Missouri retracts police memo which labeled activists as 'militia'

Stephen C. Webster
Thursday March 26, 2009

The Missouri Department of Public Safety has retracted a controversial profiling memo which linked libertarian activists, Christians, constitutionalists, supporters of Congressman Ron Paul and other traditionally conservative groups to underground militias.

It also specifically cautioned police to be on the lookout for bumper stickers advertising third party candidates, or people with copies of the United States Constitution.

"[Lt. Gov. Peter] Kinder called on Nixon to place Department of Public Safety Director John Britt on administrative leave pending an investigation of how the report came about," reported the Springfield News-Leader. "[Gov. Jay] Nixon's office did not comment on Kinder's demand, but said it backed Keathley's plans to reform the process of releasing [Missouri Information Analysis Center] intelligence reports.

"In a lengthy statement, Keathley expressed remorse for the lack of oversight in the creation and distribution of the report, but he did not apologize for its contents. Keathley said his office 'would undertake a review of the origin of the report by MIAC.'"

The News-Leader published a copy of the memo (PDF link).

"Due to the current economical [sic] and political situation, a lush environment for militia activity has been created," the memo reads. It goes on to cite possible militia members as people who talk about the New World Order conspiracy, express anger with the Federal Reserve banking system, resist paying taxes, warn other citizens about the percieved dangers of radio frequency identification (RFID) or lobby for a return to strict constitutionalism as possible threats to law enforcement.

While the memo does offer something of a lopsided summary of many of the various groups which swelled enormously following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it also links individuals who are otherwise peaceful with the Ku Klux Klan and other violent organizations.

It also specifically highlighted former presidential candidates Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr as icons of the militia movement.

The apology and retraction only came after all three men signed a letter to Gov. Nixon (PDF link) demanding an about-face.

"It would be difficult, Governor, to recount in any letter of reasonable length the nonsense and inaccurate information contained in this so-called 'Strategic Report'..." wrote the three candidates. "The 'Report' draws links between white supremacists, anti-immigration persons, people opposed to gun control, those who do not favor the Federal Reserve Banks and more. Were the 'Report' nothing more than a nonsensical diatribe penned by some uninformed person, we certainly wouldn't take our time writing this letter (although we respectfully suggest you may want to question why such nonsense is of interest to and being disseminated by an agency connected to the state of Missouri)."

"In a letter of apology to the former candidates, Britt wrote that 'portions of that report may be easily misconstrued by readers as offensive to supporters of certain political candidates or to those candidates themselves. I regret that those components were ultimately included in the final report,'" reported CNN.

"Training law enforcement officers to watch for political speech like signs and bumper stickers when trying to determine if someone is part of a violent hate group will, obviously, 'chill open discourse' and people's willingness to express their beliefs," said Missouri Libertarian party spokesman Mike Ferguson in a prepared statement.

"It literally describes half the state of Missouri as potentially linked to these hate groups," he said in a published report. "It really would be laughable, if it weren't such a serious situation."

"The outcry prompted James Keathley, the superintendent of the Highway Patrol, to stop distributing the document to law enforcement officers," reported the Associated Press.

"In a letter released Wednesday afternoon, Keathley also said he will create a process that ensures he and Department of Public Safety Director John Britt will read all future reports before they are released."

"In the future, high-level review of these reports prior to issuance will ensure not only that law enforcement officers get better quality intelligence, but also that certain subsets of Missourians will not be singled out inappropriately in these reports for particular associations," he wrote (PDF link).

"Because the memo was released by a state task force in cooperation with the [Department of Homeland Security], it is not outrageous to assume that Missouri is not the only state involved," opined Jessica Bernier in Vermont's Times Argus. "This is chilling news to those of us who look beyond the headlines, and damning evidence of a creeping disease rotting America."