9 Fierce Reactions to the FBI’s Dangerous New Targeting of 'Black Identity Extremists'

News & Politics

Despite the violence and death in Charlottesville in August, a growth in white supremacist groups tracked by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the FBI, and the domestic terrorist attacks committed by white men like Dylann Roof, Stephen Paddock and Adam Lanza, the FBI has decided to target so-called “black identity extremists," a mysterious group the Bureau apparently believes is committing violent acts against police officers in retaliation for the well-documented pattern of cops killing often-unarmed African Americans. And government officials, activists and legal experts are rightly furious.

The FBI is under the jurisdiction of Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department. It’s likely that, just as Sessions has cooked up bogus reasons to upend civil rights and voting rights, disenfranchising African Americans across the country, the FBI’s new target is a politically motivated appeal to racists among Donald Trump’s base. The FBI has a long history of dedicating valuable resources to the surveilling of black activists and civil rights groups, including its secret wiretapping of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

So who exactly is the FBI targeting with this new counterterrorism initiative?

“Basically, it’s black people who scare them,” Michael German, a former FBI agent and current fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program, told Foreign Policy.

Similarly strongly worded responses came out in response to the news.

1. Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney with the ACLU.

“When we talk about enemies of the state and terrorists, with that comes an automatic stripping of those people’s rights to speak and protest,” Tajsar told the Guardian. “It marginalizes what are legitimate voices within the political debate that are calling for racial and economic justice.”

2. Anonymous former Department of Homeland Security official.

“They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation,” the official told Foreign Policy. “Imagine lumping together white nationals, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it ‘white identity extremists.’”

3. William Maxwell, professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

“It’s classic Hoover-style labeling with a little bit of maliciousness and euphemism wrapped up together,” Maxwell, who has researched the FBI’s monitoring of black writers in the 20th century, told Foreign Policy. “The language—black identity extremist—strikes me as weird and really a continuation of the worst of Hoover’s past.”

Activists and journalists on Twitter were similarly outraged.

4. Eve Ewing, sociologist and assistant professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

5. Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

 6. Charlene Carruthers, national director of Black Youth Project 100.

 7. Caroline Orr, doctoral dellow at Virginia Commonwealth University.

 8. Feminista Jones, journalist, activist, social worker.

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