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Posted Feb 8th 2012 at 8:41 am
by Wynton Hall
At a Federal Bureau of Investigation conference on Monday, FBI agents said state and local law enforcement should be on alert for people who consider themselves “sovereign citizens,” individuals who believe they are not subject to any type of government authority.
According to Reuters, these anti-government extremists “may refuse to pay taxes, defy government environmental regulations and believe the United States went bankrupt by going off the gold standard.”
Routine encounters with police can turn violent “at the drop of a hat,” said Stuart McArthur, deputy assistant director in the FBI’s counterterrorism division.
“We thought it was important to increase the visibility of the threat with state and local law enforcement,” he said.
In May 2010, two West Memphis, Arkansas, police officers were shot and killed in an argument that developed after they pulled over a “sovereign citizen” in traffic.
Last year, an extremist in Texas opened fire on a police officer during a traffic stop. The officer was not hit.
The heightened concern against “sovereign citizens” is the result of the rise in legal convictions from 10 such cases in 2009 to 18 cases in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
“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.
The Sovereign Citizens United website describes the movement this way:
Sovereign Citizens United is a citizens group dedicated to protecting private property ownership and the freedom and liberty that is our birthright as American citizens. We are a clearing house of information and tools to facilitate and promote those goals in every community in America…
We do NOT endorse non-payment of taxes or violence to achieve these changes. We do NOT endorse giving up a social security number and we do NOT endorse violence against the police or the government.
How many “sovereign citizens” exist in the United States is hard to say, reports Reuters. However, J.J. MacNab, a former tax and insurance expert whose published works have appeared in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s publications, estimates that perhaps 100,000 citizens consider themselves part of the sovereign citizen movement.
Reuters notes that, “Sovereign members often express particular outrage at tax collection, putting Internal Revenue Service employees at risk.”