By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
The FBI has released photos, videos, and documents in the case of 10 Russian secret agents arrested—and quickly deported—in 2010. The documents are mostly heavily redacted and of no practical value to those interested in the details about on-going Russian operations against the U.S. What is perhaps more interesting and significant is what the Russians are doing in plain sight by using American cable and satellite systems against us.
In this context, a complaint has now been filed with the Obama Justice Department over Russian propaganda broadcasts in the U.S.
While the FBI disclosures, such as they are, suggest that the Moscow regime regards the U.S. as an adversary, if not enemy, they are not nearly as fascinating as what Moscow is doing in the form of Russia Today (RT) propaganda broadcasts reaching tens of millions of American homes.
Media carriers for the Moscow-funded channel, which changed its name to RT from Russia Today to mask the foreign connection, include Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Verizon Fios, Cox Cable, RCN Cable, MHz Networks, and Dish Networks.
RT, a big backer of the Occupy Wall Street protests, has assigned several reporters to cover the demonstrations around the country. The channel has called the protests “America’s Arab Spring,” with an emphasis on alleged police brutality against the demonstrators. One RT program, “The Big Picture,” with self-described progressive Democrat Thom Hartmann, has also focused on the Wall Street protests. Hartmann has refused to disclose how much he is paid by RT for the rights to broadcast his show.
RT’s media “partners” include The Huffington Post and the website WhatReallyHappened, which questions whether Arab terrorists were behind 9/11.
RT employs a correspondent in Britain, Katia Zatuliveter, who went to work for the channel after being accused of conducting espionage against Britain. She is in the process of being deported. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to consider that some of its reporters working in America may also be agents of the Vladimir Putin regime.
One of the charges made against the Russians in the spy case was that they were engaged in a “conspiracy to act as unregistered agents of a foreign government.” This is an interesting use of a statute that is designed to prevent secret agents of a foreign power from manipulating U.S. public opinion or U.S. policy. Broadcaster Jerry Kenney has just filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that RT and Al-Jazeera are both violating the law by not disclosing in their propaganda broadcasts that they are agents of foreign powers.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) is “a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”
The Kenney complaint says:
“I have become aware of two nationally distributed television programming networks that appear to be produced by foreign countries, both of which clearly make political statements and otherwise attempt to influence public opinion, yet I have not noticed a conspicuous statement in the programming that it is distributed on behalf of a foreign principal and that additional information is on file with the Department of Justice, nor do the networks or their principals appear to have registered as foreign agents as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
“Specifically, the networks are Al-Jazeera English (AJE), which is funded by the government of Qatar, and Russia Today (RT), which is funded by Russia. Both programming networks are distributed nationally to television broadcast stations, as well as to cable television and direct broadcast satellite operators, by MHz Networks (which is owned by Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corporation, a Virginia corporation), Free Speech TV of Denver, Colorado, as well as Roku of Saratoga, California.”
Kenney told AIM that the law mandates that the broadcasts carry a notice that they constitute propaganda on behalf of a foreign government.
There is no doubt as to the channel’s pro-Russian and anti-American tilt. At the time of the arrests of the Russian spies, RT cast doubt on the charges against them, saying, “The story—which includes invisible ink, sending encrypted messages and the exchange of identical bags—is reminiscent of a bad spy movie and does not sound serious.”
But the FBI says, in the new materials being released, that the arrests of the 10 Russian spies “provided a chilling reminder that espionage on U.S. soil did not disappear when the Cold War ended.”
The FBI says the “deep-cover Russian spies” were engaged in a process known as “spotting and assessing” in identifying colleagues, friends, and others who might be “vulnerable targets” for the Russians. The bureau adds, “…it is possible they were seeking to co-opt people they encountered in the academic environment who might one day hold positions of power and influence.”
Strangely, however, the Russian spies were released by the Obama Administration before any of these targets could be identified. The 10 spies were exchanged for four prisoners freed by Russia.
We noted at the time, “The hastily-arranged ‘spy swap’ ended any chance of finding out in detail in a public forum what kind of information the Russian intelligence service had been collecting and who in the U.S. Government had possibly been recruited or used as assets and contacts.”
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].