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Tipsheet

The FBI Tried to Get Informants Inside Catholic Churches

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File

The House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government has released new details about the FBI's targeting of Catholic churches and First Amendment rights violations of worshippers. 

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"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,'" the Committee released Monday afternoon. "For example, in a section of a January 23, 2023, domain perspective document entitled 'Opportunities,' 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."

According to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, which oversees the weaponization subcommittee, the FBI sought to use confidential informants inside a number of Catholic congregations in order to look for "radicalization."  

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“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 wrote, adding the Bureau's goal to “sensitize the congregation to the warning signs of radicalization and enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires" and "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 revelations prompted Jordan to issue a subpoena for testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray about the religious targeting. 

"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. This shocking information reinforces our need for all responsive documents, and the Committee is issuing a subpoena to you to compel your full cooperation," Jordan wrote in the subpoena. 

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"This information is outrageous and only reinforces the Committee’s need for all FBI material responsive to our request. The documents produced to date show how the FBI sought to enlist Catholic houses of worship as potential sources to monitor and report on their parishioners. Americans attend church to worship and congregate for their spiritual and personal betterment," he continued. "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." 



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