Reps. Sewell & Carson Urge FBI Briefing on ‘Black Identity Extremist’ Designation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) and Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray expressing serious concerns about an FBI report from August 3, 2017, which created a new extremist designation known as “Black Identity Extremists.” Reps. Sewell and Carson are members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), which has oversight over national security and intelligence agencies, and requested that the FBI brief the Committee on the rationale for the designation and the intelligence assessment.
“When our law enforcement and intelligence communities rely on race to make judgements instead of facts, the safety of the American public is put at risk,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “The FBI’s broad new designation is alarming, especially given the long history of discrimination faced by peaceful African American movements in the United States. We cannot allow our intelligence agencies to substitute data-based analysis with speculation and profiling to infringe on the first amendment rights of Americans. It is my hope that the House Intelligence Committee can hear directly from the FBI on the new extremist designation and address concerns raised by the conclusions in the agency’s report.”
“The FBI’s broad characterization of “Black Identity Extremists” as domestic terrorists must be founded on more than speculative association,” said Rep. Andre Carson. “We are dangerously close to painting an entire racial justice movement with the brush of terrorism, which will put black Americans everywhere at serious risk of targeting and violence. It has happened before and it can happen again. It is critical that the House Intelligence Committee hear directly from the FBI as soon as possible so we can determine what evidence, if any, lies behind this assessment.”
The FBI has a troubling history of targeting black political activists and nonviolent civil rights leaders and mislabeling them as domestic terror threats. The NAACP has expressed grave concerns over the FBI’s new extremist designation. In a letter to the FBI, the Congressional Black Caucus has also expressed serious concerns that the FBI report conflates black Americans exercising free speech with violent extremists.
Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) is serving her fourth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional district. She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Sewell is a Chief Deputy Whip and serves on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee of the Democratic Caucus. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, and Vice Chair of Outreach for the New Democrat Coalition.