Twenty State Attorneys General Slam FBI Over Leaked Anti-Traditionalist-Catholic Memo, But None From New England

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Twenty state attorneys general signed onto a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland condemning a leaked internal memo from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Richmond field office that warned against certain Catholic groups as a potential threat.

None are from New England.

The leaked memo, published February 8 by Uncover DC, discusses launching a possible investigation into “radical-traditionalist” Catholic groups, claiming they may have ties to “the far-right white nationalist movement.” The memo is titled “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”

One day after the leak was made public, the FBI issued a statement saying it had retracted the memo.

“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 FBI said in a written statement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is a law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of Justice, which is headed by the U.S. Attorney General.

On Friday, February 10, 20 state attorneys general sent U.S. Attorney General Garland a letter condemning the leaked memo and expressing concern that the FBI is targeting people for their religious beliefs.

“We write with outrage and alarm to address the anti-Catholic internal memorandum produced by the FBI’s Richmond Field Office on Jan. 23, 2023, which was released to the public this week,” the letter states.

“The FBI must immediately and unequivocally order agency personnel not to target Americans based on their religious beliefs and practices. We also demand that the FBI produce publicly all materials relating to the memorandum and its production,” they added.

The state attorneys general demanded that they receive all documents related to implementing the report’s recommendations, an explanation of the process used to draft the document, and information on whether or not the FBI infiltrates churches.

“The FBI’s scrubbing of the document from its systems and the purported ‘review’ of the process that created it in no way reassures us that this memorandum does not reflect a broader program of secretive surveillance of American Catholics or other religious adherents, and infiltration of their houses of worship,” the state attorneys general’s letter states. “It assures us only that the FBI is embarrassed at the public revelation of the memorandum’s contents.”

The attorneys general added that they are “horrified” by “anti-Catholic bigotry” they now think exists within the FBI.

The letter was produced by the Virginia Attorney General’s office. All 20 attorneys general who signed it are Republicans. The signers are from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia

Organizations named in the FBI’s Richmond office memo include three publications — Catholic Family News, The Remnant, and Culture Wars; four web sites — Tradition in Action, In the Spirit of Chartres, Christ or Chaos, and Catholic Apologetics International; one Marian apostolate — The Fatima Center; and Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Richmond, New Hampshire — a splinter group that has no affiliation with the Catholic Church.

If 20 state attorneys general signed onto this letter, then how come none of the six from New England joined them?

NewBostonPost reached out to each of the six to try to get an answer on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Of the six, only one offered a substantive response:  New Hampshire Republican attorney general John Formella.

A spokesman for Fomella said Fomella sympathizes with the concerns laid out by the 20 attorneys general, but said he did not sign onto their letter because the FBI retracted the memo.

“Attorney General Formella has significant concerns with this FBI memo and agrees with many of the sentiments expressed in the letter sent by his colleagues,” the spokesman wrote in an email message to NewBostonPost. “Because the FBI memo was retracted, Attorney General Formella did not believe it was necessary to sign the letter at this time. He will continue to monitor these developments closely and will not hesitate to take action to protect the religious freedoms of New Hampshire residents when and if such action becomes necessary.”

Formella is the only Republican state attorney general in New England. He served as Governor Chris Sununu’s legal counsel from January 2017 (when Sununu took office) until April 2021. In March 2021, the governor nominated Formella to be the state’s attorney general. (The state attorney general in New Hampshire is not an elected position. Under the state constitution, the governor appoints the attorney general to a four-year term.)

The Executive Council of New Hampshire then voted 4-1 (along party lines) to confirm Formella to the post on March 24, 2021. He was sworn in as New Hampshire attorney general in April 2021.

Elsewhere in New England, a press spokesman for Maine’s attorney general, Aaron Frey, told NewBostonPost via email:  “We don’t have any comment.”

The press office of Massachusetts attorney general Andrea Campbell did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday. Neither did spokesmen for state attorneys general Charity Clark of Vermont, Peter Neronha of Rhode Island, and William Tong of Connecticut.

Campbell, Frey, Clark, Neronha, and Tong are Democrats.


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