While white supremacists were planning to rally in Charlottesville, Va., the FBI’s counterterrorism unit identified “black identity extremists” as a growing threat, it has been revealed.
The FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, which dubbed the group BIE, said “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement,” according to an Aug. 3 report obtained by Foreign Policy.
Citing Michael Brown’s 2014 death in Ferguson, Mo., as the catalyst, the FBI listed specific cases, saying it was “likely the BIE suspects acted in retaliation for perceived past police brutality incidents.”
Among them was Micah Johnson, a former Army reservist who shot dead five Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest against police violence last year.
There have been 98 law enforcement fatalities this year so far, compared to 102 during the same period last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Among the fatalities in 2017, 36 were firearms-related– down from 44 this time last year– while the vast majority were attributed to traffic accidents, fires, illnesses and other causes.
In comparison, 748 people have been shot and killed by police in 2017, according to a database maintained by the Washington Post.
The term “black identity extremists” appears to be a new term, and some contested the phrase for suggesting a cohesive, overarching ideology.
One former homeland security official told Foreign Policy, “They are grouping together Black Panthers, black nationalists, and Washitaw Nation.”
“Imagine lumping together white nationals, white supremacists, militias, neo-Nazis, and calling it ‘white identity extremists,” the official said. “The race card is being played here deliberately.”
Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism expert who served in the U.S. Navy, wrote on Twitter, “I train law enforcement intelligence in counterterrorism all over nation & “Black Identity Extremism” doesn’t exist. It’s a made up term.”
Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson pointed to the FBI’s long history of surveilling black activists, highlighting his own personal experience with the FBI visiting his home and told FP, “This is not surprising.”
The FBI, which issued a report in May warning white supremacist violence was growing, identified BIE as a threat just nine days before far-right groups descended on Charlottesville.
President Trump was heavily criticized for his response after three people died, saying there were “fine people” on both sides.