The FBI counterterrorism division’s identification of a new movement it calls “black identity extremists” is the latest addition to the broadening list of protesters and dissidents the agency puts in the “domestic terrorism” umbrella, McClatchy Newspapers reports. National security experts say the designation doesn’t describe a movement at all, let alone a terrorism threat; rather, it’s a label that allows the FBI to conduct surveillance on “basically anyone who’s black and politically active,” contends Michael German, who worked on domestic terrorism at the FBI before leaving in 2004. Critics are concerned that minorities and environmental protesters are being targeted. American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi said there’s concern that “abusive and unjustified investigations” by the FBI are on the rise. “We are worried that protesters are increasingly being labeled as terrorism threats,” Shamsi said.
Shamsi cited a broad definition of domestic terrorism in the Patriot Act as a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the U.S. that is “dangerous to human life” and appears to be intended to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” The FBI report that focused on black identity extremists, which was leaked to Foreign Policy in October, had interest groups wondering if the designation has been used to target members of Black Lives Matter. The report predicted it is “very likely” that black identity extremists would engage in “ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity” against police within the next year. There has been no spike in law enforcement deaths in recent years.