Let's start there, however, because what interests me is the official response to the story:
State law enforcement officials said the report is being misinterpreted. Lt. John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the report was compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center based in Jefferson City and comes purely from publically available, trend data on militias.
Hotz said MIAC, which opened in 2005, is a “fusion center” that combines resources from the federal Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. It was set up to collect local intelligence to better combat terrorism and other criminal activity, he said.
“All this is an educational thing,” Hotz said of the report. “Troopers have been shot by members of groups, so it’s our job to let law enforcement officers know what the trends are in the modern militia movement.”
The report’s most controversial passage states that militia “most commonly associate with third-party political groups” and support presidential candidates such as Ron Paul, former Constitutional Party candidate Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate last year.
Hotz said using those or similar factors to determine whether someone could be a terrorist is not profiling. He said people who display signs or bumper stickers from such groups are not in danger of harassment from police.
“It’s giving the makeup of militia members and their political beliefs,” Hotz said of the report. “It’s not saying that everybody who supports these candidates is involved in a militia. It’s not even saying that all militias are bad.”
The document, according to all reports, was leaked by two Missouri law enforcement officers. The timing is interesting, because of the proximity of that release to the 2009 National Fusion Center Conference, held in (guess what!) Kansas City MO from 10-12 March 2009.
Funny that you haven't seen any public mention of this report in conjunction with that convention's ongoing activities, especially this workshop on 11 March [emphasis added]:
Identifying Behavioral Indicators as a Precursor to Terrorist Activities
(Baseline Capabilities: I.A.4, I.A.5, and I.B.1)
This session provides a comprehensive examination of warnings and indicators preceding terrorist activities
and how to identify early warning signs often exhibited by criminal extremists. Information sharing is a key
component of this session. This session will stress that attacks are planned and that this planning stage is law enforcement’s best opportunity to prevent an attack. This session will also provide information on international
terrorists and extremists.
*Recognize, identify, and understand various indicators and warning signs exhibited by terrorists
*Understand the need for and importance of collecting and disseminating actionable intelligence.
*Gain knowledge of resources currently available that can assist fusion centers.
*Understand the importance of safeguarding privacy and civil liberties.
*Understand what indicators fit into an analytic program and what to consider when developing and using
Or maybe this one, on the same day [emphasis again added]:
Developing and Disseminating Collaborative Intelligence Products
(Baseline Capabilities: I.D1, I.D.4, and I.D.8)
Highlighting both the product development process and the information gathered, this session provides an
overview of several types of intelligence briefings. The presenters will provide information regarding a recent
collaboratively developed extremism threat assessment. The presenters will discuss how information was
communicated and disseminated to the appropriate entities and the tradecraft of developing assessments.
*Review the procedure and protocols for the development of Intelligence Briefings.
*Learn how to determine dissemination criteria (need to know/right to know).
*Understand the need to tailor products to your audience.
*Identify lessons learned regarding collaborative products developed between state and local law
enforcement and federal partners.
There is nothing inherently wrong with these training sessions. Yet you have to wonder if it was here that the homegrown Missouri Strategic Report on the Modern Militia Movement was not circulating (with its excellent graphics) as an example of what one State's fusion center was capable of producing.
Also missed in all the internet hoopla over the report's leak to the public was the high-profile visit of new Homeland Security Czar Janet Napolitano to the the conference, as also reported by the Columbia News Tribune:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says fusion centers like one in Jefferson City are the centerpieces of intelligence-sharing efforts to thwart terrorism and other dangerous risks to communities.
After visiting the local center on Wednesday, Napolitano spoke at the National Fusion Center Conference in Kansas City, where she reminded the nearly 1,000 local, state and federal law enforcers and emergency responders that they are the front line in the fight against terror.
“The reason we have Homeland Security, and the reason we have fusion centers, is we did not have the capacity to connect the dots on various bits of information prior to 9/11,” she said.
The centers began popping up in 2006 as a way to coordinate information sharing between various agencies regarding terrorist threats, criminal activity and other dangers. Officials say that as of February, 70 centers were either operating or in the process of opening across the country.
Before going to Kansas City, Napolitano stopped in Jefferson City and joined Gov. Jay Nixon to look at an actual fusion center in operation.
The two leaders toured the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) and the State Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Operations Center at the Ike Skelton Training Center, Wednesday morning.
Napolitano and Nixon were briefed privately on security matters before a tour of a mobile command center and then seeing the capabilities of the emergency operations center.
Napolitano said it's too early to know how many centers ultimately will be created.
“What is the right number? We are at the stage now where that has yet to be answered,” she said.
While the purpose of the centers is to share and analyze information, they are not in the business of eavesdropping or otherwise violating people's civil rights, Napolitano said. That issue was one of the main conference topics.
“Fusion centers are not domestic spy agencies and not designed to invade the privacy of citizens,” she said.
She said the centers aren't just for gathering information and passing it on, but instead are designed to make sense of the information they receive and look for patterns that indicate criminal acts.
Nixon said the fusion center in Jefferson City already has been paying dividends, resulting in arrests and cold cases that have been resolved.
“We're not out there snooping on anybody,” Nixon said. “This isn't about snooping. Fusion centers take existing law enforcement resources and analyze information.”
Hold that one thought--“Fusion centers are not domestic spy agencies and not designed to invade the privacy of citizens"--and set the wayback machine for 2007, and the official (public) version of the Missouri annual report on Homeland Security, wherein the MIAC functions are discussed.
First, here's what is said about the MIAC's official function:
The primary function of MIAC is to collect, store, analyze, and disseminate criminal and terrorist intelligence to law enforcement agencies throughout Missouri and the nation. These services are provided free, and law enforcement agencies and their officers are encouraged to utilize the expertise of the MIAC’s criminal analysts by contacting the MIAC to receive assistance in their investigations. The MIAC has access to numerous private and public databases that provide investigators a unique enhancement to their investigations.
Now here's how those LEOs used the MIAC in 2006:
The following inquiries were made to the indicated databases in 2007 (figures are for 9 1/2 months):
System/Number of checks
Intel Books 125
Tel Sub 1,299
Criminal History 8,560
Dept. of Revenue 11,114
Employment Security 2,256
Notice that this fusion center's largest single client appears to be the Missouri Department of Revenue.
One of the other large users is Accurint, a software system for tracking sex offenders [we'll get back to that in a minute].
Here are two other important quotes from the annual report:
In addition to these services, the MIAC also focuses on terrorist intelligence information and working with other state Fusion Centers and the federal government to ensure our borders are safe and that terrorist activities do not occur within the state of Missouri....
The MIAC continues to be recognized as an “example” for the Department of Homeland Security. During 2007, Intelligence Analysts from the MIAC were invited to participate in the development of a nationwide “Community of Interest” for intelligence and information sharing. Only a select group of states have been asked to participate due to their progress in their Fusion Center development. The National Homeland Security plan is to have all Fusion Centers communicate through a classified network for information sharing.
So fusion centers are not used to snoop on private citizens, but one of the largest functions of the Missouri Information Analysis Center seems to be providing data for the State to use in collecting deliquent taxes. That's cut down terrorism, for sure.
Accurint is only one of the pieces of interesting software the MIAC employs; another is Knowledge Computing Corporation's Coplink software [purchased in January 2008]:
The State of Missouri will deploy Knowledge Computing Corp.'s Coplink solution suite to support comprehensive information sharing and collaboration among local and state law enforcement for solving crimes and thwarting terrorism.
Funding for the project, known as Missouri Data Exchange (MoDex), was made possible by a unique partnership between state and local law enforcement, which together, pooled federal funding to maximize the initiative's reach, effectiveness and return on investment....
"I know from my own experience in law enforcement that access to accurate and timely information and intelligence will help save lives," said Mark James, director of the Department of Public Safety. "This data sharing program will give law enforcement the advantage against criminals by identifying relationships, associations and patterns that will help us solve more crimes and increase public safety across Missouri by getting offenders off the street more quickly."...
Coplink will be accessible to authorized law enforcement officers, investigators, detectives, highway patrol troopers, and crime analysts throughout the state and will be used for law enforcement purposes only.
All this talk of keeping everybody safer and stopping terrorism while protecting privacy and civil rights sounds really, really good, until you realize that Missouri law enforcement's record of keeping information where it is supposed to be is ... not quite perfect.
In June 2008 the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, turned down the appeal of Missouri State Highway Patrol Superintendent James Keathley, who had previously lost a case in the Circuit Court of Jackson County MO regarding the MSHP's habit of illegally releasing confidential information on sex offenders. What the court held was that Keathley had illegally [I can say "illegally" here, because that's what the court ruled] required the plaintiffs to register their information for dissemination in the State's sex offender registry, even though the plaintiffs' convictions occurred at a point prior to the current law being passed and they were not required to register.
In other words, and laying aside any visceral feelings about sex offenders for a moment, the court ruled that the MSHP had illegally taken data to which it was not entitled to by law and then placed it in law enforcement databases.
Here's a snippet of the appelate ruling:
In his third point on appeal, Mr. Keathley continues to claim that the trial court erred in ordering the defendants to expunge Mr. Doe from all sex offender registries and to delete any personal information pertaining to Mr. Doe obtained as a result of his past registration as a sex offender. He argues that retention of the information Mr. Doe provided to the sex offender registries in files accessible only to law enforcement agencies is procedural and does not require Mr. Doe to take any new action or fulfill a new obligation....
He argues it is of no harm to Mr. Doe because it will be available for only law enforcement purposes. He states it will assist in the investigation of future crimes. Mr. Keathley also asserts that the constitutional prohibition on retrospective laws does not apply to statutes dealing only with procedure or remedies.
Mr. Keathley's argument is unpersuasive. Under Doe v. Blunt, requiring Mr. Doe to register as a sex offender and provide the information at issue in this appeal was unlawful. In Doe v. Phillips, this court found that equity requires not having access to information that was obtained through an unconstitutional statutory provision. The focus is on how the information was obtained; it is not on how the unlawfully obtained information will be used or accessed in the future.
In other words, Keathley and the MSHP have, in at least one proven case, illegally added information about American citizens to law enforcement databases, such as those used by the MIAC and shared with fusion centers across the country.
But since those databases are secret, how would anybody else be able to challenge the legality of the material in them?
[This is hardly the first action of its sort for abuse of power brought against the MSHP; a brief scan located another detailed complaint about illegal and intrusive roadblocks leading into national forest areas authorized by Keathley's predecessor, Fred Mills, who was nationally considered something of an expert on--you guessed it--combatting the militia movement.]
Superintendent Keathley makes no bones about the reliance of Missouri LEOs on the data generated by MIAC:
All public safety information and intelligence is monitored and disseminated to the proper agencies and personnel from the MIAC 24 hours a day.
In one sense, I cannot fault Missouri law enforcement for some of its anxiety. Missouri has seen militia violence, anti-abortion violence, and has the misfortune to have the utter nutcases of the Westboro Baptist Church in nearby Kansas ("God Hates Fags!).
And Missouri law enforcement has tied not only the militias but former Attorney General John Ashcroft either directly or indirectly to this violence in the late 1990s:
From a 1999 analytical report:
Missouri is home to many such extremist groups. There are more Christian Identity organizations in Missouri than in any other state in the country, according to the most recent Christian Identity directory. Indeed, Eric Rudolph, who was put on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list for murdering an Alabama security guard and wounding a nurse, spent six months at a Christian Identity compound in Schell City, Missouri, before he committed his crime. There are currently eight militia groups active across our state, according to a recent publication fromthe Center for New Community. The American Coalition of Life Activists, which supports the use of deadly force against doctors who perform abortions, has a key leader, Tim Dreste, who is based in St. Louis. Mr. Dreste was fined $5 million by a federal jury in January of this year for threatening to murder doctors in St. Louis in 1995. The head of the racist World Church of the Creator, Matt Hale, announced recently that his group will expand its recruiting efforts in Missouri. With all of these hate groups in Missouri, we face the danger of violence here.
Ironically, this report notes that the most likely party identification indicating a propensity for domestic terrorism is not Libertarian, but either the US Taxpayer's or the Republican parties:
Tim Dreste—North Central Director of the ACLA, “captain” and “chaplain” of Missouri 1 st Militia. Dreste was fined $5 million in January 1999 by an Oregon jury for threatening to murder doctors who perform abortions. Dreste was also the Republican candidate for state legislature in 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1996, and is currently a member of the Missouri Republican Party State Central Committee, the state party’s highest body.
Dreste moreover, had at least implicit connections to John Ashcroft, as the Institute for Public Accuracy reported:
Missouri civil rights activist John Hickey, who led protests over Dreste's post on the Republican committee, comments: "Ashcroft says he will vigorously enforce the law against anti-abortion extremists, but he looked the other way when one was sitting on the Republican state central committee. It strains credulity that then-Senator Ashcroft was unaware of Dreste's views and activities prior to 1999." M'Evie Mead, a local abortion-rights leader who contacted Ashcroft's office about Dreste, says: "Ashcroft's silence in that case was very telling. He seemed slow to act and overly tolerant of extremism."
So now we come back full circle to the MIAC report on the Milita movement leaked last week. Many commenters have scoffed at the idea that the information used therein might be for purposes of profiling or to equate third-party supporters with domestic terrorists.
And certainly the language of the report is potentially ambiguous to many:
Common militia symbols
Political and anti-government rhetoric:
Political paraphernalia: Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups. It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material. These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate: Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr.
Anti-government propaganda: Militia members commonly display picture, cartoons, bumper stickers that contain anti-government rhetoric. Most of this material will depict the FRS, IRS, FBI, ATF, CIA, UN, Law Enforcement and "The New World Order" in a derogatory manner. Additionally, Racial, anti-immigration, and anti-abortion, material may be displayed by militia members.
[There are nine flags/crests in this section with short write-ups; only the one quoted next has any specific reference to Missouri]
1st BN/3rd BDE MO Militia Patch: Unit patch displayed by Missouri Militia members.
Literature and Media common to the Militia:
[This section lists two films and one book that have been associated with militia membership.]
This is, some have argued, not suggesting that Ron Paul supporters are militia members, but that militia members are often Ron Paul supporters, which is--by the barest hair--a different proposition.
Or is it?
For a glimpse into the way similar material has been greeted in law enforcement circles, here's some excerpts from ADL's advice for officers on Surviving a Traffic-Stop with an Anti-Government Extremist (apparently published in the late 1990s, but still maintained on their website).
First, the build-up:
It is late at night and the rain beats down on the windshield of your patrol car. A Chevy Blazer speeds by, dousing your vehicle with a spray of fine mist. As the wipers clear your view, you notice that something is strange about that Blazer. The rear license plate had a lot of funny writing on it. They were obviously not plates from your state, but they didn’t seem to be plates from any other state you’d ever seen before, either.
Who would make up their own plates? It seems a little odd. But you pull out into the road and accelerate to catch up to the Blazer. It’s hard to see the plates because of the rain, but they are clearly not legitimate plates. In fact, you can just barely make out the wording on them: "Sovereign Private Property...Immunity Declared at Law...Non-Commercial American." This is a little bit more exotic than a "Save our Lakes" specialty plate. You turn on your lights.
The Blazer ignores them, keeps going. Irritated, you turn on the siren. Finally, the vehicle in front of you pulls over to the side of the road. You get out of the patrol car, curse the rain, and walk up to the Blazer. The back of the vehicle is festooned with bumper stickers. "End Judicial Dictatorship." "FREEDOM wasn’t won with a REGISTERED GUN." "Sovereign Forever, New World Order--Never." You’ve never seen stickers like this before. Judicial dictatorship?
As you walk past the vehicle, you see a message in vinyl letters posted on one of the side windows: ''No One Is Bound to Obey an Unconstitutional Law and No Courts Are Bound To Enforce It, 16th Am Jur 2 Ed 256.'' You reach the driver-side door. The window rolls down part-way and an angry face greets you. It is attached to a middle-aged man, Caucasian, scraggly hair, dressed in work clothes.
"Could you roll down your window, sir?" you ask.
"Are you arresting me?" the driver asks belligerently.
‘Sir, could you please roll down your window?"
Instead of complying, the driver hands you a folded up sheet of paper. You pull out your flashlight to take a look at it, trying to protect it from the rain. It seems about as strange as the license plates and the bumper stickers.
"NOTICE TO ARRESTING OFFICER WITH MIRANDA WARNING," it reads. It identifies the driver as a "Civil Rights Investigator." It’s hard to read the fine print on the document, but it seems to be saying that you cannot arrest the driver without a warrant unless you immediately take him to a judge to determine if the arrest was lawful. It threatens to sue you "in your INDIVIDUAL capacity" if you improperly arrest him without a warrant. Near the bottom it states that if you ignore these warnings, "it will show bad faith on your part and prima facie evidence of your deliberate indifference to Constitutionally mandated rights."
You shine the flashlight on the driver. He is smiling at you.
What do you do?
Chilling, huh? Notice how the whole scene is set, and how critical those bumper stickers and signs--the political and anti-government paraphernalia--are to the scenario.
Here's more from the didactic portion of the article:
First, there's the set-up for just how crazy the potential driver of any vehicle sporting such bumper stickers might be:
Most--the vast majority--of right-wing, anti-government extremists are no Timothy McVeigh. And thankfully so. They have no more intention of blowing up a federal building than they do of flying to the moon. But there are other McVeighs out there. And there are others who may never plan to blow up a building, but under the right (or wrong) circumstances can be lethally dangerous. And there are many more who are simply so intransigent and so opposed to any form of authority that any confrontation with them is potentially dangerous. Traffic stops can be particularly so. Imagine yourself, for a moment, in the body of one of these anti-government activists. You’ve just been pulled over for speeding at the end of a long, grinding day. But you haven’t done anything wrong, you haven’t hurt anyone. And now here comes walking up to your car a highway patrol officer. You’ve put up with them taking taxes out of your paycheck. You acquiesced when the judge ordered wage garnishes for child support. You said okay when the city inspectors told you not to build your den without their permits. How much more should you take from them? How much more can you take? Maybe it’s about time you stood up for yourself, stood up for your rights. Doesn’t the Constitution apply to you, too? Isn’t it about time they respected you for a change?
You can see how easily a confrontational attitude can build in one of these extremists. The officer performing the traffic stop ceases to be a human being and becomes much more of a symbol: the symbol of all the perceived oppression and tyranny that the person in the car has had to put up with all of his life. The officer now represents virtually all of "Government." To make matters worse, the person in the vehicle is quite likely to be armed and may well be far better armed than the officer who has pulled them over. Thus if the driver decides to be confrontational, he can be very dangerous indeed.
Now, what should a good officer look for:
How can an officer tell if he or she is about to have to deal with an anti-government extremist? Sometimes there are no signs at all. But often there are clues that an observant officer can use to help him or her gauge the seriousness of the situation. Ignoring or failing to comprehend these clues can be very dangerous....
Some of the warning signs are obvious; others, less so. Here are some indications that an officer may be dealing with an anti-government extremist:
...*Peculiar bumper stickers. There are bumper stickers and then there are bumper stickers. Some companies market stickers to anti-government extremists and these are readily identifiable. Examples from one company based in St. Marys, Kansas, include: "And the Lord said (Luke 11:46,52) ‘WOE to YOU LAWYERS’;" "Free the Slaves, Abolish IRS and the Federal Reserve;" "Our Danger Isn’t Fallout — It’s Sellout;" "Know Your Enemies: They Are Your Leaders!"; "Real Americans Don’t Wear U.N. Blue;" "Joe McCarthy Was Right;" and so on.
Other strange car decorations, including homemade placards and signs in windows or along tailgates. Cars might display "militia identification numbers" on them.
Identifying individuals with this anti-government philosophy is, however, only the first step. Once an officer determines that he or she is involved in some sort of minor or major confrontation with an anti-government extremist, he or she must correctly assess the situation and make decisions that will help to resolve it successfully. Because the nature and type of such confrontations can vary tremendously, the following suggestions are tentatively offered. Some of them are adapted from suggestions made by Assistant Police Chief Roger Bragdon of the Spokane, Washington, Police Department. Chief Bragdon has had years of experience dealing with anti-government extremists.*Caution should reign. Extremists are often volatile and are often very well-armed. Sometimes they may even have friends in separate cars following behind them. An officer should not hesitate to call for backup if he or she thinks that they may be in a situation involving an extremist. And just as important, the officer should wait for that backup to arrive before putting him or herself at risk.
*Officers should be alert for the presence of concealed weapons at all times. Weapons may be concealed on the subject’s person or in a convenient hiding place. A vehicle may have multiple weapons and hundreds or thousands of rounds of ammunition. If a vehicle has passengers, the officer should be aware that they too may be well armed.
Now go back an examine that suggestion, in Missouri where over 90,000 citizens voted Libertarian, Constitution, or Ron Paul last year, that telling police officers that the presence of a third-party bumper sticker is a significant indicator of militia membership does not increase the risk for everybody concerned....
Here's the unfortunate dynamic set up in this case:
On the one side: the law enforcement mandate to prevent domestic terrorism and the legitimate survival instincts of every police officer in Missouri, added to which there is a real history of anti-abortion and anti-government violence in the Show Me State.
On the other side: increasing reliance by law enforcement on secret databases, about which we have significant evidence that (a) they are often used for purposes of tax collection rather than law enforcement; and (b) that Missouri law enforcement has a documented history of placing illegal private information into such databases--information that once is entered cannot be deleted or challenged because the databases themselves are secret. Add to that the fact that law enforcement officers in Missouri and other areas has already been primed to examine items like bumper stickers or anti-government signs as direct evidence that their lives are in danger whenever they approach such a vehicle ("You are the Enemy" the MIAC report reminds them).
This is an unhealthy situation, a dangerous situation to say the least, before we even get into privacy and civil liberties issues.
Regardless of the intent of the authors of this report, there is at least a considerable body of circumstantial evidence to suggest that it will be interpreted by some if not many individual police officers in exactly the way that Libertarians fear it will be interpreted.
This is a serious issue, reaching into other states and involving whole homeland security apparatus that we have allowed to be set overtop of this nation since September 2001.