FBI used undercover ‘employee’ to monitor Catholic clergy and parishioners, House GOP says
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the bureau Monday for more information about its tactics
Republican House Judiciary Committee leaders say they have information suggesting the Federal Bureau of Investigation utilized an undercover agent in a Catholic parish to inform on the clergy and congregants.
In a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray subpoenaing the bureau for information on their agents’ activities, Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said he wants to look into the FBI’s plan to expand its clandestine network into churches to reportedly combat “domestic violent extremism” and what effects the FBI’s program might have on “protected First Amendment activity.”
In a tweet, Jordan called the FBI’s actions “chilling.”
“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 said.
We now know 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.”— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) April 10, 2023
A press release from the committee says the FBI has not responded to multiple requests for information starting in February. Jordan said he views the information as vital for Congress to conduct proper oversight, as it is its responsibility under the Constitution.
In his letter, Jordan said the FBI program is related to a document from the Richmond Field Office titled, “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”
Jordan said the FBI document suggested designating some “Catholic Americans” based on their differing theological beliefs as “domestic terrorists.”
It then urged agents to recruit sources within “mainline Catholic parishes” to inform on these other groups.
Jordan said the documents the committee has seen from the FBI reveal the purpose of the program is to familiarize congregations to “warning signs of radicalization and enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”
The House GOP letter warned that this could be a violation of Americans’ First Amendment rights.
“(Americans) 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,” Jordan said.
Jordan said after the requests to the FBI to voluntarily hand over information were “disregarded,” he found it necessary to use congressional subpoena power to compel the release of the information.