With some liberals sounding the alarm about a supposed revival of white supremacy, a leaked report suggests that the FBI is actually more concerned about left-wing extremists.
The FBI’s 2018-2019 Consolidated Strategy Guide, an annual summary of the agency’s security priorities, was published Thursday by The Young Turks, a leftist media network. According to the internal report, the FBI is worried about an “elevated” and possibly “growing threat” from “black identity extremists,” or “BIEs.”
A rise in racialized attacks on law enforcement officials first came to the FBI’s attention following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent acquittal of the officers involved, the report said.
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“The FBI judges BIE perceptions of police brutality against African Americans have likely motivated acts of pre-meditated, retaliatory lethal against law enforcement in 2016 and will continue to serve as justification for violent incidents,” the document said. “While BIEs target white law enforcement officers, all law enforcement officers are considered BIE targets for their participation in this perceived unjust system. BIEs often view African American police officers as race traitors.”
According to the report, other black identity extremists seek to establish “a separate black homeland” or at least autonomy for blacks within the United States.
The FBI in part blamed black anti-law enforcement violence on heavy media coverage of police brutality. The agency said it has responded by launching a counterintelligence program called “Iron First,” but it provided few details.
Why the FBI isn’t too worried about white supremacy
When it comes to the supposed scourge of white supremacy, by contrast, the FBI identified only a “medium threat.” The agency noted that white supremacist groups are in longterm decline and predicted that their membership will continue to fall throughout 202o.
“The FBI further judges ongoing attrition of national organized white supremacy extremist groups will continue over the next year, yielding a white supremacy extremist movement primarily characterized by locally organized groups, small cells, and lone offenders,” the report says.
Also flagged as security threats were “animal rights” and “environmental extremists,” along with Islamist terrorists and abortion extremists.
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Ken Klippenstein, the Young Turks writer who published the FBI report, suggested that it proves that the agency is targeting black Americans and not taking white supremacy seriously enough.
“While the documents depict concerns about violent black extremist attacks, they do not cite a single specific attack — unlike white supremacist attacks, of which several prominent examples are provided,” he said.
Soon after the FBI completed the 2018 report, it abandoned the term “black identity extremists,” which some Democrats had deemed racist. But Democrats again complained when the FBI dropped “white supremacy” from its official lexicon as well. Instead, the agency began grouping both types of radicals under the label “racially motivated violent extremism.”
In recent months, Democratic lawmakers have held a series of congressional hearings to grill FBI officials for allegedly minimizing the threat of white supremacy, which they see reaching crisis levels under President Donald Trump.
“We don’t investigate ideology”
The FBI declined to address the leaked report on the record. But a spokesperson pointed Pluralist toward officials’ testimonies in those hearings.
In an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Director Christopher Wray said that many of the “domestic terrorists” the FBI has arrested in 2019 were affiliated with white supremacy. But he explained that the agency does not police ideas, even hateful ones; it simply fights crime.
“We only investigate violence,” he said. “We don’t investigate extremism. We don’t investigate ideology. We don’t investigate rhetoric. It doesn’t matter how repugnant, how abhorrent or whatever it is.”
Still, Democrats and liberal activists have only grown more agitated about white supremacy since last weekend’s mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which was apparently motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, has led calls for a revival of domestic terrorism laws to crack down on right-wing violence.
At the same time, Democrats and journalists have often downplayed incidents of violence by left-wing extremists, including a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, just hours after the El Paso massacre.
Conservatives who have questioned the liberal narrative — or, as in the case of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, sought to invert it — have sometimes been viciously condemned as racists themselves.