Titled “The Modern Militia Movement,” the report is dated Feb. 20 and designed to help police identify militia members or domestic terrorists. Red flags outlined in the document include political bumper stickers such as those for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, talk of conspiracy theories such as the plan for a mega-highway from Canada to Mexico and possession of subversive literature.
But when Neal read the report, he couldn’t help but think it described him. A military veteran and a delegate to the 2008 Missouri Republican state convention, he didn’t appreciate being lumped in with groups like the Neo-Nazis.
“I was going down the list and thinking, ‘Check, that’s me,’ ” he said. “I’m a Ron Paul supporter, check. I talk about the North American union, check. I’ve got the ‘America: Freedom to Fascism’ video loaned out to somebody right now. So that means I’m a domestic terrorist? Because I’ve got a video about the Federal Reserve?”
Blogs and Web sites frequented by people interested in civil liberties issues have been overloaded in recent days with comments from angry readers who view the document as a precursor to an American KGB spying on U.S. citizens.
“The government is out of control, we are just trying to survive,” wrote one poster who identified himself as John Adams.
But 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.”
Not everybody agrees. At a “Tea Party” to protest wasteful government spending Thursday in Flat Branch Park, several people displaying the Revolutionary War-replica “Don’t Tread On Me” flag were upset to learn the MIAC report lists the banner as a “militia symbol.”
“That’s insane,” said Doug Wendt looking at the MIAC document. “That is not a militia symbol. That is American history. This is historic. The only animosity” American colonists “ever directed with this was towards England.”
Roger Webb, president of the University of Missouri campus Libertarians, also took offense. “It’s absolutely obscene,” he said of the report. “It seems like they want to stifle political thought. There are a lot of third parties out there, and none of them express any violence. In fact, if you join the Libertarian Party, one of the things you sign in your membership application is that you don’t support violence as a means to any ends.”
Neal, who has a Ron Paul bumper sticker on his car, said the next time he is pulled over by a police officer, he won’t know whether it’s because he was speeding or because of his political views.
“If a police officer is pulling me over with my family in the car and he sees a bumper sticker on my vehicle that has been specifically identified as one that an extremist would have in their vehicle, the guy is probably going to be pretty apprehensive and not thinking in a rational manner,” Neal said. “And this guy’s walking up to my vehicle with a gun.”