Even worse, newly leaked documents show that the Bureau is prioritizing these investigations over ones involving white supremacists, despite the national rise in violence targeting people of color, immigrants and members of religious minorities.
A disturbing pattern
While the FBI’s so-called “IRON FIST” program may be new, racist policing isn’t. In fact, the Bureau has long spied on and sought to disrupt the fight for racial justice. Under its infamous COINTELPRO program in the ’60s, the FBI targeted and surveilled Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, anti-war activists and a range of political dissidents.
The Bureau’s racist approach to surveillance never went away. A leaked intelligence report showed that after police killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2017, the FBI started identifying Black-led movements protesting police brutality as possible domestic terrorist threats. The report labeled activists participating in these movements as “Black Identity Extremists.”
Since this story broke, civil-rights groups have sounded the alarm against this surveillance program and its troubling impacts on a community that’s already overpoliced. In March, our friends at the ACLU and Media Justice filed a lawsuit seeking information on exactly how the FBI is targeting Black activists.
While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this summer, FBI Director Christopher Wray claimed that the agency no longer uses the dangerous and groundless BIE label. He also said that the Bureau focuses on violence and not ideology when determining what to investigate.
But documents that progressive commentators The Young Turks obtained show that the FBI’s Consolidated Strategy Guide, which describes the Bureau’s counterterrorism priorities, still includes information on “Black Identity Extremists”.
According to these documents, the Bureau created the IRON FIST program to “mitigate the threat posed by the BIE movement at a national level”. But the documents don’t cite any actual criminal behavior from members of racial-justice groups. Meanwhile, white-supremacist violence most recently claimed lives in Gilroy, California, and El Paso, Texas.
The FBI must be held accountable. Color Of Change, Free Press Action and MediaJustice are calling on congressional leaders to use their oversight powers to end “IRON FIST” and all FBI programs based on the made-up BIE label; to stop the Bureau from grouping white-supremacist incidents with Black protests against police violence; and to be transparent about the funding it uses to investigate domestic terrorist groups.
Enough is enough
Urge Reps. Elijah Cummings (Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee), Jerry Nadler (Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee) and Bennie G. Thompson (Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee) to force the FBI to meet our demands and #ProtectBlackDissent.