Following the pattern of other provocative statements about potential domestic terrorist threats from the Obama Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a statement exposing the threat of “hundreds of thousands” of “sovereign citizens” who can turn violent “at the drop of a hat” during encounters with the police.
Citing three specific cases in three years and a trend of an increase in arrests of believers in individual sovereignty from 10 to 18 cases per year, mostly for non-violent crimes, the FBI declared law enforcement to be “inundated” with threats.
This may be the most exaggerated and offensive example of specious fearmongering to come out of an administration which has been promoting irrational fear of generally harmless groups of citizens for three years. The FBI is taking aim at a huge body of citizens who are increasingly angry about government abuse of power and irresponsibility and attempting to turn them into a movement of dangerous potential terrorists.
These dangerous “extremists” hold such horrific views as “outrage at tax collection,” defying environmental regulations and believing that “the United States went bankrupt by going off the gold standard.” The FBI is identifying them as “sovereign citizens” and is defining them as a members of a movement, though they provide no evidence of organized or coordinated activity beyond just being angry with the government, a characteristic shared by about half the nation’s population.
I would say that the concerns over this threat were excessive, but that’s giving the FBI too much credit. Ridiculous is a more appropriate description. Statistically a three year increase from 10 to 18 cases of mostly non violent crimes associated with anti-government activists isn’t a crimewave. It’s not even large enough to qualify as a validly quantifiable trend. Given the hundreds of thousands of crimes committed yearly it’s far below the margin of error for crime statistics.
The FBI claims that they are “being inundated right now with requests for training from state and local law enforcement on sovereign-related matters.” This supposed demand for a response to a nonexistent threat probably would not be there at all had the FBI not been promoting the idea that average citizens are potential domestic terrorists for years. The FBI is creating bogeymen to justify their own actions and to distract from the government’s increasingly callous disregard for the rights of citizens.
The kinds of concerns which the FBI is using to identify these potentially dangerous citizens are not the hallmarks of dangerous extremism. They are mostly reasonable concerns over the current state of our government held by tens of millions of fairly ordinary citizens who have legitimate reasons to be dissatisfied with government. They are also the same kinds of extreme views which were held by our founding fathers. They are targeting Americans for the crime of being American and for holding to values of independence and self-reliance on which our nation was built.
The one genuine, unifying characteristic of all of these “extremists” is that they are not happy with a government which is spending beyond its means, taxing beyond our ability to pay and which encroaches more and more on our constitutionally guaranteed rights every day. In their statement the FBI is not actually identifying a real threat to public safety or to citizens, they are putting us on notice that public expression of justifiable anger at the government can get you labelled a dangerous criminal or even a terrorist.
This is a tactic intended purely and simply to intimidate and silence the public. They are sending the message that protest is a crime and speaking out against government will not be tolerated. The implications of this statement from the FBI are particularly ominous in the wake of efforts in the National Defense Appropriation Act, the PATRIOT Act and the pending Enemy Expatriation Act to empower the government to take away the most fundamental rights of citizens. As they did under Hoover, the FBI is categorizing people and making lists and if you don’t watch your step they’ll put you in a database and take away your rights.
The goal may be to intimidate critics of government, but they are also showing us why we so desperately need to take our government back before these threats of abuse of power turn into full-fledged tyranny.
A version of this article appeared previously on Blogcritics Magazine