Cori Bush Wants to See the FBI File On Her Black Lives Matter Activism

Bush asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to provide information she believes the bureau gathered on her protest activities.

Cori Bush Wants to See the FBI File On Her Black Lives Matter Activism
Image:Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

Congresswoman Cori Bush went toe to toe with FBI Director Christopher Wray during a Thursday judiciary committee hearing on oversight of the bureau.

According to The Intercept, Bush—who was an activist before securing her seat in Congress—asked the director to hand over data that the FBI had collected on her activities before he was scheduled to appear before the committee. This request was by no means outlandish: The FBI has collected data on protesters for years and as Wray admitted himself during the hearing, thousands of people have requested to “see their so-called file.”

“For so long we’ve been criminalized and intimidated,” Bush said. “And I’ve watched this. And I’m one of those people. I have a unique position now to be able to ask those hard and key questions that nobody else can ask the director the same way that I can—coming directly from the movement and still being very much a part of that same movement.”

Wray claimed he had only just been made aware of her request earlier in the day and did not come prepared with the information. When Bush asked when she could expect to get a response, Wray assured her he would put his staff on it immediately. But Bush wasn’t going to let him off the hook that easily.

“You stated earlier that the Bureau does not surveil first amendment protests, but isn’t true that some 120 surveillance aircraft were deployed to monitor the Justice for George Floyd protests around June 1?” Bush asked Wray, demanding a simple yes or no response. But Wray didn’t give it: Instead, he launched into a long-winded response about strictly adhering to various policies in place to determine when to use aerial surveillance and alluded to his belief that it was not used on the date in question.

At this point, Bush entered into the record a document that showed the flight path of an FBI “aerial surveillance asset” and asked if the same thing had be done for the “white supremacist insurrection” on the Capitol.

Wray didn’t recall the answer but Bush had already heard everything she needed to hear. “The evidence is clear. The Bureau has a white supremacy problem within its ranks,” she said, describing the FBI’s failure to act when a group primarily comprised of white Americans attacked the Capitol. When it came to protests in Ferguson, however—and, later, Black Lives Matter protests for George Floyd—the FBI had closely monitored protest activities, she said.

Bush closed out her speaking time by addressing activists directly, “We as activists and protesters must continue to pursue transparency from Bureau..file you’re FOIA requests. We are not a threat.” With that Bush yielded her time.

The hearing came to a close without Wray having to answer for the rampant mistreatment and over surveillance of protesters of color during his tenure, Bush more than made it clear the only reasonable answer would be to uproot the white supremacy firmly buried in the Bureaus practices

“You gotta push back against what seems like this system of intimidation and suppression,” she later told the Intercept. “The more we do this, they will have to do something.”

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