The FBI defends an internal intelligence report warning of black “extremists.” The bureau says,“Our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on individuals who commit violence and other criminal acts.”
An FBI report on the rise of black “extremists” is provoking fears of a return to federal practices during the civil rights movement, when the bureau spied on activist groups without evidence they had broken laws, the Associated Press reports. The FBI said it doesn’t target specific groups. It called the report is one of many its intelligence analysts produce to make law enforcement aware of emerging trends. The report says “black identity extremists” are increasingly targeting law enforcement after police killings of black men, especially since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. The report describes cases in which “extremists” had “acted in retaliation for perceived past police brutality incidents.” It said such violence was likely to continue. Black leaders and activists were outraged after Foreign Policy disclosed the report. The Congressional Black Caucus told FBI Director Christopher Wray that the report “conflates black political activists with dangerous domestic terrorist organizations” and would further erode the frayed relationship between police and minority communities.
The FBI issued a similar bulletin warning of retaliatory violence by “black separatist extremists” in March 2016. Black voters, who overwhelmingly opposed Donald Trump, are suspicious of his administration, which has been criticized as insensitive on racial issues. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was unable to answer questions about the report or its origins during a congressional hearing last week. The FBI said it cannot open an investigation based solely on a person’s race or exercise of free speech rights. “Our focus is not on membership in particular groups but on individuals who commit violence and other criminal acts,” the FBI said. “Furthermore, the FBI does not and will not police ideology. When an individual takes violent action based on belief or ideology and breaks the law, the FBI will enforce the rule of law.”