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WITH SELF-GOVERNMENT COMES RESPONSIBILITY, BUT HAS THAT BEEN FORGOTTEN?

by Sharon Rondeau

Having left Washington, DC cleaner than when they arrived, were 2,000,000 Tea Party members protesting against the growth and spending of the federal government "sovereign citizens" in a negative sense?

(May 5, 2012) —Members of a tea party group, patriotic citizens’ groups, and those taking peaceful action to expose corruption or ensure upholding of constitutional rights could now be considered “potential domestic terrorists” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI has labeled some of the above-described citizens as “Sovereign Citizen Extremists” and a potential “threat” to the country.  Grouped with Terry Nichols, a co-conspirator of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 are “individuals without established leadership” who “come together in loosely affiliated groups to train, help each other with paperwork, or socialize and talk about their ideology. They may refer to themselves as ‘constitutionalists’ or ‘freemen,’ which is not necessarily a connection to a specific group, but, rather, an indication that they are free from government control. They follow their own set of laws. While the philosophies and conspiracy theories can vary from person to person, their core beliefs are the same: The government operates outside of its jurisdiction. Because of this belief, they do not recognize federal, state, or local laws, policies, or regulations.1

Some of those classified as “sovereign citizens” are true criminals, having committed fraud and murder.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which assisted the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in developing training materials to purportedly counter the “movement,” describes sovereign citizen beliefs as having emanated from the Posse Comitatus Act.  It states that “sovereigns” include “anti-Semitic groups, militias, Christian Patriot outfits and other organizations of the American radical right.”  The SPLC continues, “And now, after swelling for a time in the 1980s and then again during the 1990s, the movement and its ideas seem to be making yet another comeback, with thousands of followers making life miserable for judges, law enforcement officers and a host of other enemies. Court officials, scholars, police and prison officials are all reporting signs of a real resurgence.”

But what if judges and other government officials are acting outside of the law and the citizen is attempting to exercise his constitutional rights and protections to carrying firearms, face one’s his accuser, or right to an impartial jury trial?

Is the FBI correct in its assertions?  From whence did their assertions come? Upon completion of training, new FBI agents must swear an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution as a condition of employment.  U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives do the same upon taking office.

If federal employees are required to take the oath, why should the people so governed not do the same?

The U.S. Constitution “both empowers and limits government,” according to a video which discusses “sovereignty and citizenship” and the founding of our country.  “Sovereignty is the supreme power vested in government by the people to govern by law the geographic territory and population of the United States.”  The narrator contends that the states have “sovereignty guaranteed specifically by the Constitution.”

In regard to political structure, the dictionary defines the word “sovereign” as “a group or body of persons or a state having sovereign authority.”

Wikipedia describes a “sovereign citizen” of the “sovereign citizen movement” as “a loose grouping of American litigants, commentators, and financial scheme promoters, classified as an “extremist anti-government group” by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Wikipedia defines “sovereignty” as:

the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory.[1]It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided….For centuries past, the idea that a state could be sovereign was always connected to its ability to guarantee the best interests of its own citizens. Thus, if a state could not act in the best interests of its own citizens, it could not be thought of as a “sovereign” state.[2]

The concept of sovereignty has been discussed throughout history, from the time of the Romans through to the present day. It has changed in its definition, concept, and application throughout, especially during the Age of Enlightenment. The current notion of state sovereignty is often traced back to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which, in relation to states, codified the basic principles:

  • territorial integrity
  • border inviolability
  • supremacy of the state (rather than the Church)
  • a sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority within its jurisdiction.[citation needed]

A legal dictionary states that “4. Strictly speaking, in our republican forms of government, the absolute sovereignty of the nation is in the people of the nation; (q.v.) and the residuary sovereignty of each state, not granted to any of its public functionaries, is in the people of the state. (q.v.) 2 Dall. 471; and vide, generally, 2 Dall. 433, 455; 3 Dall. 93; 1 Story, Const. Sec. 208; 1 Toull. n. 20 Merl. Repert. h.t.”

So who are the sovereigns of the United States and the 50 states?

The Portland Independent Media Center contends that all people are born “sovereigns.”

In The Constitutional Law of the United States, the author sets forth chapters on various aspects of constitutional governance, including a chapter entitled, “The Courts and Unconstitutional Laws” which states, “The principle that statutory law, in order to be valid, must be in conformity with constitutional requirements, is a product of American jurisprudence, and peculiar to it.”

A group of residents of the state of Hawaii is seeking to reclaim its “inherent sovereignty over national lands.”  A U.S. Supreme Court chief justice declared that Indian tribes possessed “inherent sovereignty” as distinct territorial nations, and the U.S. Constitution granted Congress the authority “to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes.”   The Indian tribes were considered “sovereign governments” to the colonists of the New World.

A writer and researcher referring to himself as “Your Fellow Sovereign Citizen” states that the U.S. Constitution rendered “American Citizens the Sovereigns by their ability to vote for politicians and with the provision that certain human rights were inalienable.”  Included with his article is a video of the late former President Ronald Reagan who discussed the American people as “the sovereign people.”  Reagan continued, “This idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people is still the newest and the most unique idea in the long history of man’s relation to man.”

In early 2008, the Congressional Research Service released a paper entitled “Federalism, State Sovereignty, and the Constitution:  Basis and Limits of Congressional Power.”  The paper deals with the balance of power between the 50 states and the federal government.

The Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights indicates that the states are sovereign over the federal government, which the states created.  The Commonwealth of Virginia has recently exercised its right under the Tenth Amendment to spurn federal legislation which it perceives as unconstitutional.  Arizona may be taking the same step in the near future and in 2010 passed a bill to control illegal immigration within its borders which is now being reviewed for constitutionality by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Tenth Amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.

Given that federal spending has doubled over the last ten years, is exercising one’s First Amendment rights a threat to the government?  Is exercising one’s Fifth Amendment right to present criminal charges to a grand jury an indication of “domestic terrorism?”  Is exposing government corruption?

If the Arizona immigration law is upheld, will it affirm that “state sovereignty” can prevail against a growing federal government?

News reports and the FBI have indeed classified “sovereign citizens” as potential domestic terrorists.  The American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) published a newsletter on the subject in 2011, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) details incidents perceived as having been perpetrated by “sovereign citizens.”  The SPLC defends the rights of special interest groups and “society’s most vulnerable” citizens, including “immigrants.”

As part of a recently-exposed FBI training program used across the country, Darren Huff has been made an example of by having allegedly stated that he was willing to die for his belief in upholding the U.S. Constitution.  Others have stated the same sentiment.  Another Oathkeeper stated, ““I am proud of my oath and I am proud of my country and I will defend my country with my life. Those who attack our Constitution should be rejected as tyrants, for they act only in their own interest and the interest of organizations and special interests that consider the Constitution an obstacle in their path of riches and power.”

In 2010, the Oathkeepers declared that the SPLC had become “part of” the Department of Homeland Security, as its CEO “now sits on the DHS ‘Working Group on Countering Violent Extremism’ along with the leaders of other So-called Non Government Organizations.”  Atty. Stewart Rhodes, who founded Oathkeepers, stated that DHS had begun a campaign of political attack on its adversaries.

Oathkeepers describes itself as “Guardians of the Republic” and has reported on current privacy, judicial and law enforcement issues.  Its stated mission is to ” reach, teach, and inspire our brothers in arms in the military and police to fulfill their oaths and stand as guardians of the Republic.”  The organization publicly rejects violence and “overthrow of any government whether local, state or national.” The group also states:  “We want our governments to return to the Constitutional Republic which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution defined and instituted.”

While the term “sovereign citizen” has made its way into FBI training programs across the country, it is difficult to locate references to the “movement” by governmental entities prior to 2009, after the Obama regime began using the Southern Poverty Law Center in an advisory role.  The training CD very closely mirrors the information on the SPLC website regarding potential domestic terrorists.  The SPLC claims that the “ideology” of “sovereign citizens” “first developed in white supremacist groups.  It also contends that “the Patriot Movement” could contain “hate groups” and those who consider Obama to be “an enemy to their country,” but it does not say why.  Its report contains opinion, as demonstrated by its expression of the Alabama immigration bill passed last year as a “draconian nativist law,” considering some of those opposed to illegal immigration to be “vigilantes.”

Perhaps the rhetoric against “sovereign citizens” was heightened by the alleged activities of a group which called itself “The Guardians of the Free Republics” which did not appear to culminate in any definitive action.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the Alabama immigration bill.

The SPLC continues to supply major media companies with information about “sovereign citizens.”  A recent ABC News report appears to mirror the information on the SPLC website, although ABC News interviewed some of those designated as part of the movement.  One of the law enforcement officers depicted in the FBI training program, Police Chief Bob Paudert, is also quoted by ABC, describing people as entering a “sovereign program” to avoid paying their mortgages. Paudert’s son was tragically killed by a father and son who were deemed to be “sovereign citizens.”

Other major news outlets have reported in a similar vein, again quoting from the Southern Poverty Law Center.  The Blaze has questioned why the FBI has focused on “sovereign citizens” of late.  A Wyoming newspaper reportsthat “sovereign citizens believe the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution shifted the nation from its original common-law roots with states’ rights to a federal corporation that legally enslaved everyone.”  On September 30, 2011, TIME Magazine published an extensive article on “extreme militias,” naming Walter Francis Fitzpatrick and Darren Huff as members of a militia without having interviewed them.

There is a Facebook group which contains links where a “Sovereign Citizens Pocket Declaration of Independence & The Constitution of the united States of America is sold.  The product is reportedly “liked” by “Freemen/Sovereign Dictionary,” “Tennessee Watchdog,” and Fox News personality and judicial commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano.  There is another group which calls itself “Sovereign Citizens for the U.S. Constitution.”  The two pages might belong to the same entity.

The organization Sovereign Citizens United describes itself as “a citizens group dedicated to protecting private property ownership and the freedom and liberty that is our birthright as American citizens.We are a clearing house of information and tools to facilitate and promote those goals in every community in America.  These ideals that we cherish are under attack from globalists, elite industrialists and other greedy, power hungry people and groups.  Most of these transgressions against our property, liberty and freedom can be traced to the United Nations but they are not the only enemy that we face.  Our goal is to educate and inform the American public about the very real threat to the United States of America as we have known it – coming from many different institutions that make up our government and policy infrastructure.  We hope to teach those who wish to remain free how to recognize this threat and disarm it in their communities.  We do NOT endorse non-payment of taxes or violence to achieve these changes. We do NOT endorse giving up a social security number and we do NOT endorse violence against the police or the government.”

Organizations such as the Federal Ethics Center and Americans for Prosperity, North Carolina have expressed concern over individual and state sovereignty vs. a growing federal government.

In our current situation, are states allowed to pass laws independently of the federal government only if they meet the current regime’s political aims?

Did not Thomas Jefferson, our third president, advise us all to be sovereigns of our Republic?

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  1. It seems like it’s coming to owning, reading or quoting the US Constitution; or attempting to exercise your rights thereunder, is to be considered an act of terrorism. Have we lost our country? Has the Government betrayed the fundamental ideas written in the blood of this nations military heroes men and women? Has greed and lust for power swayed the protectors of the American Republic? It doesn’t look good from where I stand.
    ELmo

  2. It took a long time but who hasn’t heard a prominent politician refer to our system of government as a “democracy”?

    But the term sovereign citizen used in the pejorative only started in 2009 or so, with the MIAC memo. That memo was retracted but the damage had been done. And the misplaced identity advanced to what we see today. Citizens exercising their 1stA rights were branded as potential domestic terrorists and now “sovereigns”.

    OathKeepers are pulled over by LEO simply because they have OK stickers on their vehicles. It turns out to be an RTI moment however, and most LEO leave with a different perspective of OathKeepers and the state of constitutional government!