FBI is scared of "black separatists"

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The FBI is chasing "black separatist" groups and designating them as a potential threat -- although there's no evidence that any of the so-called separatist groups are actually a danger to national security -- records obtained by the ACLU, the Asian Law Caucus and the Bay Guardian show.

The documents are the latest information we've received as a result of legal action demanding that the federal government reveal the extent of its domestic spying. Records released earlier this spring showed federal agents spying on mosques.

The docs released May 29 show that the FBI has identified two "separatist" groups -- the New Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam. The NBPP is hardly a powerhouse organization, to the extent that it even exists, and while the Southern Poverty Law Center points to its racist and antisemitic rantings, there is zero evidence that it's part of a serious terrorist plot. As ACLU senior policy counsel Michael German notes:

Internet searches of "Black Separatist terrorism," "Black Separatist bombing," and "Black Separatist shooting" fail to bring up any recent incidents that could be fairly described as terrorist violence. No "Black Separatist" terrorist incidents are included in the FBI's list of "Major Terrorism Cases: Past and Present," nor on the more comprehensive list of terrorist attacks going back to 1980, which are detailed in an FBI report entitled "Terrorism 2002-2005." While Black nationalist groups like the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army were certainly involved in political violence back in the 1970s, they no longer exist, and the last acts of violence attributed to either group were more than two decades ago.

Among the others of concern to the feds: The Black Hebrew Israelite Movement, whose members are a bit odd and maybe annoying -- but terrorists?

Here's the basic problem, according to the ACLU:

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."

Some of the latest documents show that the FBI is way, way out of touch with political reality. The records include a training memo on anarchists that waxes nostalgic about the anarchists of old, who were "highly dedicates to a specific cause/ideoogy" and "turn[ed] to criminal activity out of frustration." Oh, but the kids these days? They're just "criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities" and "generally unorganized and reactive."

Damn. They haven't met the same anarchists I've met.

Oh, but there's more. These crazy folks are "paranoid/security conscious" and "distrustful/resentful of authority figures."

I wonder how many special agents it took to figure that out.

For some random reason, the section on anarchists includes a photo of a German antinuclear demonstration and apparently notes (much is blacked out) that you can find directions for making bombs on the Internet.

There's also a training section on "The Chinese" which the ACLU notes is full of racial stereotypes. It includes things like "The Classic fighting over the bill for lunch and dinner" and "too many compliments may imply a romantic liason is desired. Be careful!" Among the sources the FBI cites for this info? "The Idiot's Guide to Modern China." Wow.

All I can say is: Your tax dollars, hard at work.

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