The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned about a growing terror threat from extremists. Not Islamist terrorists like ISIS, but domestic right-wing extremists called “sovereign citizens.” The name comes from their belief that laws made by the government, whether federal, state or local, do not apply to them. The report is already receiving cynicism among conservative media outlets like Fox News.
State and local law officials consider terror threats from domestic, right-wing groups equal to or even greater than the threat from foreign Islamist terrorism, according to a survey conducted last year. And there’s good reason for the alarm.
In 2013, an anti-government terrorist attacked three Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers with a gun, killing one, at Los Angeles International Airport. Another couple with similar views killed two police officers and a bystander in a Walmart parking lot last year.
And in 2012, a father-son sovereign citizen team engaged police in a violent shootout, leading to the deaths of two officers.
According to CNN, the DHS report cites 24 violent terror attacks from sovereign citizens since 2010. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPL Center) said the figure was about 60 violent incidents from what they called “lone-wolf” extremists.
The SPL Center reports that there are an estimated 300,000 people involved in the sovereign citizen movement, with about 100,000 people at the core.
Despite the threat and past DHS warnings, government officials have not responded in full-force to the threat, largely because of anger from conservative groups.
According Raw Story, the DHS disbanded the team specialized in non-Islamist, domestic terror in 2009 because right-wing pundits and lawmakers cried foul when the team warned that disillusioned military veterans could be vulnerable to recruitment.
Conservatives are quickly becoming dismissive of the current DHS warning as well.
Fox News considered the threat from right-wing sovereign citizens minimal compared with ISIS.
“The report cites ’24 violent sovereign citizen-related attacks across the U.S. since 2010,’ or as ISIS calls it, ‘a slow Tuesday morning.'”
The Fox News article came complete with a picture of three elderly women wearing patriotic red, white, and blue colors, insinuating they were the “right-wingers” the DHS was warning about.
The Daily Caller was particularly critical of the report.
“While anyone committing crimes is an issue law enforcement should be concerned with, the threat from lunatic fringe ‘sovereign citizens’ — people who reject government — pales in comparison to an organized and well-financed group of jihadi terrorists excited at the prospect of their own death in the course of killing ‘infidels.'”
It’s still not clear if the new DHS report will result in more backlash from conservative groups. If the study is correct, resistance might deprive police officers of the support they need to deal with domestic terror.
The DHS warns, “violence during 2015 will occur most frequently during routine law enforcement encounters at a suspect’s home, during enforcement stops, and at government offices.”
“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.”
What the DHS terror warning means for police officers will be decided in the next few months.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]