Two civil rights groups want an end to the surveillance of Black activists, including those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as for an end to the FBI’s silence on a mysterious “Race paper.”
Several heavily redacted federal documents — released through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Color of Change and the Center for Constitutional Rights — detail extensive surveillance efforts by the FBI. One report reveals that the agency sent informants to track an activist during the 2014 BLM protests in Ferguson after Michael Brown‘s death. Federal agents also surveilled the homes and cars of people connected to the protests, according to the November 2014 emails and intelligence reports obtained by the civil rights groups and later provided to The Intercept.
Reportedly, the documents describe federal efforts to keep watch of activists of color that went beyond online intelligence gathering, including social media monitoring of protesters’ activities.
Also released as a result of the lawsuit were several Department of Homeland Security emails, which mentioned the existence of a document described as the “Race paper,” the subject of another lawsuit filed by the civil groups Monday. The paper may refer to a “framework for evaluating the alleged radicalization of black activists,” lawyers in the case said.
“In the absence of an open review, we are left with the disturbing possibility that DHS is using an unsound, racialized framework to surveil protected speech and activism,” Omar Farah, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, told The Intercept. “If that’s right, that is something the public desperately needs to know about.”
The federal documents don’t directly mention Black Lives Matter, but they were released by the government as part of a request specifically about the movement, which has prompted federal surveillance and policing like other past movements for Black lives.
The FBI denied that it surveilled people on the “basis of exercising their First Amendment rights” to The Intercept.
Documents in the case were also released after an FBI report on “Black Identity Extremist” groups came out last year. The Congressional Black Caucus criticized the report for wrongfully grouping together black groups into “one movement threatening law enforcement and public safety.”
Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change, said he hopes the “war with Black activists” will end.