Eleven Charged With Failing to Register as Foreign Agents

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While the media has characterized the eleven people recently arrested on a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan as members of a “Russian spy ring” it is interesting to note that the offense with which they have been charged doesn’t require the government to prove that any information, much less information of value, was transmitted by these individuals to the Russian government. All eleven have been charged with conspiring to violate Section 951 of Title 18 by acting in the United States

“as agents of a foreign government, specifically the Russian Federation, without prior notification to the Attorney General, as required by law . . .”

Section 951 defines “agent of a foreign government” as:

“an individual who agrees to operate within the United States subject to the direction and control of a foreign government or official.”

Federal regulations require a person acting as an agent of a foreign government in the United States to provide the Attorney General with the name and address of the agent, the identity of the foreign government or official for whom the agent is acting and a brief description of the activities to be conducted for the foreign government.

Consequently, to be convicted of conspiring to violate Section 951 the Justice Department need only prove the eleven individuals failed to meet the requirements outlined above. The government does not have to prove that any of these eleven improperly obtained information relating to the U.S.’s security interests, or provided such information to the Russian Federation.

Those who represent foreign governments before the legislative or executive branches of government should take note — under this statute, an individual or entity that engages in open and legitimate political activity on behalf of a foreign government but fails to provide the above described notice or register with the Justice Department pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) can be subject to a fine and imprisonment of up to ten years.

[This blog post is meant for informative purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.]

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