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Tag: civil rights

Black ATF Agent Settles Lawsuit Involving Supervisor with Nazi Tattoo

ATF Agent Bradford Devlin with a Nazi-themed tattoo, via U.S. District Court.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A black ATF supervisor will receive $450,000 to settle a lawsuit in which she claims the agency discriminated against her after she launched complaints about another supervisor with a Nazi-themed tattoo.

Cheryl Bishop, a senior supervisor agent in Seattle and former bomb-dog handler, alleged in the 2018 suit that the agency scuttled her appointment to a job at Washington D.C.’s headquarters after she blew the whistle on abusive behavior by Agent Bradford Devlin.

ATF settled the case before it was set to go to a seven-day trial this month.

In addition to the payout, Bishop will receive a private meeting with the agency’s director and get a ring commemorating her time as the first female member of ATF’s Special Response Team, the Seattle Times reports.

Devlin, who is now the senior supervisor in ATF’s Seattle Field Division, denied being abusive and says he got the Nazi tattoo while working undercover investigating an outlaw white-supremacist biker gang in Ohio.

Although the agency offered to pay for the removal of the tattoo, Devlin decided to keep it, calling it a “war trophy.”

“While I am grateful to put the lawsuit behind me, healing the emotional scars will take more time,” Bishop said in a prepared statement. “What happened to me should never happen to anyone, anywhere. Since harassment, discrimination, and retaliation are alive and well, I encourage anyone who encounters them to speak out — that’s the only way change happens.”

FBI Celebrates First Black Agent Hired 100 Years Ago

FBI Director Christopher Wray and John Glover. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Most people have never heard of James Wormley Jones.

The son of former slaves, Jones was 35 years old when he became the first black FBI agent 100 years ago.

There are no known pictures of him. He’s just a footnote in American history.

“There should be books written about James Wormley Jones,” said John Glover, who became the FBI’s highest-ranking black special agent before retiring in 1989.

Jones served in the Army’s regiment, Buffalo Soldiers, during World War I and was a police officer in Washington D.C.

In 1919, Jones was appointed to what was then the Bureau of Investigations. That same year, more than 100 black people were lynched during the Red Summer, Glover said at an event celebrating 100 years of African American special agents.

During the event, dubbed “Our History, Our Service,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said “diversity remains one of our top priorities here at the FBI.”

Today, 11.3% of the FBI’s employees are black.

“It’s true that we’ve made progress over the past century in the area of diversity, both as a nation and as an organization,” Wray said. “But we’ve got to constantly ask ourselves, ‘Where do we want to be another century from now?’”

Debates Rage on over Removing J. Edgar Hoover’s Name from New Headquarters

Current FBI headquarters, via FBI

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Plans to build a new FBI headquarters have been in limbo under President Trump, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers and others from debating whether to remove J. Edgar Hoover’s name from a new building.

The Washington Times talked to lawmakers and former FBI officials to get their take. Some lawmakers scoff at the legacy of Hoover, the bureau’s first and longest-serving director. They say he discriminated against gay workers and squashed the civil liberties of black protesters, citing his obsession with Martin Luther King Jr.

“J. Edgar Hoover was an abomination on our history,” said Rep. Karen Bass, California Democrat and chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “I think they should find a name more reputable than J. Edgar Hoover. I mean, all that came out about him after his death: the way he threatened people, what he did in the African American community, what he did to Martin Luther King, what he did to the LGBT community, I could go on and on.”

Former agents say he was a crime-busting and national security hero and transformed the FBI into an effective, modernized federal agency.

“As a former agent, I am disappointed in the FBI for not doing more to defend Mr. Hoover’s legacy,” said William D. Brannon, a 30-year FBI veteran and chairman of the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes Hoover’s legacy with scholarships to underprivileged college students.

“He really is the father of modern law enforcement,” said John F. McCaffrey, director of the J. Edgar Hoover Institute and a former agent. “We need to recognize that. He did things like establish an identification division, he brought science to law enforcement. He may have had his shortcomings, but his accomplishments were tremendous, and we want to see him recognized.”

One Congressional Black Caucus member, Rep. Val Butler Demings, D-Fla., said agents should be able to decide the name of the new headquarters.

“I think it’s really important to understand how the men and women of the bureau feel about the first FBI director,” she said. “I think it’s really important to listen to them.”

But first, the federal government has to decide on a plan for a new headquarters. The current one is decrepit, can’t accommodate a lot of new technology and constitutes security concerns.

Until Trump came along, federal officials had narrowed down the locations for a new headquarters to Maryland and Virginia. Congress had even security a third of the funding.

But six months into his administration, Trump officials abandoned the previous plans, and the project has been in limbo since.

Bias? Feds Worried Black Activists Would Join ISIS, Other Terrorists

File photo of President Trump protesters in Ypsilanti, Mi. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal authorities became worried in 2014 that black activists who were calling for an end to the police killings of African Americans would join international terrorist groups such as ISIS.

Unsurprisingly, authorities found no evidence to substantiate their baseless concerns, according to documents obtained by the government transparency group Property of the People and shared exclusively with The Intercept.

The records “reveal that officials with the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence exaggerated the significance of isolated social media activity, mostly by foreign accounts, advocating for a connection between the domestic movement against police brutality and foreign terrorism.”

As protests broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 and Baltimore in 2015, DHS officials worried that ISIS may try “to use the situation in Ferguson as a recruitment tool” or call on “Baltimore rioters to join them.”

A year later, as protests spread to other cities, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a cabinet position, issued a memo about a single, foreign pro-Al Qaeda Facebook user who urged “‘Black’ Americans to take up arms” and “start armed war against the U.S. government.”

This wasn’t the first time federal law enforcement warned of black activists.

In a 2017 threat assessment report, the FBI came up with the label, “Black Identity Extremism,” to warn about potential homegrown violence stemming from anger over police shootings.

No evidence was ever found to tie black activists with terrorism.

“They try to make it more scary, it’s like, ‘If we link Islam to it, and we link Muslims to it, then people will see this as a real threat, because nothing is scarier than Muslims,’” Umar Lee, a well-known St. Louis activist, who is Muslim, told The Intercept. “Nothing is scarier than, ‘Hey, if the Muslims get together with these scary black dudes, then we got a real problem, so we need every resource available to stop this.’”

FBI Spied on Civil Rights Group Over Suspected ‘Conspiracy’ to Deny KKK of ‘Rights’

KKK, via Southern Poverty Law Center.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The FBI investigated a popular civil rights group in 2016 because agents believed the left-wing group may have been involved in a “conspiracy” to deny the “rights” of the KKK and other white supremacists, according to records obtained by the Guardian.

The records indicate that the FBI launched a “domestic terrorism” investigation into By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) after one of its members were stabbed at a white supremacist rally in June 2016.

The FBI cast the KKK as victims and labeled the activists as “extremists,” downplaying the Klan as a group “that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda.”

The bureau considered BAMN a potential terrorism threat because of the group’s advocacy against “police brutality” and “rape and sexual assault.”

The FBI’s 46-page report ignored “100 years of Klan terrorism that has killed thousands of Americans and continues using violence right up to the present day,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent and far-right expert who examined the records for the Guardian. “This description of the KKK should be an embarrassment to FBI leadership.”

The report did not conclude that BAMN violated laws.

“It’s clear the FBI dropped the investigation having no evidence of wrongdoing. It never should have been opened in the first place,” Shanta Driver, BAMN’s national chair, said.

The FBI did not comment for the story.

New Legislation Will Help Prosecutors Bring Justice to Civil Rights-Era Killings

Martin Luther King Jr.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Prosecutors have struggled for decades to bring justice to victims of civil rights-era killings because the decades-old FBI records are often redacted.

That could soon change after President Trump signed a bill Tuesday to allow the FBI to release unredacted documents related to the unsolved cases.

The legislation was set in motion by dozens of students at Highstown High School in New Jersey.

One of the students, who is now at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Clarion Ledger the bill is a reminder “that even if justice is long delayed, it does not have to mean that justice is denied.”

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the records are important for the victims’ families and the communities.

“An incredible level of healing and reconciliation can accompany knowledge,” he said. “Given the age of these cases and the fact it is highly unlikely that these cases could be resurrected, this is the way to get that healing and reconciliation.”

The students used the JFK Records Collection Act of 1992 as a model for what they called the “Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2017,” which would create an independent review board to coordinate the release of classified records on civil rights killings.

Many of the killings are detailed in FBI files that remain largely redacted. They include the KKK’s 1964 killing of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner and the 1959 lynching of Mack Charles Parker.

FBI records on the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. also contain redactions.

Activists also were calling on redacted files relating to the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X.

Civil rights lawyers said the largely secret files make it difficult to solve cold cases.

Justice Department Reopens Murder Case of Emmett Till

Emmett Till

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department has reopened the 1955 murder case of Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old who was brutally beaten, shot and left for dead in a river in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

Not long after the all-white jury acquitted two white men of Till’s murder, they confessed they were guilty, protected against double jeopardy. They are now dead.

But a central witness in the case, Carolyn Bryant Donham, changed her account of what happened.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the case, and it’s unclear what federal authorities plan to do. Cold cases from the Civil Rights Era rarely lead to convictions.

The Washington Post reports:

Federal prosecutors previously concluded that the statute of limitations for federal charges had run out, and a Mississippi grand jury in 2007 refused to bring charges, including a manslaughter charge that local authorities had sought against Ms. Donham.

Relatives of Emmett welcomed the new probe. But some — including the author of the book that triggered the new inquiry — have questioned what the government is up to. A “completely hypocritical political show” to distract from the ongoing controversies of the Trump administration, said Mr. Tyson. Such skepticism is understandable given the clear disdain Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have shown for issues of civil rights and equal justice. Sad that they never seem to see the need to address the inequalities that exist today in the justice system and that victimize black people.

But Emmett’s mother, who died in 2003 without ever getting justice for her son, was right to insist that we not look away from what was done in the name of white supremacy. Let’s hope this new look at the case brings some measure of justice for a crime that must never be forgotten.

That Time the FBI Urged Martin Luther King Jr. to Kill Himself

Martin Luther King Jr.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. 

When Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for nonviolent resistance in October 1964, the FBI was furious. 

Under the leadership of the bureau’s notorious director, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had spent nearly a decade keeping the civil rights leader under surveillance, convinced he was a Communist – or at least a national security threat. Agents recorded thousands of memos on the minister’s movements and interactions and even bugged his home, office and hotel rooms.

But they found nothing illegal or even dangerous.

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

Infamously obstinate and relentless, Hoover was determined to discredit the 35-year-old leader, especially after he won the Nobel Peace Prize and earned international acclaim.

While King prepared for his trip to Oslo to receive the award, Hoover denounced the Georgia-born minister as “the most notorious liar in the country” during a press conference in Washington D.C. in November 1964.

A few days later, the smear campaign escalated, marking one of the darkest chapter’s in the FBI’s history. One of Hoover’s deputies, William Sullivan, typed an anonymous, harshly worded letter to King that later would come to be known as the “suicide letter.”

Since Sullivan had nothing illegal on King, the letter focused on his extramarital sexual liaisons, which were captured on FBI surveillance. 

The anonymous author calls King a “filthy, abnormal animal”and an “evil, abnormal beast” and pledges to expose the extramarital affairs “with your filthy, dirty, evil companions.”

The letter suggests there are recordings of “all your dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk.”

“You are done,” the letter declares. “Your ‘honorary degrees,’ your Nobel Prize (what a grim farce) and other awards will not save you. King, I repeat you are done.”

The letter is crafted to give the impression it was written by someone within the civil rights movement, making a reference to “us Negroes.”

King quietly told friends that someone wanted him to kill himself.

The letter proceeds in what is an apparent reference to suicide, “King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. … There is but only one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

King wasn’t fooled by the misdirected writing. He was certain the FBI had written it, the New York Times reported. 

King’s suspicious were confirmed by the Senate’s Church Committee in 1975.

“Rather than trying to discredit the alleged Communists it believed were attempting to influence Dr. King, the Bureau adopted a curious tactic of trying to discredit the supposed target of Communist Party interest — Dr. King himself,” the committee concluded in a report.

King was killed by a sniper in 1968.