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FBI suffers fresh bias episode, retracts intel memo portraying Catholics as extremist threats

Law enforcement agency says memo "does not meet the exacting standards of the FBI."

Published: February 9, 2023 4:16pm

Updated: February 9, 2023 5:02pm

The FBI on Thursday retracted an intelligence product from its Richmond field office that suggested some Roman Catholics be viewed as radical extremist threats and urged agents to infiltrate certain groups from the world's largest Christian faith.

The episode is the latest to sully the FBI's reputation, raising fresh concerns about political bias and civil liberties. It came a little over a year after an earlier bungled effort sought to treat parents protesting at school board meetings as domestic terrorism threats.

In a statement to Just the News, the FBI said the product made public by a former FBI agent and whistleblower, Kyle Seraphin, was circulated only inside the bureau and did not meet the agency's investigative requirements,

“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 bureau said.

"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," it added. "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 memo surfaced Wednesday in a blog post from Seraphin and suggested that Catholics who prefer to celebrate Mass in the traditional Latin language posed a risk of white supremacism and violence.

The intelligence memo stated that the FBI assessed with "high confidence" that radical traditional Catholics — referred to as RTCs — were prone to "anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideology." It urged agents to try to counter the threat from such Catholics through various investigative strategies that include "source development."

The memo appears to have derived some of its intelligence concerns from information from the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, citing the group's list entitled "Radical Traditional Catholicism Hate Groups." 

The abrupt reversal by the FBI comes as the House and majority Republicans announced plan to investigate concerns that pro-life Catholics have been targeted by law enforcement for unfair investigations, an allegation the FBI denies.

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