Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Missouri Militia Report update: MO House bars law enforcement from "political profiling"

From the Springfield (MO) News Leader:

JEFFERSON CITY — In response to a controversial report profiling political beliefs of militia members, the Missouri House of Representatives has barred the Department of Public Safety from spending any "state or federal funds for political profiling."

On a voice vote, the Republican-controlled House adopted an amendment to the budget bill for Department of Public Safety, forbidding that state agency from funding reports like the Missouri Information Analysis Center's recent Feb. 20 "modern militia movement" report.

The Department of Public Safety has apologized for the militia report, which links fundamentalist Christians, strict followers of the U.S. Constitution and people who oppose taxes, abortion and illegal immigration as possible members of militias.

Earlier today, the Missouri State Highway Patrol retracted the militia report and admitted errors in the way the report was distributed without getting reviewed by top state officials, including DPS Director John Britt.

Rep. Jim Guest, R-King City, introduced the amendment.

Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard, spoke on the House floor in favor the amendment. The northern Greene County representative said he's fielded numerous calls from constituents in the past week who are outraged by the report and its generalizations.

Schoeller compared the report's profiling of conservative political thought to the tyranny the nation's Founding Fathers fought against.

The authors of the MIAC militia report remain unknown.

“It is our job to hold them accountable,” Schoeller said. "We must be strong, we must take a stand today and we must stand up for the people because that was what we were sent here to do."

The amendment passed on a partisan voice vote, with Republicans voting "yes" and Democrats in the chamber voting "no."


This raises an interesting political dynamic: GOPers against political profiling and Democrats in favor of it--at least in Missouri.

This comes on the heels of Missouri's highest elected Republican official--the LtGov--calling for the suspension of the head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety pending an investigation:

JEFFERSON CITY — Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has called on Gov. Jay Nixon to place Department of Public Safety Director John Britt on administrative leave pending an investigation of a controversial report profiling members of militias issued by Britt's department.

Kinder held a press conference outside his second floor office in the state Capitol to denounce the Missouri Information Analysis Center's Feb. 20 "modern militia movement" report, which labels members of third party political movements and people who oppose illegal immigration and abortion as possible members of violent militias.

Kinder decried portions of the report meant to help police officers profile members of potentially violent militias. He said the report unfairly maligns "Christians, anti-abortionists and advocates for protecting our borders and supporters of certain political candidates as potential threats to the public safety."

He noted the report makes no mention of environmental terrorism or Islamic terrorism.

"There is no mention of that kind of extremism and the threat that it posses to our liberties in this report because apparently it's more important to focus on pro-lifers," Kinder said.

It's unclear who Kinder wants to investigate Britt and MIAC. The governor's office had no immediate comment on Kinder's demand, but a statement will be coming out later today, spokesman Scott Holste said.


The MIAC report stirred up an unexpected firestorm of criticism, when it was leaked a couple weeks ago, with the Libertarian Party of Missouri seizing a good cause and running with it. They had already managed to force a formal apology out of the Department of Public Safety, despite the fact that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has remained most unrepentent about the report.

Part of this, assuredly, is good old point-scoring, bare-knuckles, partisan politics.

Yet, as several academic sources including Professor Phllip Jenkins of Penn State have noted, there is a tendency under Democratic presidential administrations for the internal security focus (sorry, I'm trying to drop the use of the word homeland whenever possible) to rest primarily on domestic rather than foreign threats.

Do incidents of domestic terror increase during Democratic administrations? If so, it would lend legitimacy to the fear among liberals and progressives that Glenn Beck and Chuck Norris are secretly arming sleeper cells around the country to (at the very least) take back Texas.

And if you cherry-pick your data points you can probably make a case that will fool 90% of the people 90% of the time, what with Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City and other high-profile incidents. But, as law enforcement officers know, it is the lower-level incidences of such violence that make up the real trends. There the evidence is a lot more ambiguous, and depends on how you group your violent incidents.

Was abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph a phenomenon that could be credited to a militia movement?

Should Waco, Texas, be counted as militia violence?

No, you can't really do that, so you lump it all together (ignoring the fact that the BATF actually attacked the Branch Davidians and not vice versa) as right-wing extremist violence and then you get to count anybody and anything you want that isn't an environmental activist.

Reality? Militia violence during the late 1980s through the mid 1990s probably peaked, and it died down not through the kind of idiotic profiling that Missouri has engaged in, but due to several major infiltration operations and the slow development of real intelligence. But was the upsurge in the 1990s due to Bill Clinton being in office, or because the Attorney General made the militia and sovereign citizen and Christian identity movements a priority. Chickens? Eggs?

The problem with the Missouri Militia Movement report is perhaps best stated by Libertarian Tom Knapp (who is, after all, from the "Show Me" State):

When MIAC or one of its sibling organizations produces unmitigated crap like the elementary school quality "strategic report" on militia organizations, they may think they're just playing cheesy lounge music for their paychecks ... but there's always the possibility that some cop on the beat will take the nonsense seriously. And in the case of the MIAC report, that could result in one or more of the nearly 100,000 Missourians who voted for a Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate last year (most of whom are not associated with the militia movement, let alone its tiny terrorist sub-set, and most of whom are not by any stretch of the imagination criminals) getting shot -- murdered by MIAC, at least indirectly.

I seriously doubt that any of the schmoes staffing MIAC are knowing pawns of any weird-ass "New World Order" or "North American Union" plot. They're just bureaucrats who want to maintain their lips' deathgrip on the taxpayers' teat. That can be just as dangerous.


What the whole controversy really shows is that it is time for American citizens to begin exercising some significant oversight of law enforcement activities before even more of the Constitution is tattered and trashed. We have moved from the National Security State of the Cold War era into the Homeland Security State of the post 9/11 era, and there is one blinding similarity between the two:

The government at all levels will use a real but limited threat of something really really bad happening to us in order to maintain a state of Permanent War and diminishing civil liberties.

So for all the fact that Missouri's Lieutenant Governor and the Republicans in the Missouri House are surely scoring political points with this controversy (most of them would have had no trouble profiling Muslims), they are doing the right thing if probably for the wrong reasons.

With so few people today willing to do the right thing under any conditions, I can't afford to be that choosy about the motivations.

2 comments:

Miko said...

To be honest, I'm shocked that the Democrats were voting against this. I don't expect much from politicians of any party, but I would have thought we could at least count on unanimous condemnation of political profiling. Unless, of course, there's some other tidbit that got tucked into the bill but which didn't make the news coverage.

[Kinder] noted the report makes no mention of environmental terrorism or Islamic terrorism.

That's the stupid observation of the day. All forms of terrorism are bad, but one doesn't normally associate the eco-nuts with the militia-nuts.

Anonymous said...

thanks for staying on top of this story. I have sent your link to as many interested parties as I can think of.
It's like being in biology class, and dissecting a "TOO Party".

CHUCKtheFED St. Louis, MO