ACLU and Center for Media Justice Sue FBI for Records on Surveillance of Black Activists

Demonstrators protest as they celebrate the verdict in the murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke along Michigan Avenue on Oct. 5, 2018, in Chicago.
Demonstrators protest as they celebrate the verdict in the murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke along Michigan Avenue on Oct. 5, 2018, in Chicago.
Photo: Joshua Lott (Getty Images)

America has a history of secretly surveilling black organizations that gather in the name of equal rights. It happened during the 1950s and 1960s, through the notorious Counterintelligence Program (“COINTELPRO”). It happened with the Black Panthers and during the black uprising of negro leaders including Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X.


The way it works is like this: America claims that the Movement for Black Lives is terroristic; that enabling and encouraging black people to know their rights is threatening to America. Then America uses the FBI and Department of Justice to keep watch on those motivational negroes because America has never been kind to black rights.

In fact, black rights in America are un-American.

So, the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Media Justice are suing the FBI and the Department of Justice to get access to all records related to information obtained during surveillance of “Black people and Black-led organizations” during the 2017 FBI Intelligence Assessment that claimed—without evidence—that there was an influx of “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.”


“The FBI’s baseless claims about a fictitious group of ‘Black Identity Extremists’ throws open the door to racial profiling of Black people and Black-led organizations who are using their voices to demand racial justice,” Nusrat Choudhury, deputy director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said in a statement to The Root.

“Our government’s shameful practice of using surveillance as a weapon against racial justice activism was wrong in the past, and has no place in our present. The public needs to know whether the FBI is manufacturing a threat to improperly surveil, investigate, and prosecute Black people for constitutionally protected activity.”

According to the ACLU, the “Black Identity Extremist” information was released to some 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country. The FBI has reportedly not been cooperative in responding to the organizations’ requested documentation under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The information disclosed is heavily redacted and incomplete, suggesting that the FBI continues to improperly withhold responsive information,” the organizations claimed in court.


“Plaintiffs are entitled to the records they seek,” the suit’s complaint said. “These records will critically contribute to public understanding of the FBI’s basis for identifying a so-called ‘Black Identity Extremist’ threat.”

The ACLU and Center for Media Justice became concerned that black protesters and organizations for the Movement for Black Lives were being targeted by the highest law enforcement agencies after an FBI intelligence assessment was leaked to Foreign Policy magazine.


“The intelligence assessment provides no evidence of the existence of a group of so-called ‘Black Identity Extremists’ and appears to wrongly group together Black people who, in the FBI’s own words, ‘perceive racism and injustice in American society,’” the statement reads.

The statement notes that six random acts of violence against police by black people were lumped together to create the so-called mega group, “Black Identity Extremist.”


“As a Black activist and member of the Black Lives Matter Network, I am concerned that the FBI is deploying high-tech tools to profile, police, and punish Black people who stand up for racial justice,” said Malkia A. Cyril, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice.

“The surveillance of Black people who protest police violence smacks of COINTELPRO, which targeted civil rights leaders and ordinary Black people who had the courage to protest racial inequality and discrimination,” Cyril continues. “The public deserves to know whether the FBI is wasting valuable resources to target those who object to racism, police violence against Black people, and injustice in America.”

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Old white guy

But let’s be honest. We know that far more people are killed by members of any of these ‘black identity extremist’ groups, let alone all of them, then all the white supremacist groups put together.

For example, in 2017, there were, let’s count, 18 white nationalist-inspired murders in the US. And if we count up all the ones committed by black lives matter, for example, we get, hmmmm, 0. Wait, let’s add up all those black groups. Damn, wait. Something’s not adding up here. Wait, let’s add in all the mass shootings. No, wait, now the white total goes up even more. Damn.

Wait, I know. Chicago!