National Security

Russia news channel, linked to election meddling, cuts into CSPAN online feed

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Russian prosecutors in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Putin’s Kremlin regime controls the RT television network.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Russian prosecutors in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Putin’s Kremlin regime controls the RT television network. AP

For about 10 minutes Thursday afternoon, a Russian propaganda channel that’s been linked to meddling in the 2016 presidential election mysteriously cut into the online feed of CSPAN, the network that broadcasts Congress.

CSPAN said it is not entirely sure why what happened occurred and that it might have been an internal error.

“We are currently investigating and troubleshooting this occurrence. As RT is one of the networks that we regularly monitor, we are operating under the assumption that it was an internal routing issue,” the nonprofit CSPAN network said in a statement.

“If that changes, we will certainly let you know.”

Given the polarized political climate in the United States, and allegations that President-elect Donald Trump has deep ties to Russia, speculation grew rampant on social media, particularly Twitter, about the reason behind the interruption.

“This is a huge slap in the face or dagger in back from Russia,” a Twitter user with the handle @thephoenix1973 posted, adding that Russians are “enjoying mocking us after interfering in election.”

RT was a strong focus of a 25-page declassified intelligence assessment that the Obama administration released last Friday as part of its campaign to provide the public with more data to back up allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Once known as Russia Today, RT America TV operates as a “messaging tool” of the Kremlin, the report said, and its aim is “to undermine faith in the U.S. government and fuel political protest.”

At the moment of interruption, around 2:30 p.m. EST, Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, was on the CSPAN feed speaking about regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the type of television fare that is a staple for insomniacs.

Suddenly, the House Financial Services Committee hearing was no longer. In its place, viewers saw an RT anchor speak about a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Starting during the 2012 election, the recent intelligence community report said, the network “portrayed the U.S. electoral process as undemocratic and featured calls by U.S. protesters for the public to rise up and ‘take this government back.’ ”

The intelligence report dedicated seven full pages to its analysis of RT, saying that Moscow spends $190 million a year on its operation.

“The Kremlin staffs RT and closely supervises RT's coverage, recruiting people who can convey Russian strategic messaging because of their ideological beliefs,” the report said.

Tim Johnson: 202-383-6028, @timjohnson4

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