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Policy Summary
On July 23, 2019, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Christopher Wray offered testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee stating that the FBI had abandoned use of the “black identity extremism” label and was instead using an overarching umbrella label called “racially motivated violent extremism.” This label was to include all domestic terrorism groups without distinguishing any group by race.

On August 8, 2019, investigative reporter Ken Klippenstein of the The Young Turks website revealed leaked documents that showed that the FBI did not abandon the “black identity extremism” label. The leaked FBI documents were “counterterrorism strategy guides” for the Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 – 2020 and showed that even though the new “racially motivated extremism” and “racially motivated violent extremism” labels were used, the FBI continued to define these terms in the same way that they had previously defined “black identity extremism.” LEARN MORE 

Analysis
The leak of the counterterrorism strategy guides and revelation by investigative reporter Ken Klippenstein not only discredits Director Wray’s Senate committee testimony in July 2019 but also is disturbing in what it reveals in terms of domestic terrorism priorities for the Bureau.

First, Director Wray’s statement that the FBI had abandoned the term “black identity extremism” label in favor of an umbrella term that included all forms of racially motivated extremist groups ignores the fact that the Bureau continued to use the definition of “black identity extremism” it had previously developed. Even though the new label mentions “white supremacy extremism” as being included, the new label is still defined using the “black identity extremism” label. This implies that black identity extremism is more of a threat than any other category such as white supremacist groups. In fact, the documents categorized black identity extremism as a “priority” threat while white supremacist groups were only a “medium” threat. This indicates that the Trump Administration places a higher priority on criminalizing Black dissent over confronting white supremacist groups.

Secondly, the threat guidance guide for 2020 expanded on the continued use of the so-called discarded black identity extremism label by referring to “violent black extremist attacks.” But nowhere in the document did it list a specific instance of a violent black extremist attack. Instead the guide listed attacks that had been perpetrated by white supremacists – the Pittsburgh synagogue attack, the attack in New Zealand and the San Diego synagogue attack. This indicates that President Trump’s FBI is trying to tie black protest movements to horrific white supremacist attacks even though the threat guide put out by the FBI could list no incident of a violent black extremist attack.

Finally, the documents mention a mysterious project called IRON FIST. Many details of this program have not been revealed yet but the leaked documents indicate that they are an FBI program designed to spy, investigate and infiltrate black activist groups through the use of undercover agents. This is disturbing news because it does not distinguish between legitimate black activist behavior and violent incidents and seems to simply group all black activist behavior as wrong. The IRON FIST program also does not indicate if and how the program will comply with protected civil rights and liberties. This is a real concern as the documents also reveal that black activist groups are considered a higher threat priority than white supremacist groups and even the foreign group Al-Qaeda.

The testimony by FBI Director Wray in July should have helped clarify the issues surrounding the priorities the Bureau would tackle in the future regarding domestic terror groups but these leaked FBI documents show that the Bureau is confused about its priorities. It is also disturbing because it illustrates how the Trump Administration is trying to suppress legitimate black activist behavior when statistics and recent incidents indicate that the more serious threat is from white supremacist groups. This is a terrible position for President Trump and the FBI to take and is clearly misguided on the real domestic terror threat that threatens America today. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

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This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

Photo by Lianhao Qu

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