Transmitted: January 28, 2022
To: Office of Information Policy, Department of Justice
Full Request: Department of Justice FOIA (PDF)
RE: FOIA Request for Records Relating to Al Jazeera, FARA Registration, and Congressional Oversight
Empower Oversight filed a FOIA request with the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy regarding an apparent failure to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and its failure to respond to several related congressional oversight requests.
Al Jazeera, as a news network with affiliated entities operating in the United States, is reportedly considered to be a “soft power” tool for the government of Qatar’s use to influence American government policy and public opinion. On June 4, 2018, the DOJ’s FARA Unit sent a letter to Al Jazeera’s lawyers detailing why they may have to file a FARA registration.
The Chief of the DOJ’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section sent a second letter to Al Jazeera’s lawyers reiterating the need for Al Jazeera to file under FARA 16 months ago.
Members of Congress have asked the DOJ about the issue on multiple occasions. In March of 2018, nineteen Members of Congress wrote to then-Attorney General Sessions asking about Al Jazeera and whether it needed to file under FARA. In June 2019 and July 2021, a group of senators, including Senators Chuck Grassley, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, wrote to both the William Barr and Merrick Garland Justice Departments.
The DOJ has been unresponsive to all of these letters. Thus, Empower Oversight filed a FOIA request seeking any and all communications regarding these three letters and any discussion regarding FARA and Al Jazeera between the DOJ and Al Jazeera’s lawyers at DLA Piper.
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