Heavily redacted records show FBI’s targeting of Catholics went beyond what it claimed: watchdog

A conservative government watchdog has released almost 100 pages of FBI documents it says show the agency was not fully forthcoming about its actions surveilling and targeting Catholic churches. “FBI Director Christopher Wray had told congressmen that the memo was ‘a single product by a single field office,’ but the records uncovered by Judicial Watch show that it was “Reviewed by: OGC/CDC [Office of General Counsel/Chief Deputy Counsel],'” Judicial Watch posted in a press release Friday. Judicial Watch obtained the documents through a FOIA request related to an internal FBI memo leaked earlier this year, which revealed that the agency had efforts underway to identify and treat Catholics as “potential terrorists.”  “The records also indicate coordination with officials from Portland and Milwaukee,” the press release said.  FBI INTERVIEWED PRIEST, CHURCH CHOIR DIRECTOR AHEAD OF ANTI-CATHOLIC MEMO, HOUSE GOP FINDS The FBI Richmond internal memo, titled “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities,” was leaked in January and drew instant criticism from Republicans. It 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.” FBI’S ‘ATTACK ON PRO-LIFE CATHOLICS’ IS WHAT YOU GET IN BIDEN’S AMERICA, JIM JORDAN WARNS FBI Director Christopher Wray and the agency have previously claimed the memo was related to a single FBI field office in Richmond. Following the leak of the memo, the FBI told Fox News Digital “headquarters quickly began taking action to remove the document from FBI systems and conduct a review of the basis for the document.” “While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, this particular field office product — disseminated only within the FBI — regarding racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI,” the statement said. The FBI told Fox News Digital earlier this year “any characterization that the FBI is targeting Catholics is false.” However, Judicial Watch suggests these new documents show that is not the case and the issue was broader than the FBI let on. “These documents disprove the FBI’s narrative that the spy operation against Catholics and churches was limited to one field office. In fact, the operation seems to have been approved by top lawyers in the FBI,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton wrote. FBI SOUGHT TO DEVELOP SOURCES IN CATHOLIC CHURCHES TO COMBAT DOMESTIC TERRORISM, DOCS SHOW “These documents should trigger a criminal inquiry into this Biden FBI scandal.”  The documents released by Judicial Watch show FBI officials from different field offices discussing the program, including General Counsel Jason Jones in an email that says, “[Assistant Director] Dunham asked that we circulate the attached draft ‘Complicated Questions’ document for the Director’s upcoming testimony for your review.  “As you will see, the draft reflects feedback received from various divisions/stakeholders to date, and certain topics continue to evolve.” Conservatives have long alleged that the scope of the FBI’s targeting of Catholics was much larger than they had acknowledged, and Republicans earlier this year uncovered similar documents they say showed several field offices were involved. “This new information suggests that the FBI’s use of its law enforcement capabilities to intrude on American’s First Amendment rights is more widespread than initially suspected,” Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and co-chair Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., wrote in a letter in August. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.Fox News Digital’s Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report
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