The “Sovereign Citizen Movement” has been named the number one domestic terrorist threat in America by The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a University of Maryland project funded directly by the Department of Homeland Security.
Self-described sovereign citizens take the position that they are answerable only to common law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, state, or municipal levels. They especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate. Participants in the movement argue this concept is in opposition to “federal citizens” who, they say, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law.
Many members of the sovereign citizen movement believe that the U.S. Government is illegitimate and that the office of County Sheriff is the most powerful law enforcement officer in the country having powers that trump that of federal agents, elected officials, and local law-enforcement. As such, a County Sheriff could conceivably arrest the President of the United States if in their jurisdiction.
Sovereign citizens do not constitute a cohesive movement, although the government characterizes them as such. The Southern Poverty Law Center, who works directly with the DHS, estimates around 100,000 Americans were “hard-core sovereign believers” in 2010 and an additional 200,000 were “just starting out by testing sovereign techniques for resisting everything from speeding tickets to drug charges.”
The report, issued by START last month, collected information from state and local fusion centers, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the DHS, BATF, DEA, ICE, and state and local homeland security and anti-terrorism task forces. It found that “52 percent of respondents agreed and 34 percent strongly agreed that sovereign citizens constitute the most serious terrorist threat” as opposed to 39 percent of respondents who agreed and 28 percent who strongly agreed that Islamic extremists are the most serious threat.
“The 2013-14 study results show that law enforcement’s top concern is sovereign citizens. Although Islamic extremists remain a major concern for law enforcement, they are no longer their top concern,” the START report states. According to the organization, threats posed by sovereign citizens include cyberterrorism, the use of explosive devices, military weapons, and biological, chemical and radiological weapons.
The report recommends state and federal law enforcement share intelligence data on targeted groups, develop “tactical responses” to threats and “act on that information to prevent or mitigate threats.”
“The FBI considers sovereign-citizen extremists as comprising a domestic terrorist movement, which, scattered across the United States, has existed for decades, with well-known members, such as Terry Nichols, who helped plan the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, bombing,” an FBI law enforcement bulletin issued in September, 2011, states.
The military and United States government have made it clear in manual after manual, scenario after scenario that they perceive American enemies to be gun owners, limited government conservatives, and libertarians.
One of the most egregious confirmations of this was back in 2012 when a report published by START stated that Americans “reverent of individual liberty” and others adamant about protecting their personal freedoms, are “extreme right-wing terrorists.”
In that paper, Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970-2008, researchers used definitions from another START study, 2011’s Profiles of Perpetrators of Terrorism, to characterize what traits should be considered when describing right-wing terrorists.
These definitions include:
- Americans who believe their “way of life” is under attack
- Americans who are “fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation)”
- People who consider themselves “anti-global” (presumably those who are wary of the loss of American sovereignty)
- Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority”
- People who “oppose to abortion and support the second Amendment”
- Americans who are “reverent of individual liberty”
- People who “believe in conspiracy theories that involve grave threat to national sovereignty and/or personal liberty.”
These papers as well, were funded with grants from the US Department of Homeland Security provided to START.
Federal authorities, particularly the Department of Homeland Security, during both the Obama and Bush administrations, have been involved in producing a deluge of literature portraying liberty lovers and small government advocates as terrorists.
One of the most flagrant examples was the infamous 2009 MIAC report, published by the Missouri Information Analysis Center which framed Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, people who display bumper stickers, people who own gold, or even people who fly a U.S. flag, as potential terrorists.
The rush to denounce legitimate political beliefs as thought crimes, or even mundane behaviors, by insinuating they are shared by terrorists, has accelerated in recent years.
Under the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism program, the bulk purchase of food is labeled as a potential indication of terrorist activity, as is using cash to pay for a cup of coffee, and showing an interest in web privacy when using the Internet in a public place.