feinberg, isn’t that extraordinary, another jew

Sputnik under investigation by the FBI
Hunter Walker, Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News, Sep 11 2017

FASCHINGSTEIN — The FBI recently questioned a former White House correspondent for Sputnik as part of an investigation into whether it is acting as an undeclared propaganda arm of the Kremlin in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). As part of the probe, Yahoo News has learned, the bureau has obtained a thumb drive containing thousands of internal Sputnik emails and documents, material that could potentially help prosecutors build a case that the news agency played a role in the Russian government “influence campaign” that was waged during last year’s presidential election and in the view of pindo so-called ‘intel’ boxtops is still ongoing. The emails were turned over by Andrew Feinberg, Sputnik’s former White House correspondent, who had downloaded the material onto his laptop before he was fired in May. He confirmed to Yahoo News that he was questioned for more than two hours on Sep 1 by an FBI agent and a Justice Dept national security lawyer at the bureau’s Faschingstein field office. Feinberg told Yahoo News:

They focused upon Sputnik’s internal structure, editorial processes and funding. They wanted to know where did my orders come from, and if I ever got any direction from Moscow. They were interested in examples of how I was steered towards covering certain issues.

It is not clear whether the agent and prosecutor who questioned Feinberg were acting as part of Mueller’s investigation. A Mueller spox emailed:

We are not confirming whether specific matters are or are not part of our ongoing investigation.

A DoJ spox declined to comment, and the FBI did not bother to respond to questions. But the inquiry comes at a time when Congress critturs and others have pushed the Justice Dept to strengthen its enforcement of the FARA, especially as it relates to the operations in Washington of two Russian news organizations, Sputnik and RT (fRussia Today). Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counter-intelligence agent and now an associate dean of Yale Law School, said:

This is incredibly significant! The FBI has since the 1970s taken pains not to be perceived in any way as infringing on First Amendment activity. 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!

Sputnik is owned by Rossiya Segodnya, a Russian government media operation headed by Dmitri Kiselyov, a belligerent television broadcaster who is known as Putin’s “personal propagandist” and has been sanctioned by the EU in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. On its website, Sputnik describes itself as a “modern news agency” that “covers global political and economic news targeting an international audience.” Contacted by Yahoo News, Sputnik’s Pindostan editor in chief, Mindia Gavasheli, said:

Any assertion that we are not a news organization is simply false. This is the first time I’m hearing about it, and I don’t think anyone at Sputnik was contacted, so thank you for letting us know. I think it tells about the atmosphere of hysteria that we are witnessing now. Anything being related to Russia right now is being considered a spycraft of some sort.

Shortly after this story was published on Monday, a Sputnik spox released a statement saying:

We reached out to the Justice Dept after being alerted to the investigation by Yahoo News. Unfortunately our requests to the Justice Dept for information have not been answered to date. We are more than happy to answer any questions the DOJ or the FBI might have. Any assertion that Sputnik is anything but a credible news outlet is false. We are a news organization dedicated to accurate news reporting. Our journalists have won multiple media awards throughout the world.

Both Sputnik and RT were identified in a pindo ‘intelligence’ report in January as being arms of Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine” that served as a “platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.” As an example, the report said:

They consistently cast Pres-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional pindo media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.

The investigation appears to center on whether Sputnik should be covered by FARA, which mandates that foreign entities seeking to influence pindo public opinion and engage in lobbying must file detailed reports with the Justice Dept on their funding and operations. If the Justice Dept concludes that Sputnik is covered by the law, its executives in Pindostan could face criminal charges and fines, while its reports would have to be explicitly labeled as foreign propaganda rather than presented as news. There is an exemption under the law for media organizations that engage in legitimate newsgathering activity, but Feinberg, the former Sputnik reporter, said the FBI agent and Justice prosecutor who interviewed him focused their questions on how Sputnik determined what stories it would cover, where its directions came from and what he knew about its sources of funding. Yahoo first learned about the FBI inquiry from a pindo intelligence source. Feinberg then confirmed he was interviewed and showed the business cards of the FBI agent and Justice Dept lawyer who questioned him. While his instructions as White House correspondent came from the senior editors and news directors at Sputnik’s Washington office, Feinberg said of these supervisors:

They would say: “Moscow wants this” or “Moscow wants that.”

The thumb drive of emails and other documents that Feinberg turned over to the FBI contains messages that could shed light on Sputnik’s funding, its operations in Faschingstein and how it makes editorial decisions. It includes documents Feinberg submitted on behalf of Sputnik to obtain congressional press credentials in which he confirmed that the Russian government is the company’s main funding source. The questioning of Feinberg, Sputnik’s former White House correspondent, came just two weeks after Yahoo News published an interview in which he claimed he was fired by Sputnik’s Faschingstein bureau chief for refusing orders to ask the president’s press secretary about a since-discredited Fox News report in a televised briefing. That report claimed that WikiLeaks obtained internal DNC emails not from material hacked by Russian intelligence services, as the government has asserted, but from a low-level DNC staffer, Seth Rich, who was murdered on the streets of Faschingstein in Jul 2016. Fox has since retracted the report. Feinberg, who first made his allegations on May 26, the day he left Sputnik, has also claimed the company pushed him to ask questions that suggested the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad, who is a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was not behind chemical attacks in that country. Feinberg said the interviewers specifically asked him about a piece he wrote detailing these claims that was published by Politico on Aug 21. A Sputnik spox has previously denied Feinberg’s allegations and told Yahoo News his contract with the company “was not renewed due to performance-related issues.”

The FBI reached out to Feinberg shortly after another former Sputnik staffer, J J Fionda, sent a letter to the Justice Dept’s national security division detailing a series of similar accusations against Sputnik and requested that it be investigated for FARA violations. In a brief conversation over an encrypted messaging app, Fionda told Yahoo News he also sent “a big packet” of information to the division on or about Aug 15. In his letter to Justice, Fionda said he was employed by RIA Global LLC, a media company associated with Sputnik, from Sep 5 to Oct 19 2015. During that time, Fionda wrote, Sputnik conducted “a perception management information warfare program” about Russia’s military involvement in Syria. He said that Sputnik falsely described Russia’s targets in that country as “terrorists” affiliated with Daesh when they were actually bombing other anti-Assad rebel groups. In another instance, Fionda said, an article he wrote in Sep 2015 about Obama’s repatriation of Gitmo detainees to a number of countries was “censored” to omit any reference to the fact that six of the detainees were being sent back to Russia, where they were later imprisoned. Fionda said his last straw with Sputnik came on Oct 19 2015, after excerpts of private emails from then-DCI Brennan were published by a hacker on Twitter. He claimed Gavasheli, Sputnik’s pindo editor in chief, asked him to “obtain the CIA Director’s stolen emails” from the hacker. Fionda wrote:

I refused because I believed this was a solicitation to espionage.

When he refused the order, Fionda wrote that Gavasheli told him to “get the fuck out of my office” and then fired him. Gavasheli, in his interview with Yahoo News, denied this and said Fionda was fired after falsely claiming his father was ill in order to take time off from work. The probe into Sputnik also comes shortly after the Russian news agency announced a significant expansion in Faschingstein: It took over a popular FM radio station dedicated to playing bluegrass music and replaced it with an all-talk format with hosts who regularly criticize pindo policies, as well as one co-host who is a former Breitbart News reporter and Trump supporter. Gavasheli was quoted by the WaPo as saying:

I’m sure you heard a lot about us. Now you can actually listen to us.

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