Monday, July 10, 2006

Defender of the American Way: Congressman George Hansen

In recent decades, it’s become almost fashionable to ridicule members of Congress for a host of abuses, most of them legitimate. In Superman the Movie, Superman tells Lois Lane, “I'm here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way.” Lois replies, “You're going to end up fighting every elected official in this country!”

Yet even within the halls of Congress, a few lights have occasionally glimmered in the darkness. Every now and then, a statesman will arise—a man of courage and integrity willing to put the country’s needs before his own. A number of these public servants have attempted to reform our government, and many have paid dearly for their efforts. One of these martyrs for the cause of freedom is retired GOP Congressman George Hansen.

According to The Idaho Observer, Hansen was the only congressional representative willing to risk his own safety and his political career to visit the American hostages in Iran in 1979. The author of To Harass Our People, an exposé of the Internal Revenue Service, Congressman Hansen helped pass the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. He was the first to propose a flat tax as an alternative to the graduated income tax, and he “fearlessly and repeatedly made public his findings when investigations turned up government corruption and citizen abuse” (

He has also been referred to on 2,500 talk-radio stations across the nation as “America’s most famous political prisoner,” according to the U.S. Citizens Human Rights Commission ( Many political observers, including retired Congressman Tom Kindness (R-Ohio), believe that Hansen gained this dubious honor because of one act of bravery: his attempt to enact the Congressional Accountability Project (CAP), a plan that would make Congress instantly accountable to the American public.

“This was a project which would . . . have had a major impact on the votes of congressmen since it would have made them instantaneously responsible to the people by making their votes known immediately after being cast,” says journalist John Voss. Hansen and his associates were about to make CAP fully operational when the government, with the help of former IRS agents, manufactured bank-fraud charges against him.

After four years of imprisonment and having been ruined professionally and financially, Hansen was vindicated when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1995. But his ordeal should never be forgotten.

“I ended up in and out of jail for a ten-year period, [with] four years solid time behind prison bars,” says Hansen. During his incarceration, he was subjected to what federal inmates refer to as “Diesel Therapy,” in which the prisoner is shuttled to various detention facilities by diesel-powered vehicles while shackled in chains so he can barely move. Spending 20 hours a day like this, Hansen, who was 63 at the time, was transported from one prison to another so that no one—not even his family or attorney—knew of his whereabouts. Hansen says the trucks he traveled in reeked of urine and feces because the prisoners were kept bound without any access to sanitation facilities. “The best thing you could do,” he says, “is the biblical act of fasting. If you don’t eat and don’t drink, you don’t have to go to the bathroom.”

While in prison, Hansen was assigned to do chemical testing with hazardous substances without any protection. “That caused my bones and teeth to go soft,” he says. “I ended up with 24 teeth breaking off at the gum line. For three years I was not allowed to see a dentist. So far, it has cost me about $14,000 to try to repair my mouth. My dentist says I’m a dental cripple for life.”

When offered an opportunity for parole, Hansen asked to be returned to prison because the terms of his parole would have forced him to reveal the names of people he had been representing who were being harassed by the government. “This would result in the betrayal of those people,” he says.

Initially, the parole board agreed to waive the financial reporting requirements that would have necessitated this information, but Hansen soon found himself violating parole for something completely unexpected—attending church. He happened to sit next to a federal marshal who was also a member of the congregation, and “that became my parole violation,” Hansen says. He was arrested in the dead of night and taken to an abandoned prison, where he was chained to a wall from Good Friday through Easter Sunday. Hansen believes this was done to “send him a message not to mess with their system.”

Even after the Supreme Court exonerated Hansen, it took eight months for him to be released. When his release was imminent, the Justice Department claimed there were “technicalities” that had to be looked at, and the former legislator remained in diesel therapy from May through Christmas.

When asked if he had any future plans to regain his congressional seat, Hansen replied, “My wife says if I ever run for anything again, it had better be the border.” Despite his ordeal, the veteran legislator is calling on all Americans, including members of Congress, to join him in the fight to restore accountability to the U.S. government.

The Winds,

“Truth Surfaces in Hansen Ordeal,” by Edward Snook and Don Harkins, The Idaho Observer,


Blogger Beth said...

This is very sad and horrifying, yet inspiring that someone would be so courageous. Thank you for telling us about George Hansen.

July 11, 2006 12:47 PM  

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