The FBI later apologized and clarified the account is automated and sends links to records that have been made public via Freedom of Information Act requests.
“Earlier today FOIA materials were posted to the FBI’s Vault and FOIA Twitter account via an automated process without further outlining the context of the documents,” the tweet said. “We regret that this release may have inadvertently caused distress among the communities we serve.”
But outcry over the tweet continued after the mea culpa. In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League condemned the FBI for not noting that the documents are “virulently anti-Semitic.”
“We have already received reports from many in the American Jewish community who are hurt by the irresponsible way this document was released,” the statement said. “We call on the FBI to correct this mistake now, and do better in the future.”
The tweet came amid mounting concerns about anti-Semitism. Hate crimes against Jews have been on the rise around the country, with anti-Semitic crimes increasing by 21 percent in New York City last year. On Wednesday, Trump embraced support from QAnon, an Internet conspiracy theory that has touted anti-Semitic tropes that echo those in the “The Protocols.”
The document, which was first published in 1903 in Russia, was written by a Czarist official to bolster claims that Jews were plotting to seize power, according to the ADL. The hoax spread and persisted, fueling conspiracy theories and violence toward Jews. In Russia in 1917, supporters of the exiled Czar used “The Protocols” to claim Jews orchestrated the Russian Revolution to seize power. Decades later, Hitler called on the document in his own anti-Semitic rants.
“The Protocols” never fully disappeared. It has resurfaced in anti-Semitic writings in Japan and throughout South America, the ADL says, and the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations have promoted the text.
The document tweeted by the FBI account contained “The Protocols” in its entirety, along with reports from the FBI classifying the book as false. Included is a 1964 report from the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which they call the text “fabricated” and “crude and vicious nonsense.” There are also several letters to former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover noting a troubling resurgence of the text.
The FBI noted that it must release such information to the public under FOIA laws.
“The FBI often receives information from members of the public, which is captured in our permanent files and released under FOIA law,” the Bureau tweeted Wednesday. “The FBI must process historical files that were collected in the past, some of which may be considered offensive.”
But critics bashed the agency for the lack of context in the tweet linking to the files.
“You are WILDLY IRRESPONSIBLE for tweeting this document without offering any context and framework to ensure that anyone looking at this document understands that it is one of the most dangerous embodiments of anti-Semitism ever produced,” tweeted Emily Pressman, a history teacher in Delaware.
Many of the responses to the FBI’s tweet included hate speech — a fact that echoed critics’ claims that making the document so easily available, with no context, would only fuel more anti-Semitism.
The tweet was still up on the @FBIRecordsVault feed as of early Thursday morning, with more than 16,000 retweets.
Racheline Maltese, an author, tweeted that by not deleting the tweet, the FBI’s apology hasn’t corrected the problem. “And yet, it’s still right there while you make vague apologize that don’t address the actual thing,” she wrote.
Maltese warned that the document, without context, “actively puts Jewish people in danger.”