Sovereign citizens seen as top terrorist threat by US law enforcement

Sovereign citizens seen as top terrorist threat by US law enforcement

The sovereign citizen movement is considered the top threat for
domestic terrorism, according to a survey of state, local, and tribal
law enforcement agencies.

Islamist extremists and militia/patriot groups round out the top
three threats to communities in the United States considered most
serious by 364 officers of 175 state, local, and tribal law
enforcement entities, according to a survey conducted by the
National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to
Terrorism (START).

The survey - “Understanding
Law Enforcement Intelligence Processes” - found that “52
percent of respondents agreed and 34 percent strongly agreed that
sovereign citizens were a serious terrorist threat” as
opposed to 39 percent of respondents who agreed and 28 percent
who strongly agreed that Islamic extremists were the most serious

A previous sample on terror threats taken in 2006-2007 found that
sovereign citizens were the eighth-most serious threat to
non-federal law enforcement. Islamic extremists led that survey’s
threat index.

The latest survey found that while sovereign citizens as a whole
have moved into the top position overall, the threat posed by
many individual groups that are considered part of the broad
movement has decreased since the previous survey.

“[A]lthough estimates about some groups were a serious
terrorist threat increased comparing the two time periods, (e.g.,
Left-Wing Revolutionaries; Extreme Anti-Abortion Extremists), the
concern about whether most groups were a serious terrorist threat
actually declined for most groups (e.g., the KKK; Christian
Identity; Neo-Nazis; Racist Skinheads; Extremist
Environmentalists; Extreme Animal Rights Extremists).”

The decline of some of these individual groups surprised

“The change is interesting as there was significant concern
about the resurgence of the radical far right (as evidenced by
the 2006 – 07 survey, as well as additional concerns raised after
the 2008 election of President Barack Obama), but it appears as
though law enforcement is, at present, less concerned about these
groups,” they wrote.

As for the generalized term, “sovereign citizen
movement,” the researchers say that while it is often
associated with right-wing groups, the ideology of sovereign
citizens does not always fit with the association.

“Although most organizations group Sovereign Citizens with
other right wing groups, they are quite unique. Sovereigns do not
specifically share the ‘supremacist’ views of the Klan, etc.
Their focus is not on individuals (e.g., minorities, Jews, etc.)
rather their focus is on government dysfunction and abuse of
authority. Their anti-government ideology is arguably more akin
to left wing anarchists than right wing Klansmen.”

The survey found that cyberterrorism is perceived by officers as
the most likely terrorism-related crime. Conventional Explosive
Devices was considered second most-likely.

START researchers specifically asked the law enforcement officers
“the threat of terrorism; the nature of information-sharing;
and whether agencies are prepared to deal with terrorist

“Identifying and prioritizing a threat is akin to hitting a
moving target and evolves as new intelligence, data, and events
develop,” START’s David Carter “Law enforcement must be steadfast
in identifying major concerns, substantiating the concerns,
providing products and resources to better understand the nature
of the threat, and supporting efforts to respond to such

The officers surveyed said the most useful law enforcement
entities in combating terrorism include state/local fusion
centers, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force(s), the FBI, and
the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and

In addition, the officers said that the most valuable open-source
materials they use to gather information are the Internet, human
intelligence sources, and the media.

START was funded with an initial $12 million grant from the US
Department of Homeland Security in 2005. The grant was renewed in
2008. It is supported by the US Department of Homeland Security’s
Science and Technology Directorate and receives additional
funding from various federal agencies, private foundations, and

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