Highway Patrol chief retracts militia report; will change review process for MIAC reports
JEFFERSON CITY | The Missouri State Highway Patrol on Wednesday retracted a controversial report on militia activity and will change how such reports are reviewed before being distributed to law enforcement agencies.
The announcement followed a press conference in which Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder suggested putting the director of public safety on administrative leave and investigating how the report was produced.
The controversy revolves around a report prepared last month by the Missouri Information Analysis Center, a so-called “fusion center” for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to collaborate on domestic security issues.
The report concerns militia movements in Missouri and across the United States and describes how they have evolved over the last several years.
It suggests that domestic militias often subscribe to radical ideologies rooted in Christian views and opposition to immigration, abortion or federal taxes. The report also says it is “not uncommon” for militia members to support third-party political candidates and names former presidential candidates Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin specifically.
The eight-page report is labeled “unclassified” but “law enforcement sensitive” and includes numerous editing and design errors, including a misspelling of President Barack Obama’s name.
On Wednesday afternoon, Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. James F. Keathley released a memo saying the report did not meet the patrol’s standard for quality and would not have been released if it had been seen by top officials.
“For that reason,” Keathley wrote, “I have ordered the MIAC to permanently cease distribution of the militia report.”
The memo says the report was compiled by an employee of the information analysis center and reviewed only by the center director before being sent to law-enforcement agencies across the state.
In the future, Keathley wrote, reports from the center will be reviewed by leaders of the Highway Patrol and the Department of Public Safety. The patrol will also open an investigation into the origin of the militia report.
Conservatives in Missouri and nationally have criticized the report for lumping people with conservative political persuasions in with domestic terrorists and potentially opening them to harassment from law enforcement.
The controversy has been aired on blogs, cable news programs and conservative radio.
In an earlier response, the center had released a statement reaffirming its “regard for the Constitutions of the United States and Missouri” and expressing regret that “any citizens or groups were unintentionally offended by the content of the document.”
And earlier this week, Department of Public Safety Director John M. Britt retracted the portions of the report that noted third party and Republican presidential candidates by name. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat elected last year, has publicly defended the report as well.
Republicans said the earlier statements did not go far enough, and on Wednesday morning Kinder criticized the report for suggesting that only issues championed by conservatives motivate domestic terrorists.
The report “slanders” opponents of abortion and critics of illegal immigration, he said.
“Under the guidance of the present director, who apparently must think it is Nixon’s secret service, the Department of Public Safety has taken on the new and sinister role of political profiling,” Kinder said.
Also troubling Kinder said, the report makes no mention of Islamic terrorists or those who might subscribe to ideologies associated with liberals, such as environmental radicals.
“Let’s be very clear: There are extremists and ultra extremists in every group mentioned above,” Kinder said, referring to anti-abortion and border security activists. “But not just in these groups.”
Kinder said Britt should be suspended and that the state legislature should investigate how the report was prepared.
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