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Watchdog files FOIA suit against DOJ over Al Jazeera foreign agent case

"DOJ's stonewalling of Congress and the public on this issue is unacceptable."

Published: January 23, 2023 5:03pm

Updated: January 23, 2023 5:57pm

A watchdog group has filed a suit against the Department of Justice seeking documents related to the agency's failed attempt to force the news organization, Al Jazeera, to register as a foreign agent.

Empower Oversight has contended that the DOJ ignored its Freedom of Information Act request for 12 months. The DOJ previously found that Al Jazeera engaged in "political activities" on behalf of Qatar and that AJ+, in particular, was "obligated to register" as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Al Jazeera is a state-funded media outlet operating on behalf of the Qatari monarchy.

In the letter, Chief of the DOJ’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section Jay Bratt told Al Jazeera's lawyers that AJ+ "has engaged and is still engaged in political activities within the United States and has acted and continues to act as a publicity agent within the United States, on behalf of the Government of Qatar and Al Jazeera Media Network ("AJMN"), each of which is considered a foreign principal under [FARA]."

The watchdog observed that despite the DOJ's warning to the publication, and subsequent press coverage of the matter, Al Jazeera does not appear to have registered as a foreign agent and the DOJ does not seem to have pursued the matter.

The Empower Oversight FOIA request had sought materials related to the incident. Empower Oversight President Jason Foster said of the matter that "FARA and FOIA are important statutes designed to ensure transparency for the American people. The 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's stonewalling of Congress and the public on this issue is unacceptable," he continued.

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