House Judiciary Committee subpoenas FBI director over extremism investigations into Catholics

Christopher Wray, Paul Nakasone
FBI Director Christopher Wray, followed by Commander, U.S. Cyber Command and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service Gen. Paul Nakasone arrives for the House Select Committee on Intelligence annual open hearing on worldwide threats at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Carolyn Kaster/AP

House Judiciary Committee subpoenas FBI director over extremism investigations into Catholics

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The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray over the agency’s investigation into Catholic parishes in the United States.

Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) demanded that Wray testify regarding a Jan. 23 document from the Richmond Field Office. It was titled “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”

The document outlined efforts from the FBI to investigate extremism among Catholics, categorizing them by theological beliefs and relying on research from the Southern Poverty Law Center. It included the notion that some kinds of Catholics were domestic terrorists, according to Jordan. It also revealed efforts to use undercover agents to infiltrate Catholic parishes.


“The Committee on the Judiciary is conducting oversight of the [FBI’s] handling of domestic violent extremism investigations against Catholic Americans and its effect on protected First Amendment activity,” Jordan wrote.

“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. This shocking information reinforces our need for all responsive documents, and the Committee is issuing a subpoena to you to compel your full cooperation.”

Following an earlier inquiry into the document, Christopher Dunham, acting assistant director of congressional affairs for the FBI, said in a March 23 response that the “Domain Perspective (report) did not meet the FBI’s exacting standards and was withdrawn.” He added, “Upon learning of the document, FBI Headquarters removed it from our internal system. The FBI also initiated a review — which is now ongoing.”

Jordan described the response as “substandard and partial” because it contained a significant number of redactions. He demanded full access to the documents relating to the effort, characterizing those given so far as preventing “the Committee from fully assessing the content and context of the documents and obtaining information requested from the Bureau.”

Jordan quoted a passage from the Richmond document as particularly concerning. It encouraged agents to engage congregants in Catholic parishes “to enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”


Jordan concluded by expressing concern over the fact that the document was distributed to field offices around the country and approved by at least two senior officials. He justified the subpoena by claiming that Wray had ignored the committee’s earlier requests.

Jordan also subpoenaed Wray in February over the FBI’s alleged targeting of parents at school board meetings.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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