Civil Liberties

Militia Member Memo

Paranoia in Missouri


Until recently, the Missouri Information Analysis Center, a state agency created by the Department of Homeland Security, distributed a report to state troopers that aimed to aid them in understanding the "modern militia movement." It also gave them advice on how to detect whether someone they had pulled over might be a dangerous member of a radical militia group and, thus, inclined toward violence against the cops. The report is a colorful mixture of pop socio-psychology ("Academics contend that female and minority empowerment in the 1970s and 1960s caused a blow to white male's sense of empowerment"), scaremongering (militia members are "highly trained" and think "you are the enemy"), and advice on how to recognize foes. ("It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitution Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material," the report warns. "These members are usually supporters of Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr.")

The information agency is known to law enforcement officials as a "fusion center" and is meant to coordinate security data across agencies; similar centers exist in several states and cities around the country. The Missouri office claimed it was merely trying to help law enforcement be intelligently aware and prepared. Appalled citizens saw the report as political profiling of a particularly nasty variety, one that could make cops preemptively angry and nervous when dealing with someone displaying a Ron Paul bumper sticker, or even a yellow flag featuring a coiled rattlesnake and the legend "Don't Tread on Me." (The historical flag was cited as "the most common symbol displayed by militia members and organizations.")

The militia report was leaked to the press in February. By late March, after some public and media outcry, Missouri decided to stop distributing it. In April, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the agency's fear of potential rebels went even wider, with primers on such potentially dangerous subcultures as "black separatism," "Asatru-Odinism," the "sovereign citizen movement," and, surely vital to the Highway Patrol, "illicit use of digital music players."