The Intercept - October 29, 2019
"But while federal and other law enforcement cooperation is routine, involving local police in vague and sweeping political surveillance efforts is deeply problematic, critics say. In fact, threat assessment reports such as the one on “black identity extremism” pose a particular challenge to local law enforcement, said Mike German, a former FBI agent and vocal critic of the bureau."
The FBI has come under intense criticism after a 2017 leak exposed that its counterterrorism division had invented a new, unfounded domestic terrorism category it called “black identity extremism.” Since then, legislators have pressured the bureau’s leadership to be more transparent about its investigation of black activists, and a number of civil rights groups have filed public records requests to try to better understand who exactly the FBI is investigating under that designation. Although the bureau has released hundreds of pages of documents, it continues to shield the vast majority of these records from public scrutiny.
The sheer volume of documents those surveillance efforts have produced is troublesome, advocates say. The latest batch of FBI documents — obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and the racial justice group MediaJustice and shared with The Intercept — reveals that between 2015 and 2018, the FBI dedicated considerable time and resources to opening a series of “assessments” into the activities of individuals and groups it mostly labeled “black separatist extremists.” This designation was eventually folded into the category of “black identity extremism.” Earlier this year, following an onslaught of criticism from elected officials, civil liberties advocates, and even some law enforcement groups, the FBI claimed that it had abandoned the “black identity extremism” label, substituting it for a “racially motivated violent extremism. ” Critics say that this designation conveniently obscures the fact that black supremacist violence, unlike white supremacist violence, does not actually exist.
Although the FBI has frequently changed its labels and terminology, the surveillance of black Americans has continued. As The Intercept has reported, following the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the FBI began spying on Ferguson activists and tracking their movements across states, warning local law enforcement partners that Islamic State group supporters were “urging” protesters to join their ranks. The FBI also drafted a mysterious “race paper,” the contents of which remain secret even though the bureau has disowned it. And as the Young Turks reported, the bureau has established a program dubbed “Iron Fist” targeting so-called black identity extremists with undercover agents.
The latest documents were turned over to the ACLU and MediaJustice after the groups sued the FBI last March over its failure to comply with a public records request. While the bureau is expected to release more documents in the coming months, what it has turned over so far is so heavily redacted that it is largely incomprehensible. In addition to removing entire paragraphs and all geographical and other identifiers from the documents, the FBI simply withheld hundreds of pages in full.
“These documents suggest that since at least 2016, the FBI was engaged in a national intelligence collection effort to manufacture a so-called ‘Black Identity Extremist’ threat,” Nusrat Choudhury, deputy director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, told The Intercept. “They are spending a lot of energy on this and they are clearly reaching out to other law enforcement.” ...
Read full report at The Intercept
Also read : The Strange Tale of the FBI’s Fictional “Black Identity Extremism” Movement