond, VA, asking for communications regarding the targeting of traditional Catholics,” CatholicVote said in an April statement. “Norms require the agency to respond within 20 business days, with an additional 10 for ‘unusual circumstances.’ To date we have not received any response. Our legal team is prepared to bring a lawsuit within the next 10 days if we do not receive what we are entitled to by law.”
The FBI did not respond, and CatholicVote subsequently filed a lawsuit, requesting access to the documents with information gathered by the FBI’s surveillance.
The FBI ignored CatholicVote’s request, emails, and letters, and continually put off responding to CatholicVote, despite the legal deadlines for responses.
On July 7, the FBI and the Department of Justice finally sent CatholicVote an official response, stating that CatholicVote does not have the right to access the surveillance information and dismissing the request.
CatholicVote President Brian Burch responded: “Despite the FBI’s efforts to block access to these documents, we are preparing to press the court to compel them to turn them over as quickly as possible.”
“The judge has now scheduled a briefing conference for July 24. We are confident that the law supports our request, and are committed to defending the right of citizens to hold their government accountable in the face of what the Attorney General described as an ‘appalling’ abuse of power,” said Burch.
Here is a timeline of the events that transpired in the past few months regarding CatholicVote’s lawsuit:
March 23, 2023 — The DOJ aggregates and claims “unusual circumstances”
April 19, 2023 — Agency responses due
April 27, 2023 — CatholicVote files a lawsuit
May 4, 2023 — U.S. Attorney for D.C. was served
May 9, 2023 — The DOJ was served
May 10, 2023 — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was served
June 5, 2023 — Answer due from the DOJ; Agency requests extension to file the answer
June 6, 2023 — Plaintiffs oppose extension; Court grants extension
June 7, 2023 — Answer filed
July 10, 2023 — Court orders “meet and confer” and schedule