Personal Threats by Sovereign Citizens
Written by Federal Employee Defense Services on .
Last month, "60 Minutes" correspondent Byron Pitts informed the world of an increase in "sovereign citizen"-related violence against judges, law enforcement officers and other government officials. Prior to this episode, many federal employees were unaware of the violence, harassment and intimidation tactics used by individuals and groups of the sovereign citizen movement against government officials and their family members, as well as the lasting impact these sovereign citizens have on those they come in contact with.
Sovereign citizens, also referred to as "freemen" or "common law citizens", believe that virtually all existing government is illegitimate, and that he or she is not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, state or municipal level. Sovereign citizens resist, sometimes with violence, everything from traffic stops to the enforcement of building codes to the payment of taxes. Sovereign citizen groups reject those who do not share their anti-government beliefs and have "waged war" against the government and other forms of authority as retribution.
The tactics used by these individuals and group vary as they adopt differing constitutional theories, including violent activity by some, and a practice coined "paper terrorism" by others. Paper terrorism is described as using fraudulent legal documents, misusing legitimate legal documents, filing false tax documents and frivolous lawsuits, and filing liens against the personal businesses or homes of government officials as retribution. It is called paper terrorism because they can ruin the target's credit. Some sovereign citizens hold seminars around the country to teach people about the latest loopholes, tactics and weapons.
Do you remember Posse Comitatus? This group originated in the 1970s, from an outgrowth of the right-wing tax protest movement that developed in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. The movement was reenergized in the 1990s by the tragic events at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992, and Waco, Texas, 1993 where federal agents in each case were held responsible - personally and professionally - for these deaths. These events incited the sovereign citizen movement, where the weapon of choice was not paramilitary activity, but paper activity. They have employed money making schemes including the use of fictitious financial instruments and establishing special Treasury Department accounts to pay off debts and make purchases to the creation of phony money orders, sight drafts, comptrollers' warrants, new identities, drivers licenses and license plates.
The anger toward government regulations and decision making, coupled with the foreclosure and financial stress of the current economic conditions, has led to resurgence in the sovereign citizen movement. The ability of sovereign citizens to recruit and market themselves and their theories via the Internet is complicating and perpetuating today's movement. So while the sovereign citizen movement is not new, these individuals and groups have become adept at applying the most destructive tactics and weapons available. Therefore, it is critical to be vigilant in protecting you and your family's personal and private information online, to minimize the risk of physical threats and violence.
Most documents and arguments advanced by the sovereign citizen usually reveal no legitimate legal position; however, the tactics used have some basis in statute. The documents and suits filed must be processed under existing laws and employees must defend against the legal filings generated by these individuals. Congress has recognized these problems in dealing with sovereign citizens and provides some tools to combat them, including your ability to petition the courts for a temporary restraining order to prevent harassment and possibly deter the filing of further liens.
Although some laws make it illegal to file documents, this does little to deter these individuals and groups. Be aware of your exposure to these individuals and recognize that dealing with such persons can often be long, expensive and not without the risk of physical harm to you and your loved ones. Find out what help is available to you immediately upon notice that a sovereign citizen or group has made any kind of threat of demand against you or your family.
For more information on your specific exposures, how professional liability insurance protects, or how the FEDS program differs from other insurance programs, visit our website and choose the position or agency that best describes your job and professional responsibilities: 1811's & Special Agents Law Enforcement Officers Probation and Pretrial Officers Bureau of Prisons Officials TSA Employees & Federal Flight Deck Officers.
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