JEFFERSON CITY - A spokesman with the Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed a report from the Boston Globe that law enforcement officials believe Columbia, Missouri is one of six U.S. cities with ties to Osama bin Laden.
"[We've been told that] a group of individuals exist in the Columbia area who do support bin Laden," Captain Chris Ricks of the Highway Patrol said," but they've broken none of our laws. As far as we know they might not have the same opinions as some other Americans, but they're in this country legally."
Ricks would not reveal how the Highway Patrol found out about the supporters.
He also would not comment on whether the federal government had contacted the Highway Patrol.
Ricks did emphasize that this group was not being put on surveillance.
"There's no intelligence, no evidence that anybody from the Columbia group did anything illegal," Ricks said.
Word of the Globe's story brought mixed reaction from legislators.
Rep. David Levin, R-St. Louis County, questioned why security was not tighter around the statehouse in light of the possibility of bin Laden supporters being so close to the seat of state government.
"Maybe every non-citizen who's from what I'll call a high-risk country should be deported unless there is a compelling reason they should stay here," Levin said. "We are entering a state of war."
But Sen. Ted House, D-St. Charles, said it was important not to overreact and to protect the civil liberties of all people.
He also said that the report would not affect his work in the special session.
"It's such a privilege to be here and to serve in the Capitol," House said. "It'll take more than rumors to keep me out."
Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, agreed with Sen. House saying that attacks and prejudice against Arab-Americans should not be tolerated.
Kinder did say that the organization should be looked into.
"I would be surprised if Boone County isn't crawling with FBI agents who are checking this out," Kinder said.