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Foreign Agents Registration Act Charge Against U.S.-Israel Citizen Highlights FARA-China-Academia Nexuses


The DOJ charged a dual U.S.-Israel citizen with offenses related to China under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), sanctions, and export controls. FARA is a law from 1938 that requires persons acting on behalf of foreign entities to register with the DOJ as an “agent” of the “foreign principal.”

Summary of the Case: Foreign Agents Registration Act Conspiracy

In this case, the FARA charge is for conspiracy to violate FARA by acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal. The DOJ alleges that while serving as a co-director of a Maryland think tank, the individual acted as an agent for China-based entities to promote China’s interests in the United States. Together with a co-conspirator, the individual allegedly wrote pro-China talking points on behalf of a former Trump Administration official, had them published in a Chinese online newspaper, and distributed the article to U.S. journalists and university professors.

Significance of Charges: China, Academia Nexuses

The FARA charge is notable. The DOJ’s “China Initiative,” introduced in 2019 to counter China’s “malign influence” and “academic espionage” in U.S. academia/research and for other purposes, identified FARA as a legal tool. The academic prong of the “China Initiative” ties into U.S. national security-based concerns about China’s access to cutting edge research and technology. The “China Initiative” banner has been dropped, but FARA remains a essential tool for various policy objectives, including countering “foreign influence” in U.S. academic and research environments.

DOJ Announcement and Background Information 

For more detailed information, you can find the official DOJ announcement here: U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Co-Director Of Think Tank For Acting As An Unregistered Foreign Agent, Trafficking In Arms, Violating U.S. Sanctions Against Iran, And Making False Statements To Federal Agents.

For background on FARA and its potential use as a China countermeasure, especially related to trade and technology, see Hdeel Abdelhady‘s 2019 presentation on FARA to the ABA Business Law Section.

For background on the former “China Initiative” and academia, see Hdeel’s 2019 analysis: “What Academia Must Know About DOJ’s China Initiative.” That article is also available at Law360 (subscription).

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