Department Of Justice Posts Advisory Opinions On FARA.Gov Website
John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, announced today the public release of the advisory opinions issued by the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Registration Unit since January 1, 2010. See https://www.justice.gov/nsd-fara/advisory-opinions.
“Eighty years ago, Congress passed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to combat the spread of hidden foreign influence in American politics,” Assistant Attorney General Demers said. “Today is the law’s 80th anniversary, and it remains a vital tool to combat this threat. To enhance compliance, we are making these advisory opinions available publicly and online for the first time. By posting these advisory opinions, the Department of Justice is making clearer how we interpret some of FARA’s key provisions.”
FARA, as amended, 22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq., requires persons in the United States who engage in specified activities as agents of foreign principals to register with the Department of Justice (the “Department”) unless they are exempt. Disclosures under FARA help to ensure transparency in the activities of foreign principals and make it more difficult for those principals to maintain secret their role in activities occurring in the United States. Within the Department’s National Security Division (NSD), responsibility for the administration and enforcement of FARA resides with the FARA Registration Unit, which is part of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
Pursuant to regulations that the Department has issued implementing FARA, potential registrants or their counsel may ask the FARA Registration Unit how the Department interprets and applies FARA. See 28 C.F.R. § 5.2. Such inquiries must be in writing, must pertain to an actual, as opposed to hypothetical situation, and must disclose the identities of the parties involved. Written materials submitted pursuant to such a request are treated as confidential.
The FARA Registration Unit has issued 49 advisory opinions since January 1, 2010, which are being posted on the FARA.gov website together with three other letters sent in response to requests for general information. The opinions and letters will be organized on the website by topic of inquiry or the aspects of the statute they discuss. Any proprietary information, including any information that would identify the parties who made the requests has been redacted. The FARA Unit will post future advisory opinions in a similar manner on a periodic basis.
In its September 2016 Audit of NSD’s Enforcement and Administration of FARA, the Department’s Inspector General recommended that NSD consider the value of making advisory opinions publicly available. NSD agreed with that recommendation and posted summaries of a few opinions on the website. With the public posting of a more comprehensive repository of correspondence, the Department has demonstrated its commitment to improving the public’s understanding of FARA.