I am prone to regard the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment as being of more direct value to the government than to those citizens who exercise them. As a cyberneticist, I look at the issue in terms of the issue of feedback provided which allows an entity to correctly interpret the effects of current actions so as to modify them to maximum benefit. The citizen who lacks any right to free speech can find alternate (and probably more effective) means of "expression" in a purely cathartic sense, but the government deprived of the honest opinions of law-abiding citizens is crippled in its ability to estimate the effect of its activities. In theory, this could be an intellectually interesting discussion centered on pure cybernetics. But circumstances have dictated that this note will concern itself with a more concrete description of an
A few weeks ago, I noticed a link posted by a friend here on facebook which related to the FBI's interest in "Sovereign Citizens". The page to which this link led has been changed considerably, and most of the details which I here particularly describe were removed. But I can assure you that there was such a page, and my experiences over the last two weeks prove it.
This page described some features of the "Sovereign Citizen" movement, which would seem to be an extreme form of libertarianism. It described the characteristic political views of "Sovereign Citizens" at some length, and mentioned several (three, if I recall) instances where persons acting under this political motivation had "scammed" members of the public out of some thousands of dollars by selling literature promoting the idea that some law-enforcement activities of the Federal government were illegitimate or illegal (the description of the politics of "Sovereign Citizens" has apparently been shortened, and the financial losses to their 'scams' appears to have been inflated into the rather unspecific "millions of dollars" since I first viewed the page). The final part of the page was the most alarming, as it contained an invitation for all law-abiding citizens to report any persons with political opinions matching this "dangerous criminal" profile, along with a internet reply form for that exact purpose.
The reply form itself has since been removed, and the request for information has been altered to read "if you have information on any suspicious activities or crimes, please contact us." But I did reply to the form that existed previously according to the previous directive to report persons with certain political opinions. Time and my ongoing battles with spamware have ensured that I do not have a verbatim copy of my exact reply, but I can reconstruct the main elements.
Firstly, I declared that, while I had distinct disagreements with the ideas of "Sovereign Citizens" as they were described, I was myself suspicious of the Constitutionality of certain actions of the Federal government, particularly the FBI posting a page that essentially declared certain political opinions criminal and encouraged the general population to report on their neighbors for the"crime" of having certain political opinions. Thus, in accordance with their directives I was forced to report myself. I also referred to several of the Constitutionally protected rights of American citizens, including the rights specified in the First and Second Amendments of the Constitution, including the rights of political speech and self-defense (which is not merely stated as a right, but as an indispensable responsibility of those citizens who would preserve a free nation).
I specifically mentioned a recent pattern of "investigative" activity on the part of the FBI which involved having an informant suggest various criminal activities to persons who had not committed any actual crimes, and then arresting them for "conspiracy" to commit what only the FBI informant had so much as suggested they do. I said that if I were to form a militia, it would be necessary for us to have such an informant in order for us to invent any plans for violence. It would seem a reasonable person would understand the implicit idea that any group I might form would not come up with such ideas on our own, even though this was not explicitly stated as far as I recall.
I again referenced my belief in the intrinsic right of self-defense against overt aggression, and closed with a statement that those who chose to abuse their positions of trust in the government to the destruction of the Constitution would be in jeopardy of losing their souls, and that I personally regarded this as not only commensurate with the justice of God, but also personally beneficial to myself. I fully acknowledge that the manner in which I expressed this final sentiment was both unorthodox and extremely sarcastic, perhaps to the point that most people would have difficulty understanding the history of the idea expressed. Indeed, the entire tone of my missive was characterized by the spiteful feeling that prolonged exposure to evidence of tyranny can sometimes produce in the hearts of those who love freedom. I am not proud of how insulting I can be when gentler persuasions fail, but I do acknowledge that what I wrote was very hurtful and calculated to harass and distress those to whom it was addressed.
Even so, while I hoped to make a distinct impression of my displeasure, perhaps sufficient to motivate an angry 'cease and desist' message to my e-mail (which I provided with the invitation that the FBI discuss the matter if they had any difficulty understanding my initial message) or even through regular mail, I had little hope that there would be any real change. I didn't even expect them to alter their offensive "Sovereign Citizen" threat reporting page in the least particular.
It turns out that I was naive to thus limit my expectations.
On the Wednesday of April the 21st, I retired from my usual internet activities for a midday nap (to which habit I am prone). I awoke at the urging of my mother, who informed me that the FBI wished to talk to me. It is unclear whether or not the FBI were actually present, the persons I encountered were mostly local police, both uniformed and plain-clothed. They had crowded into the dining room in sufficient numbers to cause some degree of congestion (particularly given the need to keep their assault rifles pointed downwards--towards the basement apartment where my brother's family lives), but the exact number of officers present is difficult to say with any certainty beyond my impression that there were well over a half-dozen of them, and perhaps a full dozen. I asked the first plain-clothed man I met whether he was with the FBI, he denied this and identified himself as a member of the local police. I was puzzled (and somewhat disappointed) by this evident lack of proper coordination, since nobody volunteered to identify themselves by name or distinct authority. However, I was interested in discussing the issue of the FBI's "Sovereign Citizen" threat reporting page, and both sleepy and naive enough to believe that such was the actual intention of those present, as they stated.
The discussion was short and rather confused, due both to the fact that the person (or persons) I was talking to insisted on taking short phrases out of context and asking me what I meant by them (when I had written them several days or perhaps a week before) and the frequent interruptions telling me where to stand or which direction to face (I have an occasionally regrettable tendency to follow instructions unless I have a distinct reason not to do so, part of the reason I replied to the FBI's request for reports on persons with certian kinds of political opinions). However, once they had manuvered me in-between two large officers and had me facing the direction they desired, both officers seized me by the arms. I was informed by a person behind me that I was not under arrest and no warrant had been issued, but that they were going to place me in restraints and take me to another location (the nature of which was not revealed) for further questioning.
I informed them that this was contrary to the law and it was not incumbent on me to comply, which message I reinforced by keeping my arms in front of my body rather than allowing them to be forced behind my back. The response was "let's go high/low" followed by three tasers being employed simultanously up and down my back. At no time was there any suggestion that I had done anything criminal or that there was any authority under the law for such an action. I had not even raised my voice or made any threatening gestures. However, the sudden barrage of taser darts (each taser deploys two) and application of high voltage current limited my ability to continue the discussion.
The first taser shot, striking my upper back, did not register so much as pain as an irresistible but oddly intangible force bending my shoulders back and my spine forward. The next two shots, landing on my lower back, induced a horrible feeling of loss of strength and well-being. I do not know if I retained any ability to speak, certainly it seemed that my upper body was entirely out of my control, the muscles contracting without any intelligent coordination. I cannot recall being able to formulate anything useful to say in any event, and my control of my breathing was rather limited as well. The police at my sides jammed my body forward against a wall, bending my arms back forcefully and applying handcuffs tightly enough to leave scars that are still in the process of healing. Someone began plucking the taser probes from my back, a process they were kind enough to explain. After perhaps a minute of continued uncontrollable muscle tension, it seems my supply of physical energy was exhausted and I partially blacked out, probably due to a combination of hypoxia (my ability to breathe freely having been impaired) and sudden reduction in blood sugar from the involuntary exertions of my body.
In any case, I fell to the floor of the entry hall and seemed to have been stepped on several times, possibly by accident. Either at this time or in the later manipulations of my inert body my left arm was badly strained and bruised so that it was useless for a few days and has still not regained full function, though I expect that the injuries will heal completely given time and care. It seems there were also other insults to my limbs at this time or subsequently, though none of them nearly so disabling or painful. I was eventually lifted by my limbs and carried out the door, most probably the front door of the house due to the location in which I fell to the floor, but I cannot be entirely certain since I could only really rely on my hearing, my other senses being impaired to various degrees.
It was at this point that one of the men present swore and exclaimed that the channel 2 news was on the way, at which there was a noticeable increase in the energy with which those carrying my body pulled on my limbs. I recall distinctly being bitterly entertained by the thought of someone recording this scene on video so that those involved would be exposed to public scrutiny of their actions. However, I had no remaining power for any more tangible resistance to my abductors. They soon reached a vehicle of some sort and stuffed me into what I believe was the rear passenger seat, which was evidently divided in two by a hard barrier. By exercising a degree of calming meditation I was able to bring my need for oxygen within range of what my lungs could supply without any need for conscious control of my breathing. I had my eyes closed both to conserve energy and because I had no reason to suspect there was anything it would be worth the effort of seeing. The vehicle carrying me drove for a relatively short time, and after that it was parked and I was left alone for what seemed like a longer period of time. I still lacked the physical reserves to perform any significant actions, and was tightly handcuffed and (probably) locked in an escape-resistant containment. I thus tried to concentrate on not overtaxing my restricted breathing situation.
Eventually, the door was opened and I was hauled out and placed on a stretcher, where some form of ammonical salts were employed in an effort to either force me into activity or stop my breathing entirely. I did manage to cough weakly, and this was apparently considered sufficient response to admit me to the emergency care facility at the hospital, where I was taken next.
The sequence of events in the emergency room is somewhat unclear due to my lack of sufficient resources to deal with them. It is clear to me that some person claiming to be acting on behalf of the FBI attempted to represent me to the medical staff as a dangerous criminal deserving of no special care or sympathy. It is hard to posit a certain impression of their initial attitude, but it did seem at the time as though they were initially disposed to believe my abductor's characterization of the situation. However, after this person (and perhaps others, it is hard to be certain even of this given my state at the time) attempted to interrogate me in an apparent effort to extract some incriminating confession or other, the attitude of the medical staff seemed much better disposed towards me. This may have been due to their hearing more of the actual circumstances behind the situation (including, I believe, my persuading the government officials present to read the actual text of what I had written), or to my evidently pathetic degree of injury and danger (the interview was interrupted occasionally by spasms in my torso which prevented my breathing, and I noted that my heart-rate was over 180 bpm when I became sufficiently aware to note it myself, it was probably much higher at other points). In either case (or both), the emergency staff treated me very well thereafter, and I was a bit sorry to leave their company later that night. The conversations I had with them served as pleasant distraction from the difficult experience I have yet to fully understand, and at some times helped to validate my confusion and reassure me that my mental state was not so deficient as I might have been tempted to suppose.
I recall one particular exchange with a pleasant woman, I cannot recall her exact description (and perhaps it would be unwise to do so). I described shortly the FBI threat reporting page which had instigated this entire sequence of events, and my sharp feeling of distress that the FBI was criminalizing political opinions. She responded by saying that she thought of herself as being a sovereign citizen, someone who retained certain rights which the government had no authority to infringe. I was able to laugh as I warned her not to tell the FBI such a thing. It helped me feel a sense of perspective and gain some confidence that my viewpoint was at least understandable to others. It was emblematic of the way that the care I received in the ICU improved my sense of connection to my country as a nation of people who retain the aspiration and appreciation for freedom to think and speak without fear of illegal and unconstitutional retribution being exacted by the powerful.
Late that night, I was transferred to another part of the hospital, initially on the pretext that I would have an opportunity to further discuss the nature of my posited offense and the supposed justification for the actions taken against me. It may be a measure of my appetite for debate that this actually appealed to me, given my physical condition at the time. It is probable that I also wished for answers, or even vindication. But the long ride in a wheelchair turned out to be sufficiently tiring (and the hour sufficiently late) that I had little complaint when the plan changed to a shower (seated in a waterproof chair) and bed. I maintained my wakefulness long enough to review a summarized patient orientation, drank some more fluids (I believe I drank a few quarts of liquid that day in the aftermath of the assault), and then I managed a few hours of sleep at a time, waking to deal with physical problems as they arose and then return to sleep as possible.
Morning would bring me to a new chapter in my adventure. And there are insights of that night which I have not fully addressed. But notwithstanding that the story does not end here, nor is it even complete in detail up to this point, this is where this note ends.
P.S. This was originally published as a Note on FaceBook.