Two self-appointed “constitutional policemen” from North Idaho hand-delivered letters to members of Congress, threatening to bring federal officials to justice for exceeding their authority.
The letter writers are now the focus of an investigation by the FBI and Capitol police.
The letters are from The United States Constitution Rangers, whose new “commander and chief” is Jack Dean Yoos of Hayden, Idaho.
The group has existed in Arizona since the 1970s but now appears to have moved its base of operations to North Idaho.
Yoos said his fellow Rangers, Dave Pilon and Tony Volovsek, both of Hayden, drove to the nation’s capital last week to personally make the deliveries.
The letters ask Congress to establish a separate court system, apparently to examine government excesses, and recognize the police powers of the Constitution Rangers.
They warn that another revolution may occur if Congress fails to act.
At least one member of Congress, Rep. Pete King, R-New York, says he views the letter as a threat.
“These so-called militias are armed and dangerous,” King said in a prepared statement. “They are fueled by loony conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic, racist paranoia and an addle-brained interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. They are not patriots; they are nuts.
“I’m calling on the FBI to fully investigate the ‘Constitution Rangers’ and all such organizations,” he said.
But a fellow Republican, Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho, disagreed. Chenoweth said through a staff aide that she views the letter as “nothing more than a constituent expressing an opinion.”
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said the letter is similar to others routinely received that “rant and rave at Congress.”
“We note the irony of a constitutional group asking Congress to do something the Constitution doesn’t allow - namely create a court tribunal,” said Craig’s press secretary, Michael Frandsen.
Copies of the letter were turned over to the FBI and Capitol Police, who protect members of Congress.
“On its face, it does not appear to contain any threat to either harm Congress or any individual members, which is an overriding concern,” said Capitol Police Sgt. Dan Nichols.
But he said the letter is undergoing analysis by “threat assessment” experts for the Capitol Police and FBI.
Yoos, 64, agreed to an interview Wednesday afternoon after a reporter showed up unannounced at his modest home. He was watching a TV soap opera and playing with his parrot, Kui, who was whistling cat-calls.
Yoos said the letter is “in no way a threat, whatsoever.”
“It’s their own interpretation on that, and they’d better read the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
“The Constitution Rangers are the policemen who police the government officials to see that they do not obstruct and usurp the powers that they have,” Yoos said.
He signed the letter as “commander and chief.” A copy delivered to a Tennessee representative also was signed by “legal defense” commander Carl Eugene Jones, a militia activist from Fort Bragg, Calif.
Yoos said his Rangers obtained stamped copies at each House and Senate office while hand-delivering the letter to each of the 535 members of Congress. He declined to release a copy, but one was obtained elsewhere.
“This notice is given to inform the United States government, through all of its senators and congressmen, of the establishment of a protective body, to be known as the Constitution Rangers.”
It continues: “This body of officers are (sic) charged with the duty of investigating and bringing to justice officials and agents of agencies, within and without the federal government, which (sic) have exceeded their lawful authority and which are currently subjecting We The People of this Nation to the deprivation of rights under color of law and authority.”
The letter “respectfully requests” that Congress “acknowledge the authority of the Constitution Rangers to perform and discharge” their duties.
It also asks Congress to establish a court, separate from the U.S. Supreme Court and other existing courts, “to be the impartial trier of facts.”
The letter warns of consequences if Congress “does not have its duty before it on this issue or through acts ofo pretended legislation, attempts to use force or violence to stop the execution of the Constitution Rangers duty.”
“We will be forced to exercise our constitutionally protected right to separate from our current form of government,” the letter warns.
Yoos, a semi-retired salesman who sold gold and health-care products, moved to Kootenai County in March 1996 after living in Hawaii for 26 years. He was involved in the Unorganized Militia of Hawaii, he said.
He was a friend of the late Eva Vail of Hayden Lake. She was a longtime activist in various right-wing, proConstitution groups, including the John Birch Society and Concerned Citizens of Idaho.
Yoos lived briefly in Rathdrum, north of Hayden, where he hosted a national meeting of the Constitution Rangers last July. It was attended by 18 people, including Lawrence “Pappy” Robertson of Phoenix, the 73-year-old founder and leader of the Rangers.
Yoos wouldn’t discuss how many members his group has or show one of the newly redesigned badges they carry. He did show a membership identification card.
A source familiar with the group estimated the organization may have as many as 26,000 followers.
Yoos said his organization is composed of militia members and followers of Posse Comitatus, loosely organized citizens groups who believe that county sheriffs are the ultimate law enforcement authority. He said the Rangers have no ties to anti-government religious groups, including Christian Identity churches or the Aryan Nations organization located nearby.
The news media, he said, “distort the meaning of militia.”
“The Minutemen in the 1700s were the militia that gave America her freedoms. It’s the militias today that are the minutemen that are trying to regain the freedoms we’ve lost and to save what freedoms we have left,” he said.
“The militia are no way terrorists or neo-Nazi skinheads. In fact, I’m against that.”
“No Ranger has the right to take a life under any circumstances,” Yoos said. “However, if you come in here with a gun and start shooting, there’s going to be return fire. That’s saving a life, not taking a life.”
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