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No intimidation intended
Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter
Pentagon backs down over Ritter's new book
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Monday, January 18, 1999 3:51:19 PM
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon is dropping a demand that former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter turn over advance copies of his new book for official clearance.
The Pentagon says the demand was the result of an overzealous contracting officer and was not an attempt to intimidate Ritter.
Ritter, a retired Marine intelligence officer, has been highly critical of the Clinton administration since stepping down as a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq. Ritter criticized the administration for, in his view, not aggressively supporting the work of the U.N. weapons inspectors who were charged with pursuing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
In a December 23 letter, the Defense Department told Ritter that he was required to obtain "written authorization" before "the public release of any material obtained as a result of work performed under ... contract." The letter asked Ritter to hand over copies of the book at least two months before publication.
In an article Sunday in the "New York Times", Ritter's attorney, Matthew L. Lifflander, characterized the letter as part of an administration-wide attempt to intimidate Ritter into silence.
But David Rigby, chief of public affairs for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said the letter was sent by a contracting officer who feared Ritter might inadvertently disclose classified information."
After a "broader view" by senior officials, the agency has decided to rescind the letter and offer to assist Ritter to ensure that classified information is not released in his book. Ritter will not be required to submit manuscripts, Rigby said.
Rigby said Ritter would be officially notified of the change on Tuesday, the first official day of business after the Martin Luther King holiday.
According to the Times, Ritter's book, tentatively titled "Endgame", would provide some details about Ritter's work as an arms inspector in Iraq "but would focus primarily on his views about President Saddam Hussein and how the United States and other nations should deal with him." All the information is in the public domain, the Times quotes Lifflander as saying.
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