CBC meets with FBI director over Black Identity Extremists report

December 6, 2017 in News

By Stacy M. Brown,

NNPA Newswire Contributor,

1 cbcrichmond_amg_fallen_2777_web120FBI Director Christopher A. Wray failed to explain why the agency he leads changed the name of a domestic terrorism designation from “Black Separatist Extremists” to “Black Identity Extremist,” during a recent meeting with a group of Congressional Black Caucus members about a leaked FBI document.

The leaked FBI document, titled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers,” sparked a wave of controversy and sharp criticism of the FBI.

At least one CBC member called the leaked document “COINTELPRO 2.0,” while another said that the report “calls for open season on black activists.” The document was shared widely with local law enforcement agencies across the country.

According to Newsweek, following the “fatal attacks on police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., in 2016, the bureau expressed concerns about the threat of copycat attacks against law enforcement at the Republican and Democratic national conventions.”

Newsweek reported that other documents showed that “the FBI has monitored Black Lives Matter protesters.”

Those documents were released, because of a lawsuit to expose the surveillance filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the civil rights group Color of Change.

On November 29, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and 2nd Vice Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), provided an overview of their meeting with Wray in a teleconference with National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President  Benjamin F. Chavis; NNPA National Chairman Dorothy Leavell, and a group of black publishers, editors and reporters.

CBC members who are also members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Committee on the Judiciary were present at the meeting.

“Listening to [Wray], especially considering meetings and discussions we’ve had with Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, he appeared to be a breath of fresh air,” Bass said.

Wray said that no one would be investigated or targeted, unless they met three points of criteria: there had to be credible evidence of federal crimes; a credible threat of force or violence; and both of those points had to exist in furtherance of a social or political goal.

“Wray also admitted that the policy wasn’t new, the name simply changed, Bass said.

“They used to call it ‘Black Separatist Extremists’ and they changed it to ‘Black Identity Extremists,’” said Bass. “[Wray] didn’t have a lot of rationale for why that change took place, except for the fact that the people that fall under the category ‘Black Identity Extremist’ don’t seem to be separatists in today’s world.”

CBC members raised major concerns about the report, one of which was how the FBI even crafted the methodology to come up with the category of “Black Identity Extremists.”

“[Wray] essentially said that they used ‘open source’ documents, which means news reports,” said Bass. “Lord knows what that means.”

Bass said that, based on what she heard from Wray, the methodology seemed “flimsy.”

“When we raised our concerns that a new generation of black activists were being targeted for surveillance and harassment, [Wray] said repeatedly that there was no investigation of the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Bass.

Bass and the other CBC members let Wray know that they were “completely aware” that some activists in their communities were experiencing surveillance and harassment, even though they didn’t meet the requirements that Wray described that would lead to an investigation.

The CBC members asked the FBI to retract the document and issue a new message to local law enforcement agencies.

“One of the problems with this document is that it has been widely distributed to law enforcement agencies around the country,” said Bass. “Many of us referenced either our own personal experiences or experiences we were aware of during the ‘COINTELPRO’ years when if you send a document like this out to local law enforcement, in many of our opinions, you can declare open season on black activists, because then local law enforcement agencies can use the document as justification for doing whatever they want to do.”

COINTELPRO, or the “Counter Intelligence Program” of the FBI, was designed in part to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of the Black nationalists,” during the 1950s and 1970s.

The FBI director expressed interests in meeting with CBC members regularly because, “We are the eyes and ears on the ground,” and the CBC offers diversity that the agency lacks, said Richmond.

Bass asked the Black Press to put the call out to their readers to let lawmakers know if they have experienced harassment or surveillance, a request that Richmond echoed.