FBI Acts Like It's Still 1960 With Its Report On 'Black Identity Extremists'

from the agency-eats-its-own-speculative-dog-food dept

We already knew Jeff Sessions was a throwback. The new head of the DOJ rolled back civil rights investigations by the agency while calling for harsher penalties and longer jail terms for drug-related crimes, while re-opening the door for asset forfeiture abuse with his rollback of Obama-era policy changes.

But it’s more than just the new old-school DOJ. The FBI is just as regressive. Under its new DOJ leadership, the FBI (inadvertently) published some speculative Blue Lives Matter fanfic [PDF] — an “Intelligence Assessment” entitled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Police Officers.”

There’s no hedging in the title, despite what the word “likely” usually insinuates. According to the FBI, this means there’s an 80-95% chance it believes its own spin.

Here’s the opening sentence:

The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.

And here’s what the term “very likely” means when the FBI uses it:

Beyond that, the FBI says this:

The FBI has high confidence in these assessments…

And here’s how the FBI defines “high confidence.”

High confidence generally indicates the FBI’s judgments are based on high quality information from multiple sources. High confidence in a judgment does not imply the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong. While additional reporting and information sources may change analytical judgments, such changes are most likely to be refinements and not substantial in nature.

What’s in this open-and-shut report? What key elements lead the FBI to believe “BIEs” will be killing cops in the future? Well, it appears to be nothing more than a recounting of recent cop killings, coupled with anecdotal evidence, like the expression of anti-white sentiment in social media posts. Beyond that, there’s little connecting those who have killed cops with the ethereal FBI BIE ideal. There’s certainly no organization behind the killings — only a few common factors. And those factors — if the FBI is allowed to continue to treat “BIE” as a threat to police officers — will do little to discourage violence against police officers.

What it will do is allow law enforcement to engage in racial profiling and to overreact to social media rants by angry black men. And it will allow the FBI to turn into the same FBI that targeted Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists during the 1960s. In fact, it almost acknowledges as much in the report.

BIEs have historically justified and perpetrated violence against law enforcement, which they perceived as representative of the institutionalized oppression of African Americans, but had not targeted law enforcement with premeditated violence for the nearly two decades leading up to the lethal incidents observed beginning in 2014. BIE violence peaked in the 1960s and 1970s in response to changing socioeconomic attitudes and treatment of blacks during the Civil Rights Movement.

The composers of this report may have a lot of confidence in their assumptions, but no one else seems to.

Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security intelligence agent, when asked by Foreign Policy in October why the F.B.I. would create the term “B.I.E.,” said, “I have no idea” and “I’m at a loss.” Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program, said the “Black Identity Extremists” label simply represents an F.B.I. effort to define a movement where none exists. “Basically, it’s black people who scare them,” he said.

“Could you name an African-American organization that has committed violence against police officers?” Representative Karen Bass asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions at Tuesday’s hearing. “Can you name one today that has targeted police officers in a violent manner?” It’s no surprise that he could not. Mr. Sessions, who confessed that he had not read the report, said he would need to “confirm” and would reply in writing at a later time. The F.B.I. itself admits in the report, that, even by its own definition, “B.I.E. violence has been rare over the past 20 years.”

If the report is acted on, it will be the 1960s all over again.

Although it’s unclear what actions the F.B.I. will take as a result of the report, the conclusions pave the way for it to gather data on, monitor and deploy informants to keep tabs on individuals and groups it believes to be B.I.E.s. This could chill and criminalize a wide array of nonviolent activism in ways that have terrifying echoes its infamous Cointelpro program, which investigated and intimidated black civil rights groups and leaders, including Marcus Garvey and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Under this program, F.B.I. agents concocted a false internal narrative connecting Dr. King to foreign enemies, allowing agents to justify threatening to publicize his private life and encouraging him to commit suicide. This is a reminder that while the “Black Identity Extremist” designation is new, the strategy of using a vague definition to justify broad law enforcement action is not.

This is what the report looks like from the outside. It’s unclear if those inside the agency feel the same way. The leaked report confirms many people’s suspicions about law enforcement agencies: they view minorities as threats and will concoct narratives to support these views. There’s no evidence any sort of BIE organization exists, much less the existence of a concerted effort to inflict violence on police officers. But this report is a gift to every police officer and FBI agent who really wants to believe African Americans are out to get them. Given the administration’s unqualified support for law enforcement, coupled with the Commander in Chief’s off-the-cuff encouragement of violence, this report is basically an invitation to start policing like it’s 1960, rather than 2017.

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Comments on “FBI Acts Like It's Still 1960 With Its Report On 'Black Identity Extremists'”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Which bed to hide under as they come for all of us

I suspect that the FBI and or other minions of the Gobmint will have an assessment that anyone who does not step to the tune the Gobmint plays will be considered extremist, with a high level of confidence. The only way to escape this assessment will be to show your ‘loyalty’ via your political party donation receipts, a copy of your voting ballot, a membership AND participation in some organization ‘approved’ by the Gobmint, or your position as CEO or high level executive of some company that does not participate in democratic politics. Or, of course your employment by some law enforcement agency. Other government positions would be assessed by the position’s ability to leak…anything.

If your not white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant or some other limited form of Christian (don’t belong to some all ‘ethnic’ church) and born in the US of A, look out.

Duck, but don’t expect any cover to be effective.

This is a very sad assessment of our Government’s behavior, and it is sadly more accurate than it should be. It is also very illegal, though getting these actions to stop through the courts will take longer than the remaining term of the current administration.

Oh, and public opinion will be refuted via Twitter, no recourse there as we will all be blocked from responding…that is if we even use Twitter. And if we don’t, it does not matter as the response to responses will be some sharp words from The Donald via Twitter and that will be the end of the conversation.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: Which bed to hide under as they come for all of us

>If your not white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant or some other
>>limited form of Christian

While Sessions might be looking to bring back race as a flag, Big Brother has found other ways to mark us for extra observation:


Anonymous Coward says:

great story as usual mr geigier

heres the perfect oblitagory xkcd

ps i should explain the joke lastnight

first read this or uw ont get this at all

first line maybe a scotscman would ask for ale but guess they drink beer
second line wotneys red barrel may not be right i just put int it for authenic (i watch monty phython lol)
thrid line he might say more u kno for color like he blosw dust out of wallet and says u dinna ha’ nay drop a wee bit less dear? and authenic like that
fourth line i think is okay
punch line was beer from revolutionary wra but sensitive subject for british they lost so i left it out

i think still funny but sorry everone if u dint lol

Anonymous Coward says:

This isn't surprising

Sessions has spent a career promulgating and supporting racist policies: this is just the latest chapter in an already-lengthy book.

The unfortunate reality is that most police officers who are killed deliberately (that is: not killed as the result of a motor vehicle accident or similar) are killed by white men. I don’t happen to have full-year statistics for 2016 on hand at the moment, but one data point that I can recall from memory is that by May 2016, 17 police officers had been murdered and that 71% of the perpetrators were white men.

Incidentally: those who purport to care about officer well-being should note that no police department in the US has ever acknowledged an officer death from PTSD. There is no funding to treat PTSD. Yet suicides driven by it are commonplace. If the goal is to keep officers alive, healthy, and functional, then it would be better to chuck this OMG THE ANGRY NEGROS HAVE GUNS report in the trash and spend the money on counseling and treatment. Not only would this improve the officer’s lives, but it would improve ours: do you, as a citizen, really want to encounter a heavily-armed officer with the ability and willingness to use lethal force if that officer is dealing with PTSD?

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: This isn't surprising

The unfortunate reality is that most police officers who are killed deliberately (that is: not killed as the result of a motor vehicle accident or similar) are killed by white men.

This is really not surprising at all, seeing as whites are a majority of the population.

It’s as meaningless a number as the often cited "blacks are most likely to be murdered by another black person" number cited as evidence that blacks commit more crimes. What they fail to mention is that whites are also most likely to be murdered by other whites, Asians are most likely to be murdered by Asians, and Hispanics by Hispanics. Why? Because you’re most likely to be murdered by people who you know, and people to tend to be closest to those of the same race (think for example spouse murders spouse stories).

Anonymous Coward says:

racial equality downsides

It’s possible that the FBI will be treating the BIEs in much the same way that WIEs have been treated, using tactics developed over the last several decades in the goal of taking down and/or disrupting the various “white identity” and “militia” organizations operating throughout the country.

It would seem that authorities may have learned the lessons of the 1990s, when iron-fist tactics, such as used against the Branch Davidians in Waco and Randy Weaver in Ruby Ridge, turned out to be extremely counter-productive, leading to an immediate proliferation in the very kinds of groups that the FBI was trying to shut down.

This may explain in part why the black-identity groups in recent years have not been subjected to the same level of federal agency ferocity as the white-identity groups in the 1990s. (another possible explanation: not wanting to appear “racist”)

Of course, the operational landscape today has changed drastically since the 1990s, becoming far more decentralized, as lone-wolf mass murderers are typically incited over the internet by people they’ve had no direct personal contact with.


“The 25-year-old army veteran who killed five Dallas police officers interacted with several “black power” groups, some of which post vitriolic and racist rhetoric online and which sometimes condone violence.

On Facebook, [Micah Xavier Johnson] “liked” the New Black Panther Party, the Black Riders Liberation Party, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, and the African American Defense League, which following Thursday night’s shootings by calling for attacks on “everything in blue except the mail man.”

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Clearly the FBI is off in left field somewhere, reliving their salad days. The late 50s and early 60s were interesting times as far as they are concerned.

I will say that many race groups (black, white. and otherwise) are quite vocal and strident. They have been slow (if bothering at all) to denounce those who call for more violent acts. It has prompted individual nut jobs on all sides to do violent things.

The FBI is over stating it, but under stating it isn’t helping either.

Bruce C. says:

One thing you left out: What is the FBI’s definition of BIEs?

If they are referring to anyone who organizes a protest against police violence, or even worse, just participates in one, then there’s a heck of a problem. If they are referring to people who make specific threats against cops or other law enforcement, that’s more reasonable.

There’s a big gap in the middle there, and even with the paragraph regarding the history of BIE violence in the 60’s they don’t cite examples that could distinguish (say) the Black Panthers from the NAACP.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The definition of BIE is right there, at the bottom of page 2 of the attached document, the executive summary page:

The FBI defines black identity extremists as individuals who seek, wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, in response to perceived racism and injustice in American society and some do so in furtherance of establishing a separate black homeland or autonomous black social institutions, communities, or governing organizations within the United States. This desire for physical or psychological separation is typically based on either a religious or political belief system, which is sometimes form around or includes a belief in racial superiority or supremacy. The mere advocacy of political or social conditions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics may not constitute extremism, and may be constitutionally-protected.

Most of that is BS word salad, so focus on the bold text at the end. There’s a subtext which I will mark in bold, and insert my interpretation in brackets:

The mere advocacy of political or social conditions, political activism, use of strong rhetoric, or generalized philosophic embrace of violent tactics may not constitute extremism [but probably does] and may be constitutionally-protected [but probably isn’t].

See, the word "may", used as it is in this context, means "possible but unlikely". The FBI helpfully explained what "unlikely" means, on page 8, so we know that "may" means 20%. A 20% chance that advocacy does not constitute extremism, and a 20% chance that advocacy may be constitutionally protected. (Yes, yes, 45% is the upper end of the range but you notice it is still more likely than not that the individual is BIE.)

I may be stretching it a bit here, but I think it’s safe to translate this document, for effect, as, "If you encounter a black individual who insists on his rights, he is a BIE. Shoot to kill."

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:


One sniper.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing — across the country — roughly one mass shooting per day.

We are also seeing 1000+ black people a year killed by police under what I’ll generously call “dubious circumstances”.

So miss me with your false equivalency here. If BLM was actually out to incite people to kill police officers, or was actually engaged in trying to do so itself, the streets would be littered with dead cops.

Instead they’re littered with ordinary people, whether killed by cops or by mass shooters. The death toll due to both is a thousand times greater than that which could — however nebulously — be attributed to BLM.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If person X engages in an act of terror, say shooting a bunch of police officers, (and that term is heavily overused — there are MANY mass shootings that have nothing to do with terror) and X says “I did this because of group A or because I agree with group A or because group A inspired me”, does that automatically mean that group A is responsible?

If group A is openly advocating “shoot all police officers”, then probably yes. If group A is openly advocating “stop shooting us”, then no.

Are there people who SAY they’re part of BLM and also say that it would be a good idea to shoot police? Sure. But not many, and BLM itself has distanced itself from them, because they want no part of this.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people in white nationalist, white supremacist, neo-Nazi, alt-right, etc., groups openly calling for violence (against police and others) and those groups are NOT distancing themselves from them.

So while I recognize that every political movement has its loons, and sometimes those loons turn violent, I’m really not concerned at all about BLM. I’m EXTREMELY concerned about the nationalist/supremacist/Nazi types and really do want the FBI to surveil them, tap their phones, follow them, infiltrate them, and dismantle their organizations…just like they did with the KKK decades ago. Let’s focus on the huge threat before we worry about a tiny one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

One sniper.

Read their statement carefully. One is all it takes. Past tense, this "extremism" spurred an increase (say, from 0 to 1). Future tense, the perceptions will be used to justify violence (maybe violence that happened in the past). They’re not making the claim that violence is likely to increase or continue, or that this group of extremists is more numerous or violent than any other.

In other words, is a contentless statement with no use other than increasing discord.

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