Unlike the evidence-backed rise of white supremacist violence, “black supremacist violence” is not really a thing. So why are federal law enforcement officials spending so much of their time investigating it? You might remember from way back in 2017, when the news first broke that the FBI had produced intelligence documents on the new domestic terror threat of so-called “Black Identity Extremists.” These revelations rightfully caused widespread consternation, including among members of Congress. Since then, federal lawmakers have repeatedly pressed administration officials for more information about this label, which critics have described as a false predicate for targeting black activists. While the FBI has disavowed this label, we know that the underlying premise continues to inform federal counterterrorism activities (Nowadays they use the term “Black Racially Motivated Violent Extremism.”). This week, we learned fromThe Intercept that, between 2015 and 2018, the FBI “dedicated considerable time and resources to opening a series of “assessments” into the activities of individuals and groups it mostly labeled ‘black separatist extremists.’” An assessment is an authority that the FBI uses to open investigations without a factual predicate or any indication of criminal activity. In other words, it looks like the FBI is investigating black activists without evidence of criminality. Meanwhile, the very real threat of white supremacist violence has spread. Um, since we have big budget deficits and mounting debt, can we at least focus our security resources on threats we know are real?

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