U.S. Citizens Could Seize Airplanes and Other Russian Property Under House Bill

Texas Republican Lance Gooden proposes use of marque and reprisal against oligarchs.

The bill, H.R.6869, seeks to enact rules called letters of marque and reprisal, to take airplanes and other possessions away from Russian oligarchs. [File Photo: Shutterstock]

Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican from Texas, has introduced a bill that would allow U.S. citizens to seize property, including aircraft, from Russian oligarchs. The bill, H.R.6869, seeks to enact rules called letters of marque and reprisal, which the U.S. used extensively during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, but not since.

Rep. Lance Gooden

As posted on the congressional website, the bill is meant “to authorize the President of the United States to issue letters of marque and reprisal for the purpose of seizing the assets of certain Russian citizens, and for other purposes.”

"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his inner circle still have yachts and planes sitting in harbors and airports all over the world," Gooden told Fox News. "The United States must use every tool at our disposal to seize them and hold Russia accountable for the disgusting invasion of Ukraine.

"The oligarchs who enabled this crisis are a good place to start."

The move is among the latest efforts to sanction Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. The U.S and its allies have previously vowed to seize certain Russian property as part of a wider program of sanctions. However, the Gooden bill suggests regular citizens could be, in effect, deputized to confiscate jets, yachts, and other property.

Letters of marque and reprisal date back centuries and typically have been connected with maritime law. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, these letters were commissions that governments issued to private ship owners authorizing them to use their vessels for war purposes including the capture or destruction of other ships. This made sense in the days before countries had formal navies, or when a navy lacked adequate strength to face an enemy.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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