Fusion Centers

Look Out! He's Got a Bob Barr Button!


A few days ago, the conspiracist site Infowars posted a "strategic report" by the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), a police "public safety partnership" that collects "incident reports of suspicious activities to be evaluated and analyzed in an effort to identify potential trends or patterns of terrorist or criminal operations within the state of Missouri." The document is a throwback to the great militia panic of the '90s, a time when all sorts of libertarian and populist organizations were conflated with domestic terrorists, and when the threat posed by the latter was wildly exaggerated. Among other things, the MIAC paper declares that "It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitution Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material. These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate: Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr." It also warns that the Gadsden Flag, bearing a coiled rattlesnake and the slogan DON'T TREAD ON ME, "is the most common symbol displayed by militia members and organizations."

Infowars isn't always reliable (to put it mildly), but this time it broke some real news: Missouri authorities admit the document is genuine. In a follow-up story by the Associated Press, one of them unpersuasively attempts to defend the report:

Lt. John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the report comes from publicly available, trend data on militias. It was compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center, a "fusion center" in Jefferson City that combines resources from the federal Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. The center, which opened in 2005, 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."

But Tim Neal, a military veteran and delegate to last year's state GOP convention, was shocked by the report's contents….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."