CBC meets with FBI director over 'Black Identity Extremist' report

Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor) | 12/4/2017, 10:50 a.m.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray failed to explain why the agency he leads changed the name of a domestic terrorism ...
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

CBC members raised major concerns about the report, one of which was how FBI even crafted the methodology to come up with the category of “Black Identity Extremists.”

“[Wray] essentially said that they used ‘open source’ documents, which means news reports,” said Bass. “Lord knows what that means.”

Bass said that, based on what she heard from Wray, the methodology seemed “flimsy.”

“When we raised our concerns that a new generation of Black activists were being targeted [including the Black Lives Matter movement] for surveillance and harassment, [Wray] said repeatedly that there was no investigation of the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Bass.

Bass and the other CBC members let Wray know that they were “completely aware” that some activists in their communities were experiencing surveillance and harassment, even though they didn’t meet the requirements that Wray described that would lead to an investigation.

The CBC members asked the FBI to retract the document and issue a new message to local law enforcement agencies.

“One of the problems with this document is that it has been widely distributed to law enforcement agencies around the country,” said Bass. “Many of us referenced either our own personal experiences or experiences we were aware of during the ‘COINTELPRO’ years when if you send a document like this out to local law enforcement, in many of our opinions, you can declare open season on Black activists, because then local law enforcement agencies can use the document as justification for doing whatever they want to do.”

COINTELPRO, or the “Counter Intelligence Program” of the FBI, was designed in part to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of the Black nationalists,” during the 1950s and 1970s.

Writing for the Huffington Post, G. Flint Taylor, a founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, said that hundreds of documents were uncovered during a court case in 1976 that revealed that the FBI also plotted to destroy a children’s breakfast program run by the Black Panther Party and “disrupt distribution of the BPP newspaper.”

The documents exposed in the 1976 court case also revealed, “massive wiretap overhears, including conversations between BPP members and their attorneys,” Taylor wrote.

“The FBI denies they are surveilling (sic) our groups like the Black Lives Matter movement, but we told them that we don’t believe it and our information tells us that” those groups are under surveillance, said Richmond.

Richmond said that the CBC members plan to present information to the FBI detailing surveillance and harassment of Black organizers.

The FBI director expressed interests in meeting with CBC members regularly because, “We are the eyes and ears on the ground,” and the CBC offers diversity that the agency lacks, said Richmond.

Bass asked the Black Press to put the call out to their readers to let lawmakers know if they have experienced harassment or surveillance, a request that Richmond echoed.

Chavis, the president and CEO of the NNPA, committed to working with Richmond and other CBC members to uncover stories of unwarranted government surveillance and harassment in the Black community.

“People may be more considerate in doing things, if they know that the Black Press will be on their case,” said Leavell, the chairman of the NNPA. “In addition, it certainly shows our strength, if we can have a great impact.”