AS NATIONWIDE PROTESTS against police killings of black men began rolling across the country in 2014, federal and local law enforcement who were closely monitoring protesters’ online activities repeatedly expressed a bizarre concern: that the mostly black activists demanding an end to police violence in the U.S. might join with Islamic fundamentalist groups promoting violence abroad.
That concern was unequivocally baseless, and no evidence ever emerged to substantiate it. Still, documents obtained by the government transparency group Property of the People, which were shared exclusively with The Intercept, reveal that officials with the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence exaggerated the significance of isolated social media activity, mostly by foreign accounts, advocating for a connection between the domestic movement against police brutality and foreign terrorism.
In intelligence reports and internal communications circulated around the time of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and the 2015 Baltimore protests following the death in custody of Freddie Gray, DHS officials fretted that the Islamic State might attempt “to use the situation in Ferguson as a recruitment tool” or call on “Baltimore rioters to join them.” And in July 2016, during nationwide protests against the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a cabinet position, circulated a memo warning that a lone, foreign pro-Al Qaeda Facebook user sought to seize on the protests to urge “‘Black’ Americans to take up arms” and “start armed war against the US government.”
These official warnings that U.S. activism against police violence might be exploited as a recruitment opportunity by violent foreign terrorist groups slightly preceded the FBI’s designation of a “Black Identity Extremist” domestic terrorism category, which essentially cast large numbers of the same black activists as potential homegrown violent extremists. As The Intercept has reported, the FBI’s “Black Identity Extremism” label, while first used in a 2017 threat assessment report, originated on the heels of the Ferguson protests, and the first individual the FBI designated as a “black identity extremist” was a young Ferguson protester the agency had entrapped. But just as there is no evidence that a “Black Identity Extremist” ideology actually exists, there is also no evidence that U.S. activists ever saw or in any way responded to sporadic social media calls to join foreign fundamentalist Islamic groups.
In December 2017, FBI agents forced Rakem Balogun and his fifteen-year-old son out of their Dallas home. They arrested Balogun on charges of illegal firearms possession and seized a book called Negroes with Guns. After being denied bail and spending five months in prison, Balogun was released with all charges dropped. A reemergence of civil rights–era surveillance strategies is endangering Black activists as tech companies profit.
An innocent man's life is in shambles after he was targeted and arrested by the FBI for a Facebook post speaking out against police brutality.
So the global capitalist ruling classes’ War on Dissent is now in full swing. With their new and improved official narrative, “Democracy versus the Putin-Nazis,” successfully implanted in the public consciousness, the corporatocracy have been focusing their efforts on delegitimizing any and all forms of deviation from their utterly absurd and increasingly paranoid version of reality.
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