No Evidence FBI Used Counterterrorism Tactics on Catholics: Government Watchdog Report

The OIG investigation found no evidence of ‘discriminatory or inappropriate comments.’
No Evidence FBI Used Counterterrorism Tactics on Catholics: Government Watchdog Report
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) presides over a hearing of the Weaponization of the Federal Government Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 9, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Matt McGregor

An independent governmental watchdog investigation concluded that there was no evidence to support that the FBI was targeting Catholics based on a leaked memo.

The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a congressional report on Thursday outlining its findings in a 120-day investigation into a 2023 FBI memo that implied a link between Catholicism and violent extremism.

The Richmond, Virginia’s FBI field office disseminated the memo the OIG called the Richmond Domain Perspective (DP) which purportedly connected “Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists” (RMVEs) to “Radical Traditionalists Catholic” (RTC) ideology, the report stated.

“FBI Richmond assesses the increasingly observed interest of RMVEs in RTC ideology almost certainly presents new opportunities for threat mitigation through the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development,” the memo stated.

The Republican-led House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government published a 2023 report stating that any information about the memo—which was later retracted—was deleted.

The Subcommittee’s report argued that the memo shows a political bias toward Catholics through its use of “counterterrorism tools” to target them 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 Subcommittee’s report stated. “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 Subcommittee’s report said the ordeal is a “cause for concern.”

According to the OIG, during its investigation, it “considered concerns expressed by Members of Congress that FBI Richmond more broadly targeted Catholics who attend traditional Latin mass or hold pro-life or other conservative views in an effort to identify domestic terrorists, including by placing undercover agents or confidential human sources (CHS) in churches or interviewing clergy and other church employees.”

‘Domain Analysis’

The formation of the DP was driven by an investigation into who the OIG named “Defendant A,” a suspect indicted on federal charges and who later entered a guilty plea.

“As a part of its intelligence program, the FBI conducts ‘domain analysis’ to assess how changes in environmental variables—such as demographics, infrastructure, or technology—may result in new threats or impact the FBI’s ability to mitigate existing threats,” the OIG said.

The FBI agents involved in the investigation and drafting of the DM told the OIG that they “acknowledged that all religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment” and that the allegation that they were targeting Catholics is “patently false,” the OIG reported.

The agents told the OIG that they chose the RTC term because the suspect in the investigation referred to himself as a “rad-trad Catholic clerical fascist” on his social media profile and that the term appeared frequently online.

The OIG referenced a previous FBI Inspection Division (INSD) report which found that “although there was no evidence of malicious intent or improper purpose,” the agents “failed to adhere to analytic tradecraft standards and evinced errors in professional judgment, including that it lacked sufficient evidence or articulable support for a relationship between RMVEs and so-called RT ideology.”

The OIG said the initial INSD report—which “examined a broader range of issues than our limited review”—also concluded that the agents’ DM created “the appearance that the FBI had inappropriately considered religious beliefs and affiliation” as a basis for its investigation.

However, OIG’s investigation found no evidence of “discriminatory or inappropriate comments” about the Catholic religion or any of the churches that were connected with the investigation, it concluded.

FBI’s Response

In response to The Epoch Times’ request for comment, the FBI sent this statement:

“We thank the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General for its review. The FBI has said numerous times that the intelligence product did not meet our exacting standards and was quickly removed from FBI systems. We also have said there was no intent or actions taken to investigate Catholics or anyone based on religion; this was confirmed by the findings of the OIG.  The FBI’s mission is to protect our communities from potential threats while simultaneously upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans. We do not conduct investigations based solely on First Amendment protected activity, including religious practices.”

Ryan Morgan contributed to this report.