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Empower Oversight Sues DOJ for Answers on its Failure to Force Al Jazeera to Register as Foreign Agent

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The request seeks documents related to the DOJ’s failure to require Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and its refusal to answer congressional oversight questions probing the controversy. File photo: MDart10, Shutter Stock, licensed.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Empower Oversight against the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Eastern District of Virginia to enforce a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that the DOJ has refused to answer for 12 months. The request seeks documents related to the DOJ’s failure to require Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and its refusal to answer congressional oversight questions probing the controversy.

On September 14, 2020, the Chief of the DOJ鈥檚 Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, Jay Bratt wrote to Al Jazeera鈥檚 lawyers at DLA Piper, finding that AJ+鈥攁 subsidiary of Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN)鈥斺渋s obligated to register under鈥 FARA because it engages in 鈥減olitical activities within the United States鈥 and acts 鈥渁s a publicity agent 鈥 on behalf of the Government of Qatar and [AJMN], each of which is considered a foreign principal under the Act.鈥 The DOJ found that Al Jazeera and its related entities engage in 鈥減olitical activities鈥 on behalf of Qatar鈥檚 government and are designed to 鈥渋nfluence American perceptions鈥 of domestic policy. The letter, which has been previously reported by Mother Jones and The New York Times, but which has not been previously posted in full, .

Nineteen Members of Congress had then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions about Al Jazeera鈥檚 need to file a FARA registration in March 2018. In  and, a group of six senators also wrote to both Attorneys General Bill Barr and Merrick Garland.

Despite the DOJ’s letter informing Al Jazeera of its obligation to register,  of the letter in the New York Times, and congressional oversight efforts, it appears that Al Jazeera has failed to comply with its obligation and that the DOJ has failed to enforce the law requiring registration.

After the DOJ’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight efforts, Empower Oversight  in January 2022 seeking documents related to both the DOJ’s underlying failure to enforce the law as well its failure to answer related congressional oversight requests. The FOIA request seeks records of all communications regarding the congressional letters along with communications between Al Jazeera鈥檚 lawyers and DOJ regarding Al Jazeera and FARA.

鈥淔ARA and FOIA are important statutes designed to ensure transparency for the American people,鈥 said Jason Foster, President and Founder of Empower Oversight. 鈥淭he public deserves to know why the DOJ has failed to require a media organization it says is obligated to register as an agent of a foreign government to do so.  DOJ鈥檚 stonewalling of Congress and the public on this issue is unacceptable.鈥

If you have first-hand information you鈥檇 like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially .

Empower Oversight Whistleblowers & Research () is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to enhancing independent oversight of government and corporate wrongdoing. EMPOWR works to help insiders document and report corruption to the proper authorities while also seeking to hold authorities accountable to act on those reports.

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