FIRST ON FOX: The FBI interviewed a priest and a church choir director as part of its investigation into traditional Catholics, a House Weaponization Committee report obtained by Fox News Digital revealed, while determining that subpoenaed documents show that there “was no legitimate basis for the memorandum to insert federal law enforcement into Catholic houses of worship.”
The House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government have been investigating the FBI’s categorization of certain Catholic Americans as potential domestic terrorists after an FBI Richmond internal memo, titled “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”
That memo, which was leaked in January, identified “radical-traditionalist Catholic[s]” as potential “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” and said that “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) in radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology almost certainly presents opportunities for threat mitigation through the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development.”
But according to the report, first obtained by Fox News Digital Monday, the committee found that the FBI “abused its counterterrorism tools to target Catholic Americans as potential domestic terrorists.”
“The Committee and Select Subcommittee discovered that the FBI relied on at least one undercover agent to develop its assessment and the FBI even proposed developing sources among the Catholic clergy and church leadership,” the report states. “Not only did the FBI propose to develop sources, but it already interviewed a priest and choir director affiliated with a Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia for the memorandum.”
The committee said that whistleblower disclosures reveal that the FBI interview of a priest and choir director affiliated with a Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia was used to “inform on the parishioner under investigation.”
The committee also said that without whistleblower disclosures, the memo “would still be operative in FBI systems, violating the religious liberties of millions of Catholic Americans.”
The committee found that there were “errors” made “at every step of the drafting, review, approval, and removal process of the memorandum.”
The report also states that the basis of the Richmond memo “relied on a single investigation in the Richmond Field Office’s area of responsibility in which the subject ‘self-described’ as a ‘radical-traditionalist Catholic.'” But the committee found that FBI employees “could not define the meaning of an RTC when preparing, editing, or reviewing the memorandum.”
“Even so, this single investigation became the basis for an FBI-wide memorandum warning about the dangers of ‘radical’ Catholics,” the report states.
“While the FBI claims it ‘does not categorize investigations as domestic terrorism based on the religious beliefs—to include Catholicism—of the subject involved,’ an FBI-wide memorandum originating from the FBI’s Richmond Field Office did just that,” the report states. “Under the guise of tackling the threat of domestic terrorism, the memorandum painted certain ‘radical-traditionalist Catholics’ (RTCs) as violent extremists and proposed opportunities for the FBI to infiltrate Catholic churches as a form of ‘threat mitigation.’”
But the FBI has denied conducting an investigation based on religion and has maintained that upon the discovery of the memo, it was removed from FBI systems.
The FBI said that it “investigates violence, threats of violence, and violations of federal law.”
“We do not conduct investigations based solely on religious affiliations or practices, or any other First Amendment protected activity,” the FBI said in a statement.
“To be clear,” the FBI said, “the document was a domain perspective which is an intelligence product designed to address potential threats in a particular area—in this case, the Richmond Field Office’s area of responsibility. Because the product failed to meet FBI standards, it was quickly removed from all FBI systems and a review was launched to determine how it was produced in the first place.”
On July 25, the FBI produced a version of the Richmond document with fewer redactions than the two previous versions it provided. That version revealed that investigations into Catholic organizations in Los Angeles and Portland fed into the Richmond office memo. The report states that FBI Milwaukee was also involved.
Meanwhile, the report said that the documents obtained by the committee’s subpoena show that “the FBI singled out Americans who are pro-life, pro-family, and support the biological basis for sex and gender distinction as potential domestic terrorists.”