Sovereign citizen extremist movement surfaces in U.S.

08:35, August 19, 2010      

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A sovereign citizen extremist movement has surfaced in the United States and has been listed by the Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI) as the third threat of domestic terrorism.

The FBI website carries a warning of the Sovereign Citizen Movement as the third threat in domestic terrorism, which means Americans attacking Americans because of U.S.-based extremist ideologies coming in many forms in the post 9/11 world.

Sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or "sovereign" from the United States. As a result, they believe they don't have to answer to any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.

According to the website, the Sovereign Citizen Movement causes all kinds of problems and crimes. For example, many sovereign citizens don't pay their taxes. They hold illegal courts that issue warrants for judges and police officers. They clog up the court system with frivolous lawsuits and liens against public officials to harass them. And they use fake money orders, personal checks, and the like at government agencies, banks, and businesses.

The FBI website says not every action taken in the name of the sovereign citizen ideology is a crime, but the list of illegal actions committed by these groups, cells, and individuals is extensive.

Sovereign citizens also commit murder and physical assault, threaten judges, law enforcement professionals, and government personnel, impersonate police officers and diplomats, use fake currency, passports, license plates, and driver's licenses, and engineer various white-collar scams, including mortgage fraud and so-called "redemption" schemes, according to the FBI.

Sovereign citizens are often confused with extremists from the militia movement. But while sovereign citizens sometimes use or buy illegal weapons, guns are secondary to their anti-government, anti-tax beliefs. On the other hand, guns and paramilitary training are paramount to militia groups, the FBI says.

During the past year, FBI has had a number of investigative successes involving sovereign citizens.

In Sacramento, California, two sovereign citizens were convicted of running a fraudulent insurance scheme. Operating outside state insurance regulatory guidelines, the men set up their own company and sold "lifetime memberships" to customers, promising to pay any accident claims against their "members." The company collected millions of dollars, but paid out very few claims, according to the FBI.

In Kansas City, three sovereign citizens were convicted of taking part in a conspiracy using phony diplomatic credentials. They charged customers between 450 and 2,000 dollars for a diplomatic identification card, which would bestow upon the holder "sovereign" status -- meaning they would enjoy diplomatic immunity from paying taxes and from being stopped or arrested by law enforcement, the FBI says on the website.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, four men affiliated with the sovereign citizen movement were arrested by the Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force on federal money laundering, tax evasion, and weapons charges. The investigation involved an undercover operation, with two of the suspects allegedly laundering more than a million dollars from what was believed to be a bank fraud scheme, according to the FBI.

The "sovereign citizens" movement is growing at a rapid pace in the southern states of the country, according to the latest issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Intelligence Report.

The SPLC explores the strange world of the sovereign citizen movement and estimates there are now as many as 300,000 followers in the United States. About a third of those are considered hardcore adherents, with the rest testing out sovereign citizen techniques for resisting everything from speeding tickets to drug charges and home foreclosures.

Sovereign citizens believe most Americans have no obligation to obey laws, regulations or tax codes, especially those imposed by the federal government. They justify their beliefs on the basis of decades-old conspiracy theories and intricate, nonsensical legal theories.

According to the Intelligence Report, on May 20 this year two police officers in West Memphis, Arkansas were gunned down after they stopped Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son, Joseph.

The pair had traveled the country giving seminars in a practice that purportedly allowed people to avoid home foreclosure, one of many sovereign-citizen schemes to evade debt.

Jerry Kane refused to carry a driver's license, a violation having resulted in an earlier arrest in New Mexico that enraged him. After the two officers were killed, authorities cornered the Kanes in a Walmart parking lot, where they were killed in a shootout that also left two officers badly wounded, the report says.

The Intelligence Report also profiles a dozen leaders of the contemporary sovereign citizen movement and explains the top 10 conspiracy theories of the larger antigovernment "Patriot" movement.

These theories, according to the report, range from a belief in government concentration camps to plots involving the Federal Reserve System.

The deadly encounter in Arkansas wasn't the first time sovereign citizens have violently lashed out against an officer and, in effect, the entire government. In 1995 in Ohio, for instance, a sovereign named Michael Hill was killed after pulling a gun on an officer during a traffic stop. In 1997, New Hampshire extremist Carl Drega killed two officers and two civilians and wounded another three officers before being killed, according to the Intelligence Report.

Also in 1997, in Idaho, brothers Doug and Craig Broderick killed one officer and wounded another before being killed themselves. And in 1993, an Alabama officer was shot and killed by sovereign citizens after he approached their family's car in a parking lot. A shopper had told the officer that a boy in the back of the car was asking for help. When the officer asked the father for his license, the man made some standard sovereign citizen claims before pulling a gun, according to the Intelligence Report.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:张茜)

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