Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including its chairman, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) posed tough questions to FBI Director Christopher Wray about surveillance of Black political activists in recent months.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, spoke to members of the NNPA about a recent Black surveillance document. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Richmond with his colleagues, including U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), spoke with Wray about the surveillance. Richmond said he was deeply disturbed by the recent FBI activity.

“We are very alarmed that the FBI has created a ‘Black Identity Extremists’ subgroup,” Richmond told news professionals who are members of the NNPA, on a conference call on Nov. 29. “We could not sit back and let that go.”

In August, law enforcement agencies around the country were sent a document entitled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers.” The document was sent a few days before the White supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va. The document was leaked to the general public in October and the CBC requested a meeting with Wray on the matter.

“Wray told us that the document was done before he got there,” Bass said. Wray assumed office on Aug. 2.

Bass said that Wray assured the CBC members who were present that there was no investigation or targeting of Black political activists by his agency. She said the director could only launch an investigation if three criteria were met: there had to be credible evidence, there had to be a credible threat and there had to be a furtherance of a social goal.

Bass said many members questioned the naming of the documents and he surprised them when he said the document at one time was referred to as “Black Separatists Extremists” before a change was made.

Bass said Wray got his information on the intended targets from “open-sourced documents.” “What that means is the FBI is getting their information from the news media,” she said. “Who knows what that is?”

Bass’s comments led Dorothy Leavell, the chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Crusader newspapers in Chicago and Gary, Ind., to quickly comment that the FBI probably didn’t get their information from any NNPA newspapers.

Bass said Wray made reference to police killings in Texas and Louisiana but said the director was corrected in that the Texas shooting was facilitated by a man who suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and the Louisiana shooting was from a non-Black.

Bass said CBC members inquired whether Black Lives Matter activists are being targeted and again he denied there was any surveillance of that group. Bass said that Wray didn’t mention any specific groups being targeted.

Bass said CBC members urged the director to issue a new message to law enforcement questioning the validity of the “Black Identity Extremists” document.

“We don’t want to use that document to make it open season on Black activists,” she said.

Bass said that Lee, in the meeting, referred to the “Black Identity” document as “COINTELPRO II.”

COINTELPRO was the infamous FBI program created by then director J. Edgar Hoover to discredit and destroy Black leadership that questioned the government. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his wife Coretta, and members of SNCC and the Black Panthers were often the targets of COINTELPRO.

Richmond said Wray didn’t know whether the “Black Identity” effort started in the Trump or Obama administration. However, Richmond said that the director committed to meeting with the CBC on a regular basis.

“He admitted that there isn’t much diversity in the FBI,” Richmond said. “I said if there was diversity, this effort would have been stopped.”