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Monday, 30 November 2015

Sovereign citizens: Terrorism assessment warns of rising threat from anti-government extremists

ABC News Australia 

Anti-government extremists known as "sovereign citizens" have been identified as a potential terrorism threat in Australia by a confidential NSW Police report.

What are sovereign citizens?

  • Sovereign citizens don't accept Australia's legal framework or government
  • They consider themselves outside the law
  • Counter terror command warns they should be considered "a potential terrorist threat"
  • In NSW, police estimate there are about 300 sovereign citizens
  • The FBI considers them domestic terrorists
The NSW Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics command assessment — obtained by 7.30 — suggests there are as many as 300 sovereign citizens in the state, and that their numbers are growing.

It also suggests they have "the motivation and capability to act against government interests and should be considered a potential terrorist threat".

Police records show the number of Australian sovereign citizens in NSW doubled from 2009 to 2011 and nearly tripled from 2009 to 2012.

Interactions with police increased 50 per cent in 2011, with a "notable increase in threats of violence".

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classifies sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists.

The US Department of Homeland Security has listed them as the number one domestic terror threat in America. 

Detective Superintendent John O'Reilly is the commander of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Operation Group for NSW Police.

He said NSW police had been examining overseas trends and threats.

"Sovereign citizens are people that don't buy into our legal framework, our system of government," he said.

"They consider themselves individuals and operate outside the law and outside our tax system."

Police intelligence of incidents involving sovereign citizens in Australia ranges from displaying homemade registration plates and "plans to use paint bombs to disrupt court proceedings", to making plans to kidnap a judge, judicial officials and a police officer.

The report also states that in 2012, sovereign citizens threatened to burn down the home of a judge and "cause harm with firearms" and had "plans to murder Sheriff Officers if they attempt to seize property".

While Commander O'Reilly stressed Australia had not experienced any of the high impact violence resulting in death or casualties associated with the movement overseas, he said there were indications of radicalisation.

"A number of instances have ended up in people being placed under arrest and sometimes there has been a degree of resistance on the basis that they claim that the police officer has no authority over them," he said.

"We are always conscious of preventing terrorism and we are mindful of any movements that have the potential to go down that path."

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