Hatewatch

Nativist Leader Attacks SPLC Over Missouri Report

When Missouri law enforcement officers prepared a controversial report linking some right-wing organizations to the growing militia movement, anti-illegal immigration activist William Gheen knew just who to blame: The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Gheen, the founder of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC, issued a “national advisory” to law enforcement agencies and officers warning “against any reliance upon faulty and politicized research” done by SPLC and the ADL. And, he added, ALIPAC “hopes that future scandals can be avoided by promoting awareness of the faulty information distributed to police and media” by the two groups.

There was just one little problem with Gheen’s screed — it failed to cite a single piece of “faulty information” disseminated by either organization or to show that the watchdog organizations had, in fact, been involved in preparing the report.

What got Gheen in a lather was a report meant to be seen only by Missouri law enforcement officers but leaked to the public recently. Compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center — a fusion center where federal and state agencies work together to collect intelligence to combat terrorism — the report linked various right-wing organizations to the growing militia movement in the United States. Fusion centers in some states have come under fire for allegedly spying on groups ranging from Muslim civil rights groups to peace activists.

The Feb. 20 Missouri report was distributed to Missouri law enforcement agencies. It gave a history of the militia movement and said that members typically are fundamentalist Christians active in anti-abortion and anti-immigrant groups, and who support third-party political groups and conservative presidential candidates such as Libertarian Bob Barr, the Constitution Party’s Chuck Baldwin and former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

After the report was leaked, conservatives were furious, complaining that they were being unfairly labeled as criminals. Some said the report amounted to political profiling, saying that it suggests that militia members often display materials related to Barr and Paul. “There’s definitely a propaganda campaign out there to make us look like a problem to law enforcement,” former Internal Revenue Service special agent and anti-tax activist Joe Banister told a militia group conference in Pensacola on Saturday. The Missouri Highway Patrol stopped distributing the report last week, as a result of the outcry.

And what do SPLC and the ADL have to do with all of this? The SPLC was cited as among the sources from which the Missouri report drew conclusions. In his advisory, Gheen wrote that “we felt that the false connections, pseudo research and political attacks found in these documents could have been penned by the SPLC and ADL.”

But in fact, SPLC did not “pen” any part of the report. “The SPLC was not involved in any way in the preparation of this report,” said Mark Potok, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “But to people like William Gheen, we make a convenient target simply because we have criticized his group and many others like it over the years.”