Two civil rights groups on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security demanding the release of what’s been referred to in government documents as the “Race Paper.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights and Color of Change learned about the “Race Paper” through a set of DHS emails obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request. The emails, which were exchanged between employees in the Homeland Threats Division at DHS, appear to show staffers setting up meetings to personally discuss the contents of the “Race Paper.”
DHS sent the two civil rights organizations a fully redacted version of the nine-page “Race Paper,” with only the name of the attachment visible, according to a statement released by the two groups.
It’s unclear what exactly the “Race Paper” is, but sources told The Intercept, which first published the documents, that it might refer to the notorious FBI report from last August which claimed that “black identity extremists” were a significant new domestic security threat.
The documents obtained so far also show how DHS and the FBI appear to have surveilled black activists. The Intercept reported on a heavily redacted email exchange that suggests “FBI agents staked out the cars and residences of individuals associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Several documents also appear to confirm DHS has monitored social media accounts belonging to black activists. The documents show federal officials tracked hashtags on social media platforms like Instagram.
In some instances, the documents show the surveillance went beyond activists directly involved in organizing protests. A document created by FBI agents in the South Carolina Information and Intelligence Center showed they surveilled church groups and other public gatherings. The documents obtained noted that a Women’s Empowerment event “uses some of the rhetoric seen by other Black Lives Matter groups but there is no indication that this gathering is meant to be a part of the other marches taking place on the same day.”
DHS did not respond to Splinter’s request for comment for this story. But in a statement to The Intercept, the FBI denied it surveilled anyone for exercising their rights.
“The FBI does not engage in surveillance of individuals exercising their First Amendment rights,” Rebecca Wu, an FBI spokesperson in St. Louis, told The Intercept. “However, the FBI is responsible for reviewing intelligence that indicates an individual may be involved in criminal activity or is a threat to national security.”
The directors of Color of Change and The Center for Constitutional Rights say the public deserves to know what’s in the “Race Paper.”
“The documents we’ve forced the federal government to release expose how these agencies are demonizing and intimidating Black activists—people who are rightly demanding that our country be more just—through coordinated and systemic surveillance,” Rashad Robinson, the director of Color of Change, told Splinter in a statement. “The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are at war with black activists,” he added.