A closer look at the Moscow-funded Russia Today television channel, whose host, American Adam Kokesh, was arrested after a disruption last Saturday at the Jefferson Memorial, reveals some interesting and disturbing corporate and foreign intelligence connections.·
As AIM reported, Kokesh, who hosts the show, “Adam Vs. The Man,” joined with pro-Marxist agitator Medea Benjamin to disrupt Memorial Day weekend activities. “I had to spend 4 hours in jail,” whined Kokesh. Now he is threatening to do it again this coming Saturday.
Under pressure from false media reports that Kokesh was just “dancing” and had been unfairly roughed up by police, U.S. Park Police officials are now saying that they are investigating whether officers were “too aggressive” in handling Kokesh and other demonstrators.
As we explained in a column, what happened at the memorial was a deliberately designed provocation, planned in advance by Kokesh, Benjamin, and their comrades. The video shows officers warning them to stop and arresting them when they didn’t. They were arrested because the law prohibits activities that interfere with the solemn atmosphere at the memorials.
A sympathetic profile of Kokesh, a veteran who served in Iraq, gives some of the background necessary to understanding his motivation. It says:
“…in February 2006, two days before he was to be deployed on his second tour, he was told by his commanding officer that he was under investigation for bringing back a pistol he had purchased from an Iraqi policeman. His car had been broken into on campus and the pistol was missing. He was charged with three felonies, but accepted a plea bargain for disturbing the peace —a misdemeanor—and his case was passed along to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. After an eight-month investigation, he was demoted from sergeant to corporal and given an honorary discharge.”
This incident reportedly played a role in his decision to participate in protests as a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. His Facebook page when he ran for Congress as a Republican describes him as a Ron Paul supporter and “freedom fighter spreading the message of liberty.”
Subsequently, the article said, a Marine Corps three-person review board found “significant negative” conduct on the part of Kokesh and recommended a “general discharge under honorable conditions” for him.
A website for the group, American Patriots Against Kokesh, which opposed his run for office, accused him of working with several different Marxist groups.
This may be why Russia Today, which regularly features Marxist groups on the air, gave Kokesh a show on its English-language affiliate. RT treats fringe characters such as Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation as major political figures, even using her to defend Castro’s spies jailed in the U.S.
But Kokesh is just one part of this growing propaganda operation. Russia Today has various “partners” in the media business, including the Huffington Post, which is now part of AOL, and What REALLY Happened, a website that features such stories as “Israel’s Whores in Congress” and “Reflections of Comrade Fidel.” The website mostly features articles about a number of conspiracies, with a focus on the “inside job” theory that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were staged by the U.S. Government.
Other RT “partners” include Izvestia, which was the official publication of the old Soviet regime, and Trud, the mouthpiece for Soviet labor unions.
A partnership with RT means that the channel runs articles from those “news” organizations.
The acquisition of the Huffington Post by AOL produced a media group claiming to reach 117 million Americans and 270 million globally. For its part, Russia Today is one of the foreign networks, along with Al-Jazeera, carried by the American taxpayer-supported MHz Networks, into various U.S. media markets.
But the focus on Kokesh has missed the addition of another American to the line-up. Thom Hartmann, who describes himself as the leading “progressive” radio talk-show host in the U.S., is hosting a show called “The Big Picture” on the Russian channel.
In a defense of its programming, the channel has also pointed out, “Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks was coming on RT long before MSNBC snatched him up to fill a seat in their very own anchor chair.”
The embrace of the channel by the liberal-left, which regularly criticizes Fox News, a private media company in the U.S., is shocking. The relationship demonstrates that the liberal media have no real objection to government sponsorship or funding of media companies, even when the money comes from authoritarian regimes such as Vladimir Putin’s in Russia. But the controversy goes beyond the simple matter of progressives sharing a political ideology with those, including Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer, behind the Russian channel.
“America is enjoying euphoria of victory over Communism in the Cold War, but Russians say the war is still going on,” notes Konstantin Preobrazhensky, a former Soviet KGB officer. He says the channel is serving the interests of the Kremlin, especially its intelligence agencies, by spreading disinformation about Russian intentions in domestic and foreign affairs.
During the Cold War, it was customary for the Soviet intelligence services, led by the KGB, to use American and Western news outlets and personnel in operations against the United States. Preobrazhensky says nothing has really changed, except that Russia Today television is a more overt way of carrying out the aims of the Kremlin.
This is why AIM published the column, “Russian TV Sounds Like Soviet TV.”
It is so overt that RT hired an alleged Russian spy, Katia Zatuliveter, who is in the process of being deported from Britain. Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB’s former London station chief, directly accused the Russian of spying, saying the 25-year-old woman was working undercover for the Russian foreign intelligence, the SVR, and gathered information about British naval bases around the world.
Nevertheless, RT now features her as a “contributor,” where she criticized the West and its “double-standard” on protests and demonstrations. This is the basic Kremlin propaganda line, which is designed to inhibit Americans from criticizing human rights violations in Russia.
RT covered a conference I sponsored at the National Press Club to deal primarily with the influence of Al-Jazeera. A minor focus was Russia Today’s anti-American programming. Out of courtesy, I agreed to be interviewed on camera. But I was not surprised to discover that the finished product, reported by Kaeyln Forde, ignored all of the points I made about the channel’s links to the Russian intelligence service.
Shaun Walker of the British newspaper The Independent has discussed this issue in the context of an article noting that the Russian channel has tried to de-emphasize the connection to Moscow by referring to the channel as RT and not Russia Today. Its programs for the American audience are called “RT America.” Since last year, he points out, anchors and correspondents have been told they must refer to it only as “RT,” never “Russia Today,” which has “led some to wonder what the Russians are up to in the U.S.”
The answer, quite clearly, is to mask the hand of Moscow and its intelligence agencies about what goes on the air.
Walker adds, “There have been suspicions, even among some of those inside the channel, that the aim might be a Kremlin, or even a Russian intelligence plan to stir dissent in the U.S. At the very least, it seems an attempt by Russia to get its own back on a Western world that often lectures Moscow on democracy and human rights, and shine a light on what it sees as the sore points for the US.”
This was the apparent purpose of the provocation launched by Kokesh and Medea Benjamin of Code Pink at the Jefferson Memorial last Saturday. By breaking the law against demonstrations and disorderly conduct at the memorials, they knew they would be arrested and then be able to charge that they were victims of a “police state”—just the sort of propaganda that Moscow wants, in order to divert attention away from the Kremlin’s human rights record. Not surprisingly, RT covered the demonstration extensively.
“Several journalists at the channel have told The Independent that while some coverage of problems in Russia and sensitive issues is allowed, any direct criticism or questioning of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev is strictly prohibited,” Walker reported.
In the September 10, 2010, piece, Walker said, “Even before the recent spy scandal about Russian ‘illegals’ in the United States, western intelligence services have been wary about Russia Today’s correspondents.”
Like Al-Jazeera, RT has hired a number of Western and American faces, many of them attractive females.
RT’s on-air talent includes a number of Americans, including Staci Bivens, a former CNN producer; Lindsay France, formerly with CNN and ABC-TV affiliate KAPP; Lindsay Garfield, formerly with NBC’s “Meet the Press;” and Sean Thomas, who worked for the NBC affiliate, KSEE in Fresno, California.
The bio for Kaelyn Forde, the RT reporter who covered my conference, notes that she “comes to RT from Spanish-language news network teleSUR.” The bio fails to disclose that teleSUR was launched by Marxist Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
The bio goes on: “Kaelyn’s interests include investigative and multimedia reporting. In 2009, she produced a full-length investigative documentary, DetrÃ¡s del Golpe (Behind the Coup), which unmasked the architects of the 2009 Honduran coup d’Ã©tat and how it was subsequently legitimized in Washington.”
This was, of course, the Hugo Chavez line. Chavez wanted the world to believe that the overthrow of his ally, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, was a dangerous military coup. In fact, elements of the Honduras government directed the military to oust him from power after he committed illegal and unconstitutional acts.
Rep. Connie Mack noted that teleSUR signed agreements with Al-Jazeera, thereby “creating a global television network for terrorists and other enemies of freedom.”
A “journalist” from teleSUR would seem to be a natural fit for Russia Today television.
Exhibiting some of the provocative behavior that Kokesh would demonstrate at the Jefferson Memorial last Saturday, Forde was arrested by police last November as she was “covering” a leftist demonstration against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, where members of foreign militaries are trained by U.S. forces. The institute, once known as the Schools of the Americas, has been a long-time target of Marxist forces. An entire organization, SOA Watch, is devoted to trying to close it down.
Forde, insisting she was a member of the press, was nevertheless charged with unlawful assembly, demonstrating without a permit and failing to obey a police order to disperse.
RT said it paid a fine to have Forde, whose real name is Kaelyn Forde Eckenrode, and a cameraman, Jonathan R. Conway, who was also arrested, freed from jail. A newspaper account said, “Eckenrode was arrested in front of the gas station after a tense exchange with a police officer who told her to leave.”
Columbus (Georgia) Solicitor General Ben Richardson was quoted as saying, “She does comply with police officers, but she does it after some time. The question was whether that constituted reasonable substantial compliance to police. We see why they arrested her, but we have a bigger burden of reasonable doubt.” Hence, charges were ultimately dropped.
It has been quite a road for Forde, whose “Linked in” profile says that she started out at NBC News, where she “tackled the tough logistics of newsgathering for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, The Today Show and MSNBC.”
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].