Ninety-eight formerly hidden pages of FBI documents show that the FBI’s improper targeting of Catholics was apparently a multi-office operation approved by the agency’s top lawyers.
The watchdog Judicial Watch obtained the heavily redacted documents and said they should trigger a criminal investigation.
Among other issues, Judicial Watch says the documents show that FBI Director Christopher Wray gave false information about the controversy.
“In February 2023, an FBI intelligence document was leaked that showed the FBI targeting of Catholics who adhere to traditional beliefs on abortion and other cultural issues,” says Judicial Watch, or what were termed “radical traditionalist Catholics.” (CatholicVote Civic Action and Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Federal Bureau of Investigations and Department of Justice.)
From Judicial Watch:
More evidence that the FBI can’t be trusted.
We received 98 pages of heavily redacted documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showing that the agency’s Office of General Counsel reviewed the controversial targeting of the Catholics by the Richmond field office of the FBI.
FBI Director Christopher Wray had told congressmen that the memo was “a single product by a single field office,” but the records we uncovered show that it was “Reviewed by: OGC/CDC [Office of General Counsel/Chief Deputy Counsel].” The records also indicate coordination with officials from Portland and Milwaukee.
These documents disprove the FBI’s narrative that the spy operation against Catholics and churches was limited to one field office. In fact, the operation seems to have been approved by top lawyers in the FBI. These documents should trigger a criminal inquiry into this Biden FBI scandal.
We obtained the records in response to an April 2023 FOIA lawsuit filed with CatholicVote Civic Action against the FBI and the Department of Justice after they failed to respond to March 2023 requests for records about the FBI intelligence memo targeting “radical traditionalist” Catholics (CatholicVote Civic Action and Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Federal Bureau of Investigations and Department of Justice (No. 1:23-cv-01166)).
In February 2023, an FBI intelligence document was leaked that showed the FBI targeting of Catholics who adhere to traditional beliefs on abortion and other cultural issues. The Catholic News Agencyreported: “The leaked document has been condemned by several federal and state officials, as well as clergy, including Bishop Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond, who recently called the memo a ‘threat to religious liberty.’”
The records include a January 23, 2023, document labeled “Domain Perspective – Threat Target/Facilitation Platform, FBI Richmond” that has a section titled “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities:”
FBI Richmond assesses the increasingly observed interest of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) in radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology almost certainly presents opportunities for threat mitigation through the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development. FBI Richmond makes this assessment with high confidence [redacted]
Increasingly Observed Interest of RMVEs in RTC Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Opportunities for Threat Mitigation
FBI Richmond assesses the increasingly observed interest of RMVEs [Racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists] in RTC [Radical-Traditionalist Catholic] ideology almost certainly presents new opportunities for threat mitigation through the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development. This assessment is based on [redacted]
Reviewed by: OGC/CDC [Office of General Counsel/Chief Deputy Counsel]
Coordinated with: SA [Special Agent] [redacted] (FBI Portland) and IA [Intelligence Agent] [redacted] (FBI Milwaukee)
Warnings and Caveats
Potential criminality exhibited by certain members of a group referenced herein does not negate nor is it a comment on the constitutional rights of the group itself or its members to exercise their rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The FBI does not investigate, collect, or maintain information on U.S. persons solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment.
FBI Richmond prepared this Domain Perspective. Please direct comments and queries to the FBI Richmond Intelligence Program …
The House received a similar but not identical record.
In the same email chain, Michael Machtinger of the Counterterrorism Division (CTD) emails colleagues Kellie Hardiman and Robert Wells, on February 8: “I spoke at length with our RMVE SMEs [Racially/Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremist Subject Matter Experts] and we provided this response to [redacted] et al to help craft the OPA [Office of Public Affairs] language.”
On the same email chain that day Ugoretz writes to multiple colleagues:
For the background of ALCON [All Concerned], this product type, a Domain Perspective, is an FBI product intended to highlight how a shift or new development related to an environmental variable (EV) may affect threats or mitigation in a particular domain. [Redacted]
The Field Office’s IPC is the final approver [redacted].
On February 9, Ugoretz emails multiple colleagues:
We understand there is discussion of recalling this Domain Perspective. DI [Directorate of Intelligence] conducted a preliminary review of the product’s analytic tradecraft to help inform that decision, with the following key takeaways: [redacted]
A separate email chain that has been declassified indicates an attachment, “ATA_Complicated_Questions,” which refers to an Annual Threat Assessment. On February 16, a person whose name is redacted emails General Counsel Jason Jones and others:
[Assistant Director] Dunham asked that we circulate the attached draft “Complicated Questions” document for the Director’s upcoming testimony for your review. As you will see, the draft reflects feedback received from various divisions/stakeholders to date, and certain topics continue to evolve.
[Office of Congressional Affairs] is hoping to have this draft finalized by COB Tuesday, February 21.
The attachment itself is not included in the production of records.
“Since last February, we have worked to expose this unconstitutional targeting of faithful Catholics by the FBI,” said former Congressman Tim Huelskamp, Senior Advisor to CatholicVote, “and the results are stunning, unprecedented, and should concern all Americas. Contrary to statements under oath by Director Wray and Attorney General Garland, this flagrantly anti-Catholic program by the FBI was widespread, fully supported by senior officials, authorized undercover agents to infiltrate Catholic parishes, attempted to influence elections, and may be ongoing. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has stood idly by as Catholic churches have been attacked more than 200 times since May of 2022.”
We previously uncovered records from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) showing top officials rushing to craft a public response to the leaked FBI intelligence memo that revealed its targeting of Catholics who adhere to traditional beliefs on church issues.