CV NEWS FEED // The FBI used at least one undercover agent to develop plans to cultivate “sources” in Catholic churches, according to internal documents obtained by the House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
“Based on the limited information produced by the FBI to the Committee, we now know that the FBI relied on at least one undercover agent to produce its analysis,” wrote Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-OH, in a Monday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. The FBI further “proposed that its agents engage in outreach to Catholic parishes to develop sources among the clergy and church leadership to inform on Americans practicing their faith.”
Jordan said the “shocking” new information “reinforces our need for all responsive documents, and the Committee is issuing a subpoena to you to compel your full cooperation.”
According to the limited documentation the FBI released to Congress, the FBI had sought to use Catholic churches as “new avenues for tripwire and source development,” including at “mainline Catholic parishes” and among “local diocesan leadership.”
The Agency also aimed to “sensitize” Catholic churchgoers “to the warning signs of radicalization,” and “enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and recently questioned Attorney General Merrick Garland about the FBI’s reported surveillance of Catholic parishes, suggested that Garland had misled Congress.
The news comes after Catholic FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin revealed in January that the FBI’s Richmond, VA, field office had developed a document on what the office called “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” in “radical-traditionalist Catholic” parishes.
As CatholicVote reported at the time,
The revelation elicited strong condemnations from Catholic leaders across the country. The document, released Wednesday, includes a list of nine “Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Hate Groups” published by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC), a disgraced left-wing activist group.
“The memo implies that the FBI under the Biden administration has infiltrated Catholic groups and is already spying on their activities,” stated CatholicVote President Brian Burch. “How do they justify this? They cite the SPLC as their primary source in claiming that ‘radical’ Catholics could soon become violent – and thus the FBI should begin a surveillance program on Catholic organizations.”
The FBI rescinded the document within 24 hours of it being made public, but American Catholic leaders remained alarmed, with some demanding Congress investigate further.
Jordan on Monday pointed out that members of Congress have “repeatedly” sought information from the FBI relating to its surveillance of Catholic houses of worship, only to receive one “substandard and partial response” on March 23, which had many “significant redactions,” preventing “the Committee from fully assessing the content and context of the documents and obtaining information requested from the Bureau.”
Jordan argued that Congress must be allowed to “possess all responsive material without redactions. From this selective production, we know that the FBI, relying on information derived from at least one undercover employee, sought to use local religious organizations as ‘new avenues for tripwire and source development.’”
Jordan called the revelations “outrageous” in his letter to Wray, arguing:
Although the FBI claims to have “numerous” and “rigorous” policies to protect First Amendment rights, the FBI’s Richmond document plainly undercuts these assertions. The document itself shows that its contents, including its proposal to develop sources in Catholic churches, were reviewed and approved by two senior intelligence analysts and even the local Chief Division Counsel. We know from whistleblowers that the FBI distributed this document to field offices across the country. It is unclear, however, how many FBI employees explored “new avenues for tripwire and source development” in Catholic houses of worship across the country as a result of the FBI’s Richmond document.
Jordan concluded by suggesting Congress will look into legislation to ensure against the “misuse” of FBI resources against the protected First Amendment activities of church communities. “The information we have requested about the FBI’s Richmond document is necessary to inform such potential legislation,” he wrote. “Accordingly, and in light of your disregard of our earlier voluntary requests, please find attached a subpoena for the requested documents and information.”