FBI Official Knowingly Used ‘Politically Biased’ Sources to Draft Memo Targeting ‘Radical’ Catholics: GOP House Report

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
December 5, 2023Politics
FBI Official Knowingly Used ‘Politically Biased’ Sources to Draft Memo Targeting ‘Radical’ Catholics: GOP House Report
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington on Nov. 6, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The FBI agents who drafted a memo proposing targeting “radical-traditionalist Catholic” ideology admitted to relying on politically biased sources of information when drafting the memo, according to a new House report.

For months, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government have been investigating a memo drafted within the FBI’s Richmond Field Office that proposed new efforts to monitor radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideologues as an avenue to racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism. In a new report on Monday, the House committee asserted there “was no legitimate basis for the memorandum” and detailed several alleged mistakes made in the process of drafting the memo.

The new House report criticizes the RTC memo’s authors at length for relying on “politically biased” open sources, applying the label to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Salon magazine, and The Atlantic. One SPLC report cited in the controversial RTC memo said so-called radical traditionalist Catholics “may make up the largest single group of serious antisemites in America.”

The Atlantic and Salon are both news magazines rated by various media analysts to be left-leaning.

The SPLC is a legal advocacy and civil rights organization that researchers alleged hate groups. Right-leaning organizations and groups critical of the political left have criticized some of the SPLC’s hate group designations as dubious and politically slanted.

According to the House report, an FBI internal review of the RTC memo determined its authors lacked “sufficient evidence or articulable support” to initiate investigative activity on Catholic parishes and “failed to consider the potential bias and credibility of open-source information cited in support of the [document’s] assessment.”

One of the authors of the RTC memo also reportedly told an FBI internal review that the SPLC is “known to have a political bias.” Despite that admitted bias, the RTC memo’s authors did not make any caveats about the reliability of their sources and instead submitted their work with a “high confidence” rating.

“The FBI also found that the employees involved in drafting, reviewing, and approving the memorandum failed to adhere to FBI standards. The employees ‘lacked professional judgement’ and ‘lack[ed] … training and awareness’ of Domestic Terrorism (DT) terminology, causing them to utilize amorphous and ill-defined terms such as ‘RTC’ and ‘far-right,'” the new House Judiciary Committee report summarizes.

According to the Republican House report, the FBI Richmond RTC memo was published on an FBI-wide system. Upon seeing the memo, two FBI agents from the agency’s Milwaukee Field Office spoke out, openly questioning the use of the SPLC as a source for the document.

NTD News reached out to the SPLC, Salon, and The Atlantic for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

House Investigators Still Have Questions

In addition to the three publications, the RTC memo did cite some prior cases in which persons of interest were connected to various Catholic parishes. In particular, the frequently redacted memo described a case in which FBI Richmond arrested a suspect in possession of Molotov cocktails and firearms components. The RTC memo made references in the case to an individual who had been undergoing efforts to become baptized at a Catholic parish and references to someone being a “radical traditional Catholic Clerical Fascist.”

FBI Portland had investigated another suspect in 2021 on suspicions of violent activity, civil disturbances, vandalism, threatening communications, weapons violations, and other acts of violence. That individual had posted online “I’ve been trying to be catholic [sic] for 2 years I went to a novus ordo church at first then became radicalized by the internet after they told me to go away because of fake virusb [sic].” This individual that FBI Portland had been investigating passed away without being charged or convicted.

The RTC memo also includes a largely redacted passage about a 2022 case in which a person of interest attended a church affiliated with the Society of Saint Pius X, a traditional Catholic fraternity.

The House report alleges FBI agents also interviewed a priest and choir director affiliated with a Catholic church in Richmond, Virginia, in the course of preparing the RTC memo. The House report states the document was also widely available to field offices across the country after its publication.

In a July hearing, FBI Director Chris Wray testified that he was “aghast” when he learned of FBI Richmond’s RTC memo and ordered it to be withdrawn. When asked by Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) whether he ordered the document’s removal before or after it was shared to the press by FBI whistleblower Kyle Seraphin, Mr. Wray responded saying, “That I can’t tell you, my guess is it was probably around the same time but I don’t know.”

The Republican House report’s authors wrote that the FBI still has no idea how many of its employees accessed the RTC memo before its removal from internal FBI systems, and cannot confirm how many efforts various FBI offices and personnel made to reach out or begin building source networks within Catholic parishes as a result of the now-deleted memo.

“We have stated repeatedly that the intelligence product prepared by one FBI field office did not meet the exacting standards of the FBI and was quickly removed from FBI systems,” an FBI spokesperson told NTD News on Tuesday.

The FBI spokesperson said the agency’s internal review “found no malicious intent to target Catholics or members of any other religious faith, and did not identify any investigative steps taken as a result of the product.”

The Republican House report states that while the FBI’s internal review “sheds some light” on the process to retract the RTC memo, “it does not show the complete picture.”

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