Tuesday, June 4, 2024

US Targets Journalists Who Criticize Administration’s Foreign Policy

By Dennis J. Kucinich - June 04, 2024 at 01:46PM

Scott Ritter was pulled off a NY-to-Istanbul flight yesterday by US officials and his passport confiscated in a startling new development in the government’s open drive to censor and silence critics of the Administration’s foreign policies at a time when the United States is supplying billions of dollars in arms to foment wider war in Russia, accelerate the attacks on Gazans and set the stage for war with China over Taiwan.

A Marine veteran and true American patriot, Mr. Ritter is also a noted former Chief UN weapons inspector, author and journalist.  He was enroute to Russia to attend an international conference in St. Petersburg.  

Mr. Ritter first came to my attention when he testified at a Capitol hearing I sponsored to inquire into the Bush Administration’s plans to attack Iraq. Ritter warned in August of 2002 that a case had not been made for attacking Iraq.  

Had Congress listened to Mr. Ritter, the US would have been spared the loss of thousands of our soldiers and the waste of trillions of tax dollars. Over one million Iraqis died as a result of the US attack on their country. America’s financial and moral debt will never be able to be repaid, but would not exist if we had simply looked at the evidence he presented.

Mr. Ritter’s  passport was confiscated yesterday by U.S. authorities without explanation.

There are several Constitutional issues at stake here:

  1. The taking of his passport was  an illegal seizure, prohibited by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Mr. Ritter asked for, but did not receive a receipt, for the seized passport.  
  2. The seizure represents a punitive attempt to censor his views, a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of the press.
  3. His Fifth Amendment rights to due process were violated. Someone in the State Department made an administrative decision to prevent his travel and to take away his passport.  Since there was no stated reason for the seizure, there was no open court hearing, no evidence to justify the confiscation of Mr. Ritter’s passport was presented publicly.  The whole process has a Kafka-like Trial feeling, where Mr. Ritter cannot find out what he is accused of. 

The State Department was aware of Mr. Ritter’s travel three weeks before his planned departure, giving rise to the likelihood that the interception was designed to humiliate Mr. Ritter, in addition to the blatant disregard of his Constitutional rights.

Mr. Ritter has been critical of U.S. foreign policy, and has repeatedly stated his objections to widening war clearly and cogently in his podcasts.  

While the State Department has jurisdiction over travel, it has no ability to cancel the rights accorded all Americans under the U.S. Constitution, including freedom of movement.

There needs to be an inquiry into the State Department’s actions here.  Many serious questions arise, all of Constitutional import:

Was Mr. Ritter’s passport seized based on secret evidence, and authorized under President Bush’s Executive Order 13224, which established a national emergency, (now 23 years old!) and reauthorized last year by President Biden?

Was the passport seized under the Patriot Act?  The public has a right to know the reasons why.

Were the expanded powers given the government in the recent reauthorization of Section 702 of the Patriot Act in play here?  

Has Scott Ritter been under federal surveillance because of the exercise of his First Amendment rights?

Was Ritter intercepted because of his attempt to build a bridge of peace toward Russia?

This is not only about Scott Ritter.  

Any American, journalist or not, who challenges the state in the current climate may find themselves subject to arbitrary procedures and even politically-inspired prosecution.  That is the real state of emergency.  

Chris Hedges, a man of impeccable journalist credentials, was canceled after he and I engaged in a discussion criticizing US foreign policy, on his show The Real News. 

Julian Assange’s arrest and imprisonment at the instance of the US government gave fair warning to every journalist of the price which may be paid for exposing official acts of the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq.

When the Constitutional rights of any of us are under attack, the Constitutional rights of all of us are under attack.  Who else will have their travel restricted because the government does not like what one is saying?  Who else will be surveilled?  Who else will be prosecuted?  Who else will have their Constitutional rights denied?

Of equal concern was the simultaneous publication yesterday by the Washington Post which casts as disinformation the work of journalists, including several Americans, who have challenged the State Department’s narrative with regard to Russia and Iran. 

It would seem the Washington Post has taken seriously the sardonic dictum of A.J. Leibling:  “Freedom of the Press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”   The corporatization of the First Amendment, and the concentration of media into fewer and fewer hands, are major reasons why America is under constant threat of war and why our Constitutional freedoms are in trouble.   

Independent authors and journalists are struggling to provide a response which protects our freedom of speech.  They also have access to the same Constitutional protection of Freedom of the Press as the Washington Post, the New York Times and other large corporate publishers. 

Governments’ fear of being challenged is as old as the case of John Peter Zenger, who 1734 printed the New York Weekly Journal.  Zenger’s persistent prodding of the Crown’s provincial governor resulted in him being charged with libel.  He won the case, establishing truth as a defense.

Today the well understood truth is as deeply offensive to liars as freedom is offensive to tyrants.  “Our liberty,” wrote Thomas Jefferson ten years after The Declaration of Independence, “depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Today’s independent American journalists are fighting for their freedom, and ours! 

Reprinted with permission from The Kucinich Report.
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