The FBI is using the murder of two West Memphis police officers during a routine traffic stop to publicize the potential threat posed by so-called “sovereign citizens.” RT.com reports,
“Sovereign citizens” are people who voluntarily deny US citizenship and do not recognize government authority. Many followers of this movement are involved in so called “white-collar” crimes, such as tax evasion, the FBI explained on Monday at a press conference. These people also tend to believe that the United States went bankrupt by abolishing the gold standard.
However, the reason why the FBI started paying more attention to “sovereign citizens” is their alleged propensity to violence.
“We started to notice a heightened potential for violence,” said Stuart McArthur, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. Regular encounters with police can turn violent “at the drop of a hat,” he added according to Reuters.
The FBI official referred to the 2010 case when one such “sovereign citizen” and his son shot dead two police officers during a traffic inspection in West Memphis.
According to the report, about 100,000 people in America consider themselves part of the movement. But few people knew of them until the FBI’s campaign. Now,
“We are being inundated right now with requests for training from state and local law enforcement on sovereign-related matters,” said Casey Carty, an FBI supervisory special agent.
Most of the alleged crimes committed by sovereigns are white-collar, although reports always reference the one 2010 shooting and then warn of a general willingness by sovereigns to “Commit murder and physical assault,” even “at the drop of a hat.”
Reuters reports that convictions of “such extremists” have risen from 10 in 2009, to a whopping 18 in each of the following years. These are mostly white-collar crimes. (Meanwhile, more than 30 members of Congress are under investigation for ethics violations, including failure to pay taxes, and three dozen of Obama’s staffers were caught delinquent on taxes, too.)
The criminal aspects involved are, of course, very serious. But the problem with this campaign (and its wide reporting) is that it now automatically associates legitimate questions of liberty with the actions of violent extremists. In fact, some reports make sure to include a reference to another “anti-government” extremist, Timothy McVeigh, even heading the article with a pic of the bombed OKC building.
Unless the “sovereign” group has been directly linked to such terrorism, such reporting is simply irresponsible, and worse, destructive to liberty. Due to associations like this, it can now become dangerous even to question things like the federal income tax, court procedures, jurisdiction, police procedures, property rights, and dozens of other issues.
Ironically, one report demonstrates how a warning can easily be turned into a smear campaign. It leers, “The group’s most extreme members are ‘steeped in conspiracy theories,’” which sounds terrible. We can’t have people running around alleging “conspiracy” now can we? Except that’s exactly how the FBI itself stings the sovereign movement: “In Kansas City, three sovereign citizens were convicted of taking part in a conspiracy using phony diplomatic credentials.”
Perhaps the USA Today would like to take a swipe at the FBI for citing a “conspiracy,” or else just admit that sometimes, conspiracies really are worth questioning.
Here’s the Southern Poverty Law Center’s take (video):