A new Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment circulated this month focuses on the threat of right-wing sovereign citizen extremist groups in the U.S. Some law enforcement groups say the threat is equal to, and occasionally greater than, the threat from Islamic extremist groups.
The Homeland Security report, produced in coordination with the FBI, counts 24 violent sovereign citizen-related attacks across the U.S. since 2010, CNN reported Friday.
These types of extremists believe that they can ignore laws because those laws attack their individual rights, even in routine daily instances like a traffic stop or being required to obey a court order, CNN reported Friday.
In one instance in Louisiana in 2012 a father and son were accused of engaging in a shootout with police after an officer pulled them over for a traffic violation. Two officers were killed and several others wounded in the shooting. The two men were sovereign citizen extremists who claimed the police had no authority over them.
The Homeland Security report predicts that most sovereign citizen violence in 2015 will occur during routine law enforcement encounters at a suspect’s home, during enforcement stops and at government offices, CNN reported.
“Law enforcement officers will remain the primary target of (sovereign citizen) violence over the next year due to their role in physically enforcing laws and regulations,” the report states, according to CNN.
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The new assessment comes as President Obama is holding a conference to focus on efforts to fight violent extremism. While the White House has come under fire for its refusal to use the term “Islamist extremism” during the talks, there has been very little discussion on the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen groups.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say the (White House) conference didn’t address this at all,” an administration official said, adding that the president addresses the need to combat “violent ideologies” of all types, CNN reported.
While groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda have dominated the global discussion on terrorism, a survey last year of state and local law enforcement officers listed sovereign citizen terrorists ahead of foreign Islamists and domestic militia groups as the top domestic terror threat, CNN reported.
The Homeland Security issued a similar report on the threat of right-wing terrorist groups in the past, garnering criticism for the Obama administration. A 2009 Homeland Security report on possible recruitment of military veterans by right-wing militia groups prompted an outcry from veterans groups.
That report was produced by staff members during the Bush administration but wasn’t published until then Homeland Security Janet Napolitano had taken office. Ms. Napolitano criticized her own agency for the report.