New revelations of FBI efforts to infiltrate Catholic Church provoke storm of protest
"This was one of the most shocking things that I've seen," said GOP Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.). "The FBI has lost its way."
Revelations this week of FBI efforts to develop intelligence sources inside the Catholic Church elicited howls of protest — from Capitol Hill, the Church and an FBI whistleblower.
Amid the latest revelations of political bias and retaliation by the FBI, Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs is calling for the increasingly polarizing law enforcement agency to be purged of politicized personnel and possibly defunded.
"I think if I could still be shocked — after having been in Congress for a while — this was one of the most shocking things that I've seen," Biggs told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Wednesday. "When you start finding out that they were trying to actually move into infiltrate, etc., you go, 'What is their purpose?' Do they think that if you're an orthodox, believing and practicing Catholic, somehow that's anti-American?"
Declaring that "the FBI has lost its way," Biggs said, "[I]f we're not going to totally defund it and eliminate it — and then keep only those areas that truly support state and local law enforcement — then you've got to do a wholesale cleaning out of the FBI.
"This is such disturbing news because we don't know what the full extent is. But we do know that the DOJ and the FBI were spying, for instance, on parents and school boards too. So so how broad does this go? And why is it that they are focusing so much on the religious and on those who have a real sincere interest in preserving the their children's education?"
The agency's targeting of Catholics was revealed in a press release Monday by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Citing a meager FBI document production in response to a committee information request, the committee reported that "the FBI relied on information derived from at least one undercover employee and sought to use local religious organizations as 'new avenues for tripwire and source development.'"
The outreach plan "included contacting so-called 'mainline Catholic parishes' and the local 'diocesan leadership,'" according to the release from the committee. "The documents reveal that the FBI also expressed an interest in 'leverag[ing] existing sources and/or initiat[ing] Type 5 Assessments to develop new sources with the placement and access' to report on suspicious activity.
"In light of this information and the serious consequences for the free exercise of Americans' First Amendment rights, Chairman Jordan issued a subpoena today to FBI Director Wray for all documents related to the FBI's actions."
This week's revelations follow the recent disclosure of a since-retracted January memo generated by the Richmond Field Office characterizing Catholics with a devotion to the traditional Latin Mass as potential violent extremists.
FBI whistleblower Steve Friend blasted his former agency in an interview on the "Just The News, No Noise" television show earlier this week, alleging that FBI responses to revelations it targeted Catholics are misleading.
"The FBI was definitely not honest with the American people," Friend said Tuesday. "This was not just a low-level analyst who was acting on their own and maybe just considering sources from one side of the political spectrum.
"This was something that was actually put into an operational status. It involved an undercover agent and a type five assessment, which you have to understand is a recruitment tool. It's where you would put somebody into a parish and have them assess if anybody there might be worthy of maybe pursuing as a paid informant, or a voluntary informant, just to develop that pool of people who would then be willing to actually report back to the FBI on their fellow parishioners because of their beliefs and the things that the FBI now deem to be problematic — most likely pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-border security."
Last summer's Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade shot the pro-life Catholic Church to the top of the FBI's target list of domestic political opponents, Friend believes.
"The Catholic Church, just being the the original force that was so prolific and pushed so hard, especially for that March for Life, until the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned last year, I think that is just top of mind for the Department of Justice as being something that they want to go after," he said. "Now, they've clearly become weaponized, clearly politicized. They are just now an arm of a government that's going after its political enemies, as opposed to enforcing the rule of law."
National Director of Priests for Life Frank Pavone told Just The News he was disturbed by the FBI's actions, which he believes are geared towards political revenge.
"The idea that the FBI is using Catholic parishes and dioceses to continue to weaponize its power against patriotic believers is indeed disturbing, but not at all surprising," he said in a statement. "It is completely consistent, first of all, with the behavior and attitudes of the current Democrat [P]arty leadership, which has no regard at all for freedom, faith, or America. It despises the people and wants power for itself, not them.
"What should disturb people even more is that this news is completely consistent with the behavior of many diocesan officials and Catholic bishops in the United States, and in the Vatican. They are Democrats at prayer, and radical Democrats at that. I know from decades of personal experience, the disdain that they have for conservative politics, and for pro-life and patriotic citizens. Moreover, they operate with no transparency or accountability."
Equating these tendencies with "Marxism," Pavone warned of a potential political pendulum swing that could end up halting the Democratic Party agenda in its tracks.
The archdioceses of Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Va. did not respond to requests for comment.
An FBI spokesperson acknowledged the Bureau's receipt of the Judiciary Committe subpoena in a statement provided to Just the News. "The FBI recognizes the importance of congressional oversight and remains fully committed to cooperating with Congress's oversight requests consistent with its constitutional and statutory responsibilities," the spokesperson affirmed.
"The FBI is actively working to respond to congressional requests for information including voluntary production of documents," the statement concluded.
You can follow Nick on Twitter @NGivasDC