By Cisse W. Spragins
The Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) issued a "Strategic Report" on February 20th, 2009, which became known to the public in the second week of March. MIAC is a "fusion center" wherein federal, state, and local law enforcement officials work together and share information with the stated mission to combat terrorism and crime. The Centers began after 9/11 and are funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security.
The internal document designed for law enforcement education purposes inaccurately and dangerously implied that among the indicators of possible involvement in extremist, militant militia activity is support for the Libertarian Party. This memo and its findings are potentially dangerous to both the people of Missouri and to our system of free political speech.
The memo claimed that membership in, among other groups, the Libertarian Party and/or the display of what it calls "political paraphernalia" in support of the party or its 2008 presidential nominee (former US Congressman Bob Barr) could be an indicator that someone is involved in a "militant militia".
The memo purported to outline "trends" in extremist militia activity and claimed those involved in such activity "...commonly associate with 3rd party political groups." It went on to claim that militia members were "usually supporters of" the 2008 Presidential candidates Bob Barr, Republican Rep. Ron Paul or another third party candidate. While the report claimed to be a memo about trends in militia activity, no specific evidence was offered to support the claim.
The memo further listed some "motivators" of dangerous militia involvement. That list includes, among others:
- Opposition to gun control legislation
- Opposition to President Barack Obama's "Universal Service Program" that was discussed during the presidential campaign
- Opposition to income taxes
- Opposition to illegal immigration
- Opposition to abortion
The Missouri LP got deeply involved in the debate and issued a series of press releases, denouncing the report as "political profiling" by law enforcement officials.
The memo was retracted in late March and Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director John Britt issued apologies for the report's reference to specific Presidential candidates, including Libertarian Bob Barr and Republican Ron Paul, and for the references to specific political organizations, including the Libertarian Party and the Campaign for Liberty. Van Godsey, the Director of MIAC who signed off on the report was reassigned.
By working closely with key lawmakers and continuing to apply pressure, the Missouri LP along with other freedom groups ultimately succeeded in getting the Legislature to create a special interim committee to investigate the report. Hearings are being held around the State. The first hearing was held in Jefferson City in June and the second in St. Louis in July. Hearings in Kansas City and Springfield are planned for later in August or September.
Missouri LP Chair Glenn Nielsen testified at the St. Louis hearing. Nielsen noted for the Committee that the motives for violence and extremist behavior that were listed in the memo were based on racist, anti-gay, anti-semite, neo-nazi, white supremacist, anti-immigrant or anti-abortion views. He advised that these views are antithetical to libertarianism and reprehensible to Libertarians as a motivator for violence against others. He reminded the committee that Libertarians are staunch advocates for individual liberties and celebrate the individual while ignoring group characteristics such as skin color, race or religion. To view Glenn's testimony, visit the Missouri LP You Tube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/MissouriLP.
The Missouri LP is pleased to be involved and instrumental in the resolution of this issue. The public outcry was significant and with good reason. Such actions by government law enforcement officials can have a chilling effect on one's desire to be involved in the political process, effectively curtailing free speech and political expression. Such freedoms are the very backbone of a free republic.
Missouri LP State Chair Glenn Nielsen written testimony submitted to committee:
July 28th, 2009
Missouri House of Representatives 95th General Assembly, 1st Regular Session
Interim Committee on State Intelligence Analysis Oversight
Chair Dixon and members of the committee,
Thank you for conducting these public hearings on oversight of the Missouri Information Analysis Center.
First I will speak to the MIAC Modern Militia Movement Report, then make a few recommendations.
MIAC Modern Militia Movement Report
The MIAC Modern Militia Movement Report chronicled actual cases of violence in recent decades perpetrated by individuals with extreme hateful views.
The report went on to make sweeping generalizations regarding political views and political parties who violent extremists might associate with. Including the Libertarian Party and our 2008 Presidential Nominee, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr.
When joining the Libertarian Party, new members certify that they do not advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals. This is the Non Aggression Principal, a core principle of libertarianism.
Those who advocate violence are not welcome in the Libertarian Party.
Where motives were listed for those who committed violence, they were based on racist, anti-gay, anti-semite, neo-nazi, white supremacist, anti-immigrant or anti-abortion views.
Libertarians are staunch advocates for individual liberties. Libertarians celebrate the individual while ignoring group characteristics such as skin color, race or religion.
Libertarians believe you should be free to live your life and enjoy those natural rights and liberties you cherish, as long as you don't harm another individual or their property. And you should allow others that same freedom, even if you don't agree with the choices they might make for their life.
The hateful bigoted views which motivated the violent extremists chronicled in the Modern Militia Movement report are in direct opposition to the views held by libertarians.
There is a strong LGBT caucus in the Libertarian Party called the Outright Libertarians, including here in Missouri. Libertarians hold a wide range of religious beliefs, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists and agnostics. Libertarians are more moderate on the issues of abortion and immigration than those on the far right.
Personally pro-choice and pro-life libertarians can agree on many abortion policy issues. For example, not using our tax dollars to promote or subsidize abortions, something those who are pro-life find morally reprehensible.
This is why libertarians have been so outspoken about the MIAC Modern Militia Movement Report. It associated libertarians with violent individuals who's motivations we find reprehensible.
In 2004 a known white supremacist filed to run for office as a Democrat. The Missouri Democrat Party denied him access to their ballot. The Republicans said they would do the same. When he filed as a Libertarian, the Missouri Libertarian Party also denied him access to our ballot. In 1996, a number of militia members appeared on the August primary ballot in St. Louis as Republicans. The report by making such sweeping generalizations could have listed the Democrat and Republican Parties as well.
By trying to tie libertarians to these violent extremists the authors of this report demonstrated their ignorance of the Libertarian Party and libertarian principles.
Spreading ignorance via this report to law enforcement, who are authorized to use force by the state, is very dangerous to our civil liberties.
In addition to increasing the likelihood of our civil liberties being infringed by law enforcement due to political profiling it can have a chilling effect on participation in the political process.
Libertarians do not fear coming to harm from an attack by foreign terrorists. Libertarians do not fear coming to harm from domestic terrorists.
Libertarians do have a valid concern, as evidenced by the MIAC Modern Militia Movement Report, that they may be profiled by law enforcement for their political views, resulting in infringements on their civil liberties.
From the MIAC Privacy, Civil Liberties, and Civil Rights Policy:
"In fulfilling its public safety role, MIAC may actively seek, analyze, disseminate and retain information that is based on criminal predicate, reasonably suspected terrorism nexus, or that which negatively impacts public safety. Such information must be relevant to investigation, prosecution, and/or mitigation of genuine public safety incidents."
"MIAC will not seek or retain information about individuals or organizations based solely on religious, political, or social views and/or activities."
At a minimum, there should be permanent oversight of MIAC by the elected representatives of Missourians to ensure MIAC complies with its own policies.
In addition, MIAC should restrict its operations to hard facts for those who have actually threatened to commit violence and avoid speculation and generalization.
Ultimately, libertarians see no need for the Missouri Information Analysis Center. The actual threat to our security does not justify the infringement on our civil liberties.
To quote Benjamin Franklin, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Thank you for your consideration,Glenn Nielsen Chair Missouri Libertarian Party