The FBI Spends A Lot Of Time Spying On Black Americans

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Written by Ann Brown
This might not come as a surprise to many people, especially people in the Black community, but the FBI spends a lot of time and resources spying on Blacks. Officers and protesters face off along West Florissant Avenue, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson was a community on edge again Monday, a day after a protest marking the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death was punctuated with gunshots. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

This might not come as a surprise to many people, especially people in the Black community, but the FBI spends a lot of time and resources spying on Black Americans. The FBI and its counterterrorism division recently created a new, unfounded domestic terrorism category called “Black identity extremism.” This came to light following a 2017 leak. And since then, lawmakers have pressured the FBI to reveal details about its investigation of Black activists.

Between 2015 and 2018, the FBI was seriously looking into the activities of individuals and groups it mostly labeled “Black separatist extremists,” according to a batch of FBI documents, which were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and the racial justice group MediaJustice and shared with The Intercept.

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,” The Intercept reported.

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“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.”

“We are troubled about the fact that so much information is not being made available to the public,” she added. “We just know that the government is likely redacting information that should be disclosed to the public — it frequently does.”

An FBI spokesperson told The Intercept that “every activity that the FBI conducts must uphold the Constitution and be carried out in accordance with federal laws.”

“Investigative activity may not be based solely on the exercise of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” the spokesperson added. “The FBI’s investigative methods are subject to multiple layers of oversight, and we ensure that our personnel are trained on privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties.”

This, of course, isn’t the first time the agency has targeted Black Americans. During the civil rights movement, it created the controversial COINTELPRO political policing campaign targeting Black civil rights activists and groups. Now once again, as Black groups are speaking up, especially against police brutality, the FBI is again surveilling the Black community with its latest intense spying program. 

“In August 2017, the FBI issued an intelligence assessment that designated ‘Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers’ a new domestic terror threat. Disseminated to more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies, the intelligence assessment claims, without evidence, that Black people involved in unrelated police killings shared an ideology that motivated their actions. It also focuses on Black people who, in the bureau’s own words, ‘perceive[] racism and injustice in American society,’” The ACLU reported. 

Ann Brown
Image Attribution: This might not come as a surprise to many people, especially people in the Black community, but the FBI spends a lot of time and resources spying on Blacks. Officers and protesters face off along West Florissant Avenue, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson was a community on edge again Monday, a day after a protest marking the anniversary of Michael Brown's death was punctuated with gunshots. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson), This might not come as a surprise to many people, especially people in the Black community, but the FBI spends a lot of time and resources spying on Blacks. Officers and protesters face off along West Florissant Avenue, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in Ferguson, Mo. Ferguson was a community on edge again Monday, a day after a protest marking the anniversary of Michael Brown's death was punctuated with gunshots. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)