Fusion Centers

Fusion Center Issues New Statement on Its Warning That Police Should Watch Out for Don't-Tread-on-Me Flags

Many unanswered questions remain about both the bulletin and the DHS-funded intelligence-sharing operation that produced it.

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Today the Utah Statewide Information and Analysis Center, a "fusion center" partly funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responded to the controversy over a bulletin it sent to law enforcement officers last week.

Problematic

The bulletin, which was first covered here at Reason, had been distributed in anticipation of last Friday's funeral for LaVoy Finicum, the rancher killed during the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The document warned that "[c]aravans of individuals traveling to the funeral services may be comprised of one or more armed extremists," and it displayed several "visual indicators" that an officer might be dealing with "extremist and disaffected individuals." These images ranged from the Gadsden flag (a popular patriotic symbol featuring a rattlesnake and the slogan "Don't Tread on Me") to an altered version of the skull-and-lightning-bolt logo favored by fans of the Grateful Dead.

Today the fusion center issued this statement:

The Utah Statewide Information and Analysis Center released an officer safety bulletin on February 3, 2016, regarding events surrounding the funeral of LaVoy Finicum. The bulletin was intended to inform law enforcement officers of the funeral and potential safety concerns based on recent events in Oregon and Nevada.

The bulletin contains symbols that may or may not be espoused by criminal extremist individuals or groups. We understand that law-abiding citizens also espouse these symbols, and we acknowledge so in the bulletin. Public safety personnel are always expected to evaluate and utilize all information in the context of their training in Constitutional Law and rules of criminal procedure.

There was no intent to offend or single out individuals and groups who use these symbols for historical or legitimate purposes. We will attempt to articulate those distinctions clearer in the future.

A few follow-up questions come to mind:

"How to tell a sovereign citizen from a Deadhead…"

1. Precisely how does the center intend to "attempt to articulate those distinctions clearer in the future"? It's true that the bulletin acknowledged that "law-abiding citizens also espouse [sic] these symbols," and we mentioned that fact in our story. It's just that the agency's acknowledgement consisted, in its entirety, of this poorly worded and perfunctory aside:

[T]hough some or parts of these symbols are representative of patriotic and American revolutionary themes[,] they are often associated with extremism[.]

There was no breakdown of which symbols had multiple meanings or what different contexts they might be expected to appear in. The information that was included was often extremely limited: The Gadsden flag, for example, was simply identified as an image "commonly displayed by sovereign citizen extremists." So: What exactly do they plan to change?

2. Does the agency plan to address any other criticisms? The Utah bulletin didn't just do a poor job of explaining what the symbols it included might mean, thus making it more likely that a driver might be mistaken for an "extremist." It also failed to discuss what a cop should do if he does come across a bona fide "extremist." As former FBI agent Mike German complained to me last week, "What will the officers know after reading this that they didn't before? Here all they know is to be afraid if they see a Gadsden flag, which could result in an unnecessarily hostile encounter that would increase the chances of violence. There's nothing here that would help them correctly identify someone who held these beliefs, understand what might trigger hostile reactions, or how to talk to them in a way that would defuse any unnecessary tension." The statement released today does not deal with these issues.

3. Is there a larger pattern here? It would be comforting to think this was just one poorly drafted document. But fusion centers across the country have a history of producing work with similar problems, including an infamous "strategic report" in Missouri that identified the Gadsden flag as "the most common symbol displayed by militia members and organizations." More broadly, a 2012 congressional investigation concluded that the centers' output was "oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens' civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism." According to the congressional investigators, nearly a third of these reports weren't even circulated after they were written—sometimes because they contained no useful information, sometimes because they "overstepped legal boundaries."

Four years later, is this Finicum bulletin typical of the Utah agency's work? Is it typical of fusion centers in general? Is any sort of review process underway?

These are among the issues I wanted to raise with the agency after I acquired its document last week, but at the time it didn't respond to my calls and emails. And today? Sgt. Todd Royce, the public affairs officer who sent me the statement, tells me "there will be no further comment on the report."

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  1. We will attempt to articulate those distinctions clearer in the future.

    Since this abortion of sentence shows you can’t articulate anything right now, I highly doubt it.

      1. Clearlyer

            1. +43

              1. I just want to know if I am in the clear now.

    1. That’s exactly the kind of grammar I’ve come to expect from government workers.

      1. Most government workers are language-fluid, so.. check your privilege, cis-pronunciation scum, and stop oppressing them with your rigid institutionalized grammarachy. You people are a bunch of knuckle dragging Neanderthals.

  2. Four years later, is this Finicum bulletin typical of the Utah agency’s work? Is it typical of fusion centers in general? Is any sort of review process underway?

    Yes, yes, no. PATRIOT ACT! WOO!

  3. FWIW the skull and lightning bolt design you often see used by fans of the Grateful Dead is known as “steal your face”. Goddamn hippies.

  4. I like apple pie, but apple crisp is far superior.

    Note: Fuck Apple for trying to capitalize apple constantly just because I’m using an iPhone.

  5. Public safety personnel are always expected to evaluate and utilize all information in the context of their training in Constitutional Law and rules of criminal procedure.

    And I’m sure they are held accountable by the law when they don’t meet those expectations.

    1. Give him a big hand, folks. He’s here all week. Tip your server.

        1. From the “Don’t get the joke?” section*:

          Karl Marx was a 19th century Marxist philosopher, best known for his Marxist political viewpoints.

          * = Don’t judge me

  6. Since when does the law need context?

    1. The originalists are big on context – the meaning of the document as the words were used at the time of its writing.

  7. When did “Liberty and Justice for All” become un-American?

    1. If you have too much liberty you might microaggress my liberty.

    2. The day after Wickard v. Filburn?

  8. At least the Libertarian porcupine doesn’t instill pants-shitting terror in cops yet. Right?

    1. As a point of order actual porcupines are assholes.

      They kill trees in the winter and have destroyed upwards of several dozen “posted” signs surrounding my property.

      Had one walk in front of me while I was walking a dog on leash and the son of a bitch stopped and turned right in front of the dog quilling him. The dog was on a short leash heel.

      Anyhow, they are how I learned about the ballastic superiority of the .357 Sig over the .38 +P out of a snub nose and the .380 ACP.

  9. “Public safety personnel are always expected to evaluate and utilize all information in the context of their training in Constitutional Law and rules of criminal procedure.’

    lol

    i.e. “Turn your body cameras off before you shoot them!”

  10. Since the Navy is allowed the wear the Gadsen flag on their uniforms, are UT police going to pull over USN personnel?

    1. Only if they’re black..

      1. The tragedy of someone being shot aside, the media shitstorm from a sailor shot by a cop just because of the flag he was wearing (and skin color) would be a sight to behold.

      2. #blackseamenwearinggadsdenflaglivesmatter

    2. Different flag, that’s the Navy Jack.

  11. Shooting Gadsden flag wavers on sight can now be justified as totally legit life-fearing as a previous memo put law enforcement professionals on a heightened alert status.

  12. “What will the officers know after reading this that they didn’t before? Here all they know is to be afraid if they see a Gadsden flag, which could result in an unnecessarily hostile encounter that would increase the chances of violence.”

    Feature, not bug. /DHS

    Sgt. Todd Royce, the public affairs officer who sent me the statement, tells me “there will be no further comment on the report.”

    Translation: “Shut up and RESPECT MAH AUTHORTAH, prole!”

    1. “there will be no further comment on the report.”

      Then how are they going to “articulate those distinctions clearer in the future.”

      Seriously, any reporter with half a brain could have a lot of fun, just by asking questions like that.

  13. The federal government appears absolutely desperate for another Waco/Ruby Ridge, but this time.. on their own terms, and they control the “optics”. They are playing with fire.

    1. They pretty much controlled the optics on Waco and Ruby Ridge too.

      After all, this is probably what most people think of those incidents:

      Waco: “a bunch of armed, dangerous cult members holed up in a ‘compound’ and refusing to stand down to their betters.”

      Ruby Ridge: “Ruby who?”

      1. They pretty much controlled the optics on Waco and Ruby Ridge too.
        Yes, and no. They pissed quite a few people off with those two escapades, and the ATF never recovered from them.

        After all, this is probably what most people think of those incidents:

        Waco: “a bunch of armed, dangerous cult members holed up in a ‘compound’ and refusing to stand down to their betters.”
        To those whose biases were preconfirmed.

        Ruby Ridge: “Ruby who?”
        True. But, then this happened. These agencies would sell their souls to catch someone in the act, before rather than after the event.

        1. the ATF never recovered from them.

          I’m pretty sure the ATF got hefty budget increases and larger scope.

    2. Getting pretty tired of hearing these folks talk about “the optics” when they mean “the appearance”.

      “Optics” are what I use to to focus the beam on my spectrometer.

  14. We understand that some Mexicans are good people, and we acknowledge so in the announcement speech.

    There was no intent to offend or single out Mexicans who are not rapists. We will attempt to articulate those distinctions clearer in the future.

  15. It’s funny that they say “Don’t tread on me” after getting seriously stomped and then doing nothing. The ironies here are rich. I feel kinda bad for law enforcement whose biggest threat these days are the people who claim to be fighting for the same principles that the officers are sworn to protect. This kind of nonsense issued by the fusion center will lead to a witch hunt that is not actually destined to end badly.

    1. Leo’s wear American flags on their uniforms and routinely ignore the BOR. I don’t feel sorry for them.

      1. “Leo’s wear American flags on their uniforms and routinely ignore the BOR”

        It’s a fashion accessory, not a statement or conviction. Don’t be obtuse.

    2. Law enforcement is sworn to serve and protect the government, and nothing else. Anyone who questions the government that they are sworn to serve and protect is to be considered a dangerous threat. And you know how cops handle people who they consider to be dangerous threats. That’s right. Shoot first, and fuck the questions.

  16. There was no intent to offend or single out individuals and groups who use these symbols for historical or legitimate purposes.

    You mean like the legitimate purposes of protesting a tyrannical government?

    To the fusion center:

    You do offend.

    1. Nail that man’s foot to the deck, Mr. Crisp…

  17. IMAGINE (gritty voice) — A TIME (inject eerie music here) — when a “Fusion Center” tells police to be on the lookout for potentially armed extremists who display “MUSLIM symbols or garb.”

    Wait . . . some scenarios are just too preposterous even for Hollywood fiction. PARTICULARLY for Hollywood fiction. NO WAY Homeland Security wants police to be on the lookout (profiling) for such religious terrorists — not until the Muslims’ AK47’s are actively discharging death in a mall, nightclub, or HR meeting.

    There’s arguments for and against such profiling, but it’s unacceptable to be PC in such profiling, ignoring some more likely threats to chase after unpopular boogeymen.

  18. “…There was no intent to offend or single out individuals and groups who use these symbols for historical or legitimate purposes…”

    Double-plus BS!

  19. I am most concerned at the vilification of “extreme”. Our founding fathers were extreme in their views of the English crown. The industrialists that made the USA an economic power at the beginning of the last century were extreme, as are the tech entrepreneurs that have (more or less) sustained American power in this century. It is the extreme, the exceptional, individual that redefines “average”. To punish outliers merely for deviancy precludes progress. To punish those willing to accept deviancy (ie “Gadsen Flag” types who discourage government intrusion in general) is to encourage the masses to oppose progress. Which is, of course, what the status quo “progressives” want.

    1. They use the word “extremist” with precise intent. Do not be fooled by the stupid appearance of their semantics. “Extremist” is a political word. “Militant” or “Insurrectionist” or some other word to describe their enemies that connoted actual violent tendencies would not be as manipulative of the people’s perceptions. The idea is to make the stupid sheeple think of people with understanding of political principles and strong opinions about it as dangerous and destructive. This is why one of my favorite sayings in the history of human speechifying is Barry Goldwaters assertions about extremism and moderation: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” I agreed with him in 1964 and I agree with him even more now.

  20. The “Dont Tread on Me” Gadsden flag with coiled rattlesnake is still, today, equal to the Stars and Stripes as a symbol of the revolutionary origins of the United States.

  21. There really should be universal background checks before someone buys a Gadsden flag. I know the 1A but there needs to be a balance. Common sense free speech decided by reasonable people living today and not a bunch of dead, white landowners.

    I totally support closing the flag show loophole.

  22. Big brother government doesnt like you unless you heil hitler the american flag and a cross. im always on the lookout for thieves/cops.

  23. Geez, and the photo of me wearing one is all over the internet, promoted by me of course. I’m in trouble!!!

  24. I know, I’ll start promoting the new photo of me in my IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH GOVERNMENT Declaration of Independence” T shirt all over…

  25. We’ve got to get the Justice Department OUT of this mindset on “war on terror”. 75% of the FBI, NSA, (Justice) is being done on —–Americans for what they term “Homegrown domestic terrorism” when what it turns out to be is “Homegrown political agendas/opinions”. The freakish “terrorism” fad needs to STOP in the Department of Justice because its essentially a WAR on its own people.

    Just look into the facts around Pete Santilli – Do a search on fbi.gov on “Homegrown”
    Below are these “actual” events in their entirety.

    Peter Santilli (Media) Arrested 01-26-2016 (40 days in jail and counting)
    Detained without release by US Prosecutors based on minor and stupid quotes of what he has said during his media broadcasts (all info can be found by googling)

    55:40 – Episode #1074 Un-Registered guns claim
    23:20 – Episode #1120 Dare to take my guns
    1:02 – Clinton; Tried, Convicted and Shot in the vag, I wanna pull the trigger
    2:38 – Episode #425 US Secret Service at the door (Shooting her in the Vag – I Appaulagize)
    h ttps://www.scribd.com/ doc/142658913/ US-Secret-Service-At-My-Door #download

    His license plate was flagged by the federal DHS “terror watch list,”

    Pete Santilli – Request for Discovery

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