Foreign Agent Registration:

Justice Needs to Improve Program Administration

NSIAD-90-250: Published: Jul 30, 1990. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Justice's (DOJ) administration of foreign agent registration.

GAO found that: (1) the DOJ Registration Unit identified 70 individuals or firms acting as lobbyists for foreign interests, 13 of which it believed might be obligated to register; (2) the Registration Unit did not collect information on the number of foreign agents who were claiming an exemption from registration; (3) DOJ officials did not believe that the additional information on unregistered foreign agents that might result from an exemption notification requirement would justify the associated costs; (4) the questions on the forms were general and did not specifically require information necessary to satisfy disclosure requirements; and (5) over one-half of a sample of 204 statements were not filed before the deadlines.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Justice has met with the staff of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on numerous occasions to discuss amendments to FARA. Justice has drafted legislation which it will submit to Congress.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA), as amended, to give the Department of Justice the authority to subpoena foreign agents to appear, testify, or produce records at administrative hearings.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice has drafted legislation which it will submit to Congress.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, to give the Department of Justice the authority to impose administrative fines for minor violations against those who, after being directly informed of their obligation to report, still fail to do so.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice is working with GAO forms experts to modify forms and determine how to modify the forms. Justice has also formalized and increased its written advice to registrants.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Registration Unit to: (1) develop standard disclosure criteria for reporting under the act; (2) provide specific guidance to agents and agency personnel on the criteria and how information should be reported; and (3) enforce compliance with the criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice has drafted legislation which it will submit to Congress to implement the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Registration Unit to revise the supplemental statement to better reflect the requirements of the act as well as the standard criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice has drafted legislation which it will submit to Congress to implement the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should seek legislative authority to: (1) require written notification to DOJ of all exemption claims prior to any agent activity; and (2) give DOJ additional enforcement measures, such as administrative subpoena powers, a schedule of civil fines for minor violations, and increases in existing fines.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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