"Sovereign Citizen” Top Terrorist Threat?


By: Michelle Youngblood

By now, most local governments at least have heard of the so-called “Sovereign Citizen” movement, even if they have not had the dubious pleasure of dealing with one of its members.  The term “Sovereign Citizen” applies to any of a range of anti-government groups and individuals who claim, for a variety of reasons, that they are not subject to federal, state, and local governments.  Some sovereign citizens then use this contention as “justification” for criminal activity, from trespassing to tax evasion all the way to murder.

A recent survey of 175 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism found that the sovereign citizen movement was considered the top threat for domestic terrorism.[i]  Since 2006, sovereign citizens have been responsible for the deaths of at least six (6) law enforcement officers.  In 2010, for example, police officers in Arkansas stopped two sovereign citizens in a routine traffic stop.  One of the sovereign citizens emerged from the vehicle and began firing at the officers with an AK-47 assault rifle, killing both officers.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have resources available to assist if a particular threat is identified.

[i] A majority of respondents agreed (52% agreed and 34% strongly agreed) that sovereign citizens are a serious terrorism threat.