October 18, 2017

NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Media Justice filed a Freedom of Information Act request today asking the FBI to turn over documents related to surveillance of Black people on the basis of a purported shared ideology or “extremism.”

The request was prompted by an FBI document leaked to Foreign Policy magazine. The document is an “Intelligence Assessment” dated August 3 and titled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.”

“The FBI’s report is a red flag that the bureau is once again profiling Black activists because of their beliefs and race,” said Nusrat J. Choudhury, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “The public deserves to know whether the labeling of so-called ‘Black Identity Extremists’ is the latest flawed example in the FBI’s history of using threats — real or perceived — as an excuse to surveil Black people.”

The Constitution prohibits the government from targeting people because of their racial identity or because they take part in First Amendment-protected activities, which include protesting racism and injustice.

“As a member of the Black Lives Matter Network, I am deeply concerned that Jeff Sessions’ FBI and the Trump administration are escalating the use of high-tech tools to profile, police, and punish democratically protected activities of Black protestors despite volumes of evidence of a surge in white nationalist violence,” said Malkia A. Cyril, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice.

Although most individuals who shoot and kill officers are white, and government reports show that white supremacists were responsible for nearly 75 percent of deadly extremist attacks between 2001 and 2016, the FBI appears to be allocating investigative resources to surveil Black people based on a purportedly shared ideology linked to “Black identity” on the basis of six separate incidents.

Today’s FOIA request is here:

Want to learn more? Read “Is the FBI Setting the Stage for Increased Surveillance of Black Activists?” co-authored by Malkia Cyril, Executive Director, Center for Media Justice, Thaddeus Talbot, and Hugh Handeyside, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project.


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