National Security

ACLU wants FBI records on activists labeled ‘black identity extremists’


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is pushing for the FBI to release documents on the surveillance of black individuals reportedly labeled by the agency as “extremists.”

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Wednesday alongside the Center for Media Justice to obtain the documents, questioning the constitutionality of a leaked report.

The groups pointed to an FBI “Intelligence Assessment” document leaked to Foreign Policy in August titled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.”


The document, which says that some black individuals are an increasing threat to police, has been criticized as racist and caused alarm among advocacy groups.

The ACLU charges that the report might not be constitutional on the grounds that the government is barred “from targeting people because of their racial identity or because they take part in First Amendment-protected activities, which include protesting racism and injustice.”

“The FBI’s report is a red flag that the bureau is once again profiling Black activists because of their beliefs and race,” Nusrat Choudhury, an attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said in a statement.

“The public deserves to know whether the labeling of so-called ‘Black Identity Extremists’ is the latest flawed example in the FBI’s history of using threats — real or perceived — as an excuse to surveil Black people,” Choudhury added.

The Center for Media Justice, a racial advocacy group, argued that the report was indicative of a climate created by the Trump administration.

“As a member of the Black Lives Matter Network, I am deeply concerned that Jeff Sessions’ FBI and the Trump administration are escalating the use of high-tech tools to profile, police, and punish democratically protected activities of Black protestors despite volumes of evidence of a surge in white nationalist violence,” Malkia A. Cyril, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice, said in a statement.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also expressed frustration over the leaked document.

On Thursday, following a Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) meeting with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) hammered the FBI.

“It’s the craziest report because it says because you identify as black you are [a] threat. That is offensive and we need to make sure we are not allowing people to make platforms like Facebook and Twitter and Google and any of the other ones to create that perception and [keep] the FBI from buying into it,” Richmond said.

According to Foreign Policy’s story, the FBI explains its rationale in its report by pointing out six examples of premeditated violence against law enforcement by so-called “black extremists.”

The agency uses Micah Johnson’s shooting of 11 police officers in Dallas in July 2016 as one example for its assessment. Johnson was reportedly outraged by police violence.

“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 [Black Identity Extremist] movement,” the report reads.

Tags ACLU ACLU Federal Bureau of Investigation Jeff Sessions National security National security of the United States
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