In a new study conducted by researchers tasked with studying of the root causes and consequences of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad, the sovereign citizen movement was perceived to be the gravest terrorist threat, rivaling Islamist extremists and militia/patriot groups.
According to National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism —better known as START— sovereign citizens were the top concern of law enforcement, even as a belief that some domestic groups including the KKK, Christian Identity, and neo-Nazis represent less of an actual terrorist threat when compared to a previous study.
The report, complied by START researchers David Carter, Steven Chermak, Jeremy Carter and Jack Drew, is drawn from surveys with more than 364 officers representing 175 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. Those surveys asked respondents to to gauge their perception on the threat of terrorism, the nature of information-sharing, and their belief as to whether their agencies are prepared to deal with terrorist attacks.
In the report, found here (.pdf), researchers write: “…there is wide variation about what groups are perceived to be a serious terrorist threat. Law enforcement is much more concerned about sovereign citizens, Islamic extremists, and militia/patriot group members compared to the fringe groups of the far right, including Christian Identity believers, reconstructed traditionalists (i.e., Odinists), idiosyncratic sectarians (i.e.,survivalists), and members of doomsday cults.”
Noting that, in the 2006-07 survey, law enforcement’s top concern was Islamic extremists, the report goes on, “The change is interesting as there was significant concern about the resurgence of the radical far right (as evidenced by the 2006 – 07 survey, as well as additional concerns raised after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama), but it appears as though law enforcement is, at present, less concerned about these groups.”
The report adds, “Such changing perceptions about what is a serious terrorist threat is an important finding because identifying and prioritizing a threat is akin to hitting a moving target and evolves as new intelligence, data, and events develop.”
START, which was funded with an initial $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate and receives additional funding and support from a variety of Federal agencies, private foundations, and universities.