House Judiciary Committee Subpoenas FBI Director Over 'Chilling' Memo Regarding Churches


The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray for documents over the bureau’s leaked plans to spy on Catholics for signs of “violent extremism.”

Multiple high-ranking FBI officials and one lawyer at the bureau’s Richmond, Virginia, field office previously suggested an analysis of domestic extremism that sought to target clergy members and parishioners in the Catholic church to develop sources.

An undercover FBI employee was used in the analysis, which was disseminated to field offices across the country. The plan has since been withdrawn, and the committee has seen a redacted version of it.

On Monday, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio sent Wray a letter informing him of a subpoena for all documents regarding the analysis.

Jordan, who chairs the committee, sent the letter after he said the FBI director disregarded requests for voluntary cooperation in an oversight investigation into the bureau.

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In a tweet, Jordan shared a copy of the letter and called the bureau’s internal proposal “chilling.”

“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,” Jordan wrote.

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He also called for Wray to provide all information regarding the proposal to spy on houses of worship.

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

“From this selective production, we know that the FBI, relying on information derived from at least one undercover employee, sought to use local religious organizations as ‘new avenues for tripwire and source development,’” Jordan wrote.

Jordan also cited FBI language about the plan, which described ways to “sensitize the congregation to the warning signs of radicalization and enlist their assistance to serve as suspicious activity tripwires.”

“This information is outrageous and only reinforces the Committee’s need for all FBI material responsive to our request,” the congressman further wrote. “The documents produced to date show how the FBI sought to enlist Catholic houses of worship as potential sources to monitor and report on their parishioners.”

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Jordan noted Americans attend houses of worship for their own betterment and not for nefarious purposes.

“They must be free to exercise their fundamental First Amendment rights without worrying that the FBI may have planted so-called ‘tripwire’ sources or other informants in their houses of worship,” Jordan stated.

Jordan also informed Wray that the committee might seek legislative reforms to compel employees of the Justice Department to educate themselves about First Amendment protections for religious liberty.

“These potential legislative reforms could include, among other proposals, legislation to prescribe how federal law-enforcement entities investigate constitutionally protected activity, legislation to educate federal law-enforcement personnel on civil liberty protections, or legislation to prevent the misuse of federal law-enforcement and counterterrorism resources in the future,” Jordan stated.

Jordan concluded the FBI’s full cooperation is “necessary” to prevent the future abuse of churches.

Wray has not yet commented publicly on the subpoena but said under testimony last month he was “aghast” at the memo.

“It does not reflect FBI standards,” Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We do not conduct investigations based on religious affiliation or practices, full stop.”

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.