It appears that instead of going after Russia’s RT America news service the US Department of Justice should target the real “agents of foreign principals” who are attempting either to gain economic benefits, or derive strategic advantages from policymakers in the US, Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel told Sputnik sharing his experience with RT.
It looks bizarre that while forcing RT America to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) doesn’t go after other government controlled media organizations, such as the UK’s BBC, China’s CGTN or Qatar’s Al Jazeera, Charles Ortel, Wall Street analyst and investigative journalist, told Sputnik.
“It would appear that RT America has been singled out for special attention,” Ortel said. “While it certainly makes sense to attempt registering those who are acting at the direction of foreign principals inside the United States, reasonable balance must be struck ensuring that media and journalists encourage free and open discourse, and competition for truth, especially for uncomfortable truth.”
Double-Standards: Some Journalists are More Equal Than Others
In September, the US Department of Justice asked a contractor of the RT in the United States to register under FARA. Previously, in June, US lawmakers introduced the Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act bill, which would broaden the scope of FARA to include RT America, by expanding DoJ authority to investigate attempts to “unlawfully influence the political process.”
It’s being surmised, with no evidence presented, that RT and Sputnik could have influenced the US 2016 presidential elections. Denouncing the groundless allegations, editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said: “Freedom of speech is turning in its grave. It was killed by those who created it.”
Ortel focused attention on specific FARA exemptions which apply to media organizations.
FARA says that “the term ‘agent of a foreign principal’ does not include any news or press service or association organized under the laws of the United States… so long as it is at least 80 per centum beneficially owned by, and its officers and directors, if any, are citizens of the United States, and such news or press service or association, newspaper, magazine, periodical, or other publication, is not owned, directed, supervised, controlled, subsidized, or financed, and none of its policies are determined by any foreign principal defined in subsection (b) of this section, or by any agent of a foreign principal required to register under this subchapter.”
However, while advocating the necessity to register RT America “and possibly Sputnik” under FARA, James Kirchick of the Brookings Institution argued in his op-ed for The Washington Post that “RT is not a ‘news service’ in any meaningful sense of the term,” thus demonstrating a double-standard approach toward Russia’s media and journalists. It appears that US lawmakers share Kirchick’s stance.
Paraphrasing George Orwell, all journalists are equal, but some journalists are more equal than others.
According to the DoJ, RT America has until November 13, 2017, to register under FARA, lambasted by Simonyan as a “cannibalistic deadline.”
What Real Freedom of Speech Looks Like
Ortel, who has repeatedly appeared on RT discussing various burning issues, shared his experience with the broadcaster.
“I have been surprised how open RT (and other live interviews on Russian channels) have been, compared to practices of certain ‘mainstream’ US outlets,” the Wall Street analyst said, “In the beginning, producers here tend to do a test interview by telephone, and often ask for ‘talking points’ in answer to possible questions. The mainstream practice is, in part, to decide what sorts of screen shots, and supporting charts/tables might be overlain during the interview. With RT, I have frequently been asked simply to appear and then react to breaking news, with no pre-screening of any kind.”
The investigative journalist pointed out that he has “never done a taped interview with RT or any other Russian TV channel that subsequently was spiked.”
“In contrast, in early June 2016, I sat for a roughly half hour taping exposing Clinton Foundation abuses for a major mainstream outlet in their D.C. studio. This interview was never aired and the outlet still refuses to apply its investigative resources to one of the largest unprosecuted charity frauds in history,” Ortel emphasized.
‘Russian Collusion Delusion’: What Forces Are Behind DoJ’s Move?
“It is not clear to me who, within the Department of Justice, is responsible for selecting FARA enforcement targets,” Ortel responded, “So it is possible that this decision was made by those holdovers from the Obama, Bush, and Clinton Administrations who remain invested in the ‘Russian Collusion Delusion’ — a term I have heard certain US commentators use on television and radio.”
The crux of the matter is that the restrictive measures against RT America may backfire: “The Trump Administration and future Administrations need to think carefully about reciprocal actions that may be taken by foreign governments against US controlled media outlets and corporations operating abroad,” the Wall Street analyst noted.
“One wonders whether the Trump Administration will reconsider whether actions against media entities including RT America make sense, or whether efforts to enforce FARA might better be directed against agents of foreign principals who are attempting either to gain economic benefits, or derive strategic advantages from politicians and their advisors/donors,” Ortel highlighted.
Those, Who Really Deserve Scrutiny are Let Go
There are plenty of issues, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s supposed “conflict of interest” and the Clinton Foundation’s alleged fraud, which have not been investigated properly for decades.
Additionally, as the Wall Street analyst noted in one of his previous interviews with Sputnik, Senator John McCain’s endeavor, the McCain Institute, raises a lot of questions: Have individuals, firms working for the entity appropriately registered under FARA, or under US state laws/regulations that require such persons to register before soliciting contributions from foreign sponsors?
“The theoretical loophole that dynastic US political families (Bush, Clinton, Obama, maybe McCain) seem to try using is to set up a ‘foundation’,” Ortel, who has been conducting a private investigation into the alleged Clinton charity fraud, assumed. “Contributions by foreign governments to validly organized and operated charities are not limited, whereas foreign principals may not fund US politicians directly.”
The analyst noted, however, that “to date, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), US Attorneys General, and the Department of Justice have not seen fit to ensure that strict rules are enforced pertaining to soliciting for and operating ‘public charities’ that should be independent and serve a valid public interest (not partisan political ends).”
He expressed hope that “the Trump Administration will move assiduously to apply existing laws fairly across the political spectrum, in stark contrast to practices seen under the Obama Administration.”
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.