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BAJI Condemns President Biden’s 2022 Surveillance Summit

BAJI Condemns President Biden’s 2022 Surveillance Summit

Washington DC- September 15th, 2022– Today, President Biden will host the “United We Stand Summit” at the White House under the guise of countering hate-fueled violence. In actuality, this “Surveillance Summit” aims to perpetuate harmful and racist counterterrorist structures and concepts that directly harm Black communities. This summit and the practice of surveillance it represents runs contrary to the wishes of the community at large. The entities that uphold counter-terrorist surveillance need to be defunded and abolished, not given a platform to encourage and expand their violent & harmful practices.

On his campaign trail, President Biden promised to end the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program but has instead rebranded it to the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Surveillance Summit gives Biden a platform to glorify harmful policies such as CP3 and the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. This strategy explicitly legalizes data sharing between law enforcement agencies, increases data sharing and online surveillance between governments and tech companies, and prioritizes so-called domestic violent extremism and CVE programs. Furthermore, it’s no secret that when one form of surveillance is legitimized, it opens the door to do the same for all forms of surveillance including ankle monitors, data sharing, and other forms of tech-fueled surveillance & policing.

Black people have been targeted by government surveillance programs and labeled as “Black Identity Extremists” since the 1960s when these programs monitored Black civil rights leaders and destroyed parts of the civil rights movement. Government-funded programs like COINTELPRO were used to infiltrate, surveil, and criminalize Black and brown communities for their social and political activism. 

More recently, Black immigrant communities in cities across the country have greatly suffered as targets of CVE programs, specifically in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. In Minneapolis, East African and Muslim communities have been policed and criminalized resulting in youth incarceration for “thought” crimes. In Los Angeles, the Targeted Violence & Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) program (a $250,000 DHS-funded grant for LAPD to expand their Providing Alternatives to Hinder Extremism (PATHE) program) will deputize 500 community leaders (i.e. teachers, faith leaders, social workers, mental health workers) to surveil and criminalize youth despite outcry from community members. 

Harrowingly, Biden and his administration are invoking the white supremacist violence and terror experienced by Black and other marginalized communities in Charlottesville, VA, Buffalo, NY, and all across the U.S., in order to legitimize another white supremacist form of violence – surveillance. Meanwhile, these communities continue to suffer from overt white supremacist acts of violence and are forced to endure policies that uphold white supremacy. 

This summit will undoubtedly serve to preserve and expand rebrands of CVE programs at DHS, which are known to surveil, criminalize, and have an overall detrimental effect on marginalized people, many with intersecting identities: Black, Muslim, immigrant, organizers, queer, undocumented among others. 

BAJI condemns Biden’s Surveillance Summit which callously invokes violence that affects marginalized communities in the name of “unity”, ignores the knowledge and guidance of directly impacted communities, and instead props up those who have harmed these communities, allowing them to further spread harm. We call for the defunding and abolishment of these surveillance programs and the government and state entities that uphold them. At BAJI we fight at the intersection of racial justice and immigrant justice because we know that these identities are not mutually exclusive and because we know that this is a global fight against injustice.