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Divest Trump’s Attempted Smear of USA Really Journalists?
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Divest Trump’s Attempted Smear of USA Really Journalists?

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The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on a website called USA Really, run from Moscow. Allegedly no US citizen can write for it or have any financial dealings with it.

An overenthusiastic blogger has taken it upon himself to expose the contributors to this website by reverse-looking them up over the internet and finding their social networking accounts and links to their other works, and has written an interesting blog about it. This blog lists the journalists involved, including myself.  However, contrary to its title ‘Americans Working for the Russian Troll Factory,’ the blog shows that not all contributors to USA Really are Americans, and those who are not are therefore not subject to any of the US-imposed sanctions.

The blogger describes that the article is a follow up to his previous article on election law violations and possible sanction violations involving USA Really, describing the site as part of the alleged Russian troll factory called Internet Research Agency. He also describes how he searched for the people contributing to the website.  

“Since the website does not offer a page that lists all authors and contributors like many reputable sites do, I took a peek at the REST API the site uses on the back end.

After creating a list of known authors, I used search engines and reverse image searches to learn more about them. I suppose it’s no surprise that a website targeting Americans also employs them, but I wonder if these authors are aware of sanctions and their duty to register as foreign agents.

Many of these authors have worked for other propaganda websites, which is likely how they were introduced to USA Really. The reason I share this is because some of these authors have also worked for reputable news organizations.

The data below, list of names is in no particular order and will likely be updated over time (see site).” 

The blogger not only lists their published works and various interviews, but proceeds to toss mud at their reputations with such labels as American conspiracy theorist, Russian propagandist, and in my case, American ex-pat with a grudge against the US government (aka Jeffrey K Silverman). However, he does not describe what the grudge is and why I have an ax to grind.

Instead the author of the blog actually gives them all free advertising, links readers to other articles they have written and alerts them to the fact they are being watched, instead of handing this information to the authorities so they can take action.  This is a topic which has been touched upon in USA Really and other media outlets.

I tried to get clarification of my own legal position, by asking the US Citizen Services in Tbilisi, but as yet have not received an answer.  However, I will not be holding my breath waiting for one either.

So a third party wrote to the relevant US government department, US Treasury, asking if they could investigate whether the blogger was being paid by USA Really, as he is reading USA Really and promoting it via his blog.

If the journalists listed were US citizens, this post might be said to identify sanction-busters against whom you could take action. However, it also lists foreign nationals who are not subject to such sanctions or obliged to register as foreign agents. Therefore, the post is an ADVERTISMENT for USA Really and the journalists who write for it. It is like indirectly promoting the website and its contributors.

It appears that the author of the blog is being paid to do this, and therefore possibly sanction-busting, or he is encouraging others to do so. I trust you will take appropriate action.

Rumwold Leigh
Concerned citizen of the world

Here is their reply - "Thank you for your email. Due to the current lapse of funding, we are unable to respond to emails sent to this account. We intend to provide responses to all inquiries as soon as we are able once funding has been restored. We appreciate your patience during this time."

Divest Trump’s attempted smear of USA Really journalists might backfire and make their work more available to the public, right?  This is a nice mix of Kafka and Beckett, isn't it?

All I understand is that "Divest Trump" is spreading CIA-type propaganda. It is clear that someone invested a lot of time and effort and probably money as well to write the blog and that is highly suspect. For a blogger to do this out of the blue is also highly suspect. However, I have to give the credit for putting in so much research.

It is most likely that some agency funded the blogger. But one question still begs an answer. Why does a fringe site like USA Really so scare the powers to be?

Restricting access to websites is like banning a book or a movie. It serves just one purpose, of inciting curiosity in the minds of the people. People who might otherwise have paid little attention to USA Really will now search the internet to know more about it and read what the site has to say. For USA Really that’s good news.

Crazy times these are. Everything seems to scares the powers-that-be.

Author: Jeffrey Silverman