Multiple FBI field offices were involved in the drafting of a memo targeting Catholics as potential domestic terrorists, a newly unredacted document obtained by House Republicans reveals. The discovery contradicts testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray, who previously claimed under oath only one field office was involved.
“This new information suggests that the FBI’s use of its law enforcement capabilities to intrude on American’s First Amendment rights is more widespread than initially suspected,” House Republicans wrote in a letter sent to Wray on Wednesday.
Earlier this year, a leaked FBI memo dated Jan. 23 revealed the agency’s Richmond, Virginia, field office was tasked with investigating the alleged threat of “white supremacy” among Catholics who attend Latin Mass. As The Federalist’s Evita Duffy-Alfonso previously reported, the memo said the Bureau “may potentially mitigate” the supposed “threat” of “Radical-Traditionalist Catholics” with “’tripwire and source development,’ which means further infiltration into Catholic communities using various kinds of informants.”
During his July 12 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Wray claimed the January memo was “a single product by a single field office.” According to a newly unredacted version of the document obtained by House Republicans, however, that statement doesn’t appear to be true.
After months of the FBI stonewalling Republicans’ oversight efforts, the new version of the memo given to the Judiciary Committee on July 25 purportedly shows that the agency’s Portland and Los Angeles field offices “were involved in or contributed to the creation of FBI’s assessment of traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.”
“The document cited reporting from an ‘FBI Portland liaison contact with indirect access’ who informed on a ‘deceased [Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremist (RMVE)] subject’ who had ‘sought out a mainline Roman Catholic community’ and then ‘gravitated to [Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX)],'” the memo reads. “In addition, the document noted how an FBI undercover employee with ‘direct access’ reported on a subject who ‘attended the SSPX-affiliated [redacted] Church in [redacted] California, for over a year prior to his relocation.'”
The document furthermore stated that “FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office initiated an investigation on the ‘RMVE subject’ and that the FBI Richmond office “‘[c]oordinated with’ FBI Portland in preparing the assessment.”
In their Wednesday letter to Wray, House Republicans questioned why the FBI repeatedly redacted such information in previous versions of the memo provided to the Judiciary Committee and furthermore invited Wray to “amend” his testimony “to fully explain the nature and scope of the FBI’s assessment of traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.” The Judiciary Committee is additionally requesting the FBI turn over all communications between the agency’s Richmond, Portland, and Los Angeles bureaus related to the January memo by Aug. 23.