The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena to FBI Director Christopher Wray for records as part of a probe into the bureau’s handling of an FBI field analysis that proposed further developing sources within a group of traditionalist Catholic chapels in Richmond, Va., to look for signs of radicalization and burgeoning domestic violent extremism.
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, accused the FBI of undertaking “domestic violent extremism investigations against Catholic Americans,” according to a letter reviewed by CBS News.
Jordan said of information provided to the committee previously regarding the the Jan. 23 analysis that it showed the FBI had “relied on at least one undercover agent to produce its analysis” and that the bureau 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.”
Jordan writes that “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.”
When the bureau was contacted about the FBI assessment earlier this year, Christopher Dunham, Acting Assistant Director of Congressional Affairs responded on March 23 that the “Domain Perspective (report) did not meet the FBI’s exacting standards and was withdrawn,” adding, “Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters removed it from our internal system. The FBI also initiated a review — which is now ongoing.”
Dunham also stressed that “the FBI is not anti-Catholic in any way, shape, or form, and does not target people of any faith because of their religious beliefs.” And he told Jordan that the FBI “does not categorize investigations as domestic terrorism based on the religious beliefs—to include Catholicism—of the subject involved.”
According to heavily redacted records reviewed by CBS News, the FBI report was initially approved by multiple FBI supervisors, including a top lawyer at the Richmond field office. The report cited information gathered from an “FBI UCE ” which is an acronym for an undercover employee. In another section labeled “Opportunities,” the report advised using “Requests for Collection to leverage existing sources and/or initiate Type 5 Assessments to develop new sources.”
The GOP-led committee said the FBI report reinforced the committee’s need for “all FBI material responsive to our request” and the FBI director’s cooperation by April 28. Jordan wrote, “Although the FBI claims to have ‘numerous’ and ‘rigorous’ policies to protect First Amendment rights, the FBI’s Richmond document plainly undercuts these assertions. “
CBS News contacted The Society for Saint Pius X for comment, but there was no immediate response.
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.