eyes on russia
The FBI has opened an investigation into Sputnik News, a Kremlin-funded media agency that has made moves to expand its influence in Washington, D.C., Yahoo News reports. The FBI is apparently seeking to determine if Sputnik is operating as a propaganda machine for Russia, questioning one former Sputnik correspondent on if he "ever got direction from Moscow."
"They were interested in examples of how I was steered towards covering certain issues," the former correspondent, Andrew Feinberg, confirmed to Yahoo News.
The FBI probe is specifically questioning if Sputnik "should be covered by the foreign agents registration law, a 1938 act passed by Congress to combat Nazi propaganda," Yahoo News writes. If Sputnik is indeed found to be attempting to influence Americans' opinions, it would have to henceforth be labeled "foreign propaganda" rather than "news," and could face fines or potential criminal charges.
Sputnik recently took over a Washington, D.C., FM radio station for an all-talk program, a move that comes amid concerning reports that Russia conducted a complicated fake news operation in an attempt to swing the 2016 presidential election. Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russia's English-language network RT, warned that the allegations are false and that "there is no doubt that Russia will respond to the FBI investigation in the same way and will check the work of American journalists in Moscow."
"It's disgusting," Simonyan added. "Freedom of speech is turning in its grave. It was killed by those who created it."
Former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa told Yahoo that the FBI wouldn't simply be probing Sputnik without some "good information."
"The FBI has since the 1970s taken pains not to be perceived in any way as infringing on First Amendment activity," said Rangappa. "But this tells me they have good information and intelligence that these organizations have been acting on behalf of the Kremlin and that there's a direct line between them and the [Russian influence operations] that are a significant threat to our democracy." Read the full report at Yahoo News.