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The United States has become a country of us versus them. Slowly, some in our country are recognizing the danger of entrusting power to government without demanding accountability in return. The cost of apathy is the loss of freedom. The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people. It was the Greek philosopher Plato who said, "The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."

Some 135 years after the carnage of the famous Battle of the Little Bighorn, another battle continues which seeks to hold the federal government accountable to "We, the People." The historic township of Garryowen is the subject of a struggle with the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and We, the People — all under attack by a government that increasingly answers to no one.

For those new to my issues, in 2005 some two dozen heavily armed federal agents descended upon Garryowen in a raid to investigate the alleged crime of the sale of a 7th Cavalry uniform button on the Internet. For the next five years, the federal government held items it had seized, including artifacts, business records and collectibles from the businesses at Garryowen, including the Custer Battlefield Museum. Like other cases now reported around the country, no formal charges were ever filed. The matter was never brought before a judge. The federal agents, having prosecuted their cases without ever bringing charges, simply walked away, and those who were victimized by these agents were never able to face their accusers in court.

Federal agents were able to destroy my businesses and my reputation, but because no one was ever charged with a crime, the law does not recognize that my constitutional rights were violated. At least, that was the decision of a federal court judge when the agents involved were sued in 2011.

The same judge also ruled that federal agents, whom I call "super citizens," cannot be held civilly responsible for their actions because of the concept of "qualified immunity."

Now, almost seven years later, many of the items seized in 2005 and 2008 have still not been returned to Garryowen. Although federal agents say the items still held are contraband, not a single vestige of proof has been offered in support of that allegation. After a year of legal wrangling, the same federal court judge in Billings is just now considering my request to have the items returned to Garryowen and the Custer Battlefield Museum.

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Perhaps the most frightening part of our federal bureaucracy is that it works in secret. BLM has chosen to hide behind laws and regulations intended to protect us against another 911 attack. BLM law enforcement is afraid to have the public look over their shoulder and see what they are doing with their guns and badges.

After the investigation was ended, the federal government still resisted letting the public see what they had done in advance of their raids at Garryowen. I eventually won in a ruling that recognized your right to shine a light on the search warrant process. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing a decision of the federal judge in Billings, ruled that the public has a common law right to have documents used to obtain a search warrant opened for all to see when the case is closed

Now the battle continues into the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. I have filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the government. But the cost of the battle is high and most of our fellow citizens are not even aware that they, too, are in danger. It is important that we use all of the tools and assets at our disposal to resist those who would take away our rights and freedoms.

 

 

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Christopher Kortlander is founding director of the Custer Battlefield Museum in Garryowen.

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