Paper terrorism

Paper terrorism is a neologism to refer to the use of false liens, frivolous lawsuits, bogus letters of credit, and other legal documents lacking sound factual basis as a method of harassment, especially against government officials.[1] These methods are popular among some anti-government groups[2] and those associated with the redemption movement.[3] Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League states that these methods were pioneered by the Posse Comitatus.[4] Some victims of paper terrorism have been forced to declare bankruptcy.[5] An article by the Southern Poverty Law Center states that another tactic is filing reports with the Internal Revenue Service falsely accusing their political enemies of having unreported income.[6] Such frivolous lawsuits also clog the court system making it more difficult to process other cases and including using challenges to the titles of property owned by government officials and others.[7] Another method of paper terrorism is filing bankruptcy petitions against others in an effort to ruin their credit ratings.[8]

In the early 2000s, the "Republic of Texas", a militia group claiming that Texas was legally independent, carried out what it called "a campaign of paper terrorism" using bogus land claims and bad checks to try to congest Texas courts.[9]


  1. Robert Chamberlain and Donald P. Haider-Markel (Sep 2005), "Lien on Me": State Policy Innovation in Response to Paper Terrorism, 58 (3), Political Research Quarterly, pp. 449–460
  2. Erick J. Haynie (Autumn 1997), Populism, Free Speech, and the Rule of Law: The "Fully Informed" Jury Movement and Its Implications, 88 (1), The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973–), pp. 343–379
  3. Susan P. Koniak (Spring–Summer 1996), When Law Risks Madness, 8 (A Commemorative Volume for Robert M. Cover, number 1), Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature, pp. 65–138, JSTOR 743460
  4. Mark Pitcavage (June 29, 1998), Paper Terrorism's Forgotten Victims: The Use of Bogus Liens against Private Individuals and Businesses, Anti-Defamation League
  5. Christopher A. Young (August 28, 2007), Minnesota Has New Weapons in the Fight Against Paper Terrorism, The Hennepin Lawyer
  6. Common-Law Victims: 'Paper terrorism' isn't just on paper (90), Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 1998
  7. Robertson, Ann E. (2007). Terrorism and global security. Facts On File. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-8160-6766-4.
  8. Maller, Peter (Sep 3, 2002), 'Paper terrorism' gaining adherents, Journal-Sentinel
  9. Hoffman, Bruce (2006). Inside Terrorism (2nd ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-231-12699-1.
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