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FBI planned to spy on Catholic churches to combat ‘domestic terrorism,’ docs show

FBI Director Christopher Wray delivers the keynote address during the 2020 Boston Conference on Cyber Security at Boston College on March 4, 2020, in Boston. (Angela Rowlings/Boston Herald/TNS)
April 11, 2023

New internal documents released by the House Judiciary Committee revealed that the FBI worked to develop sources within Christian churches and Catholic dioceses as part of a broader effort to fight so-called domestic terrorism.

Obtained in February by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La), the documents showed the bureau sought to use churches as “new avenues for tripwire and source development.”

“Mainline Catholic parishes” would be specifically targeted, the documents said.

“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, and that the FBI 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 wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, according to Fox News.

“This information is outrageous and only reinforces the Committee’s need for all FBI material responsive to our request,” Jordan continued. “The documents produced to date show how the FBI sought to enlist Catholic houses of worship as potential sources to monitor and report on their parishioners.”

Jordan also subpoenaed Wray over previously requested documents that the bureau has failed to turn over.

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“Americans attend church to worship and congregate for their spiritual and personal betterment,” the letter continued. “They must be free to exercise their fundamental First Amendment rights without worrying that the FBI may have planted so-called ‘tripwire’ sources or other informants in their houses of worship.”

In February, the pair of lawmakers requested documents concerning the FBI spying on churches after a whistleblower revealed the FBI’s Richmond Field Office was targeting “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics.”

A spokesperson for the FBI told The Daily Wire at the time that the agency began removing the document from its system after the whistleblower’s report.

“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 spokesperson said. “Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters quickly began taking action to remove the document from FBI systems and conduct a review of the basis for the document.”

“The FBI is committed to sound analytic tradecraft and to investigating and preventing acts of violence and other crimes while upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans and will never conduct investigative activities or open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity,” the spokesperson added.