June 8 (UPI) — For the first time, the Justice Department on Friday began releasing memos about the law that requires U.S. citizens to register as foreign agents.
The law, originally designed to thwart Nazi propaganda in the United States during World War II, requires lobbyists to detail their involvement in advocating for foreign governments.
Before Friday, the department had never published its guidelines for interpreting the law.
Friday’s release included memos issued since 2010. The disclosures are meant to promote government transparency and make it more difficult for advocates of foreign governments to remain undisclosed.
The law has recently come to light in the special counsel’s case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. He was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with his lobby work on behalf of the Russian-backed Ukrainian government. He has pleaded not guilty.
“Eighty years ago, Congress passed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Foreign Agents Registration Act to combat the spread of hidden foreign influence in American politics,” Assistant Attorney General Demers said in a statement Friday. “Today is the law’s 80th anniversary, and it remains a vital tool to combat this threat.
“We are making these advisory opinions available publicly and online for the first time. By posting these advisory opinions, the Department of Justice is making clearer how we interpret some of [the law’s] key provisions.”
Some attorneys specializing in foreign lobbying have long complained that the government didn’t share the memos — saying the department’s selective disclosures was effectively creating “secret law.”