Former inspector ordered to give book to Defense

January 17, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department has demanded that Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, turn over advance copies of a book in which he is expected to step up his criticism of the Clinton administration and detail some of his work for the United Nations.

Ritter, who resigned last summer and accused the United States of undermining the inspection program, said through his lawyer that he is unlikely to agree to a prepublication security review.

His refusal could prompt a court battle with the Pentagon that might delay publication of the book, scheduled for late March.

The lawyer, Matthew Lifflander, said the Defense Department appeared to have joined in an administration-wide attempt to intimidate Ritter into silence. Ritter is under investigation by the Justice Department on charges that he may have shared classified information with Israel while working at the United Nations, an accusation that he denies.

In a letter to the Pentagon dated Jan. 14, Lifflander said, "We have been reliably informed that certain very senior officials of more than one federal agency have recently gone out of their way to deprecate Ritter and denigrate his views."

As a result, the letter said, "we are not inclined to submit unnecessarily to any potential suppression of his First Amendment rights."

The Defense Department has not said explicitly that it will try to stop publication of the book or to censor portions of it. Asked whether the Defense Department was attempting to intimidate Ritter, the department issued a one-word statement on Friday: "No."

In a letter to Ritter dated Dec. 23, the Pentagon demanded that several copies of the book be turned over to the department at least two months before publication and reminded him of his "contractual obligations" to the Defense Department not to divulge "material obtained as a result of your work" at the U.N. Special Commission, which supervised arms inspections in Iraq until last year.

Ritter, a retired Marine intelligence officer, had been formally under contract to the Defense Department as a consultant while he worked at the special commission. He was considered to be on loan to the United Nations.

"It has come to our attention that you may write a book that pertains to your involvement with the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq while performing under contract to the U.S. government," the letter said. "Your contracts with the U.S. Government require that you obtain written authorization from the contracting officer prior to the public release of any material obtained as a result of work performed under the contract."

Pub Date: 1/17/99

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