What’s the FBI up to in this time of Chinese espionage and with the burning buildings of the summer of 2020 still fresh in the minds of many? Using its resources to target Catholic Churches as places to develop sources, apparently.
Such is what the House Judiciary Committee got winds of, requested information about, and then exposed in a blistering press release, saying:
From this limited production, it is apparent that 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.” For example, in a section of a January 23, 2023, domain perspective document entitled “Opportunities,” the FBI wrote:
“In addition to [redaction], engage in outreach to the leadership of other [Society of Saint Pius X] chapels in the FBI Richmond [area of responsibility] to sensitize these congregations to the warning signs of radicalization and to enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”
The FBI similarly noted two other opportunities to engage in outreach with religious institutions in the Richmond area, citing a desire “to sensitize the congregation to the warning signs of radicalization and enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.” This outreach plan even included contacting so-called “mainline Catholic parishes” and the local “diocesan leadership.” The FBI also expressed an interest in “leverag[ing] existing sources and/or initiat[ing] Type 5 Assessments to develop new sources with the placement and access” to report on suspicious activity.
The document itself shows that its contents, including its proposal to develop sources in Catholic churches, were reviewed and approved by two senior intelligence analysts and even the local Chief Division Counsel. Whistleblowers have advised that the FBI distributed this document to field offices across the country.
This information is outrageous and reinforces the Committee’s need for all FBI records about the domain perspective document. Accordingly, and because Director Wray has not fully responded to the Committee’s earlier voluntary requests, Chairman Jordan is issuing a subpoena to the FBI for all records about the FBI’s January 23 domain perspective document.
Rep. Jordan’s Committee then subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray, writing, “The limited information that was provided to the Committee makes clear that we must possess all responsive material without redactions. From this selective production, we know that 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.‘”
Continuing, he said, “Americans attend church to worship and congregate for their spiritual and personal betterment. 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.”
Director Wray, for his part, claimed to have been “aghast” when he saw the FBI memo that sparked the outrage, saying during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing:
“When I first learned of the piece I was aghast, and we took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems. It does not reflect FBI standards. We do not conduct investigations based on religious affiliation or practices, full stop. 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.”
“I will note it was a product by one field office, which, of course we have scores and scores of these products. And when we found out about it, we took action. We’re also taking steps to reinforce with our workforce, all of the long standing policies we have that speak to this kind of thing. We’ve got refresher training for the relevant employees, etc. And we do not and will not target people for religious beliefs, and we do not and will not monitor people’s religious practices.”
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