It’s been over five years since the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) “Black Identity Extremist” (BIE) report was leaked to Foreign Policy magazine in early October 2017. The August 3, 2017, report – which alleged that “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement” – drew a torrent of criticism from civil rights and civil liberties groups, as well as a backlash from Black House and Senate members. The fact that the FBI was employing overtly race-based criteria for investigating the political activities of Black Americans brought back ugly memories of the Bureau’s infamous Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) targeting the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Congress, NAACP, and a host of other prominent Black civil rights leaders and organizations from the mid-1950s through at least the late 1970s.
In the two years after the leak of the “BIE” report, FBI Director Chris Wray found himself constantly on the defensive over the report and the FBI’s use of the BIE term. In late July 2019, Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Bureau had abandoned the use of the BIE phrase, with one other FBI official claiming the term had not been used by the FBI since 2018.
FBI documents obtained by the Cato Institute via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit appear to tell a somewhat different story.