Marijuana

Drug Task Force in Rural Missouri Denies Own Existence

Secret drug task force will not disclose any public records

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NITRO

Missouri's multi-jurisdictional drug task forces embody the very worst of the war on drugs. They're misguided, reckless, and they operate with basically no oversight. The state currently has 25 of these task forces, and over the past year I've succeeded in obtaining basic operational records from all but one of them as part of routine research using Missouri's Sunshine Law. The Northwest Missouri Interagency Team Response Operation (NITRO) has gone to extreme lengths to avoid disclosing any information about their operations.

Like all of the drug task forces in Missouri, NITRO receives funding through the state's Department of Public Safety, which in turn makes them legally subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law.

They disagree, and seem to feel they have the right to maintain absolute secrecy over every aspect of their task force. When I called NITRO's listed number to file a basic open records request, they outright lied to me and claimed to be someone else [listen to the recording here]:

 AARON MALIN: Hi, is this Eric McAllester?

NITRO OFFICER: No.

AARON MALIN: Is this the NITRO Drug Task Force?

NITRO OFFICER: …Who is this?

AARON MALIN: My name is Aaron Malin.

NITRO OFFICER: Uh…who are you with?

AARON MALIN: I'm not with anybody. I was trying to call a listed number for the NITRO Drug Task Force.

NITRO OFFICER: Uh…nope, this isn't it…[chuckles]

AARON MALIN: Is this the sheriff's department, or…?

NITRO OFFICER: No, no no, this is just a…its a government building, but…

AARON MALIN: Okay…um…do you mind my asking which one?

NITRO OFFICER: Uh….this is- this is a government building…uh…who…who is this again?

AARON MALIN: Aaron Malin

NITRO OFFICER: Who do you need to speak with, Eric McAllester?

AARON MALIN: Eric McAllester, or somebody with the NITRO Drug Task Force. You really won't tell me what building you're in?

NITRO OFFICER: Well who are you wi-?

AARON MALIN: I'm not with anybody. I'm just trying-  I am an individual citizen trying to file an open records request.

NITRO OFFICER: Ok, well you're going to have to contact the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives Public Information Officer.

AARON MALIN: This is- man, this is literally the number they gave me to call. This exact number.

NITRO OFFICER: Well, I'm going to have to forward that request to that individual. I can give you the phone number and the person to contact.

AARON MALIN: That would be great, but can you tell me who I am talking to please, so I can tell them who forwarded me?

NITRO OFFICER: Uh…this is…this is…this is the task force…

The NITRO Task Force blatantly lies to folks who call their listed number and attempt to file open records request. This troubling lack of transparency is almost certainly a violation of Missouri's Sunshine Law, as it becomes impossible to file a request when NITRO pretends your calls (to a number listed on the Missouri State Highway Patrol website) are to the wrong number.

After my call with NITRO, I immediately double-checked the phone number. Upon confirming that I had indeed called the listed number for the NITRO Task Force, I gave them a call back, at which point they claimed to be exempt from state open records laws [listen to the recording here]:

NITRO OFFICER #2: We got your request, and we forwarded it on to the ATF office per our policy, and that's what was happenin'.

AARON MALIN: Are you not a state agency? Are you not under the highway patrol?

NITRO OFFICER #2: No. No…no. [chuckles].

AARON MALIN: Because they list you on their website.

NITRO OFFICER #2: Well I'm sorry. We're not- we don't have nothin' to do with the highway patrol.

AARON MALIN: Ok so, I'm just trying to get a little bit of background on—on what exactly—on who exactly oversees NITRO, I guess.

AARON MALIN: Is it [NITRO]—it's not a state agency?

NITRO OFFICER #2: No, it is not a state agency.

AARON MALIN: It's not a federal agency?

NITRO OFFICER #2: No, its not a federal agency either. We are a task force, that its basically under ATF I guess I would say. We are under them. We go under their guidelines. We go by their policies. We're all commissioned federally. So we basically work for ATF, even though we're not paid by them.

AARON MALIN: Ok. So who pays you then? The state?

NITRO OFFICER #2: It's a grant situation.

He's right- it is a grant situation. The narcotics grants come from the Missouri Department of Public Safety (DPS). The federal government does provide some additional funding for these state task force grants to DPS, but a Missouri department directly controls task force funding. 

Because they are funded through the state, specifically through the Missouri Department of Public Safety, agencies like the NITRO Task Force are subject to Missouri's Sunshine Law, despite their claims to the contrary.

Missouri's Sunshine Law [RSMo 610.010] is very clear on the matter.

NITRO has a solution to that pesky Sunshine Law: They claim to be exempt from state laws because they are actually a federal agency. (This sounds a lot like a recent case in Florida where US Marshalls claimed local police records belonged to the feds to exempt them from state open records laws, except more specious.)

Given my firm belief that NITRO is required to comply with Missouri's open records law, I next contacted the Sunshine Complaint Unit within the Office of the Attorney General of Missouri. They recommended trying to file the request with the listed Project Director of NITRO, who is listed as the Grundy County sheriff. Upon doing so, the sheriff's office claimed they were unable to access the basic records I requested about the finances and operation of NITRO, and maintained ATF is responsible for maintaining the task force's records.

Despite my firm belief that the NITRO Task Force is required to respond to Sunshine Law requests, I did submit two FOIA requests through ATF, the first on April 30th, 2014 and another on June 21st, 2014 after being repeatedly told they would not comply with the Sunshine Law. Both were ignored, and a year after my research began, I have not received a single document from NITRO; they continue to operate in the dark. [The documents of interest are the disproportionately high number of search warrants NITRO is denied each year.]

Given NITRO's claim they are overseen by the ATF, I reached out to the Public Information Officer, John Ham, in the nearby Kansas City ATF Office. I gave him advance notice of my findings, along with an opportunity to comment. He too was apparently unable to get a straight answer from the NITRO Task Force (I wonder whom they pretended to be when he called). After attempting contact for two full business days, he was unable to provide me with comment because he was "still attempting to gather information relevant to [my] research." I emailed him six weeks later (and left multiple voicemails) to see what kind of progress he had made in obtaining information about NITRO, and I never heard from him again. If ATF can't even get a straight answer out of NITRO, what hope do the rest of us have? 

The lack of transparency displayed by the NITRO Task Force is shocking and disturbing. This is an organization that is empowered to execute no-knock search warrants and make arrests. This agency possesses broad powers and seems to operate with little to no transparency or accountability, and that makes for a dangerous combination.

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42 responses to “Drug Task Force in Rural Missouri Denies Own Existence

  1. “If you haven’t done anything wrong, surely you have nothing to hide”, right Task Forcies? C’mon, consent to the search!

    1. If only that applied to our betters.

  2. “The Northwest Missouri Interagency Team Response Operation (NITRO)”

    N[M]ITRO!

    There’s really not much hope for a state agency that fixates on an EXTREME! acronym to the point of excluding the name of the actual state.

  3. The Show Me State!

    1. Show me your hands!

      Show me your hands!

      *BLAM!BLAM! BLAM!BLAM!BLAM! BLAM!BLAM!*

  4. It would be funny if you could wave a magic wand and get their paychecks stopped. Then when they called to find out why, deny that you are the HR department. Pull the same pro-wrestling level bullshit denial on them.

    Well it would be funny until they drove over to your building and pistol whipped a few of the bean counters.

    1. This whole thing sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it your Holiness?

      Remember this http://www.startribune.com/local/260545531.html ?

      1. Yeah, I do remember those assholes. I know a criminal defense attorney who represented some of their victims. According to him, the looting was worse than it was ever reported.

        The fact that they were never prosecuted sucks balls.

        1. Seriously, it was like The Shield in real life. At least it seems to have gotten more difficult for the cops to loot.

          Enjoying the snow?

          1. I’m loving it. My last week at a contract gig downtown and the regulars have all taken the snow as an excuse to “work from home”.

            Since I ride the bus, the commute is no problem for me (takes longer, but no skin off my ass).

            How bout you? Your commute suck these last couple days?

            1. Nah, it was easy. My office is in Hamel, so a straight shot down 101. Back in the bad old days, I commuted to Eden Prairie. A night like last night would have been 2+ hours. I don’t miss that shit.

              1. Would that be Loram MOW?

    2. If I were the governor of a state in which such shenanigans were going on, considering the high potential for embarrassment that rouge LEO groups have shown, I would be calling the agency running the grays program and telling them “Tell those jackasses in NITRO to open their damn records or YOU are going to have your funds zeroed out. I can’t afford to have agencies playing James Bond on my watch; the bastard blows up too much.”

      But I’m a political Crank, so the odds against my getting elected, even assuming I was masochist enough to run, aren’t high.

  5. Sounds like this needs to be taken to the governor and asked why he allows a rogue agency to exist in his state.

    1. Our governor supports such agencies. Jay Nixon is an authoritative cunt.

      1. I don’t know the man. I would hope that he would be pissed that there is an agency in his state that tells him they don’t owe him jack, but do pay me.

        1. No, that’s small potatoes to him. He was the attorney general of Mo. before becoming governor. He’s never met a police force he didn’t like.

          Missouri has been described as a purple state, and that’s true. Unfortunately, it’s true for all the wrong reasons.

  6. I wonder what exactly they do. If they spend all their time busting meth dealers and manufacturers then I’m fine with that no matter what they do. My guess is they go beyond that a bit.

    1. Really? What makes meth dealers so bad? They offer a product, people buy it. Don’t like meth, don’t buy it.

    2. WHAT?You know the war on drugs caused the meth problem by outlawing better ,safer drugs?You have no problem with cops working in secret as long as the go after you boogie man? Also ,the meth problem is over stated,along with many drug scares.Bend over for your masters.

      1. Jesus AS, maybe come on a little softer next time. People are a little more responsive to your position if you give them a chance.

        1. He said he didn’t care what they do as long as they go after the ‘right people’.Anyone with that view is part of the problem.

          1. I know where you are coming from and I agree, but you never know what will open someone’s eyes so they will stop being part of the problem. Anyways it is not really my place to advise anyone.

            1. I will not debate someone like this,or Tony or buttplug,it’s a wast of time

    3. And why are you fine with that? God forbid a person supply a product to people who do with their own body what they see fit. The legality of the use has never been much of a deterrent.

      What’s the net social benefit of enforcing such laws?

  7. Northwest Missouri Interagency Team Response Operation clearly doesn’t work for NITRO. So let me suggest the following: Narcotics, Alcohol, and Peyote Administration of Left Missouri.

    1. Narcotics, Alcohol, Meth, Blow, LSD Agency.

      Of course, then they would be mistaken for the North American Marlon Brando Lookalike Association.

  8. FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY

  9. Not a state agency, then no qualified immunity either, right guys?

    1. Prepare to be disappointed.

  10. And yet some people still believe that the notion that the 2nd Amendment’s most important function is to preserve the ability of private citizens to defend themselves from the government is a fringe, batshit, tinfoil-hat position.

    1. You don’t understand. The government is us. We the People. Why do people need to defend themselves from themselves? Besides, the police only target guilty people. You have nothing to fear if you follow the rules. Duh.

  11. Looks like someone really wanted that acronym to spell NITRO. This is like a truly awful television title. I can see it now, “Agents of N.I.T.R.O.”

    1. Missouri needs more agencies named after American Gladiator athletes:

      Laser
      Zap
      Hawk
      Turbo
      Ice
      Diesel
      Tower
      Thunder
      Viper
      Titan
      Cyclone

      et al…

      1. Ya know. I willing to bet all of the officers on the N.I.T.R.O. task force all use code names like that. =D

        1. It is scary how correct you probably are.

  12. I don’t want to be ‘that guy’, but maybe grab a gmail or yahoo address for those inquiries instead of showmecannibus.com. That being said, what a bunch of dinks.

  13. Maybe they didn’t know they existed because they hadn’t read about it in the newspaper?

  14. Didn’t listen the the audio but the dialogue script in the article makes the agents sound slike a buch of ignorant Beavis and Buttheads. “Uh, huh huh, this is – uh – huh huh – who is this? “

  15. The government is a criminal operation. They have plenty to hide.

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