The FBI recently sought to develop sources inside Christian churches and Catholic dioceses as part of an effort to combat domestic terrorism, according to internal documents released by House Judiciary Committee on Monday.
The internal documents — obtained last month by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who are also members of the so-called Weaponization Subcommittee — showed the FBI planned to use churches as “new avenues for tripwire and source development.” The federal law enforcement agency also aimed to specifically target “mainline Catholic parishes” as part of its efforts.
In addition, according to Jordan, the FBI expressed interest in “leverag[ing] existing sources and/or initiat[ing] Type 5 Assessments to develop new sources with the placement and access.” And, in another example, the agency cited a desire to to sensitize religious congregations “to the warning signs of radicalization and enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”
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Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, conducts a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government hearing on March 9. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
“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,” Jordan wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Monday.
Jordan also issued a subpoena for a series of related documents the committee previously requested from the FBI, but which the FBI has failed to provide.
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“This information is outrageous and only reinforces the Committee’s need for all FBI material responsive to our request,” Jordan wrote to Wray. “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,” the letter 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.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray listens during a news conference at the Department of Justice on Jan. 27. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Jordan and Johnson first requested related documents from the FBI on Feb. 16, days after former FBI agent and whistleblower Kyle Seraphin published an internal document originating from the FBI’s Richmond Field Office that appeared to outline a plan to “mitigate the threat of Radical-Traditionalist Catholics.”
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The leaked document generated widespread condemnation from Republican lawmakers who said the FBI’s efforts may violate the Constitution.
However, the original letter from Jordan and Johnson went unanswered prompting a follow-up request on March 20. Three days later, the FBI produced the 18-page document Jordan announced on Monday.
“The FBI received the subpoena,” the FBI told Fox News Digital in a statement. “The FBI recognizes the importance of congressional oversight and remains fully committed to cooperating with Congress’s oversight requests consistent with its constitutional and statutory responsibilities. The FBI is actively working to respond to congressional requests for information –including voluntary production of documents.”
The agency also referred Fox News Digital to recent comments Wray made during congressional testimony in which he said he was “aghast” when he saw reports about the FBI targeting Catholics.
“We took steps immediately to withdraw it and remove it from FBI systems. It does not reflect FBI standards,” Wray added. “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.”