ACLU and MediaJustice File New FOIA Request Demanding FBI Documents on Surveillance of Black Activists

FBI Misled Congress: Black Activists Still Under Investigation by New and Old Extremist Designations

June 17, 2020 1:30 pm

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NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and MediaJustice filed a new FOIA request to expose how the government is continuing to surreptitiously track Black leaders. In addition to the FOIA request, more than 100 civil rights organizations sent a letter today urging Congress to cease federal funding for surveillance technologies, known to be disproportionately deployed against communities of color.

A few weeks ago, the FBI reconfirmed that Black activists were being investigated under a new umbrella term, “racially-motivated violent extremism.” The FOIA request filed today seeks documents and information on this previously unknown designation. Throughout the course of the groups’ litigation, filed in March 2019, the FBI has repeatedly represented that there are approximately one million pages of investigative records potentially responsive to our requests — consisting of both open and closed investigations.

ReNika Moore, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, said: “The government has a long, terrible history of using secret surveillance programs to target and surveil Black civil rights activists – a practice that still exists today. Through our FOIA litigation, we’re aiming to learn more about the baseless investigations of Black people by our federal government that we know continues to this day.”

In today’s letter to Congress, more than 100 civil rights and civil liberties organizations are demanding that members respond with bold plans to protect Black people in America: “Congress’s failure to effectively address systemic police abuse and update privacy laws to protect people from unjust surveillance has allowed us to get to this dangerous point. From the militarization of state and local police agencies to the failure to include significant reforms to massive surveillance programs like those contained in the deeply problematic PATRIOT Act, Congress has failed to take sufficient action to prevent increased surveillance of communities of color and those fighting for equal rights.”

The House Homeland Security Committee has repeatedly asked the FBI for more information on how Black activists have been classified as domestic terrorists but the agency has refused to provide details on how they are criminalizing Black dissent. The groups are also pressuring for a response to their previous FOIA request revealing open investigations still ongoing under the “Black Identity Extremist” designation started in the 1960s to monitor Black leaders, many of whom were imprisoned and assassinated.

Newly filed FOIA request on FBI’s “racially-motivated” designation here

New update on FBI’s response to “Black Identity” FOIA request is here.

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