Leaked FBI Memo Conjures Threat of Armed Conflict From Anarchist Groups Fighting for Immigrant Rights

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Soon after revelations became public that Customs and Border Protection agents are tracking journalists and activists working on border related issues in a government database, it has been revealed the FBI monitors groups protesting U.S. border and immigration policies and considers them “extremist organizations” despite providing little evidence to support that claim. 

Even though nearly all evidence cited in the document refers to nonviolent protests and public statements, an FBI “external intelligence note” from the Bureau’s Phoenix field office was sent to law enforcement and government agencies across the country and warns that immigration activists are “increasingly arming themselves and using lethal force to further their goals.”  The document was first obtained by Yahoo News.

The document’s use of unambiguous language to allege that “anarchist extremists” (AEs) are targeting immigration enforcement officers and detention facilities and pose a “risk of armed conflict” is overstated and factually incorrect. But it does fit in a long line of FBI and DHS reports and assessments raising alarms about anarchists. (Compare that to a 2016 assessment where the FBI was a bit more cautious when describing the Ku Klux Klan: “The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda.”)

The eight-page document, titled “Anarchist Extremists Very Likely Increasing Targeting of US Government Entities in Arizona, Increasing Risks of Armed Conflict,” makes multiple references to activist websites and social media accounts, including ones connected to Its Going Down and the Border Liberation Front, and says that the FBI is working with insider sources who have “direct access” to the groups. (Are these paid confidential informants, known for their propensity for playing agent provocateur to make their imagined threats turn real?)

The FBI document is heavy on alarming future activities, such as asserting that members of the Border Liberation Front in 2018 “planned for camps in Texas and Arizona to serve as staging platforms for on-site armed support of the migrant caravans” and “intended to purchase firearms from a Mexico-based cartel associate.”  It says this information was obtained by a “human source with direct access” but there is no evidence that either action took place. And, the document assesses that “Arizona-based AEs likely are increasingly arming themselves and using lethal force to futher their goals…” it rates this assessment as “low confidence.”

Interestingly, the document’s outlook section draws a direct connection between government policy and the activists’ actions, stating that if there are no significant changes to the country’s border and immigration policies, the activists’ “threat to Arizona” will intensify. “In Arizona, border issues likely will remain central to AEs’ opposition to the federal government and continue to influence target selection for operations,” the report says.  

For decades, DRAD has documented FBI spying on activists and social movements, and has been at the forefront to call for ending this abuse of power.   Americans have the right to assemble, organize and protest without fears that the government is spying on them and treating their First Amendment protected activities as criminal.