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FBI gets blowback for tweet on reporting ‘suspicious’ behavior

The FBI is getting criticism for encouraging a policy often used in communist countries.  On Sunday the agency encouraged “family members and peers” to report “suspicious behaviors,” but was not specific as to what those would be.

“Family members and peers are often best positioned to witness signs of mobilization to violence. Help prevent homegrown violent extremism. Visit https://go.usa.gov/x6mjf to learn how to spot suspicious behaviors and report them to the #FBI,” the tweet read. It also included two photos of an individual highlighted in red accessing a computer.

Homegrown most often is used to refer to American-born, and not foreign nationals.

While the link directs to a government booklet (pdf) written in 2015 regarding ISIS and al-Qaeda, the agency and Justice Department have this year been focused on what Democrats are describing as “white extremism.”

“It is important to consider the totality of circumstances when observing potential indicators, as some factors may increase the risk of extremist violence in a given situation,” the booklet says, adding that some factors include an individual who has an “inability to cope with changes or perceived failures in relationships, school, or career.”

A “history of violence (e.g., domestic violence or violence toward animals) and unstable mental state; social isolation or inability to join with or relate to others;” and a “possession of, access to, or familiarity with weapons or explosives” should be flagged, the FBI wrote.

Social media users, civil liberties advocates and watchdog groups joined Republicans in questioning the intention of the tweet and effort to organize what some called “snitches.”

One former intelligence official, Richard Grenell, wrote that the FBI’s tweet “is outrageous” because the agency “has a growing credibility problem and this type of sinister snitching is clearly unhelpful.”

And several lawmakers criticized the tweet, saying the FBI is encouraging Americans’ family members to spy on one another.

“In both Cuba & China, they also ask children to spy on their parents,” wrote Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“These people protected Hillary, abused NSA surveillance databases against Americans, used known, unreliable DNC-funded propaganda to spy on Trump,” wrote Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Texas), “perpetuated the Russia hoax, & lied to the FISC repeatedly. And now they tell you that you should spy on your family.”

It’s not clear if the FBI posted the tweet in reference to the Biden administration’s campaign against “domestic violent extremists.”

Biden administration officials this year have said that “white” extremists in the nation’s police and military pose the greatest threat to the United States.

Last year, however, the FBI Congressional staffers that “it did not believe that this threat [white supremacists] was supported by evidence.”

–Wire services