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BLOG: A History of the FARA Unit

May 5, 2020,

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) has been in place since 1938.  During its eight decades of existence, the statute has been administered and enforced by different governmental bodies under varying arrangements.  Below is a description of FARA’s administration and enforcement from a historical perspective.

Initial FARA Enforcement at the Department of State (1938-1942)

As originally enacted in 1938, FARA tasked the Secretary of State with managing the foreign agent registration program.[i]  At the time, Secretary of State Cordell Hull opposed this statutory delegation of authority to the State Department, suggesting that the law would be better administered by the Department of Justice in consultation with the State Department.[ii]  In testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee in 1941, Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle, Jr., who was tasked within the State Department with administering the Act, explained that the State Department was limited in its resources to proactively enforce the Act, both because most of its staff were located abroad and because it did not employ a sufficient number of investigatory or enforcement employees.[iii]

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[i] Pub. L. No. 75-583, 52 Stat. 631.

[ii] Amending Act Requiring Registration of Foreign Agents: Hearings Before the Subcomm. No. 4 of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 77th Cong. 28 (1941) (statement of Hon. Adolf A. Berle, Jr., Assistant Sec’y of State) [hereinafter 1941 Hearings].

[iii] Id.

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