Tuesday, May 29, 2012

FBI Training Materials "Black Separatist Threat"?

The ACLU recently released FBI training materials that warn agents of a new terrorist threat..."Black Separatists". The dubious materials seem to suggest that starting in 2009 with the FBI's Atlanta Intelligence Notethe FBI have linked an increase in the Atlanta African-American population with domestic terrorist separatist groups. However, no actual reported violence has occurred. Even more interesting is what the definition of "Black Separatist" is and how the FBI is potentially equating "separatist" with "terrorist". This training appears to be part of the FBI's racial and ethnic mapping program. The concerns should be obvious and worth noting in cases where illegal surveillance and wiretapping might lead to arrest. Here's more...
Newly-released FBI domestic terrorism training presentations on "Black Separatist Extremists" juxtapose decades-old examples of violence by the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army with unorthodox and controversial beliefs expressed by a number of different modern groups to suggest, without evidence, that these latter-day groups pose a similar threat of violence. The FBI admits that the organizations it calls "Black Separatists" have no unifying theme or mission, stating "specific goals historically fluctuated between group to group," but suggests that "all share racial grievances against the U.S., most seek restitution, or governance base [sic] on religious identity or social principals [sic]." This broad description could of course cover many different groups from the fringe to the mainstream, exposing them all to heightened government surveillance. Related counterterrorism training presentations indicate the FBI has also invented a new class of domestic terrorists in 2009 called "American Islamic Extremists," which it describes as American Muslims who mix "Islamic theology with some levels of black separatism, anarchism, and racial rhetoric." These FBI training materials, obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the ACLU of Northern California, the Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, raise three primary concerns. First, for the FBI to produce training programs that portray groups as violent threats based on old and misleading evidence and false associations is improper, and can only misdirect investigative resources. And because the groups highlighted have little in common save their racial identities, these flawed trainings will encourage racial profiling, rather than fact-based investigations. Second, the presentations' focus on the unconventional ideologies of these modern groups tends to suggest a direct connection between belief and violence, which will again lead to inappropriate investigations based on First Amendment-protected activities rather than evidence of criminal conduct. Finally, even where these inappropriate investigations based on race and ideology fail to find evidence of violence, under its new rules the FBI may continue to pursue these groups under what it calls a "disruption strategy."

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