What Exactly Is In Homeland Security's Report on Sovereign Citizens?

CNN got its hands on a document. It would be nice to know what it says.


(Update, February 25: I got my hands on the report. Read all about it here.)

Republic of the United States

Last week CNN revealed that the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have produced a report on the "sovereign citizens," a fringy subculture known for filing nuisance lawsuits, creating its own license plates, and periodically getting into shootouts with the cops.

What does the report say? I don't know. The intelligence assessment was circulated to law enforcement, but it has not been released to the public. CNN did not post it online, and the network's story included only two brief quotes from it:

Among the findings from the Homeland Security intelligence assessment: "(Sovereign citizen) violence during 2015 will occur most frequently during routine law enforcement encounters at a suspect's home, during enforcement stops and at government offices."

The report adds that "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 story also included this:

The country has zits.

…though I'm not sure whether the map itself appeared in the government report or if it's a CNN graphic based on the report's data.

With so little to go on, I can't give you an informed opinion about the document's contents. As far as I know, the map is accurate. And neither of the quoted predictions is off the wall: To the extent that sovereign citizens are inclined toward political violence (not all of them are), that generally takes the form of clashes with law enforcement. But I don't know what context that map and those predictions appeared in. Maybe it's a sensible briefing on how to defuse a potentially lethal encounter. Maybe it's a piece of hysteria-mongering that'll make cops jumpy if they think the driver they just stopped might be a sovereign citizen. Maybe it's something else entirely. I can't say, and unless you've read it you can't either.

But there's been a lot of commentary about the report anyway, largely because of how CNN framed the story:

The men look in the trunk; the dog looks at the camera.

Hang on, you might ask. How did ISIS get in there?

Well, the CNN reporters also quoted a completely separate study, a START survey published last July in which state and local police ranked sovereign citizens as America's most serious terrorist threat, with Islamists coming in second. It didn't specifically ask about ISIS—indeed, the survey began in 2013, well before there were widespread worries about ISIS launching attacks in America. So that's a misleading headline, to put it mildly.

With that frame in place, many conservatives have seen the story as a chance to bring up their beefs with Obama's approach to the war on terror. (Some of them made some odd logical leaps in the process, as when Robert Spencer claimed the DHS/FBI report was meant "to deflect attention away from Islamic jihad terror.") Several liberals, meanwhile, took the opportunity to try to rehabilitate the reputation of DHS's much-maligned 2009 "assessment" on "rightwing extremism." (If you need a reminder of why that report deserves its bad reputation, go here.)

One reaction that I haven't seen, though I may have merely missed it: an acknowledgement that during the time period covered by that map, the total annual number of felonious cop-killings took a plunge. I don't know whether sovereign citizens' violence against police officers increased in that period. But if it did, they were swimming against the tide.

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  1. “(Sovereign citizen) violence during 2015 will occur most frequently during routine law enforcement encounters at a suspect’s home, during enforcement stops…”

    translation =


    1. iow =

      why exactly are ‘routine law enforcement encounters’ so routine?

      It seems that objecting to ‘stop and frisk’ on the streets of NYC is seen as a popular resistance against institutional racism…

      but objecting to it anywhere else? is a sign of *dangerous right wing extremism*?

      1. So, you agree with Rothbard?

        1. Is he the guy who invented the notion of “Civil Rights”?

          1. Nah, that was Ronald Ray-gun.

            1. then i fail to see your point

  2. Looks like the Free State Project needs to kick it up a notch — no red dot there in New Hampshire.

    1. Glad I wasn’t t only one t notice that.

    2. On it.

    3. Either that or maybe the cops there are starting to understand they can’t harass people in NH without probably cause.

  3. Map of the U.S. with targets on it — that’s dangerous eliminationist rhetoric, right?

    1. Not when CNN does it.

  4. The report in a nutshell: White folks can be just as dangerous as brown folks, so best just to shoot them all.

  5. “The report adds that “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.”

    Let’s truthify that a bit:

    “law enforcement officers will remain the primary target of (citizen) violence over the next year due to their role in abusing their authority, initiating needless violence, maiming and killing those they’re sworn to protect and serve, as well as being all-around asshats.”

    Much better.

  6. It appears to be part of the training framework for police to question anyone who records their activites if they are a Soverign Citizen. It gives them justification to apply violence.

  7. I don’t really like the defensive tone of this article. Most sovereigns are really crackpot.

    Maybe in a perfect world you should feel free to declare yourself free from the constraints of any worldly government, but that’s not how it works, and acting like your fantasy is reality is bonkers.

    1. is it really ‘defensive’ for people to take umbrage at the suggestion that there is some amorphous group of US citizens ‘more dangerous than ISIS’…

      …despite no known incidents of ‘mass beheadings’ in Peoria, or people being kidnapped/burned alive due to their irrational political demand to be ‘generally left alone’?

      Mormons and Scientologists may be ‘crackpot’ by some people’s definitions. This doesn’t mean they should be designated potential terrorists.

    2. Without that fantasy, we might as well all just be serfs or slaves.

      Yes, be cautious in working to move towards that goal (not fantasy!), but keep your nose pointed in that direction at least.

  8. “…at the revolution the Sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects ……and have none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.”

    Chisholm v Georgia, 2 Dall. 440, at pg 471;

    1. Eloquent, but is Chisholm v Georgia still in effect, or does subsequent change to the Constitution render it moot?

      1. It is, that’s why we all have socialist security numbers now, which declare our new status as US Citizens, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof…”

  9. These people want to be left alone they are little threat . Just because someone makes claims they are does not make it true

  10. One of those sovereign citizens in Austin a couple of years ago was plugged by a Texas lawman from 300 feet away with the six-shooter in one hand and the horse’s reins in the other.

    1. Wasn’t that the guy who was “randomly shooting at *buildings* with a .22 rifle while walking down the middle of the street”

      yeah, that was the guy.

      apparently the government’s methodology is to cluster every ‘redneck nutjob’ they can find and label them all “Sovereign Citizens”, even when its not clear that’s necessarily the crazy-club they thought they belonged to. That dude thought he was a member of the “Phineas Priesthood” or some shit. aka “nuts”

      There’s some inherent contradiction in the cops own assessment here =

      “”This trend of lone wolf violence is part of a general surge of right-wing extremism that we’ve seen in the United States in the past five years. And the problem with lone wolf extremists is that they’re the hardest to detect in advance,” Pitcavage said.

      “Let me tell you what keeps me up at night: It’s these guys,” Chief Acevedo said. “It’s these homegrown extremists that are lone wolfs, that are mad at the world, that are angry. And that’s why it’s important for us as Americans to know our neighbors, know our families ? tell somebody.”

      Which is it? LONE WOLFS? or “right wing extremism”

      So…they’re “lone wolfs” who show no signs in advance…

      …but apparently they’re *easily all clustered together* as symptoms of the same ‘problem’?

  11. Map analysis: Six targets/year, none of which apparently made national news.

  12. Is Cliven Bundy part of the sovereign citizen movement?

    If you do a search most of what turns up is people being raided for plotting, people the government has ‘linked’ to the sovereign citizen movement, and people who’ve been shot by cops.

    Not a lot of actual terrorism going on….though, if you consider that it’s fear of an oppressive government that drives many of these people into the sovereign citizen movement then maybe there’s plenty of terrorism going on……..

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