Lawmakers’ attacks took a brief pause during Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee grilling of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to allow their colleague Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee a few choice moments to showcase her personal bias, anti-police animosity and general ignorance of the federal components she purportedly oversees.
Jackson Lee’s tone was a slight departure from that of several of her committee colleagues which was contemptuous and working hard to paint the attorney general as a liar. By contrast, Jackson Lee was principally just contemptuous.
The Texas congresswoman dispensed with the hypocritical niceties of thanking Sessions for his service and agreeing to testify at the hearing. Instead, she waved a pocket-sized Constitution and asked whether the attorney general believed in that book and what it stood for.
Then, without the introductory drumroll, her staff began lifting a poster-sized blowup of an August 2017 FBI intelligence assessment cautioning recipients on the very real threat posed by Black Identity Extremists toward law enforcement.
The congresswoman could barely contain her disdain as she began her questioning on the assessment:
“It is interesting to me that you are opposing individuals who are opposing lethal force, similar to the attack on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in COINTELPRO, but there seems to be no report dealing with the tiki torch parade in Charlottesville chanting, ‘jews will not replace us.’ Why is there an attack on black activists versus any reports dealing with the alt-right and the white nationalists?”
Jackson Lee’s tone was thick with contempt but not so thick that her own anti-police bias and ignorance of internal DOJ processes weren’t fully exposed.
Had the congresswoman or her staff taken just a moment to read any part of the threat assessment, they may have actually recognized it as an FBI intelligence product, not one initiated by, processed by, or released by the DOJ. Here, even a very basic understanding of the intelligence cycle and the roles of the various intelligence agencies might serve a congressperson; however, actual understanding of a process or of a threat or of an organization was, evidently, not part of this congressperson’s priorities.
Perhaps Rep. Jackson Lee chose to read no more than the first three words of the assessment’s title, “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers” before she had her issue. The FBI had the audacity to write about blacks who were targeting law enforcement and were successful in repeated deadly attacks. How dare the FBI!
In her words, “you are opposing individuals who are opposing lethal force.” Really?
Perhaps Rep. Jackson Lee should have perused page four that recounted the deadly ambush attack on Dallas police perpetrated by Micah Johnson who “expressed a desire to kill white people, especially white officers” and who “searched and liked social media pages of B[lack] I[dentity] E[xtremists] and black separatist groups and had been ousted from a local BIE group for being too radical … .”
Possibly, on that same page, she might have seen the reference to the brutal October 2014 hatchet attack by Zale Thompson on four New York Police Department officers, and how Thompson was reportedly angered by recent deaths at the hands of police. Or that Thompson’s own writings advocated for armed struggle against “the oppressors” and “mass revolt” against U.S. systems.
Just maybe, Ms. Jackson Lee could have flipped to page five of the assessment to find intelligence on BIE ideologies and how those ideologies may have pushed on Gavin Long to ambush and shoot six law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge in 2016 or on another man who mowed down a group of police officers with his vehicle in Phoenix later in 2016.
Or maybe not.
Instead of reading the entire FBI assessment and understanding the very real threat posed by people and groups who adhere to hateful, racist ideologies, including Black Identity Extremists, this congresswoman chose an alternate path. Somehow, hate-driven killers and would-be killers of law enforcement officers must be among Rep. Jackson Lee’s constituency and must be protected, here, from an overreaching FBI that, in their misguided way, chose to warn about hate-driven killers and would-be killers of law enforcement officers.
Politics, hypocrisy and ignorance were on full display in the House oversight hearing on Tuesday. It was one sorry version of a civics lesson and one that arrogant, party-serving politicians like Ms. Jackson Lee will never apologize for.
Ron Hosko is president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and a former assistant director of the FBI.