An FBI whistleblower came forward early in 2023 to expose the FBI for having targeted faithful Catholics as domestic extremists, and now the House GOP in the Weaponization of Government Committee has revealed that the FBI considered developing sources from among the Catholic clergy and had even interviewed a priest and choir director affiliated with a Catholic Church in Richmond, VA.
They also discovered that "there was no legitimate basis for the memorandum to insert federal law enforcement into Catholic houses of worship."
"The Committee and Select Subcommittee’s oversight shows that the FBI abused its counterterrorism tools to target Catholic Americans as potential domestic terrorists," reads the latest report from the subcommittee. The Committee and Select Subcommittee discovered that the FBI relied on at least one undercover agent to develop its assessment and the FBI even proposed developing sources among the Catholic clergy and church leadership.
"Not only did the FBI propose to develop sources," the report continued, "but it already interviewed a priest and choir director affiliated with a Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia for the memorandum. Most concerning of all, without the disclosure of the brave whistleblower, the Richmond memorandum would still be operative in FBI systems, violating the religious liberties of millions of Catholic Americans."
The FBI, per the committee, "saw the memorandum as an opportunity to insert federal law enforcement into places of worship and support outreach efforts to the Diocese of Richmond and other Catholic parishes."
The committee stated that "The documents received pursuant to the Committee’s subpoena show there was no legitimate basis for the memorandum to insert federal law enforcement into Catholic houses of worship."
Then they gave the examples of just how absurd the basis of the issuance of the memorandum was. There was only one investigation carried out by the FBI Richmond Field Office prior to the issuance of the memo, and that investigation concerned one individual who "self-described" as a "radical-traditionalist Catholic."
Even so, FBI agents were not able to "define the meaning" of the term "radical-traditionalist Catholic" when they were "preparing, editing, or reviewing the memorandum."
It was that investigation alone that "became the basis for an FBI-wide memorandum warning about the dangers of 'radical' Catholics."
The FBI "interviewed a priest and choir director affiliated with a Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia while preparing the memorandum to inform on the parishioner under investigation."
Two of those agents that wrote that memo "told FBI internal investigators that they knew the sources cited in the memorandum had a political bias—sources including the Southern Poverty Law Center, Salon, and The Atlantic." The FBI later rescinded the document from the SPLC from the memo, saying "While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, this particular field office product—disseminated only within the FBI—regarding racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI."
The committee found that "the FBI singled out Americans who are pro-life, pro-family, and support the biological basis for sex and gender distinction as potential domestic terrorists."
Further, the memo, issued on January 23, 2023, noted that the "run-up to the next general election cycle" was a key time frame for "a flash point," specifically as regards the Dobbs Supreme Court decision which the legality of abortion a states' issue and not a federal one.
The committee noted their concern that were it not for the whistleblower, and the ensuing public fallout from the FBI's apparent targeting of religious Catholics for investigation as domestic extremists, "the document would have remained in an FBI-wide system."
In fact, the committee continued, "At the time of the memorandum’s disclosure, FBI officials were discussing turning the memorandum into an external, public-facing document highlighting the threats of 'radical' Catholics. Most concerning, FBI Richmond still desires to convey this information to other field offices about 'radical-traditionalist Catholics.''"
The whistleblower, former FBI agent Kyle Seraphin, said at the time that "An intelligence analyst within the Richmond Field Office of the FBI released in a new finished intelligence product dated January 23, 2023, on Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists (RMVE) and their interests in 'Radical-Traditionalist Catholics' or RTCs. The document assesses with 'high confidence' the FBI can mitigate the threat of Radical-Traditionalist Catholics by recruiting sources within the Catholic Church."
The Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government took up their investigation of the memo in March, demanding answers as to why the FBI targeted Americans as domestic extremists for practicing their faith.
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