New information indicates the FBI removed two “hate watch” organizations from the resources page of its website because of internal concerns with the organizations.
In 2014, the FBI removed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) from the resources page of its civil rights division, telling The Daily Caller at the time that the removal was because the groups were not themselves government-run.
“Upon review, the Civil Rights program only provides links to resources within the federal government,” an FBI spokesman told The Daily Caller in 2014. “While we appreciate the tremendous support we receive from a variety of organizations, we have elected not to identify those groups on the civil rights page.”
According to emails dating back to March 2014 and obtained via a Freedom of Information Act Request by the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the FBI-Civil Rights Unit Section Chief stated that his removal decision was actually “[b]ased on a number of concerns,” a decision which he came to after he had “met with a variety of external and internal partners with the Civil Rights Unit.”
It’s unclear exactly what those reasons are, but they seem to be extend beyond the reasoning issued in public.
In response to the FOIA release, FBI spokeswoman Samantha Shero told The Daily Caller News Foundation that there were multiple reasons the two groups were removed from the resources list. First, Shero reiterated that the FBI wanted to use government-only resources because the agency didn’t want to give the impression that it endorsed or had vetted any research conducted by those non-governmental organizations. And second, the FBI didn’t want any groups not on the resources page to feel left out.
According to Shero, those two reasons constituted the “number of concerns” mentioned in the FBI email from 2014.
The timing of the decision is somewhat notable.
The FBI, based on dates in the email, made the decision almost immediately after meeting with congressional staffers regarding concerns expressed by the head of the Family Research Council, a pro-family, pro-heterosexual marriage organization. The FRC’s head complained in February 2014 that its presence on the SPLC’s “hate-watch” list inspired a terrorist attack against the organization. Floyd Corkins, the shooter, explicitly targeted the FRC in August 2012 and wanted to kill as many employees as possible precisely because the FRC had been listed as an “anti-gay” group on the SPLC’s website since 2010.
The FBI met with these congressional staffers March 12, 2014, and a document obtained by TheDCNF showed that the FBI promised to re-evaluated the SPLC’s presence on the “resource” tab on the agency’s site.
The FBI email requesting the SPLC and ADL’s removal from the resources page came March 18, 2014, just days after agents met with congressional staffers to communicate FRC concerns about the SPLC.
The ADL immediately took umbrage at the removal back in March 2014. ADL’s then-National Director Abraham Foxman expressed shock that the FBI removed the group unilaterally without any discussion, whatsoever.
“We are shocked, surprised and disappointed that this would be done without any consultation with groups such as ours who have been working closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on issues of hate crime. We look forward to having further conversations with them on this issue,” Foxman said at the time.
Both the SPLC and the ADL have a history of questionable claims relating to extremism. In a particularly recent example, the SPLC was forced to apologize after placing Ben Carson on an extremist watch list in early 2015, a move which generated serious public backlash.
Neither the ADL, nor the SPLC responded to a request for comment.
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