While the United States finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented resurgence of white supremacist extremism, the FBI is busy doing what it’s historically done best—subject black activists to disproportionate scrutiny under the guise of public safety.
According to an August report obtained by Foreign Policy, the FBI’s counterterrorism division has begun assessing the threat posed to law enforcement officers by so-called “Black Identity Extremists”—a seemingly invented term which FP notes racked up a scant five Google results prior to the FBI’s report.
“The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” the report reads, adding:
The FBI assesses it is very likely incidents of alleged police abuse against African Americans since then have continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement.
Hmm, so what the FBI is saying is that... black people are mad at police abuses against their community? Wow!
The report offers several examples of what it sees as a “BIE,” perhaps most notably Micah Johnson, the shooter responsible for 2016 deaths of five police officers in Dallas. They write:
Based on Johnson’s journal writings and statements to police, he appeared to have been influenced by BIE ideology.
What the FBI authors fail to mention in their report, however, is the long pattern of targeted harassment of black communities done by...the FBI throughout its sordid history. This includes having infamously suggested that Martin Luther King Jr. should kill himself as part of the ongoing COINTELPRO initiative launched in the 1950s, which ushered in the modern era of domestic surveillance in the United States.
You don’t even have to go back that far, though. In 2015, the FBI flew secret spy planes above protests in Maryland over the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the Baltimore police (a move it bizarrely justified as “consensual” surveillance). And as recently as last year, prominent members of the Black Lives Matter movement were contacted by FBI officials, who warned them not to attend the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
Speaking with FP, an unnamed former Department of Homeland Security official pushed back on the FBI’s new terrorist classification.
“This is a new umbrella designation that has no basis,” the onetime official said. “There are civil rights and privacy issues all over this.”
“They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation,” he added later. “Imagine lumping together white nationals, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it ‘white identity extremists.’”
In a statement to the magazine, the FBI defended the new designation, saying they “cannot initiate an investigation based solely on an individual’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
Based on the date on its cover, the FBI’s report was released on August 3. Just one week later, a domestic terror attack by a white nationalist would leave one woman dead in Charlottesville, VA.