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DOJ Solicits Public Input on Potential Changes to FARA

On December 8, 2021, the National Security Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced it was seeking public comment on making “modernizing” changes to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), in advance of an anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The DOJ will keep the notice period open for 60 days. It seeks comment on the following questions:

  • Question 1: Should the Department incorporate into its regulations some or all of its guidance addressing the scope of agency, which is currently published as part of the FARA Unit’s FAQs on its website? If so, which aspects of that guidance should be incorporated? Should any additional guidance currently included in the FAQs, or any other guidance, be incorporated into the regulations?
  • Question 2: Should the Department issue new regulations to clarify the meaning of the term “political consultant,” including, for example, by providing that this term is generally limited to those who conduct “political activities,” as defined in 22 U.S.C. 611(o)?
  • Question 3: Should the Department issue a regulation addressing how 22 U.S.C. 613(d)(2) applies to political activities on behalf of foreign principals other than state-owned enterprises? If so, how should the Department amend the regulation to address when such activities do not serve “predominantly a foreign interest”?
  • Question 4: Is the language in 28 CFR 5.304(b), (c), which provides that the exemptions in sections 613(d)(1) and (d)(2) do not apply to activities that “directly promote” the public or political interests of a foreign government or political party, sufficiently clear? And does that language appropriately describe the full range of activities that are outside the scope of the exemptions because they promote such interests, including indirectly? Should the language be clarified, and, if so, how?
  • Question 5: What other changes, if any, should the Department make to the current regulations at 28 CFR 5.304(b) and (c) relating to the exemptions in 22 U.S.C. 613(d)(1) and (2) (the commercial activities exemption)?
  • Question 6: Should the Department issue additional or clarified regulations regarding the exemption for religious studies, scholastic, or scientific pursuits to clarify the circumstances in which this exemption applies? If so, how should those additional regulations clarify the scope of the exemption?
  • Question 7: Should the Department amend 28 CFR 5.306(a) to clarify when activities that relate to criminal, civil, or agency proceedings are “in the course of” such proceedings because they are within the bounds of normal legal representation of a client in the matter for purposes of the exemption in 22 U.S.C. 613(g)? If so, how should the Department amend the regulation to address that issue?
  • Question 8: What other changes, if any, should the Department make to 28 CFR 5.306 to clarify the scope of the exemption in 22 U.S.C. 613(g) (the exemption for persons qualified to practice law)?
  • Question 9: Are there other aspects of the statutory exemptions that the Department should clarify, whether to make clear additional circumstances in which registration is, or is not, required?
  • Question 10: Should the Department revise 28 CFR 5.2(i) to allow the National Security Division longer than 30 days to respond to a Rule 2 request, with the time to begin on the date it receives all of the information it needs to evaluate the request? If so, what is a reasonable amount of time?
  • Question 11: Should the Department include with its published Rule 2 advisory opinions the corresponding request, with appropriate redactions to protect confidential commercial or financial information, so that the public may better understand the factual context of the opinion?
  • Question 12: What other changes, if any, should the Department make to the current process for using advisory opinions pursuant to 28 CFR 5.2?
  • Question 13: Should the Department define by regulation what constitutes “informational materials”? If so, how should it define the term?
  • Question 14: What changes, if any, should the Department make to the current regulation, 22 CFR 5.402, relating to labeling informational materials to account for the numerous ways informational materials may appear online? For example, how should the Department require conspicuous statements on social media accounts or in other communications, particularly where text space is limited?
  • Question 15: Should the Department amend the current regulation, 22 CFR 5.402(d), relating to “labeling informational materials” that are “televised or broadcast” by requiring that the conspicuous statement appear at the end of the broadcast (as well as at the beginning), if the broadcast is of sufficient duration, and at least once-per hour for each broadcast with a duration of more than one hour, or are there other ways such information should be labeled?
  • Question 16: Should any changes to regulations relating to the labeling of “televised or broadcast” informational materials also address audio and/or visual informational materials carried by an online provider? And, if so, should the regulations addressing labeling of such audio and/or visual information materials be the same as for televised broadcasts or should they be tailored to online materials; and, if so, how?
  • Question 17: Should the Department amend 22 CFR 5.402 to ensure that the reference to the “foreign principal” in the conspicuous statement includes the country in which the foreign principal is located and the foreign principal’s relation, if any, to a foreign government or foreign political party; and, if so, how should the regulations be clarified in this regard?
  • Questions 18: What changes, if any, should the Department make to its regulations to account for the e-File system that was adopted after the regulations were last updated in 2007?
  • Question 19: Should the Department amend 28 CFR 5.1 to require—separate from the registration statements, supplements, and related documentation—that agents provide their business telephone numbers and business e-mail addresses to facilitate better communications with the FARA Unit?

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