The decade's most triggering comedy
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified last month that only “a single field office” from the bureau investigated traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists, but the top official may have lied under oath after House GOP lawmakers discovered multiple field offices nationwide were involved in producing the anti-Catholic memo.
On July 12, Wray told the House Judiciary Committee that — after a document reliant on ideologically driven criteria from left-wing sources like the Southern Poverty Law Center explicitly pointed toward “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists in radical-traditionalist Catholic ideology” leaked from the FBI Richmond Field Office — he immediately had the memo purged from the bureau’s system.
But two weeks after Wray gave congressional testimony, lawmakers subpoenaed the FBI to produce the Richmond document with fewer redactions, which showed the agency allegedly coordinated with a liaison contact in the FBI’s Portland Field Office and reporting from the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
“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 and reveals inconsistencies with your previous testimony before the Committee,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who chairs the committee, wrote in his letter to Wray.
The committee launched an investigation into the bureau after FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin published the document that described a so-called Radical-Traditional Catholics as someone who rejects the Second Vatican Council as a valid church council, shows disdain for most of the popes elected since Vatican II, and frequently adheres to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacy views.
During a March congressional testimony, Wray said the memo “does not reflect FBI standards.”
“We do not conduct investigations based on religious affiliation or practices, full stop,” Wray said. “We have also now ordered our inspection division to take a look at how this happened and try to figure out how we can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
But Jordan wrote the new 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)].”
“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,'” Jordan wrote. “The document states that FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office initiated an investigation on the ‘RMVE subject.'”
The revelation, Jordan said, raises questions related to the “accuracy, completeness, and truthfulness” of Wray’s testimony and why the bureau allegedly redacted such information in previous versions of the document requested by the Committee.
The lawmaker also found through internal documents shortly after the leak that at least one undercover FBI employee sought to monitor parishioners in Catholic houses of worship to combat domestic terrorism using tripwire and sources.
Jordan called the memo “chilling” and issued a subpoena after the documents revealed the FBI planned to use churches as “new avenues for tripwire and source development,” which churchgoers fear sent a message that federal law enforcement may be listening while Americans practice their First Amendment right to worship freely.