The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Media Justice are suing the FBI for what they say is a targeted attempt to dismantle, discredit and possibly harm Black activists.

On Thursday, the ACLU announced it had joined forces with fellow nonprofit organization the Center for Media Justice (CMJ) to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI. If the suit is successful, the FBI would be required to disclose unreleased documents and information about the bureau's work tracking Black activists it has termed "Black identity extremists."

As Blavity has reported, a 2017 intelligence assessment created by the FBI's Counterterrorism Division claimed a group of “Black identity extremists” pose a national terroristic threat to American society. It is known the FBI conducted surveillance operations on certain Black Lives Matter activists, although it isn't clear whether these activists were considered Black identity extremists. 

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"Disseminated to more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies, the intelligence assessment claims, without evidence, that Black people involved in unrelated police killings shared an ideology that motivated their actions," the ACLU wrote in its statement about the suit. "It also focuses on Black people who, in the bureau’s own words, 'perceive racism and injustice in American society.'"

The ACLU asserts the FBI's assessment is unlawfully motivated by racism and "so deeply flawed" that many law enforcement departments refused to acknowledge the outlined "threat" as an existing issue.

The organization claims it attempted to recover the documents last year using a Freedom of Information Act request. However, the ACLU says that request was denied in October 2018 without proper justification.

Color of Change, the Center for Constitutional Rights and several members of Congress have attempted to recover the FBI's Black identity extremist documents, as well, to no avail. 

"There has been no sign that the FBI has retracted its flawed 'Black identity extremist' threat label despite calls to do so from the Congressional Black Caucus and some law enforcement," the ACLU's statement continues. "Meanwhile, violent white supremacists pose increasing threats as recognized by a 2017 joint intelligence bulletin and the tragic killings of Black people, Jews, Muslims and anti-racist protestors across the country."

The ACLU has promised to involve Congress in uncovering the truth about the FBI and its work looking into Black activists should the lawsuit fail and has compared the bureau's secrecy as being akin to past governmental efforts to put an end to civil rights movements like COINTELPRO.

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