FBI invents new term for criminalizing black activists

The FBI has coined a term for criminalizing black activists as domestic terrorists. A report dated August 3 and published Friday by Foreign Policy describes the widespread political organizing against “alleged police abuse,” sparked by the 2014 Michael Brown verdict in Ferguson, as an “ideologically motivated” movement of “violent criminal activity” that has “spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” The FBI labels the individuals in this movement as “black identity extremists.”

The report cites five attacks and one planned attack on law enforcement over the last three years — one of which resulted in the death of officers — in an attempt to depict the movement for black lives as the source of violent extremism. The FBI claims four of the incidents were perpetrated by self-identifying Moorish nationals, an African-American Islamic movement referred to as a “sovereign citizen extremist ideology” that has been surveilled by the bureau since the 1940s. The report asserts that “a few of the BIEs [read: two-thirds of the individuals in the report] who have targeted law enforcement … were influenced by more than one ideological perspective.”

The report does not name any of the “black identity extremist” groups that allegedly inspired the attacks and submits no evidence that Black Lives Matter organizers were involved in any way. It does, however, concoct bizarre euphemisms for the police violence that sparked the movement, including “controversial police shootings,” “perceptions of unjust treatment of African Americans,” and “perceived unchallenged illegitimate actions of law enforcement.” The report concludes by stating these perceptions and controversies “will continue to serve as drivers for violence against law enforcement.”

The only thing new here is the label. The FBI’s decades of surveilling and criminalizing black activists as domestic terrorists is exhaustively documented. Foreign Policy’s scoop simply exposes the language with which the bureau will justify its contemporary surveillance and punishment. I shudder to speculate what’s next.

[Foreign Policy | photo: AP]