MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - U.S. Rep Terri Sewell, D-AL, and a fellow Democratic congressman from Indiana say they have serious concerns about an FBI report released in August that lists a new extremist designation for "Black Identity Extremists". The FBI says these people are "likely motivated to target law enforcement officers".
Sewell and Rep. Andre Carson sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray outlining their concerns with the new designation and asked for the rationale for its creation, as well as the FBI's intelligence assessment.
Both Sewell and Carson sit on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which has oversight of national security and intelligence agencies, including the FBI.
"The FBI has a regrettable and troubling history of targeting black political activists and nonviolent civil rights leaders, and mislabeling them as domestic terror threats," the representatives wrote. "We believe that the assessment reaches its conclusions based on assumptions which at times are not justified or fully supported by historical data..."
The letter adds. "With so many repercussions for law enforcement and the African American community, it is critical that no new class of extremists should be created without presenting clear and quantifiable evidence to Congress."
The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, wrote about the "Return of the Violent Black Nationalist" in an Aug. 8 article in which it detailed recent shootings against law enforcement officers. The article was published just days after the FBI's report was released.
Despite both reports coming out around the same time, the SPLC and FBI are on different pages when it comes to an agreement about a new designation.
"Although both the FBI report and SPLC article warn of increased violence by black nationalists in response to incidents of perceived police brutality against African-Americans, the FBI exclusively is taking some heat..." the SPLC wrote.
"The SPLC objects to using the new term "black identity extremists" to describe violent black nationalists," SPLC wrote. "It can be easily misconstrued as focusing on black activists (who are law-abiding and peaceful). Further, it may be offensive to those who merely "identify" themselves as "black" (due to their African heritage and ethnic pride) – equating such people to extremists."
Sewell and Carson are seeking a response from Director Wray by Oct. 30.