Scott Ritter Removed from Plane to Russia and Had Passport Seized with No Explanation

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Scott Ritter was set to travel to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a major event, and make a presentation there. I am not clear on the details, but he also mentioned regularly on his various interviews that he was planning to visit many Russian cities and meet with Russians to promote better understanding between Russia and the US, depicting himself as trying to build bridges. He would often make jibes at the failure of the State Department to operate this way.

We will hear more details from Ritter soon, but he was removed from the plane taking him on the first leg of his flight to St. Petersburg (a high-handed, embarrassment-maximizing move; he could just have easily been stopped at the boarding gate) and had his passport seized. The only explanation he got from the Customs and Border Police officials was that the move was on the orders of the Department of State.

There is a lot of speculation on Twitter, and by over-eager readers, that Judge Napolitano had his trip to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum also cancelled by US officials, and in a more extreme version of the tale, was traveling with Ritter and removed from the plane with him. Napolitano has twice denied it on his first programs on Monday. From the top of his interview with Alastair Crooke:

My trip was cancelled due to events in Russia that are not national or major diplomatic events but events that involve this trip

And from the atart of his talk with Larry Johnson, who he was set to see for dinner in St. Petersburg:

….the cancellation was beyond my control and had nothing to do with me personally.

From Napolitano’s Twitter account:

Napolitano also stated he found out about the change in his drill before he left for the airport and was glad for that. He sounded quite chipper in his talk with Johnson.

So if there was any official action against Napolitano to prevent his travel, he vitiated any opportunity to lodge a protest by twice depicting the impediment as having nothing to do with him personally. I have to think Napolitano is too canny to have undercut any due process rights, if he wanted to avail himself of them, before speaking to counsel.

So back to Ritter. Ritter is a controversial figure who likes to paint in bright colors and has been pilloried for some bad calls on the conflict in Ukraine, notably predicting an early Russian victory (as in fairness did some Western officials too). Nevertheless, I have found much of his commentary to be valuable, particularly details of his past experiences, UN and NATO niceties, and military operations.

It is hard to fathom any legal justification for this move, not that the Biden Administration is big on such niceties. It is remarkably hard to find, on a quick search, the statutory grounds for passport revocation or seizure; the actual texts are recursive and the references to them oracular.1

Larry Johnson quickly went to bat for Ritter, presenting what he says are the three grounds for passport revocation: being involved in criminal activity, unpaid taxes, or based on a request from law enforcement.

As we show in the footnote below, the party having his passport revoked is supposed to receive a written notice, which did not happen with Ritter.

The only way State might pretty this up is tax thuggery, as in having the IRS produce a notice of tax delinquency that Ritter did not receive. Note that the IRS took the mission to harass Matt Taibbi:

For those of you not familiar with IRS practice, the agency does not turn up at taxpayer homes. Normally when they want an in-person meeting, they schedule it and offer the taxpayer the option of meeting at the IRS office or at home. And that is usually in connection with an audit or complex/protracted dispute. Tax experts universally recommend not letting the IRS into the house. The Wall Street Journal editorial confirmed that, as well as describing the agency’s odd behavior with Taibbi’s returns:

Now Mr. [Matt] Taibbi has told Mr. [Jim] Jordan’s committee that an IRS agent showed up at his personal residence in New Jersey on March 9. That happens to be the same day Mr. Taibbi testified before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government about what he learned about Twitter. The taxman left a note instructing Mr. Taibbi to call the IRS four days later. Mr. Taibbi was told in a call with the agent that both his 2018 and 2021 tax returns had been rejected owing to concerns over identity theft.

Mr. Taibbi has provided the committee with documentation showing his 2018 return had been electronically accepted, and he says the IRS never notified him or his accountants of a problem after he filed that 2018 return more than four-and-a-half years ago.

He says the IRS initially rejected his 2021 return, which he later refiled, and it was rejected again—even though Mr. Taibbi says his accountants refiled it with an IRS-provided pin number. Mr. Taibbi notes that in neither case was the issue “monetary,” and that the IRS owes him a “considerable” sum.

The bigger question is when did the IRS start to dispatch agents for surprise house calls? Typically when the IRS challenges some part of a tax return, it sends a dunning letter. Or it might seek more information from the taxpayer or tax preparer. If the IRS wants to audit a return, it schedules a meeting at the agent’s office. It doesn’t drop by unannounced.

Ritter had just declared war on the Clooney Foundation to Silence Russia-Friendly Reporting. From a write-up on Sputnik on the passport seizure:

The most recent post on Ritter’s Telegram channel put the Clooney Foundation for Justice on notice for its alleged crusade against “Russian propagandists.”

“Here I am. In your face. If telling the truth about Russia makes me a propagandist in your book, then I accept the title,” he wrote. “Bring it on. I’ll school you on the First Amendment.”

“You have zero concept of what free speech is. Try and arrest me and you’ll find out. In spades. It’s war,” he added.

This could just be a coincidence of timing….or did Ritter get a private threat?

So it isn’t hard to see this as a heavy-handed censorship move. I hope free speech advocates rally to publicize this abuse of power.

Update: Ritter clarified what happened on the plane on Judge Napolitano. He was not seated on the plane as I first surmised, but he passed though the final boarding check in and after he passed the threshold onto the airplane, the three Customs and Border Control cops stopped him and told him to hand over his travel docs.

As to Napolitano, Ritter called him and told him not to go to Russia in the early AM, before the boarding incident happened, based on the sponsor for his trip to Russia having been arrested. See here:


1 Admittedly that may be a function of the state of search, but have a look yourself at this document: Despite being headed “Denial and restriction of passports” it is about denial of the issuance of a passport, and not seizure or cancellation of a valid passport.

This document, Passport Information for Law Enforcement, tells law enforcement officials how to petition State to have a passport restricted or revoked and includes:

Law enforcement agencies may ask us to deny a passport under 22 CFR 51.60. Some reasons to deny a passport include:

• A valid, unsealed federal warrant of arrest
• A federal or state criminal court order
• A condition of parole or probation forbidding departure from the United States (or the jurisdiction of the court)
• A request for extradition

But this does not tell us anything about what grounds State might gin up.

This document at govinfo, which includes an image of text of a section of statute, “Revocation or limitation of passports,” which is extremely uncommunicative. A later section describes restricting travel to countries with which the US is at war, armed hostilities are in progress, or there is risk to US travelers. None of those would warrant action against Ritter alone. The only part that is clear is:

§ 51.65 Notification of denial or revocation of passport.
(a) The Department will notify in writing any person whose application for issuance of a passport has been denied, or whose passport has been revoked. The notification will set forth the specific reasons for the denial or revocation, and, if applicable, the pro cedures for review available under 22 CFR 51.70 through 51.74

Ritter was not given the mandated written notice even by the goons who removed him from the plane.

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  1. .Tom

    > So it isn’t hard to see this as a heavy-handed censorship move.

    I agree. When it comes to suppressing public dissent recently the methods have been heavy-handed. I presume the admin is making a show to tell those of us that pay attention to dissident opinions that we should be careful. For example, you can handle student protests without beating the students up and ruining their education and careers but if you want to create a chilling effect then yes.

    With my tin-foil hat on I wonder if there was a decision to make this shift back to authoritarian modes of social control visible to the public. The cases they pursue like Assange and Ritter aren’t handled sympathetically in the media so the state’s public show of authoritarianism is effectively targeted to those of us paying attention to fringe media.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Spite. It was done out of sheer spite on the part of the US State Department and maybe even the Biden White House itself. Because of a previous conviction, Ritter is required to give 21 days notice to authorities about foreign travel plans. And yet they waited until he was literally sitting in that plane before sending in security to pull him off and seize his passport. That is where the spite come in. And apparently Ritter overheard how his luggage was loaded aboard last because luggage handlers got the word and put it where it could be pulled out straight away. I think that Ritter himself called it an ambush and I would agree with this assessment.

    1. Uncle Doug

      Ah, right. “They” really hate Ritter and, a long time ago now, they were successful in the second sting operation to entrap him. So they have a particularly effective harassment weapon.

      1. The Rev Kev

        C’mon, man. They had three weeks to tell him ‘you aren’t going anywhere, buddyboy’. Instead they waited till he reached the airport, checked in, had his luggage taken away, waited with everybody else at the gate, boarded the plane, took his seat and only then they yanked him off the plane. Even those people who found themselves on the infamous no-fly list – like Ted Kennedy – found out when they went to check in and not when they were on the plane itself.

        1. Uncle Doug

          I think you may have read into my comment something I didn’t say or imply.

          We agree: It was spite.

        2. Rubicon

          The State Dept. did that purposely. Wait until the last second, then seize his passport. It’s a great way to make their point. Big headlines.

    2. digi_owl

      DC is all about “face” and appearance. Why the lawfare when a “lesser” nation would either disappear or spectacularly execute dissidents. Why the aghastitude when congressional “decorum” was breached. In the end the nation is still settler-colonial pretending to be something “better” with elaborate rituals and costumes.

      1. nippersdad

        He was convicted of pedophilia for having had a conversation over the internet with an undercover cop that represented herself as an adult.

        1. Uncle Doug

          He was convicted of several offenses for online interaction with an undercover officer who impersonated a 15-year-old. Pedophilia refers to sexual attraction to/sexual behavior with a prepubescent child. Typically, that’s defined as someone 13 years old or younger. Few 15-year-old females are prepubescent.

          I believe Ritter continues to maintain his innocence.

          1. nippersdad

            He does. Caleb Maupin was talking about it last night on his CPI podcast.


            Pedophilia was prolly not the correct terminology to use, but all of the reports that I have seen say that it was a sting operation in response to his anti-war activism. I doubt that it is a coincidence that Ritter was to be joined on the panel in St. Petersburg by Tara Reid. Stories bringing up the sex offender conviction of Ritter while conveniently forgetting that Tara Reid had to leave the country over her accusations against Biden seems to be leaving out half the story.

                1. Pilar

                  Interesting – He might have good intel and assessments but looks like he’s got a personal problem. It’s not normal to seek out teens to sext.

                    1. Pilar

                      Okay, well it’s stupid. If you know you are in the crosshairs of the government, why would you go on sites and sext? I guess we all have our weaknesses.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Both the same. Sexting a minor although the formal charge makes it sound more like he had sex, which was not the case (or you can be sure it would have been in the charges).

        1. kam

          I don’t see any evidence of a conviction for anything. Classic DC smear. How long did our dirty Agencies work on the trap?
          But Ritter looks like a naive boy scout relative to hardcore druggy and depraved Biden, junior.

      1. Jack

        Great share! I read the WAPO every day. Rather I should say “skim,” to get a sense of the headlines of the day. The WAPO is definitely biased. BTW, the Scott Ritter story referenced here is nowhere to be found on its pages. I also read the Washington Times (skim), RT, NC, and multiple blogs every day. There is no way you can have a good idea of what is happening in the world by solely reading the US MSM. It’s pathetic.

        1. dday

          Yea, me too. My daily reading list is Guardian, Washington Post, Huffpost, Politico, Drudge Report, NY Times, Naked Capitalism, and South China Morning Post. Lots of “skimming”, maybe read four or five articles in all those sources.

          Regularly, Marginal Revolution and Consortium News.

          NC has by far the best comments.

      2. Benny Profane

        Now let’s do the NYT, but I’m afraid that business is too healthy for changes right now.

              1. Deb

                It’s true. The major revenue drivers for the NYT these days are games, recipes and product reviews (Wirecutter). As someone said, they’re now a gaming company that also offers news.

      3. mrsyk

        Perhaps I’m being unfair, but it’s hard to believe that William Lewis will or even intends to bring real journalism back to that fish wrap. More likely he wants to replace everyone he can with AI.

      4. upstater

        Turley: “In the meantime, they were increasingly running unsupported legal columns and even false statements from authors on the left.”

        Don’t you just hate this mischaracterization of “The Left”! Such leftists like Ignatius, Kagan, Boot, Rubinstein, Bai, Milbank,

        Given rogue galleries such as WaPo’s columnists are “left”, the mischaracterization sows confusion and scorn of these elites.

  3. Balan ARoxdale

    The bigger question is when did the IRS start to dispatch agents for surprise house calls? Typically when the IRS challenges some part of a tax return, it sends a dunning letter. Or it might seek more information from the taxpayer or tax preparer. If the IRS wants to audit a return, it schedules a meeting at the agent’s office. It doesn’t drop by unannounced.

    Whatever existing procedures the IRS or indeed US Customs had have probably all been sledgehammered by whichever political PMC commissars/apparatchiks have been appointed to oversee operations in these departments. Nothing in writing of course, sledgehammers are an executive function.

    1. Cat Burglar

      The IRS has been used as a political tool for a long time.

      My college history professor had been active in the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War, a decade before he was my teacher. But ten years after they began, he was still being audited every year. By then, he didn’t even wait for the letter from the IRS, just went to the local office with all his records.

    2. Rudolf

      Back in the 70s, I had a friend and his wife who were active environmental attorneys in the SF Bay Area. They got a visit around 9 PM one evening by two IRS agents, well armed, demanding to see their tax returns for the two previous years. Long story, short, the discrepancy involved a change in who was the first taxpayer listed on the returns. In one year it was was him and the second year, it was his wife. So the IRS “needed “ to make a house call, with armed agents, at 9 o’clock at night to sort it all out! Yeah, sure.
      This kind of behavior has been going on for quite some time.

  4. Benny Profane

    Scott has got to tone down the anger. I get it, but he’s not helping his cause shouting insults at Biden and friends.
    One now wonders what really happened with the Judge. He was being a bit vague about his own cancellation. I guess he’ll fill us in more today. Excellent forum he has created. Shame something should happen to it. Good luck to him. Only reason I want to see gold go higher.

    1. ambrit

      The problem with “toning down” the anger is that it leads to a “tame” opposition that play acts non-approved attitudes and policies but gets nothing effective done.
      The fact that the “Powers” played this dirty trick on Ritter means that he has begun to gain traction in those groups of the population that the “Powers” fear.
      This is a preemptive strike to sow fear and confusion in the non-compliant elites of America. (“See. This could be you if you don’t stay in line.”)
      I’m wondering if some of Ritter’s “fellow travelers” could be denied reentry into America next.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No, if you have a passport you cannot be denied reentry. They can detain you for more or less up to 8 hours, which they did repeatedly to Laura Poitras. They can take your devices and take forever to return them.

        1. ambrit

          Yes about the law, but here I am suggesting that the “Powers” are embarked upon a course of ignoring the ‘law.’ There are a number of ‘irregularities’ in the Ritter case that lead to the conclusion that “might makes right” has become the operative philosophy of the Elites.
          So, perhaps “National Security” could be invoked as a fig leaf to cover up pure power plays by the Elites.
          “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” We are ruled by scoundrels today.

        2. Corey

          As a United States citizen, you cannot be denied entry even without a passport. People get this wrong all the time. Citizenship attaches to the person, not the passport. The passport is merely evidence of citizenship. I personally have entered the United States twice without a passport. In both cases I had simply forgotten it. I presented myself to the customs officer and declared that I am a U.S. citizen. We chatted amiably for a minute, and then I was waved through. Remember that your picture is taken every single time you cross at a port of entry and they can fairly easily determine if you are indeed a citizen. Far too much emphasis is put on the passport, as if it confers some sort of right to travel or right of entry.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            That is an extremely helpful tidbit, and thank you for describing how my information was incomplete.

            The reason I make this mistake was…..recall how the US cancelled Snowden’s passport and he spent three weeks in jurisdictional nowhere land in Russia in an international transit area? So Snowden could have returned to the US, which was the last thing he wanted, but with no evidence of US citizenship, he was prohibited from entering other countries.

          2. JohnA

            If you do not have a passport, you are unlikely to be allowed to board an international flight/ferry. The airline operator/ferry company is liable to fly/sail you back to your port of departure if you are refused entry at the destination location, due to passport problems. I appreciate once back on home soil, as it were, you can explain the situation and gain entry, but persuading the carrier at a foreign point of departure is likely to be far more difficult.

        3. ChrisPacific

          I did wonder whether the passport seizure fell within the broadly permitted category of thuggish behavior by Customs and Border Control (which, as you say, includes device seizure, detention, and various other things).

          The expectation is that they will eventually either let you go and give everything back, or come up with a good reason not to. If they have refused to do that and quoted State Department orders, then that brings us into the (apparently exceedingly murky) statutory waters that you described. I’m assuming this wasn’t temporary and he remains passport-less.

  5. Tom Pfotzer

    I said it before, I’ll say it again: repression is the only tool they have left. They are bankrupt gangsters, lashing out in rage.

    They’re still going to lose; there’s nothing they can do to prevent it. These death-throes are just sorting out how infamous and reviled they’ll be.

    Keep the pressure on. Circulate the stories of these bumblers widely, and remember to ridicule these horrible people at every opportunity.

    The Biden administration is composed of gangsters. Anyone that’s any good remaining in that administration should get out now while they still have some self-respect.

    And for those that expect better or different from Trump, please don’t be deluded. We’re just going to trade one gang for another. Both gangs are evil and destructive.

    1. Ignacio

      Yep, the “no explanation” part says it clearly: pure and simple repression without reasons/excuses being given. Only because they can do it.

  6. Chris Cosmos

    Scott Ritter predicted an earlier victory for Russia in Ukraine but like many people, his prediction assumed a vigorous offensive on the part of Russia–instead the offensive was a lightning strike on Kiev to encourage the Kiev regime to negotiate–it worked and there was a negotiation and Ukraine and Russia agreed to terms. The US nixed the plan sending its factotum (whoever is in the PM seat in the UK, i.e., Boris Johnson) to Kiev. Russia then decided to go-slow, avoid casualties, etc. While the dissident community thought, even with light troops, Russia should progress quickly. Ritter cautioned everyone that Ukraine had the most powerful non-Russian army in Europe and had been preparing for this for many years with a lot of NATO training. He said that Ukraine had a powerful military that was not to be laughed at.

    We have to remember that Russia never intended it to get this bad, never intended to an all-out fight with NATO to this degree–this was a failure on Putin’s part who has consistently (along with Lavrov) thought that the West was rational–it isn’t. This is not because there are not rational actors in Washington it’s because of the peculiarities of the US National Security State’s structure which is not the topic here so I won’t get into that.

    Ritter has been personal non grata so to speak since he refused to endorse the Iraq War and was, therefore absent from TV during the build up. He was told that unless he dot with the program he was permanently banned from the mainstream. Most people forget that in the late 90s he was a national hero for his stance as the US most senior arms inspector.

    As for this incident, rather typical of the US Blob–he’s lucky to be alive mainly because he’s been effectively silenced in the mainstream–maybe they are warning those who appear with Napolitano to cool it or else.

    1. jsn

      The Russians have kept their cool pretty well.

      I expect we’re acting out something along the 95th percentile of their “worst case scenario”, as we are with the Limits of Growth worst case scenario from 50 years ago, they called it “Business As Usual”. This is, afterall, the “stupidest timeline”.

      A growing percentage of the planet appears to have growing resolve to step out of that stupidity and the the Russians and Chinese are showing them the way. It remains for us here to figure out how to get the socio-psychopaths out of power here and re-establish something vaguely legitimate, but not easy to see how.

      1. Chris Cosmos

        Even if most of the rest of the planet rejects imperialism it will make little difference to the “West.” The media in NATOSTAN will not report it and make up some story showing the glorious march of freedom and democracy–there is no longer a non-mainstream-media organization that is not a branch of the DC Ministry of Truth. What you are saying is “misinformation” if it doesn’t jibe with official pronouncements or so it seems to me. I have watched this coming on for many decades and have known “senior” people in the media literally tell me they are there to be guardians.

      2. Tom Pfotzer

        How? By doing exactly what we’re doing: reporting on what’s happening, telling our friends, getting the word out. It works.

        That’s why the manipulative wackos try _so_ hard to punish the people that step out of line.

        But they can’t, no matter how many data centers, how much AI, how many little tattlers they employ … they can’t stem the tide of revulsion they’re causing.

        And the most enjoyable aspect of their demise is … “the harder they try, the behinder they get”.

        When I get into casual conversations (grocery store, etc.) with people, I am becoming increasingly surprised at how aware they are.

        Even the people I expected to be way dipped in are actually … getting a different slant on things. People are talking among themselves.

        Even on Facebook, youtube, X … the places most heavily censored… the word’s getting out.


        Think about this: Not long ago, the things Scott Ritter says and does – would have been perfectly outlandish. A friendship tour of Russia? Now?

        Saying out loud that the Ukraine war is thoroughly lost?

        Saying out loud that the Russians can beat NATO, flat-out?

        This would have been _heresy_ even a year ago in casual talk among friends. Where I live that would have been cause to be shown immediately to the door, and relations iced down henceforward. No contact.

        Well, things have changed, haven’t they?

        The top-down narrative is disintegrating fast, and the bottom-up narrative that’s causing that disintegration is now a fairly big snowball, heading downhill pretty fast.

        NC-ers: give yourself a pat on the back now and then. What you’re doing is working.

    2. Susan the other

      It could be something as outrageous as a cabal between State and Defense to go atomic. I don’t like to attribute benign motives to State but Ritter is on the Ukrainian hit list and still makes himself accessible. The Russians put an SS detail on him to protect him wherever he goes. Maybe it is simply getting too risky now that Ukraine has fallen into wild hallucinations. My other thought is too much. That (recently Ritter joked that some inRussia are saying he is a spy, etc.) if Ritter is a useful tool, then State might well be increasingly concerned about his safety. Enough to break the law detaining him, While they make themselves look like thugs. In any event, it is better to have him safe, and Judge Nap too. I submit we will never know.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Judge Nap not traveling had NADA to do with Ritter and State, as the Judge had said repeatedly.

        In the update of the post, I explain how Ritter called Napolitano BEFORE the whole passport incident, telling Nap not to travel, because the Russian sponsor of Ritter’s trip had been arrested. Ritter said on the Nap show that he later learned that his sponsor’s team reassured him they were at ready to handle all the logistics and coordination as planned, so it appears the arrest was bifurcated from Ritter’s plans. He was to speak at SPIEF and the show was to go on.

        1. tgs

          I found it odd that the Judge didn’t follow up with some questions about the arrest of the sponsor.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I doubt Ritter knows more than what he said. And Ritter and Nap were focused on the State Dept. censorship, where they can likely do something. Nap was close to salivating over being involved in the litigation (he can’t represent Ritter but could be brought in by Ritter’s counsel as a consultant and thus would be within the attorney-client privilege circle)

  7. Alice X

    Just after seeing this yesterday I spoke with a friend, a non-PMC type, who nevertheless listens to NPR and so has a few of their brain worms. I told him about this and he wasn’t moved. He had gone to hear Ritter speak one time and said he didn’t like him. I understood that and had explained my own lukewarm feelings on SR’s frothiness. But, I said it earlier and said it again, SR knows a lot about some things and is worth listening to in those realms. This is blatant repression, shocking repression, and that is what the security state is about. That is all they have. First they came for the communists, but I said nothing… Well, I have to stop there, because they might have come for me first, if I was somebody.

      1. Alice X

        Well, I like to feel like somebody, but I’m old and poor, I do have a keyboard and internet. They are certainly coming for the internet.

  8. John9

    Scott Ritter has been getting payback from the imperial powers in Washington since the 90s. When he got into weapons inspections, he proved not to be a careerist suck up that the Blob requires. He stuck to his truth as he saw it. The Intercept goes into some of this:
    The video of Biden’s performance of kick down on Ritter is a wonderful example of passive agressive courtier behavior.
    We are ruled by such disgusting sociopaths.
    I hope Ritter gets to make his person to person Peace Tour to Russia.

  9. aj

    Not knowing anything about who Scott Ritter was, I had to google him. Enemy of the state he may be, but it’s hard to feel sorry for a guy who was twice arrested and once convicted for trying to have “relations” with a minor. Unless it was some sort of CIA set-up or something, but I’m sure the commentariat here will let me know.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It was sexting. Never got further than that although I think he did send a dick pic in one of the two cases. The second one was clearly entrapment (a cop) and the first smells like that too.

      They would have gotten access to his electronics and would have charged him with kiddie porn or for other under age victims of elder lust, but one can infer they did not find any.

      1. Chris Cosmos

        Thanks for that–even if he was guilty the US Justice system has no credibility to many of us and didn’t have much even a couple of decades ago.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Ritter seems to have no incidents except these two cases, at least one of which was entrapment, and the first which may not have been was supposed to be sealed!!!

    2. Uncle Doug

      It’s not necessary to “feel sorry” for Ritter in order to be concerned (at least!) about the establishment’s use of lawfare to impede and/or chill unwelcome speech.

    3. anahuna

      In other words, your interest in the fundamental rights of American citizens depends on whether or not you feel personally sympathetic to the individual in question?

      1. aj

        anuhana, thanks for trying to put words in my mouth, but no. Rights are rights whether I feel sorry for someone or not. I do, however, think that people that mess with kids should get all of their rights taken away. Ritter likely has some insider knowledge into how things work and I likely agree with some of his stances against the US govt. But when people do not nice things to kids (or try to in this case) my compassion and respect for them as fellow humans goes out the window. People that mess with kids are not fully human and therefore don’t deserve equal rights as the rest of us.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          He did not “mess with kids”. There was no sex and only one at most was not part of a police operation to entrap him.

          He sexted one 15 year old who was on a chat board (as in one infers not naive even if underage) may or not have been a honeypot and a second one years later who later a cop. He was remarkably dumb but his incidents didn’t get to the in person stage.

          And as I said above. in the course of prosecution, they would have gotten all his devices. In fact, I suspect the point of the sexting cases was the hope they’d find kiddie porn or evidence of more sexting to or better yet actual sex with minors so they could really dirty him up and throw him in the slammer for many many years…and he might not come out alive given how pedos are treated in prison.

          1. aj

            Yves, I appreciate that he might not be guilty of the things they accuse him of, which is why I tried to qualify my disgust. The article I read stated, “Police said that he exposed himself, via a web camera, after the officer repeatedly identified himself as a 15-year-old girl.”

            If those things are true, then I stand by my earlier statement. The fact that no physical contact took place is better than the alternative but not by much. Showing your junk to anyone who doesn’t want to see it is creepy. Sending it to someone you think is a 15yo girl whether she asks you or not is crossing the line.

            1. JohnA

              Showing your junk to anyone who doesn’t want to see it is creepy.

              If it was entrapment, the undercover agent posing as a young girl likely asked him for a penis pic.

              As Yves said, his actions were dumb, but you seem determined to dismiss the compelling evidence that it was a set-up.

              1. aj

                If anyone claiming to be a 15-year old girl asks for a dick pick, don’t send them one. Entrapment involves getting someone to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. Like if the cop got him to send a pic BEFORE claiming to be 15 or if it was real 15yo that claimed to be 21 then I could give him a pass. If he genuinely thought the girl was 15 before sending the pic, and he wasn’t otherwise coerced into sending it, then I would call this a “sting” and not a “setup.” I have a very hard line on stuff involving children and if it doesn’t bother you as much as it bothers me, well that’s your problem not mine.

        2. Robert

          If one is really concerned about people “messing with kids” then the first thing we can look at is the Capitalist Neo-Con, Neo-Liberal system. This system and those that manage it (and become wealthy off of it) are the ones that are messing with kids’ heads and their futures.

  10. David in Friday Harbor

    It particularly bothers me that RT, Sputnik, and Tass no longer come up in a Google news search (they still appear in a standard search). I read RT with a grain of salt, but these days I find it less selective or biased than the NYTimes or The Guardian have become.

    I’m not a fan of Ritter, although I value his perspective. I particularly don’t like that he was so stupid and self-centered to think that some “underaged girl” in a chat room was an actual person pursuing him. However, his conviction there shouldn’t limit his travel to an economic forum in a country that disapproves of sex trafficking as strongly as the Russian Federation does.

    This looks like a stunt intended to chill speech. We should all be outraged.

  11. gwb

    I wonder if any passengers took cell-phone videos of the incident. If there are any, and the clips made it onto TikTok or wherever, those individuals probably didn’t know who Ritter was.

  12. JonnyJames

    Given what happened to folks like Ed Snowden, Julian Assange and others, if I were Scott Ritter, I might be a bit nervous about remaining in the US or a vassal state.

  13. Tom Stone

    This clarifies how the Biden Administration intends deal with the greatest threat to “Our Democracy”, the First Amendment.
    The second greatest threat to “Our Democracy” is the Fourth Amendment, and that will also be dealt with this summer.
    The Republic is threatened from within and without as never before and the need for a steady hand at the helm of the ship of State in these perilous times requires us all to support the “New FDR” without reservation!

    1. JonnyJames

      I would love to believe that, but the way I see it: there is no “democracy”, the US is not a republic, and the Constitution is “just a god-damned piece of paper”. The US is an empire, ruled by a ruthless oligarchy. To some this may sound like bitter, to others I am stating the obvious. It might look like over-the-top cynicism but I see no evidence of meaningful choice, democratic accountability, freedom of the press, free speech etc.

    1. Glen

      Thanks for the link. Lotta beans spilled on this show.

      Scott Ritter does not know why his passport was seized yet. I hope he keeps talking about what he finds out.

  14. Occam's Raisin

    In January of this year, Ritter gave pep talks to Russian soldiers in Chechnya, but more compellingly, he also made an unlawful crossing into the occupied Kherson Region from Crimea. Among his other transgressions, at the very least, Ukraine forbids felons like Ritter from entering their country. So, of course, Ritter is being investigated, as any another American citizen would be, after traveling to a battlefield to provide aid and comfort to soldiers fighting against US allies during wartime. 

    “Flight risk – defector” should go without saying. The US Gov is not helpless in the face of soldiers not living up to their oath. In order to speak truth to power, you have to be trustworthy.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No Making Shit Up.

      Judge Napolitano, who is a former Federal judge and conversant with speech and related rights matters, was clear that no way, no how was this kosher. There are even Supreme Court decisions affirming the right to travel.

      Ukraine law has no status in the US. I cited the ground above for passport seizure/retention and that is not among them.

      Ritter returned from Russia and had visited Crimea and was interrogated extensively at the border on his return. So his having gone to Crimea was no secret. He made a second trip after that.

      The US is not at war with Russia and the US has no defense pact with Ukraine so the “US ally” business has no legal foundation and therefore also has no bearing on his passport status.

      Napolitano is saddling up on Ritter’s behalf. I am sure he can find him some pro bono or very discounted counsel to take this up. Napolitano will also offer informal counsel. The right is all up in arms over free speech and due process abuses and this would be a high profile case.

      1. nippersdad

        What was particularly interesting in that Napolitano interview was Ritters discussion about the “office of information terrorists” set up by the State Department in making out black lists (shades of Myrotvorets), starting at around the 7:45 minute mark. Very ominous. That in conjunction with the article (on links?) a few days ago about a new bill in Congress that would make it illegal to refer to Ukraine as having Nazis, it looks like there is an extra-judicial process being created in conjunction with the Ukraine government in support for the war.

        That is very fertile ground for litigation at the Supreme Court; ANYONE wanting to make their mark in the legal field would view that case as a potentially career making decision.

      2. JonnyJames

        Great points, it’s a shame “the right” (libertarian right) does not care about free speech, or due process either. Only when politically convenient. Typical political hypocrisy. I might believe they cared if folks like Snowden, Assange and many others were not persecuted in bipartisan fashion. “Fat Mike” Pompeo wanted to put a hit out on Assange, for example.

      3. David in Friday Harbor

        Andrew Napolitano was never a “Federal judge.” He was a New Jersey Superior Court judge from 1987 to 1995, when he resigned to go teach at a couple of second-tier law schools.

        Napolitano is a “natural law” libertarian with some real odd-ball thoughts about U.S. history and is a supporter of fetal rights at conception. He contributes interesting ideas to the discussion but I don’t think that I’d ever want to hang my hat on his legal advice…

        That being said, sending armed CBP police to pull someone off of an airplane without notice, due process of law, or any statement of reasons is outrageous misconduct by the government that we should all be concerned about.

        1. Tom Pfotzer


          I don’t think you’re giving Andrew Napolitano enough credit. I’ve seen … oh, maybe 10 of his vids so far, and I observe that he’s calm, organized, insightful, courageous, articulate and quite courteous as an interviewer.

          I note also that he hangs around with other people that I respect, including Larry Johnson, Gilbert Doctorow, Danny Davis, Ray McGovern, Douglas MacGregor, and of course Scott Ritter… just to mention a few of the recent guests on his talk show (his website is

          See for yourself who he talks to, and what he says, and how he comports himself.

          He’s pretty good.

          ==== and about Scott Ritter’s character, the sex charges, etc.:

          Scott has done a fabulous, courageous job of telling Americans what really happens out there. The man’s got guts.

          Most people have flaws, and maybe one of Scott’s flaws is a little too much testosterone. Emotions are powerful, but Scott’s a smart guy. He’ll get it right, and the good he’s done outweighs the negatives of some dic-pics.

          That said, I expect that he’s learned his lessons – whether it was a set-up, or sexting a 15-year-old actually happened, there are lessons to be learned, and I expect that he’s done so already.

          1. David in Friday Harbor

            I listen to both Ritter and Napolitano — I just don’t give them any more credit than they merit.

            Napolitano was never a “Federal judge” as stated. He also maintains that Lincoln should have bought-off Southern slave-owners rather than resist the secession of the Confederacy, and he believes that a woman should be forced to gestate and give birth to a zygote from the moment a sperm penetrates her egg. These are rather extreme views.

            Ritter got caught attempting to “meet” with a 16-year old in 2001 and got diversion. He didn’t learn from that experience and was ensnared yet again in 2009 for exposing himself online to someone clearly representing themselves as a 15-year old. He was convicted of the crime of attempt after a very fair trial that took into account that his intended “victim” was a spoof and wound-up spending nearly two and a half years incarcerated.

            I greatly appreciate that Napolitano and Ritter relate facts which one doesn’t find reported in mainstream media and which are subject to corroboration, but I harbor serious doubts about their personal judgement — as I do about the too-clever State Department officials who waited for Ritter to be on Turkish territory (an airplane) before subjecting him to actions that would have been clearly illegal at the gate in order to silence his speech questioning the regime.

            1. JustTheFacts

              Napolitano is a Catholic. Catholics have historically believed, like most other religions do, that life begins at conception, and that killing a person is murder and is proscribed by the 10 commandments. Even if some Catholics have recently changed their minds about this, it does not make that belief abhorrent or bizarre. It is certainly not “extreme”.

              The British Empire did the most any entity has done to ban slavery. It used its fleets to enforce this ban on others such as the Ottoman slave traders and the Americans. Nevertheless the British freed slaves within the Empire using eminent domain and recompensing their owners because slaves were legally bought. For instance people provided pensions for their widows by investing in slaves they never met in the Caribbean. It would have been unfair to dispossess such people, creating much poverty and resentment, and it would have constituted retroactive law, thereby reducing people’s trust in investing and in the law. Instead, every Brit has been paying off this debt as part of their taxes for 200-some years, and it was only recently completely paid off. Unlike America, the UK did not have a civil war, or long term consequences such as the Jim Crow laws and associated racism as a consequence. If Napolitano’s argument is that this was a better solution, it seems to me that US history demonstrates he’s right.

              1. anahuna

                I like Judge Napolitano, irrespective of his previous legal career, and admire the service he is providing now. In your defense of his Catholic beliefs, however, you state that “,most other religions” share the Catholic belief that life begins at conception
                Most? Most? Buddhists? Hindus? Muslims?

                It’s to your credit that you acknowledge that not even all Catholics subscribe to that particular point of dogma

                1. JustTheFacts

                  Yes Buddhists do. You die. After 49 days you are compelled to find your new rebirth and you are attracted to a couple making love in one of the realms according to your karma. When the sperm enters the egg, so does your consciousness. Killing the fetus at that point is therefore logically equivalent to murder. However if the mother’s life is imperiled by the child, that would be 2 deaths, so you do what does the least harm. AFAIK Hindus follow the same sort of logic.

                  I am very ignorant of Islam, so I looked it up and it says that the Shias view abortion as a sin, except if the mother’s life is imperiled. Apparently some of them think that a fetus becomes “ensouled” at 120 days, and that’s what matters. The Koran talks about recompensing a forced miscarriage by a slave (i.e. the fetus was equivalent to a slave). The Sunnis seem to have even more views.

                  Even if there are variations within religions, my basic point is that it is not an extreme point of view to think that a fetus is alive and should not be killed.

                  This should be expected from an evolutionary perspective: over time religions that forbid abortion, unless the mother will die, will gain more followers (through childbirth) than religions that do not. If the mother will die, there’s not much point banning abortion because who will look after the child? Hence religions/social norms that survive will tend to make an exception for that case.

            2. Tom Pfotzer

              Good answer.

              Now, take your critical thinking skills, and look in the mirror.

              How much risk have you taken? How much impact have you had?

              Tell me how you stack up against these people, with all their faults?

              If they were to evaluate _your_ performance, what would _they_ say?

              1. Tom Pfotzer

                The point I’m trying to make, David, is “don’t expect too much from your heroes”.

                These warriors – the people we wimpy folk delegate the actual battle to – have major imperfections.

                And if we wimpy people were to hold up – on the balance beam – our imperfections and weaknesses against theirs – I bet these warriors would come out on top.

                Being a critic is easy. It’s safe. Especially anonymous criticism; that’s … um…. just a short step from abject fear. That person is easy to buffalo.

                But if it’s results we’re actually after, I think I’d put my money, my affirmation, even my faith – in these warriors.

      4. ChrisFromGA

        The “right to travel” internationally exists in the sense of the government cannot just restrict or deny it to individuals without some due process. The State Department cannot revoke passports without exercising proper due process under the 5th and 14th amendments. Courts have been clear about this:

        Kent v. Dulles, USC 1958
        Omar v. Kerry, No. 15-CV-01760-JSC, 2015 WL 5964901 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 13, 2015)

        That doesn’t mean there aren’t “legitimate government interests” that can be applied to restrict it. However, the SCOTUS has generally held that Congress, not the executive branch, has to pass a statute limiting those rights. Recall the ban on travel to Cuba, which was applied to everybody, not individuals. That had to go through Congress.

        Justice Douglas’ dissenting from the majority in Zemel v. Rusk (the case addressing the Cuba travel ban) stated his rule:

        Restrictions on the right to travel in times of peace should be so particularized that a First Amendment right is not precluded unless some clear countervailing national interest stands in the way of its assertion.

        Ritter was ripped off a plane without any notice and presumably no opportunity to contest his situation. A case that will surely be brought up is:

        Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S. 280 (1981)

        In that case, Agee was a US citizen living abroad who was threatening to wage a campaign to expose CIA officers across Europe. That sounds like the sort of “clear and present danger” to national security that might be an exception to the rule. Indeed, the Berger Court answered in the affirmative:

        The question presented is whether the President, acting through the Secretary of State, has authority to revoke a passport on the ground that the holder’s activities in foreign countries are causing or are likely to cause serious damage to the national security or foreign policy of the United States.

        Defendants could point to no statute that authorized the revocation of passports by State. Yet, the Berger court majority held that because the statute in question (Alien, immigration, and Citizenship Act of 1926) neither expressly authorized nor forbade State from revoking passports, it was OK to do so. In a blistering dissent, Justice Brennan wrote:

        This is not a complicated case. The Court has twice articulated the proper mode of analysis for determining whether Congress has delegated to the Executive Branch the authority to deny a passport under the Passport Act of 1926. Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1, 85 S.Ct. 1271, 14 L.Ed.2d 179 (1965); Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 78 S.Ct. 1113, 2 L.Ed.2d 1204 (1958). The analysis is hardly **2785 confusing, and I expect that had the Court faithfully applied it, today’s judgment would affirm the decision below.
        In Kent v. Dulles, supra, the Court reviewed a challenge to a regulation of the Secretary denying passports to applicants because of their alleged Communist beliefs and associations and their refusals to file affidavits concerning present or past membership in the Communist Party. Observing that the right to travel into and out of this country is an important personal right included within the “liberty” guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, id., at 125–127, 78 S.Ct., at 1118–1119, the Court stated that any infringement of that liberty can only “be pursuant to the law-making functions of the Congress,” and that delegations to the Executive Branch that curtail that liberty must be construed narrowly, id., at 129, 78 S.Ct., at 1120. Because the Passport Act of 1926—the same statute at issue here—did not expressly *313 authorize the denial of passports to alleged Communists, the Court examined cases of actual passport refusals by the Secretary to determine whether “it could be fairly argued” that this category of passport refusals was “adopted by Congress in light of prior administrative practice.” Id., at 128, 78 S.Ct., at 1119. The Court was unable to find such prior administrative practice, and therefore held that the regulation was unauthorized.

        The fact that Ritter is ex-military and a former U.N. Weapons inspector may make his case tougher as the government will probably argue that since he has sensitive information his travel abroad could be a threat to “legitimate national security interests.” As usual, things aren’t black and white, and the government can make his life miserable, but I guess a decent lawyer could get him a Prelim. Injunction forcing the State Dept. to give him his passport, at least temporarily.

        The bigger issue is that other than Justice Douglas’ dissent, courts have never explicitly held that there is a First Amendment right to travel. It is considered action not expression, so they fall back to the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments.

        We should all be worried about where this is headed.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          This is extremely helpful, thanks.

          Note again that there was a clear process violation. As indicated in the post, State is supposed to provide a letter stating the reasons for the passport seizure. Not only did they not do that, they did not even give Ritter a receipt when he asked for one.

  15. Helot

    This is nothing new. In the early 1950s Linus Pauling had great difficulty in obtaining a passport due to his political views.

  16. Michael D Houst

    Willful violation of a citizen’s Constitutional rights by any agent of the U.S. Government should result in:
    1. Immediate termination from their official position.
    2. Permanent ban on employment by, appointment to, or elected office of the U.S. government, or contracts with the U.S. government.
    3. Forfeiture of all government pensions.
    4. 20 years in prison without parole.

    1. JonnyJames

      That would be nice. Are there any examples of terminations, prosecutions, forfeiture of pensions and prison sentences?

    2. jsn

      Laws are only as effective as their enforcement mechanisms.

      Laws are only as good as the people who enforce them, good laws or bad.

      The final reflection is on human agency for good or bad.

  17. LifelongLib

    IIRC there’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution about passports or some right to travel abroad.

    1. Rip Van Winkle

      The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    2. JonnyJames

      I have no background in law, but I would think that the 5th amendment would protect personal liberty without “due process” of law and all that. But: the law does not really matter, POTUS and the exec branch can simply arbitrarily invoke “national security” and then can do pretty much whatever they want.

      1. LifelongLib

        I guess it would depend on if a passport is considered an item of “life, liberty, or property”.

        Thinking about it, it seems to me I saw a while ago (don’t recall if it was linked here) that there was a group of aging U.S. WW2 vets who wanted to travel to Russia for “Victory Day” [?]. Allegedly they were threatened with losing their passports by the U.S. government. So the Ritter thing may be part of a larger pattern…

      2. Uncle Doug

        “. . . I would think that the 5th amendment would protect personal liberty without ‘due process’ of law and all that.”

        Yup, exactly. Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116 (1958)

  18. Lenka

    I am wondering about something: 1.Tass quoting Peskov explained that Ritter was not allowed to leave because he was ex-intelligence officer and that this happens often (this seems very mild and bland and downplays the incident). 2. Ritter’s host was arrested in Russia. Anyone here thinks that both Russia and US did not want Ritter in Russia? He was all fired up wanting to talk directly to people and politicians against nuclear escalation. Could it be that the Russian admin were not that keen on him rousing Russians’ fears?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Peskov has no idea what US laws are. This is apparently projection based on Russian law.

      And the US is not friendly with Russia so we would nevah do Russia a favor. Russia is quite capable of denying Ritter entry and sending him back on the next plane.

      We would be happy to have Ritter get Russians rattled if that were the effect of his trip.

    2. Maxwell Johnston

      “Ritter’s host was arrested in Russia.” I’ve seen nothing about this. Can you provide a link?

        1. Maxwell Johnston

          Thanks for the link. It’s true, and Russian media is covering it (though not always with reference to Ritter):

          The case looks murky to me (seems more like a business dispute than something criminal, as often happens in Russia). Ordinarily I would doubt that this has anything to do with Ritter (more like a local squabble over money), but Ritter’s bizarre passport confiscation makes me wonder if we should connect the dots. Strange stuff!


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