In an example of curious timing, when white mass shooters and white supremacist terror groups have captured national attention in Charlottesville, Las Vegas and elsewhere, the FBI has focused its priorities on what it calls “Black Identity Extremists” or the BIE movement.
The government agency claims there is a terror threat from BIEs, who it claims target acts of violence against police officers in retaliation for acts of police abuse against African-Americans. For Black activists and those who have been involved with racial justice movements in the United States, this recent pronouncement from the federal government hearkens back to the FBI’s war against Black nationalist and civil rights organizations known as COINTELPRO.
In an unclassified report obtained by Foreign Policy, the FBI assesses it is “very likely” that BIE perceptions of police brutality against Black people led to an increase in premeditated and retaliatory deadly violence against the police. According to the FBI, the increase began in the wake of the August 9, 2014, killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent decision by a grand jury to decline to indict the officers involved in his death. “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.
“The FBI assesses it is very likely some BIEs are influenced by a mix of anti-authoritarian, Moorish sovereign citizen ideology, and BIE ideology,” said the report, which is called “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated To Target Law Enforcement Officers.” “The FBI has high confidence in these assessments, based on a history of violent incidents attributed to individuals who acted on behalf of their ideological beliefs, documented in FBI investigations and other law enforcement and open source reporting,” the report added.
Six examples of “individuals with BIE ideological motivations who have committed targeted, premeditated attacks against law enforcement officers since 2014” provide the basis for the FBI’s argument that there is a Black terrorist movement. One of those incidents was the July 7, 2016 ambush in Dallas, Texas, in which Micah Johnson shot 11 law enforcement officers, killing five, during a protest. Johnson was ultimately killed by police.
The term Black Identity Extremists is a new term coined by the FBI that it links to a so-called movement manufactured by the Bureau that reflects its fear of Black people, as Foreign Policy suggests. The FBI report creates the impression BIE is a decades-long phenomenon reaching back to the 1960s. “BIEs have historically justified and perpetrated violence against law enforcement, which they perceived as representative of the institutionalized oppression of African Americans, but had not targeted law enforcement with premeditated violence for the nearly two decades leading up to the lethal incidents observed beginning in 2014,” the report said. “BIE violence peaked in the 1960s and 1970s in response to changing socioeconomic attitudes and treatment of blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. BIE groups, such as the Black Liberation Army (BLA), which was created in the early 1970s to ‘take up arms for the liberation and self-determination of black people in the United States,’ engaged in murders, bank robberies, kidnappings, racketeering, possession of explosives, and weapons smuggling.”
Although the report does not mention Black Lives Matter, the protest movement is implicated and has been the subject of government surveillance. In New York City, plainclothes police officers spied on Black Lives matter protesters who participated in over 30 die-ins in Grand Central Station between November 2014 and February 2015, taking photographs of the activists as well. In October 2016, the racial justice group Color of Change filed a lawsuit against the FBI and Department of Homeland Security for failing to release documents concerning the surveillance of Black Lives Matter protesters and the use of counter-terrorism tactics against them. This comes as white domestic terrorist groups such as ”militia extremists, white supremacist extremists and sovereign citizen extremists” have been infiltrating law enforcement agencies across the country. The FBI is investigating 1,000 white domestic terrorism cases, and white right-wing groups commit the most terrorist acts in America and have killed the most police officers in past decades.
The Trump White House which supports a white grievance philosophy of losing its country and a “Blue Lives Matter” view demonstrating a strong preference for law enforcement, an open hostility towards Black protesters and kneeling football players, a criminalization of racial justice movements, and callous indifference regarding claims of police racial violence.
At last year’s Republican National Convention, former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke said the following: “What we witnessed in Ferguson and Baltimore and Baton Rouge was a collapse of the social order. So many of the actions of the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter transcends peaceful protest and violates the code of conduct we rely on — I call it anarchy.” John Dowd, a Trump lawyer, said Black Lives Matter “has been totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.” Meanwhile, Trump — who has said Black Lives Matter is divisive and “looking for trouble” — has called for law and order, and an end to the “war on police” and the narrative that police are a racist force in society. The police, in Trump’s view, are “the best of our society.” Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the FBI under Trump would come for Black activists, paint them as a criminal element, as terrorists and cop killers, and create an umbrella term for Black people who oppose police brutality.
As white supremacist violence is on the rise, the FBI raises the specter of Black extremism, as if to mirror President Trump’s remarks comparing neo-Nazis to anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. This latest FBI report on the alleged threat of Black extremists was released on August 3, 2017, just days before the white supremacist violence stemming from the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, which left one woman dead and many others injured.
— Harrison Thurman (@HarryO1975) October 7, 2017
— Harrison Thurman (@HarryO1975) October 7, 2017
— Black Propaganda (@ZuluPanther) October 8, 2017
— LEFT✍🏾 (@LeftSentThis) October 7, 2017
— Derenic Byrd (@DerenicByrd) October 7, 2017
This is not the first time the federal government has targeted Black protest movements. Since Marcus Garvey, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had sought to destroy Black leadership. Hoover’s COINTELPRO (for Counterintelligence Program) was an effort in the 1960s to disrupt political dissent in the United States, and monitor, infiltrate and destroy social and political protest movements. The section of COINTELPRO papers dealing with so-called “Black extremists” or “Black nationalist – hate groups” — which bears similarities to the BIE report — had as its purpose “to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters.” The FBI said the “pernicious background of such groups, their duplicity, and devious maneuvers must be exposed to public scrutiny,” and “efforts by the various groups to consolidate their forces or to recruit new or youthful adherents must be frustrated.”
Agents were to take action to discredit these groups among the “responsible Negro community,” “Negro radicals,” and “the white community, both the responsible community and liberals who have vestiges of sympathy for militant black nationalists.” The FBI encouraged the use of news media to disrupt Black nationalist groups and prevent them from spreading their philosophy. Today’s FBI has not changed much.