Is the FBI’s “Black Identity Extremist” Label Still in Use?

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.

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Meet the ‘Black Robe Regiment’ of Extremist Pastors Spreading Christian Nationalism

Days before the midterm elections, Pastor David MacLellan was ready to preach far-right politics through Bible verses to his small congregation. MacLellan, a hulking man with a long, grizzled black beard, isn’t an ordinary pastor. He proudly identifies himself as a far-right, extremist pastor and a Christian nationalist, someone who believes American politics should reflect fundamentalist Christian values. 

And he’s part of a growing national religious political movement called the Black Robe Regiment, a modern-day group inspired by a myth of a group of militant pastors during the American Revolution who took up arms to lead their flock into battle against the British. The movement, imbued with support from far-right political activists like Michael Flynn, wants pastors to play a central role in not only preaching politics from the pulpit but also actively getting their congregations to rise up and claim election fraud by weaving myths about the American Revolution together with modern-day conspiracy theories and hard-line Christianity. These pastors believe they’re saving democracy, though what they’re really doing is encouraging supporters to undermine the democratic process.

And MacLellan plans to take an active role: He’s convinced that the 2020 election was stolen and that fraud has already been committed in the 2022 midterms. He wants his congregants to fight back. 

“This Tuesday, I’ll be taking some of our seniors to the polling station,” MacLellan announced at the beginning of his service, held in the living room of his home in Mesa, Arizona. That day, he wore a tweed jacket over a black shirt, and a bolo tie. His hands are gnarled with faded tattoos—a nod, he says, to his Scottish heritage and a holdover from a past life when he played in punk bands in New York and was a “heathen biker.”

His sermon mixed Bible verses with remarks about evolution, made claims of violence against anti-abortion groups, and described Jewish people as a “wealthy group of people who didn’t believe in heaven or hell, didn’t believe in angels, and they had political control over everything.”

“Interesting, huh?” he said, as an aside to the congregation crowded into his living room, who responded with knowing sounds.

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German Domestic Intelligence Is Running 100s Of Fake Right-Wing Extremist Social Media Accounts

Hundreds of the radical Nazis and right-wing extremists online are actually German domestic intelligence agents, and many of them may even responsible for “inciting hatred” and even violence. These agents, who once needed to drink and directly socialize with members of the extreme right, are now running right-wing extremist accounts online in Germany.

Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) argues that these accounts are needed to gather information, but critics say that they may also be promoting and actively encouraging radicalism, according to a report from German newspaper Süddeutshce Zeitung.

“This is the future of information gathering,” an unnamed head of a relevant state office told Süddeutsche Zeitung.

According to research by the newspaper, the authority has invested heavily in “virtual agents” since 2019, which it finances with taxpayers’ money. Both the federal office and the federal states employ spies, who besides right-wing extremists, are also tasked with keeping an eye on the left-wing extremists, Islamists, and the “conspiracy-ideological” scene.

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DHS to spend almost $700,000 of taxpayers’ cash on studying “extremism” in video gaming

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded researchers a $699,768 grant to investigate extremism in gaming.

As reported by VICE, the money will go to Logically, a company committed to the issue of “bad” online behavior, Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC), and Take This, a nonprofit that specializes in mental health in video gaming.

“Over the past decade, video games have increasingly become focal points of social activity and identity creation for adolescents and young adults. Relationships made and fostered within game ecosystems routinely cross over into the real world and are impactful parts of local communities,” the grant announcement on the DHS website said. “Correspondingly, extremists have used video games and targeted video game communities for activities ranging from propaganda creation to terrorist mobilization and training.”

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Oath Keepers: Leaked membership list includes police and politicians

Hundreds of US public officials, police officers and soldiers are or have been involved with the far-right Oath Keepers militia, according to a report from an anti-extremism organisation.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism compared the names from a leak of Oath Keepers membership rolls with public records and social media.

Some alleged members have denied any affiliation with the group.

Oath Keepers are accused of playing a key role in last year’s Capitol riots.

The report raises fresh concerns about the presence of extremist ideology in law enforcement and the military.

“The Oath Keepers are a virulently anti-government, violent extremist group,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Everything We Know About the 31 Patriot Front Members Arrested in a U-Haul

For years, many members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front have mostly managed to keep their identities under wraps. 

But now, the mask is off. Thirty-one members of the notoriously secretive, optics-obsessed group, including their leader, were arrested in Idaho over the weekend. And mugshots and names of all 31 arrestees were released by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. 

The group was traveling in the back of a U-Haul on Saturday, apparently headed to downtown Coeur d’Alene where an annual LGBTQ Pride event (and a far-right counter-event) was underway, when they were intercepted by local law enforcement. 

Coeur d’Alene police said that a “concerned citizen” called the cops when they noticed a group who resembled “a little like an army” clambering into the back of a U-Haul with shields. 

Video footage showed police rolling up the rear door to reveal men packed like sardines into the back of the truck. All the men were in Patriot Front uniform—khakis, navy jackets, sunglasses, caps, gloves, and white balaclavas covering their faces. 

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23 Different Types Of Violent Extremists And Counting — Will You Be Classified As One?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants Americans to believe since 2011, when the word “extremists” was just starting to take root in the public’s consciousness, there has been an explosion of violent extremism.

In 2011, DHS published the “Empowering Local Partners To Prevent Violent Extremism In The United States” report, while at the same time calls for ending America’s neverending war on terror started taking hold.

The DHS report made dubious claims like al-Qa‘ida was trying to recruit and radicalize Americans across the country, which coincidentally was also the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The report mentions extremists and violent extremists interchangeably during a time when Americans were beginning to question the war on terror.

In May 2011, National Public Radio wrote, “Why We Must End The War On Terror” and asked in September, “Is It Time To End The War On Terror?” Similar articles were being published across the country asking the same thing.

Fast forward eleven years to 2022, and the war on terror shows no signs of abating.

DHS, who could be mistaken for magicians if it were not so ironic, have convinced law enforcement that America now has at least twenty-three different types of extremists.

There does not appear to be a master list of American extremists published by DHS or the Department of Justice.

I used four sources to compile this list of twenty-two different types of violent extremists, but I fear that the government’s “official list” is far larger.

  1. Anti–government violent extremist
  2. Anti-war extremist
  3. Anti–authority violent extremist
  4. Anarchist violent extremist
  5. Domestic violent extremist
  6. Racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist
  7. Militia violent extremists
  8. Sovereign citizen violent extremist
  9. Individual violent extremist
  10. Involuntary celibate–violent extremist
  11. Abortion extremist
  12. Anti-abortion extremist
  13. Animal rights extremist
  14. Environmental extremist
  15. Right-wing extremist
  16. Left-wing extremist
  17. Christian Identity extremist
  18. Islamist extremist
  19. Muslim extremist
  20. Racist extremist
  21. Nativist extremist
  22. Schoolboard extremist

Sources: National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism,  A Schema of  Right-Wing Extremism in the United States,  Homegrown Violent Extremist Violent Indicators (2019) report and the National School Board.

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Fascist Fitness: MSNBC Compares Physically Fit Men to Nazis

MSNBC’s “fascist fitness” column was written by far-left academic Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a professor and researcher on extremism at American University. Miller-Idriss used the column to compare men who are into physical fitness and mixed martial arts to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis while expressing worry that those who are strong physically and possess a masculine self-image will reject the teachings of the left. She even claims that they may eventually be responsible for violence in the streets and that governments and other organizations need to plan on cracking down.

Miller-Idriss expressed great concern with at-home fitness routines popularized during COVID lockdowns, claiming that “the far-right has taken advantage of pandemic at-home fitness trends to expand its decade-plus radicalization of physical mixed martial arts (MMA) and combat sports spaces.”

Appearing unhappy that people remained able to communicate during COVID lockdowns, Miller-Idriss claimed that “fascist fitness” groups on Telegram took advantage of the downtime, luring young men in with promises of bulging biceps before ultimately inviting them to “closed chat groups where far-right content is shared.”

Even more alarming to Miller-Idriss than young men spending time at the gym, or with a set of dumbbells at home, is the idea of mixed martial arts training, which says she remembers reading about in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Miller-Idriss says that those interested in MMA are training for the “coming race war” and warned that if young men join MMA gyms, they may be able to share their political thoughts with other physically strong young men, leading to more of what she claims to be right-wing radicalization.

Even worse, says Miller-Idriss, is that the practice of MMA resembles hand-to-hand combat and when combined with other forms of physical fitness and thoughts that she doesn’t approve of, it could make for “a dangerous and powerful cocktail of radicalization.”

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How Much Real-World Extremism Does Online Hate Actually Cause?

While calls to censor hate speech and violent extremist content on social media platforms are common, there’s little evidence that online incitement leads to real-world radicalization. Ironically, such calls may actually galvanize extremists, who interpret hostile media coverage, commentary, and censorship policies as confirmation of their victimhood narratives and conspiratorial thinking.

A 2018 journal article entitled “Exposure to Extremist Online Content Could Lead to Violent Radicalization: A Systematic Review of Empirical Evidence” scanned the content of more than 5,000 previous studies, but found that only 11 included “tentative evidence that exposure to radical violent online material is associated with extremist online and offline attitudes, as well as the risk of committing political violence among white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and radical Islamist groups.” The authors acknowledged that they could not conduct a systematic meta-analysis “due to the heterogeneous and at times incomparable nature of the data.” To the extent generalizations were possible, the authors reported that “active seekers of violent radical material [appear] to be at higher risk of engaging in political violence as compared to passive seekers.” If that is the case, then preventing extremist content from being published on large-scale social-media platforms is unlikely to be highly effective, as it is primarily being consumed by those who already have committed to its message.

In 2013, the RAND corporation released a study that explored how Internet usage affected the radicalization process of 15 convicted violent extremists and terrorists. The researchers examined five hypotheses generated by a review of the existing literature:

  1. The Internet creates more opportunities to become radicalized;
  2. The Internet acts as an “echo chamber,” in which individuals find their ideas supported and echoed by like-minded individuals;
  3. The Internet accelerates a pre-existing process of radicalization;
  4. The Internet allows radicalization to occur without physical contact; and
  5. The Internet increases opportunities for self-radicalization.

The researchers found that the Internet generally played a small role in the radicalization process of the individuals studied, though they did find support for the idea that the Internet may act as an echo chamber and enhance opportunities to become radicalized. However, the evidence did “not necessarily support the suggestion that the internet accelerates radicalization, nor that the internet allows radicalization to occur without physical contact, nor that the internet increases opportunities for self-radicalization, as in all the cases reviewed … the subjects had contact with other individuals, whether virtually or physically.”

The limited empirical evidence that exists on the role that online speech plays in the radicalization-to-violence journey suggests that people are primarily radicalized through experienced disaffectionface-to-face encounters, and offline relationships. Extremist propaganda alone does not turn individuals to violence, as other variables are at play.

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Meme Police: DHS Scanning Employees’ Social Media for ‘Conspiracy Theories,’ ‘Extremism’

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a report recommending an increased focus on scanning the social media accounts of its employees in order to detect “extremism.”

Among the examples of “extremism” cited by DHS are: a belief that fraud occurred in the 2020 election, and objections to current coronavirus policies.

From the DHS report, obtained by Reclaim The Net:

A March 2021 unclassified threat assessment prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Department of Justice, and DHS, noted that domestic violent extremists “who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021.” The assessment pointed to newer “sociopolitical developments such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence” that “will almost certainly spur some [domestic violent extremists] [sic] to try to engage in violence this year.”

The report shows increased DHS concern with rooting out “extremists” within its own ranks, including through monitoring the social media accounts of employees.

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