No Bias Found in F.B.I. Report on Catholic Extremists

A memo by the F.B.I. warning of possible threats posed by “radical-traditionalist” Catholics violated professional standards but showed “no evidence of malicious intent,” according to an internal Justice Department inquiry made public on Thursday.

Republicans have seized on the 11-page memo, which was leaked early last year, as a talking point. They have pointed to the document to sharply criticize the bureau and suggested, without evidence, that it was part of a broader campaign by the Biden administration to persecute Catholics and conservatives over their beliefs.

The memo was quickly withdrawn after being leaked, and top law enforcement officials have repeatedly distanced themselves from it.

The assessment by the Justice Department’s watchdog found that agents in the F.B.I.’s office in Richmond, Va., improperly conflated the religious beliefs of activists with the likelihood they would engage in domestic terrorism, making it appear as if they were being targeted for the faith.

But after a 120-day review of the incident ordered by Congress, Michael E. Horowitz, the department’s inspector general — drawing from the F.B.I. report and interviews conducted by his own investigators — found no evidence that “anyone ordered or directed” anyone to investigate Catholics because of their religion.

A statement from the F.B.I. on Thursday said the inspector general’s review aligned with the bureau’s own accounting.

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