Report: August FBI Memo Called ‘Black Identity Extremists’ New Terror Threat

AP

In August, the FBI’s counterterrorism division published a report warning law enforcement across the country of a new threat. It called the threat “Black Identity Extremism.”

In reality, there is no “Black Identity Extremist” movement, at least not one that goes by that name. It appears to be an invented label, Foreign Policy reported. The publication revealed the existence of the counterterrorism memo Friday and briefly posted the actual document on its website before removing it.

According to the FBI, “it is very likely some BIEs are influenced by a mix of anti-authoritarian, Moorish sovereign citizen ideology, and BIE ideology.”

The report found it “very likely” that the police killing of Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown — and the subsequent decision by a grand jury not to indict the officer responsible for his death — “spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.”

“[I]ncidents of alleged police abuse against African Americans since then have continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement,” the report said, referring to Michael Brown’s death.

Running 12 pages — including end notes and citations — the report included six examples of premeditated violence against police officers by black people judged to have been motivated by identity extremism.

“In all six targeted attacks since 2014,” the report said, “the FBI assesses it is very likely the BIE suspects acted in retaliation for perceived past police brutality.”

It noted: “Even though five of these attacks occurred following controversial police shooting of African Americans by white police officers, BIE targeting of officers was not, in every incident, based on their specific race.”

One individual profiled was Micah Johnson, who killed five police officers in a rampage in Dallas in July 2016, firing his first shots during a Black Lives Matter march. “[B]ased on Johnson’s journal writings and statements to police, he appeared to have been influenced by BIE ideology,” the report said.

The term “black identity extremists” doesn’t appear to have been used by counterterrorism officials before the FBI’s August report. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services appears to have been one of the first organizations to employ the new term, in a course description flagged by Foreign Policy for the upcoming training event “Introduction to Domestic Extremism and Hate Groups.”

Domestic extremist movements covered will include white supremacists/white nationalists, black identity extremists, anarchists, animal rights and eco-terrorists, anti-government and other radical separatists groups,” the course description read.

Counterterrorism and homeland security experts interviewed by Foreign Policy expressed skepticism at the new label.

Michael German, a former FBI agent turned Brennan Center fellow, said: “Basically, it’s black people who scare them.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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