Read

Search form

The F.B.I.’s Black Phantom Menace

The F.B.I.’s Black Phantom Menace
Fri, 10/27/2017 - by Andrew Rosenthal
This article originally appeared on The New York Times

Demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., protested the killing by a police officer of Michael Brown in the summer of 2014. A new report by the F.B.I. draws a line from that shooting to a “black identity extremist” threat. Credit: Whitney Curtis for The New York Times

When most Americans think of domestic terrorism, they probably think about the Oklahoma City bomber, white supremacists who wallow in Nazi nostalgia, racists who spray gunfire in black churches and lone-wolf psychopaths like the one who murdered at least 59 people in Las Vegas on Oct. 1.

Not the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It’s thinking outside that narrow box.

In a report that was never supposed to be made public, but was on Oct. 6 by foreignpolicy.org, the F.B.I.’s Counterterrorism Division has concluded that there is a real threat from the “black identity extremist” movement.

It said “Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans” has been responsible for “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence” in the future.

Wait, what exactly is black identity extremism? The answer is: nothing.

It’s a fiction, as others have powerfully argued, including Andrew Cohen, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

But that doesn’t make the report any less sinister. As Cohen pointed out, the F.B.I. has a “history of surveillance and intimidation of black Americans that frequently goes beyond legitimate law enforcement into paranoia, racism, and political expediency.”

The F.B.I. document takes pains to say that the mere exercise of constitutional rights to protest and even the “rhetorical embrace” of violent tactics “may not” constitute extremism. But the danger — or even the aim — is that the entire racial justice movement gets painted with the brush of terrorism.

The next time there is an act of violence by an African-American against police officers, brace yourself for the right-wing media or the attorney general or the tweeter in chief to seize on the phrase “black identity extremists.”

It has already happened. Fox News obligingly used videotape of Black Lives Matter protests as the backdrop for its credulous account of the report after it was published.

The report inevitably draws comparisons to the notorious Cointelpro operations against black activists in the last century. But it would be unfair to say the F.B.I. has not made any progress since J. Edgar Hoover ordered the agency to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” what he called “black nationalist hate-type organizations.”

The language of the new document is more cagey. But the sentiments are chilling.

The report “conflates black political activists with dangerous domestic terrorist organizations that pose actual threats to law enforcement,” the Congressional Black Caucus said in a letter asking for a meeting with the F.B.I.

“It relies on a handful of obviously terrible incidents to paint black Americans who exercise free speech against witnessed police brutality as possible violent extremists,” the letter said. (It was referring to six cases since 2014 in which the F.B.I. said the black identity menace was behind attacks on police officers, including the reprehensible shooting of 11 police officers, five of whom died, in Dallas on July 7, 2016.)

The F.B.I. draws a line from the killing by a police officer of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 to all those other cases and warns of a “surge” in ideologically motivated violence against the police.

The report also draws a line from the activists of the ’60s and ’70s to the “extremists” of today. The black threat, it said, had simply been dormant.

There is no such connection. The F.B.I. failed even to make any real connection among the six incidents it cited.

The authors of the report act as though there is doubt about the institutional racism in our country and in some police forces. (I am not saying all white police officers are racists.)

The F.B.I. document talked about “perceived injustices against African-Americans” — perceived by anyone who is really paying attention.

The counterterrorism division said it “considered” the possibility that violence against the police is not driven by their phantom B.I.E.s but decided that was “very unlikely.”

Fifty years ago, Hoover’s F.B.I. spied on civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. It forged letters to create friction between rival black-power movements, which led to a shooting at the University of California in Los Angeles in 1969 that left two dead. Undercover police officers were responsible for framing 21 Black Panthers for a fake bombing conspiracy in New York in 1969.

The list goes on and on.

There is a slippery slope between this kind of intelligence assessment and acts of repression. The F.B.I. has slid gleefully down that slope before. It must not be allowed to do so again.

Originally published by The New York Times

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Three years ago, the Democratic Socialists of America had about 6,000 members across the country--fewer than the American Racing Pigeon Union. Since then, DSA membership has shot up more than 600 percent.

Iceland democracy, digital revolution, Icelandic Constitution, bank bailouts, Pirate Party

Icelanders to their credit have twice peacefully ousted governments, they are world leaders in transparency laws and digital freedom, and they decided not to bail out its failed banks.

169

This week, a big step forward in the fight against Monsanto and glyphosate... and water protectors Red Fawn Fallis and Michael Little Feather Giron

Roadmap to Public Banking, Public Banking Institute. © 2013 Christine Walker

To succeed, the public banking movement needs to be more than a good idea. We need supporters to number in the tens of thousands – for if there is not unyielding public demand, there will be no public bank.

U.K. Trump protests, Donald Trump, Theresa May, Brexit, E.U.-U.S. relations, Trump hatred, inflatable Trump baby

"We know he’s a vain and self-absorbed man and to know that 250,000 people want to descend on central London and demonstrate against him will give him pause for thought," said one demonstrator.

Three years ago, the Democratic Socialists of America had about 6,000 members across the country--fewer than the American Racing Pigeon Union. Since then, DSA membership has shot up more than 600 percent.

Iceland democracy, digital revolution, Icelandic Constitution, bank bailouts, Pirate Party

Icelanders to their credit have twice peacefully ousted governments, they are world leaders in transparency laws and digital freedom, and they decided not to bail out its failed banks.

rising U.S. poverty, rising rents, wealth inequality, income inequality, childhood poverty

By any rational definition of poverty, half of our country's households are dealing with it.

169

This week, a big step forward in the fight against Monsanto and glyphosate... and water protectors Red Fawn Fallis and Michael Little Feather Giron

Instead of disrespecting the achievements of other countries, the U.S. needs to learn from them.

Roadmap to Public Banking, Public Banking Institute. © 2013 Christine Walker

To succeed, the public banking movement needs to be more than a good idea. We need supporters to number in the tens of thousands – for if there is not unyielding public demand, there will be no public bank.

Posted 5 days 15 hours ago
Iceland democracy, digital revolution, Icelandic Constitution, bank bailouts, Pirate Party

Icelanders to their credit have twice peacefully ousted governments, they are world leaders in transparency laws and digital freedom, and they decided not to bail out its failed banks.

Posted 3 days 14 hours ago
U.K. Trump protests, Donald Trump, Theresa May, Brexit, E.U.-U.S. relations, Trump hatred, inflatable Trump baby

"We know he’s a vain and self-absorbed man and to know that 250,000 people want to descend on central London and demonstrate against him will give him pause for thought," said one demonstrator.

Posted 6 days 15 hours ago
169

This week, a big step forward in the fight against Monsanto and glyphosate... and water protectors Red Fawn Fallis and Michael Little Feather Giron

Posted 4 days 15 hours ago

Three years ago, the Democratic Socialists of America had about 6,000 members across the country--fewer than the American Racing Pigeon Union. Since then, DSA membership has shot up more than 600 percent.

Posted 2 days 6 hours ago
U.K. Trump protests, Donald Trump, Theresa May, Brexit, E.U.-U.S. relations, Trump hatred, inflatable Trump baby

"We know he’s a vain and self-absorbed man and to know that 250,000 people want to descend on central London and demonstrate against him will give him pause for thought," said one demonstrator.

rising U.S. poverty, rising rents, wealth inequality, income inequality, childhood poverty

By any rational definition of poverty, half of our country's households are dealing with it.

Instead of disrespecting the achievements of other countries, the U.S. needs to learn from them.

Public school teachers and their supporters protest against a pension reform bill at the Kentucky State Capitol April 2, 2018 in Frankfort, Kentucky. (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

"Most people (including policymakers) still have no idea that skimming fees off public employees' retirement savings has become one of the largest sources of profits for Wall Street moguls."

Roadmap to Public Banking, Public Banking Institute. © 2013 Christine Walker

To succeed, the public banking movement needs to be more than a good idea. We need supporters to number in the tens of thousands – for if there is not unyielding public demand, there will be no public bank.