The Domain product leaked from the FBI Richmond field office revealed an ugly, subterranean influence lurking within the analyst population. The presuppositions were faulty. The analysis shoddy. And, the footnoted sources were scurrilous at best. It was a left wing treatise masquerading as an analytical product.
Whoever wrote and approved the now infamous document clearly has an axe to grind with what is described as radical-traditionalist Catholic (RTC) ideology. The footnotes describe RTC adherents as individuals who reject “the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) as a valid church council; [have] disdain for most of the popes elected since Vatican II…and [exhibit] frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.”
The footnotes continue, “Radical-traditionalist Catholics compose a small minority of overall Roman Catholic adherents and are separate and distinct from ‘traditional Catholics’ who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass and pre-Vatican II teachings and traditions, but without the more extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.”
The initial analysis of this document and subsequent reporting has been somewhat inaccurate. It is not accurate to assert that this document is focused on “Traditional Catholics,” but rather focuses on “a small minority” who allegedly espouse radical “extremist ideological beliefs and violent rhetoric.” However, the public’s concern is well founded. This document is a foray into the very sanctum of constitutionally protected religious liberty.
In fact, the often misquoted letter penned by Thomas Jefferson, used by militantly secularist liberals to mischaracterize the “wall of separation between church and state,” addresses this very issue.
Jefferson’s wall was built around the state to forever prohibit its meddling in matters of conscience. Liberals would have you believe the wall is meant to hem in religion. But Jefferson said, “the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions.”
The FBI Richmond Domain document blunders into Jefferson’s Holy of Holies.
However, the FBI should be in the business of monitoring violent extremist behavior. But, the operative word is violent. Within the purview of domestic counterterrorism investigations, religious locations have been the subject of legitimate intelligence collection. These are, in essence, criminal investigations into well predicated, violent terrorist activities. It’s not an overstatement to say that, in order for the FBI to legitimately target some religious locations, it took a 9/11 level event to justify limited intrusions into the realm of the sacred.
The grave error with the FBI Richmond document is the attempt to create a straw man. The left is desperate to construct a white, violent extremist category (politically conservative, historically patriotic, and vociferously supportive of former President Donald Trump) — a fictitious army of MAGA trolls from which to fabricate the pre-textual basis for opening investigations on political opponents.
The Richmond analyst hoped to link the actions of violent extremists to liberalism’s sacred cows and implicate, as the document suggested, fringe Catholic groups. Unfortunately for this anonymous analyst, citing the Southern Poverty Law Center, Salon, and other radically liberal organizations only supported the conclusion that the author was wildly biased and politically motivated.
Given all this, it’s still inaccurate to suggest that the FBI is targeting Catholics for investigation. I can attest to personally knowing many agents who are faithful members of the Roman Catholic Church, and who would have been, as Director Wray claimed to be, appalled by the content of the Richmond document. Even if this document had never come to light, through the actions of a still unknown FBI Richmond employee, I’m not persuaded it would have survived the scrutiny of broader evaluation.
Just days ago, the House Judiciary Committee released new information that the Richmond document may have been drafted by a Richmond contact, an FBI Portland liaison contact, and an FBI undercover employee. Additionally, The FBI field office in L.A. reportedly conducted an investigation of its own.
In response, the FBI stated, “Director Wray’s testimony on this matter has been accurate and consistent. While the document referred to information from other filed office investigations of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremist (RMVE) subjects, that does not change the fact the product was produced by a single office.”
True enough. However, it doesn’t provide the American people with much comfort, given the legitimate battering the FBI has suffered recently. In this environment of near total public distrust, FBI Director Wray should be in the habit of oversharing — especially during an open hearing before congress.
Despite all the disturbing revelations, there’s nothing inherently inappropriate about the FBI conducting intelligence investigations, as some neophytes have suggested. To reduce the complexities of criminal and intelligence investigations to “linear” and “circular” descriptions is an infantilization.
FBI counterintelligence (CI) investigations are fundamentally criminal in nature. Anyone who suggests otherwise has never actually recruited sources, developed the necessary predication, and opened an original CI case. Merely, sitting idle on a CI squad doesn’t confer the title of expert.
It is true CI cases can remain open for long periods of time, just as criminal cases. CI cases utilize sources (assets) that may persist for years, just as in criminal or counterterrorism (CT) cases. There is nothing patently “linear” or “circular” about CI, CT, or criminal cases. In my experience, investigations more closely resembled a Venn diagram. Reducing complexities to easily digestible quips may get you attention from national personalities, but it doesn’t make you right.
Space doesn’t allow for a full accounting. But, the FBI has brought numerous CI cases to trial, resulting in significant sentences. The most famous — Aldrich Ames (CIA case officer), Ana Montes (Cuban spy), Brian P. Regan (Air Force intelligence officer), and Robert Hansen (FBI Agent).
Abuses exist, but that’s an opportunity for oversight and correction.
The American people are threatened not just by government weaponization, but by a stream of self-serving sensationalization that distorts the truth about the FBI and impedes real solutions to eradicate the problem of politicization. The American people need the truth, not the cheap thrill and guilty titillation offered by click-bait artists. We’ve had enough political theatre from our representatives, and coy obfuscation from FBI executives.