US Targets Journalists Who Criticize Administration’s Foreign Policy

Renowned journalist and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter had his passport seized by US officials, raising constitutional concerns and highlighting the targeting of administration critics.

US Targets Journalists Who Criticize Administration's Foreign Policy 1

Mr. Ritter is a renowned former Chief UN weapons inspector, author, journalist, and veteran of the Marines. He is also a devoted patriot of the United States. He was traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia, for an international conference.

When Mr. Ritter appeared in court to question the Bush administration’s intentions to attack Iraq, that is when we first became aware of him. August 2002 saw Ritter provide a warning: there was not a compelling argument to invade Iraq.

The United States would have avoided losing thousands of soldiers and wasting trillions of tax dollars if Congress had paid attention to Mr. Ritter. The US invasion of Iraq claimed the lives of more than a million people. Even though America will never be able to pay back its moral and financial debt, it would not exist if we had only taken a close look at the evidence he provided.

Yesterday, US officials took away Mr. Ritter’s passport without giving a reason.

This raises several constitutional concerns:

  • The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution forbids illegal seizures, like the one that resulted in the taking of his passport. Mr. Ritter requested a receipt for the passport that had been taken, but he never got one.
  • He has the First Amendment rights to free speech and the press, and the seizure is an attempt to censor him in a punitive manner.
  • Due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment were infringed. An administrative decision was taken by someone in the State Department to revoke his passport and prohibit him from traveling. Since the reason for the seizure was not disclosed, no public hearing was held, and no proof supporting the seizure of Mr. Ritter’s passport was offered. There’s a Kafkaesque quality to the entire process, with Mr. Ritter unable to find out what he is accused of. 

Three weeks before his scheduled trip, the State Department was made aware of Mr. Ritter’s travel plans, which raises the possibility that the interception was carried out with the explicit intent to embarrass Mr. Ritter and to flagrantly violate his constitutional rights.

Mr. Ritter has been a critic of American foreign policy and has consistently expressed in his podcasts his strong opposition to the expansion of warfare.

Although the State Department is in charge of travel, it is unable to restrict any of the liberties guaranteed to all citizens by the U.S. Constitution, including the right to free movement.

An investigation into the State Department’s activities in this case is necessary. Many important questions that are relevant to the Constitution come up:

Was Mr. Ritter’s passport confiscated based on classified material and approved by President Bush’s Executive Order 13224, which declared a national emergency and was renewed by President Biden a year ago? Mr. Ritter is now 23 years old.

Was the Patriot Act used to seize the passport? The general public is entitled to know the causes.

Were the broader authorities granted to the government in the most recent reauthorization of Patriot Act Section 702 at work here?

Has Scott Ritter’s First Amendment rights exercised put him under government surveillance?

Was Ritter’s attempt to forge a peace bridge with Russia the reason he was intercepted?

It’s not just about Scott Ritter here.

In the current environment, any American who confronts the government—journalist or not—may be vulnerable to capricious processes and perhaps politically motivated prosecution. The actual state of emergency is that.

The renowned journalist Chris Hedges was fired from his show The Real News after he participated in a debate that criticized US foreign policy.

The US government’s decision to arrest and imprison Julian Assange served as a reasonable warning to all journalists about the potential consequences of disclosing official acts of the killing of defenseless civilians in Iraq.

All of our constitutional rights are at risk when any one of us experiences a violation of them. Who else’s travel plans will be curtailed due to what the administration is saying? Who else is going to be watching? Who else will face legal action? Who else will have their rights under the Constitution violated?

The Washington Post’s simultaneous release of stories yesterday that characterize the work of journalists—including several Americans—who have questioned the State Department’s narrative about Russia and Iran as disinformation is equally concerning.

The ironic maxim “Freedom of the Press is guaranteed only to those who own one” by A.J. Leibling appears to have been adopted by the Washington Post. The First Amendment’s corporatization and the media’s increasing concentration in the hands of a small number of people are the main causes of America’s ongoing threat of war and the fragility of our constitutional liberties.

It is difficult for independent writers and journalists to respond in a way that upholds our right to free speech. They enjoy the same freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution as major corporate publishers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and others.

Fear of challenge by governments dates back to the days of John Peter Zenger, who began printing the New York Weekly Journal in 1734. Zenger faced libel charges as a result of his repeated encouragement of the provincial governor of the Crown. Since he prevailed, truth can now be used as a defense.

These days, the well-known truth offends liars just as much as freedom offends despots. Ten years after the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Last year, GreatGameIndia reported that the Russian think tank and discussion forum Valdai Club said the Western press uses pseudo-academics like University of Manitoba professor and geopolitical economist Radhika Desai to silence critics.

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