FBI Retracts Assessment of Leaked Document Planning Infiltration of ‘Radical’ Catholic Groups
The FBI says it is retracting a leaked document that revealed an effort by the bureau to infiltrate “radical, traditional” Catholic groups.
The document, labeled “UNCLASSIFIED/FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY,” was put forward by the bureau’s Richmond division. It claimed to have assessed with “high confidence” that by recruiting sources within the Catholic Church, the FBI could mitigate the threat of white supremacist extremism. After being leaked online on Wednesday, the bureau said it was retracting the assessment, claiming it “does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI.”
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According to a Thursday report from The Daily Caller, the FBI reportedly said about the leak,
“Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters quickly began taking action to remove the document from FBI systems and conduct a review of the basis for the document… The FBI is committed to sound analytic tradecraft and to investigating and preventing acts of violence and other crimes while upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans and will never conduct investigative activities or open an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity.”
The document was published on the website UncoverDC by Kyle Seraphin, who claimed to have received it from an anonymous FBI agent. Seraphin, himself a former FBI agent, was suspended without pay from the bureau last year for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. He has since gone on to work for Donald Trump at his Truth Social platform.
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“The weaponization of the FBI against conservative Americans can be seen in the way documents like this are published and distributed,” Seraphin wrote. “Poorly sourced and highly speculative intelligence products lead to opening badly articulated predicate investigations into Americans in violation of their God-given, First Amendment-protected civil liberties.”
The FBI’s assessment, dated January 23, 2023, begins,
“FBI Richmond assesses the increasingly observed interest of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs) in radical-traditional Catholic (RTC) almost certainly presents opportunities for threat mitigation through the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development.”
In a footnote, the document defines radical-traditional Catholics or RTCs as
“Typically characterized by the rejection of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) as a valid church council; disdain for most of the popes elected since Vatican II, Particularly Pope Francis and Pope John Paul II, and frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.”
While the document distinguishes between everyday Roman Catholics who prefer the Latin mass and their “radical” and “extremist” counterparts, the assessment provides little-to-no evidence of where the suspected extremist threat is lurking. The document, upon which the FBI’s Richmond office hoped to base an intel investigation, cites articles from The Atlantic and the leftist magazine Salon as evidence of the “threat picture.”
The document also stresses that infiltrating these groups may be urgent for the FBI, as they expect the white supremacist threat to grow with proximity to the 2024 presidential election.
“FBI Richmond assesses RMVE interest in RTCs is likely to increase over the next 12 to 24 months in the run-up to the next general election cycle, complicating the overall RMVE threat picture while also creating new opportunities for mitigation efforts.”
It is unclear what other “mitigation efforts” the FBI may have planned for the 2024 election season.
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On Thursday, House Republicans launched the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The subcommittee plans to investigate abuse of power within the Department of Justice and address the targeting of conservative Americans by agencies like the FBI.