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Should the FBI rely on the SPLC, itself a “hate group”?

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Acting Director of Congressional Affairs, Jill C. Tyson, received a letter (07-23-18) from Repr. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) who reports: “In email correspondence, the FBI has admitted to working with the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is surprising and worrisome, as the SPLC is known to use its platform in order to denigrate and disparage certain groups by labeling them ‘hate groups.’”

“[I]n some cases, this designation is well deserved,” Gaetz contrasts: “Other groups, however, appear to be deemed ‘hateful’ by the SPLC due to their political and social beliefs, rather than by any actual threat they pose.”

“The SPLC’s conflagration of mainstream political advocacy groups with legitimate hate groups and domestic terror groups is absurd, frequently indiscriminate, and dangerous,” concludes Gaetz, “Accordingly, I ask:

* Do you actively work with the SPLC in determining groups to investigate?

* How much weight does the FBI give the SPLC’s designation of a group as a ‘hate group’ in its choice to investigate a group or association?

* Does the FBI receive briefings, training, or any other material support from the SPLC?

If so, please elaborate.

* What information, if any, does the FBI provide to the SPLC?”

Letter courtesy of Fox News.

What is the FBI’s mission and priorities?

The FBI’s mission: “To protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” Its priorities, in part: to “Protect civil rights” and “Combat significant violent crime.”

For fiscal year 2016, the FBI’s “total, direct-funded budget … [was] … approximately $8.7 billion … The FBI employs 35,000 people … around the globe. Along with our Headquarters in Washington, D.C., we have 56 field offices located in major cities throughout the U.S., more than 350 satellite offices called resident agencies in cities and towns across the nation, and more than 60 international offices called legal attachés in U.S. embassies worldwide.”

Defining a Hate Crime

As defined by the FBI: “A Hate Crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a ‘criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.’ Hate itself is not a crime – and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”

The FBI’s role

“To combat the problem of hate crimes,” the FBI performs roles of investigative activities and law enforcement support, but also:

Hate Crimes Working Groups (HCWGs): The majority of the FBI’s field offices participate in local Hate Crime Working Groups. These Working Groups combine community and law enforcement resources to develop strategies to address local hate crime problems.”

Public Outreach: The FBI has forged partnerships nationally and locally with many civil rights organizations to establish rapport, share information, address concerns, and cooperate in solving problems. These groups include such organizations as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Association of University Women, Anti-Defamation League, Asian American Justice Center, Hindu American Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Council of Jewish Women, National Disability Rights Network, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Organization for Women, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, The Sikh Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center, and many others.”

Training: The FBI conducts hundreds of operational seminars, workshops, and training sessions annually for local law enforcement, minority and religious organizations, and community groups to promote cooperation and reduce civil rights abuses. Each year, the FBI also provides hate crimes training for new agents, hundreds of current agents, and thousands of police officers worldwide.”

It is likely that the above-referenced, liberal organizations affirmatively contacted the FBI.

Yet, notice the conspicuous absence of conservative organizations. Did the FBI attempt to work with conservatives? For example, the Geller Report; Focus on the Family’s Research Council, which was attacked based on the SPLC’s Hate list; or dozens of other conservative persons and organizations, signatories to a joint statement.

The SPLC’s role

The FBI’s press releases include the Southern Poverty Law Center’s roles:

Under President George W. Bush’s administration (43), the FBI reported (04-27-07) a partnership with the SPLC: The Civil Rights Era Cold Case Initiative.

Under President Donald J. Trump’s administration (45), the FBI reported (08-29-17) the SPLC’s involvement in the Conference on Law Enforcement and Civil Rights.

In the above-referenced contexts, the SPLC hopefully limited its scope of analysis to cases involving civil rights.

Countering Violent Extremism

On the FBI’s website: “It’s the FBI’s primary responsibility – working with its many partners – to protect the nation from attacks by violent extremists.”

The FBI defines Violent Extremism: “Violent extremism is “encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social, or economic goals.

The FBI’s website lists a half dozen, specific categories of “Domestic, Extremist Ideologies.”

In today’s political discourse, conservative principles are construed as “hate speech” and equivalent to violence.

Is the SPLC a credible source?

As reported on the Geller Report: The liberal Southern Poverty Law Center attempts to define hate for its HateWatch, Hate Map, and How Tech Supports Hate. Also, in its Extremist Files, the SPLC profiles persons and groups in an attempt to delegitimize opposing views, particularly of conservatives who adhere to the traditional Judeo-Christian heritage, and critics of Islam.

As reported by PJMedia: “In the words of SPLC former spokesman Mark Potok (who spent 20 years as a senior fellow at the SPLC and only retired this year [2017], according to LinkedIn), the group does not exist to monitor hate groups. ‘Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups, I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them,’ Potok declared at an event in Michigan in 2007.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center in a settlement paid more than $3 million, and apologized, to the Quilliam Foundation and its founder, Maajid Nawaz, as reported by Fox News.

Also, the SPLC apologized to other journalists, as reported by Fox News.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, and media which rely on the SPLC, are exposed to liability, according to a joint statement by conservative persons and organizations, as reported by PJMedia here and here.

The “SPLC finally admits that Orlando Jihadi Omar Mateen wasn’t a right-wing terrorist,” as reported by the Geller Report.

Conclusion

Congress has a role of oversight of the Executive branch, which includes the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Congress needs to determine whether the FBI’s “sources and methods” are credible to achieve its mission to investigate legitimate cases linking “hate speech” and actual cases of violence. Repr. Gaetz did not indicate a deadline for a response from the FBI. Critics suggest that, like other Congressional demands for information, the DOJ-FBI appear to be “slow-walking” responses to avoid delivery before mid-term elections. If Democrats take control of the U.S. House and / or U.S. Senate, the fear is that this information will not be produced at all.

Gerald Lostutter is a Florida licensed attorney, college professor, and journalist. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult a licensed attorney for advice.

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