'Fusion Centers' Expand Criteria to Identify Militia MembersBy Joshua Rhett Miller Published March 23, 2009 FoxNews.com
If you're an anti-abortion activist, or if you display political paraphernalia supporting a third-party candidate or a certain Republican member of Congress, if you possess subversive literature, you very well might be a member of a domestic paramilitary group.
That's according to "The Modern Militia Movement," a report by the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), a government collective that identifies the warning signs of potential domestic terrorists for law enforcement communities.
"Due to the current economical and political situation, a lush environment for militia activity has been created," the Feb. 20 report reads. "Unemployment rates are high, as well as costs of living expenses. Additionally, President Elect Barrack [sic] Obama is seen as tight on gun control and many extremists fear that he will enact firearms confiscations."
MIAC is one of 58 so-called "fusion centers" nationwide that were created by the Department of Homeland Security, in part, to collect local intelligence that authorities can use to combat terrorism and related criminal activities. More than $254 million from fiscal years 2004-2007 went to state and local governments to support the fusion centers, according to the DHS Web site.
During a press conference last week in Kansas City, Mo., DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano called fusion centers the "centerpiece of state, local, federal intelligence-sharing" in the future.
"Let us not forget the reason we are here, the reason we have the Department of Homeland Security and the reason we now have fusion centers, which is a relatively new concept, is because we did not have the capacity as a country to connect the dots on isolated bits of intelligence prior to 9/11," Napolitano said, according to a DHS transcript.
"That's why we started this.... Now we know that it's not just the 9/11-type incidents but many, many other types of incidents that we can benefit from having fusion centers that share information and product and analysis upwards and horizontally."
But some say the fusion centers are going too far in whom they identify as potential threats to American security.
People who supported former third-party presidential candidates like Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr are cited in the report, in addition to anti-abortion activists and conspiracy theorists who believe the United States, Mexico and Canada will someday form a North American Union.
"Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups," the report reads. "It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty or Libertarian material."
Other potential signals of militia involvement, according to the report, are possession of the Gagsden "Don't Tread on Me" flag or the widely available anti-income tax film "America: Freedom to Fascism."
Barr, the 2008 Libertarian Party presidential nominee, told FOXNews.com that he's taking steps to get his name removed from the report, which he said could actually "dilute the effectiveness" of law enforcement agencies.
"It can subject people to unwarranted and inappropriate monitoring by the government," he said. "If I were the governor of Missouri, I'd be concerned that law enforcement agencies are wasting their time and effort on such nonsense."
Barr said his office has received "several dozen" complaints related to the report.
Mary Starrett, communications director for the Constitution Party, said Baldwin, the party's 2008 presidential candidate, was "outraged" that his name was included in the report.
"We were so astounded by it we couldn't believe it was real," Starrett told FOXNews.com. "It's painting such a large number of people with a broad brush in a dangerous light."
Michael German, national security policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the report "crosses the line" and shows a disregard for civil liberties.
"It seems to implicate people who are engaging in First Amendment protected activities and suggest that something as innocuous as supporting a political candidate for office would mean that you're harboring some ill-intent," German told FOXNews.com. "It's completely inappropriate."
German, who claims the number of fusion centers nationwide is closer to 70, said the centers present several troubling concerns, including their excessive secrecy, ambiguous lines of authority, the use of data mining and military participation.
"No two are alike," German said. "And these things are expanding rapidly."
But MIAC officials defended their report, saying it's not a basis for officers to take enforcement action.
"These reports sometimes mention groups or individuals who are not the subject of the document, but may be relevant to describing tendencies or trends concerning the subject of the document," MIAC said in a statement.
"For example, a criminal group may use a particular wire service to transfer funds, but the mention of that wire service does not imply that it is part of that group, or a criminal enterprise.
Nor does it imply that all individuals who use that service are engaged in criminal activity."
The statement continues, "We are concerned about the mischaracterizations of a document following its recent unauthorized release and we regret that any citizens were unintentionally offended by the content of the document."
Donny Ferguson, a spokesman for the Libertarian Party, said he was concerned by the report's "poor choice of words," among other things.
"Unfortunately it is so broadly worded it could be interpreted as saying millions of peaceful, law-abiding Americans are involved in dangerous activities. These mistakes happen and we hope Missouri officials will correct the report," Ferguson wrote in an e-mail. "The Libertarian Party promotes the common-sense policies of fiscal responsibility and social tolerance. We are the only party in America who makes opposition to initiating violence a condition of membership."
Bob McCarty, a St. Louis resident who blogged about the MIAC report, said he's afraid he may be targeted, since he's previously sold Ron Paul-related merchandise.
"[The report] described me, so maybe I need to get a gun and build a shack out in the woods," McCarty said facetiously. "It's certainly an attempt to stifle political thought, especially in Missouri. It definitely makes me pause, if nothing else. Maybe Missouri is just a test bed for squelching political thought."
ACLU officials blasted a Texas fusion center last month for distributing a "Prevention Awareness Bulletin" that called on law enforcement officers to report activities of local lobbying groups, Muslim civil rights organizations and anti-war protest groups.
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